New Judge Sought in Cartoon Studio Lawsuit

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A former DreamWorks employee suing animation studios wants the federal judge handling a similar lawsuit against major tech companies to take over his class action.
     Robert Nitsch Jr., a former character-effects artist for DreamWorks, sued the company and several others – including Walt Disney and its subsidiaries Pixar and Lucasfilm – on Sept. 8 for allegedly fixing wages and restricting career opportunities for artists.
     Nitsch requested Monday that the Northern District of California consider reassigning his case to Judge Lucy Koh, who is overseeing a 2010 lawsuit in which an estimated class of 64,000 software engineers are taking on Adobe, Apple, Lucasfilm, Pixar and other tech companies, saying executives like Steve Jobs restricted competition and kept wages down through illegal “gentlemen’s agreements.”
     The U.S. Department of Justice revealed the conspiracy in 2010 but the plaintiffs filed the action privately and on behalf of a proposed class because the government could not compensate victims of the conspiracy.
     Nitsch’s lawsuit, which claims that major animation studies cooperated to eliminate competition, is along the same lines. Alleged practices include companies agreeing not to cold call each other’s employees, not to offer higher pay if the employee’s current employer makes a counter offer and to notify each other when making an offer to an employee – even if that employee applied for a job on their own.
     “Much of the same evidence will be central to both cases,” Nitsch said in his Sept. 15 motion, which outlines the similarities between the two cases. “A substantial portion of both cases concerns identical parties, facts, evidence, witnesses, and legal theories.”
     Nitsch’s class covers employees who worked in “technical, artistic, creative and/or research and development positions” for the defendant companies since 2004.
     Pixar and LucasFilms settled the 2010 case for $9 million last year. Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe proposed a $325 million settlement, but Koh rejected it in August as too low.
     Nitsch’s case is currently under U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria.

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