The legal action against DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Lucasfilm alleging the studios had a deal in place to prevent talent poaching between them and suppress artist wages has taken an interesting turn as plaintiff Robert Nitsch Jr. has requested a new judge, Deadline reports. The federal filing from Nitsch’s lawyers (in full here) asks the Court to consider reassigning the case to Judge Lucy H. Koh — the judge who shot down Apple’s proposed settlement in a similar action related to high-tech employees.
The ongoing Silicon Valley case presided over by Koh is a class action by 64,000 tech employees against Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe and contends that the companies similarly contrived to not go after each other’s engineers and other skilled workers, as well as keeping wages below market value. The suit was launched in 2011 following a now closed Department of Justice investigation. The tech companies offered a $325 million settlement, which was rejected by Koh as too low. Lucasfilm and Pixar were implicated in the case, and meted out $9 million dollars earlier this year.
Nitsch’s action was born out of e-mail evidence presented during the high-tech employee case, which were culled from Disney-Pixar execs Ed Catmull and Dick Cook and revealed a similar idea had been brought to the animation industry by Apple and Pixar honcho Steve Jobs.
According to the motion filed on his behalf, “Pixar and Lucasfilm are Defendants in both cases … Much of the same evidence will be central to both cases and is already part of the record in High-Tech, including deposition testimony by Pixar and Lucasfilm personnel, documentary evidence detailing their agreement, and evidence of their internal compensation practices.”
Nitsch was an employee of DreamWorks from 2007-2011 and of Sony Imageworks in 2004. He is being represented by Brent Johnson, Daniel Small and Jeffrey Dubner of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in D.C.