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Keenan v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County

40 P.3d 718 (2002)

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Keenan v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County

California Supreme Court

40 P.3d 718 (2002)

Facts

In 1963 Frank Sinatra, Jr. (plaintiff) was kidnapped in Nevada by Barry Keenan (defendant) and Keenan’s accomplice. The kidnappers held Sinatra, the son of the legendary entertainer Frank Sinatra, for ransom until his father paid the money in Los Angeles. The kidnappers were eventually caught, convicted, and imprisoned. Upon their release from prison, the felons made a deal with a tabloid to tell their story, which was later made into a television movie. Keenan and his other accomplices signed a contract to split the profits generated by the story of the kidnapping. A deal was negotiated with Sony Pictures to purchase the movie rights for up to $1,500,000. Frank Sinatra, Jr., had experienced physical and emotional injuries from the kidnapping as well as harm to his reputation. California had passed a law designed to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes while their victims were left with no restitution. Section 2225(b)(1) of California’s law required that all of a felon’s profits gained from various types of speech, such as books and movies, would be placed in a fund for victims. Sinatra sued to force Columbia Pictures to place the kidnappers’ portion of Columbia’s advance into the state’s benefit fund for victims. The trial court issued a preliminary injunction preventing payment to Keenan during the litigation. Keenan filed a demurrer and moved for dissolution of the injunction, which the trial court denied. Keenan filed an appeal seeking a writ requiring the superior court to vacate its prior order, grant his demurrer, and dissolve the injunction. The appeals court ruled against Keenan, holding that § 2225(b)(1) did not violate freedom of speech. The California Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Baxter, J.)

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