New ‘Judge’ Show Lands in Real Court on Day 1

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – The producer of “Judge Judy” claims in court that former Disney chief Michael Eisner forced him out of his latest legal-beagle creation, a show that explores the wonderful world of arbitration called “Judge Faith.”
     Jerry Kupcinet and Jerry Kupcinet Productions sued Eisner and his investment company The Tornante Company, and Hank Cohen and his company Trifecta Entertainment in Superior Court on Monday – the day networks across the country aired the first episode of “Judge Faith.”
     Kupcinet says in the complaint that Cohen approached him in 2013 to produce and direct the “Judge Faith” pilot. Cohen promised – in an oral agreement – that Kupcinet would be the show’s executive producer if it was picked up, the complaint states.
     A written agreement drafted in October 2013 made no mention of compensation for Kupcinet or his company, allegedly to show that Trifecta owned the show in order to sell it. Kupcinet claims he paid all the bills to produce the pilot, given Trifecta’s lack of experience in television production.
     Kupcinet says he made a good enough pilot episode to attract Eisner and Tornante, which committed to fund the first 150 episodes.
     Kupcinet, a five-time Emmy award winner, claims Eisner and Cohen agreed that he would produce and direct the show, using his connections to secure deals for location, lighting and daily food service for the show’s employees.
     Between November 2013 and May 2014, Kupcinet says, he worked out the show’s shooting schedule and budget as Cohen and Trifecta repeatedly affirmed his value as executive producer. But on May 29, Cohen told him that Eisner “wanted him out,” according to the complaint.
     “In response, Kupcinet reminded Cohen that defendants had taken advantage of his work, talents and industry relationships to bring ‘Judge Faith’ to fruition and that he had agreed to be a part of the show and work on the pilot without any compensation based solely on the promise of receiving the credits and compensation of both an executive producer and director on future episodes,” Kupcinet says in the complaint.
     Kupcinet says he spent three months working on the show’s pilot without pay, and passed on several other opportunities because he had committed to “Judge Faith,” not to mention the “substantial” fees as executive producer and director of the show.
     “Judge Faith,” which stars former New York prosecutor – and Miss America 2001 first-runner-up – Faith Jenkins opened in 44 markets Monday. It scored a paltry 0.4 Nielsen rating, meaning that less than half of a percent of televisions in the United States tuned in to watch.
     Jenkins is not a party to the lawsuit.
     Kupcinet seeks damages from Cohen and Trifecta for breach of oral contract, fraud, promissory estoppel and fiduciary duty; damages from all defendants for restitution for unjust enrichment; and damages from Eisner and Tornante for intentional interference with contract.
     He also sued Trifecta and Tornante for rescission.
     Kupcinet is represented by Neville Johnson and Douglas Johnson of Beverly Hills.

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