Lawyers for Michael Ovitz have won a motion disqualifying a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in a lawsuit filed by billionaire Ron Burkle against the former super-agent.
Burkle, who filed suit in February, alleges that Ovitz breached his part of an agreement to provide half the investment costs in future Internet business ventures, including the now-defunct CheckOut.com and TalkCity.com. Burkle claims that he invested more than $30 million while Ovitz contributed nothing.
Within days of the filing, Ovitz's lawyers sought to disqualify Judge Susan Bryant-Deason. No reasons were given in court papers for the request, which the judge approved on March 10 and neither side has elaborated.
"I'm not at liberty, and it's not appropriate to discuss that. It does not reflect negatively on the judge," said Marshall Grossman, a partner at Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP who is representing Ovitz.
Grossman would only note that both sides are entitled to an automatic disqualification of a judge under state law, which allows disqualification of a judge who may be "prejudiced against the party" so that a person "believes that he or she cannot have a fair and impartial trial or hearing."
Meanwhile, Grossman has subpoenaed records from the California Public Employees' Retirement System, which invested hundreds of millions of dollars in two funds controlled by Yucaipa Cos., Burkle's investment firm. Grossman said he also subpoenaed records from a partnership run by Yucaipa Cos. and Burkle's estranged wife, Janet Burkle, who filed for divorce in June 2003.
Grossman said that there is no record of a partnership arrangement between the two men.
Burkle's lawyer, Patricia Glaser, a partner at Christensen Miller Fink Jacobs Glaser Weil and Shapiro LLP, declined to comment.
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