SAG Slaps Back at Merger Critics in Legal Filing

In answer to complaint filed by Martin Sheen and others, the union wants the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice

Last Updated: April 26, 2012 @ 12:51 PM

The Screen Actors Guild took aim at critics of its merger with the American Federation of Television of Radio Artists, denying claims made by the detractors and demanding that a suit filed by them be dismissed with prejudice.

The union answered the suit in U.S. District Court in California on Wednesday, filing under its old name, rather than the newly created SAG-AFTRA moniker.

A district court judge earlier this month refused a stipulation to change the name of the defendant in the suit to reflect SAG-AFTRA's new moniker.

Also read: SAG Merger Opponents File Suit to Prevent Vote

In its response, SAG argues that the suit — filed by 68 dissident SAG members including Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Valerie Harper, Ed Asner and others — is without merit for 10 different reasons.

Among them, SAG argues that the plaintiffs' complaint offers insufficient facts to constitute a cause of action; that the suit's claims, even if accurate, did not cause the damages alleged in the suit; that the lawsuit's point is moot; and that the plaintiffs are "guilty of unclean hands" in the matter.

Also read: SAG Merger: Union Calls Opponents' Lawsuit a 'Stunt'

Sheen, et. al, sued in February to have the merger vote blocked, claiming that SAG failed to conduct a study on the effects the merger would have on the union's pension and health benefits.

In a statement, SAG called the lawsuit "simply a public relations stunt," noting, "We have scheduled more than 50 informational meetings across the country, have posted all of the merger documents on the website for over 4 weeks, and we have afforded the merger opponents the right to send an opposition statement at the unions' expense as part of the referendum package."

SAG members overwhelmingly voted for the merger in March.

SAG officers David White, Ken Howard, Amy Aquino, Ned Vaughn, Mike Hodge and David Hartley-Margolin, who are also being sued by the dissident SAG members, filed a separate answer to the complaint as individual defendants. In their answer, they also deny the suit's allegations and offer affirmative defenses.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.