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Ferguson v. Writers Guild of America, West

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Larry Ferguson (Plaintiff), was engaged by Paramount Pictures Corporation to write a screenplay for the movie Beverly Hills Cop 2. When the Defendant, the Writers Guild of America, West (Defendant), gave credit for the story and screenplay to several people, including Plaintiff, Plaintiff filed suit asking the court to direct Defendant to issue a new credit determination giving Plaintiff sole credit for the story and screenplay.
    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In reviewing the decision of a private administrative review board, a reviewing court will grant deference to the board’s expertise and will require a plaintiff to exhaust the board’s administrative remedies before bringing suit. Moreover, judicial review of a private board’s determination is restricted to considering whether the party challenging the determination has demonstrated a material and prejudicial departure from the procedures specified in the board’s manual.

    Facts. Plaintiff was engaged by Paramount Pictures Corporation to write a screenplay for the film Beverly Hills Cop 2. When the picture was completed, Defendant determined the writing credits for the movie as “Screenplay by Larry Ferguson and Warren Skaaren; Story by Eddie Murphy and Robert D. Wachs.” Plaintiff then filed suit asking the court to issue a writ requiring the Defendant to set aside its credit determination and make a new determination giving Plaintiff sole screenplay credit and sole story credit.

    Issue. What the proper measure of judicial review is over the decision of a privately run administrative review board.

    Held. In denying Plaintiff’s appeal, the court held that Plaintiff had not preserved for judicial review his seven contentions because he had not demonstrated that he presented them to the Writer’s Guild policy review board. Judicial review of the Writers Guild’s credit determination is restricted to considering whether the party challenging the determination has demonstrated a material and prejudicial departure from the procedure specified in the credits manual.

    Discussion. The court’s focus here is on determining the scope of judicial review a court can have over a private entity’s decision-making process. Overall, the court decided that in its review, it would grant deference to the experience and specialized knowledge of the decision making body and would require a Plaintiff to exhaust administrative remedies with the private review board before filing suit.


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