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Court Affirms Ruling |On Talent Agencies Act

LOS ANGELES (CN) - In a closely watched contract dispute between actress Rosa Blasi and her former manager, Marathon Entertainment, the California Supreme Court ruled that personal managers may be entitled to compensation even if they procured work for their clients in violation of the state's Talent Agencies Act.

In addition, the state's labor commission has the authority to void manager-talent contracts for unlawful procurement and to sever the illegal parts and partially enforce the contracts.

The Act allows only licensed talent agents to procure work for actors, directors and writers. Managers coordinate everything else, including business arrangements, contracts, counsel and promotion.

In 1998 Blasi of the Lifetime TV series "Strong Medicine" hired Rick Siegel of Marathon Entertainment as her manager. She was to pay Marathon 15 percent of her earnings over the course of the contract. Over the next three years, she landed a role in the film "Noriega: God's Favorite" and a starring role in the television series "Strong Medicine."

Marathon accused Blasi of reneging on the agreement by reducing her commission payments to 10 percent and then stopping payment altogether. She later terminated the contract, citing her intention to hire her talent agent, John Kelly, as her new personal manager.

Marathon sued Blasi to recover unpaid commissions for her work on "Strong Medicine." Blasi responded by filing a petition with the labor commission, accusing Marathon of violating the Act by soliciting and procuring work without a talent agency license.

Siding with the actress, the labor commission voided the parties' contract and barred Marathon from recovery.

Marathon appealed to the superior court, claiming that the Act's enforcement mechanisms - including the invalidation of contracts - violated managers' rights under due process, equal protection and free speech.

The superior court found for Blasi, but an appeals court reversed in part, concluding that although the Act applies to personal managers, the actress' obligation to pay Marathon a commission could be severed from any unlawful parts of the management agreement.

The state Supreme Court affirms the appellate court ruling.

"For the personal manager who truly acts as a personal manager," Justice Werdegar, "an isolated instance of procurement does not automatically bar recovery for services that could lawfully be provided without a license." See ruling.

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