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Tristar Pictures v. Directors Guild of America

160 F.3d 537 (1998)

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Tristar Pictures v. Directors Guild of America

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

160 F.3d 537 (1998)

Facts

Michael Apted directed the film Thunderheart. When Tristar Pictures, Inc. (Tristar) (plaintiff) asked Apted to make extensive cuts for the television airing of the film, Apted refused. Tristar hired an editor to remove more than 20 minutes from the film. Apted requested that Tristar remove his name from the television cut. Tristar refused. Both Apted and Tristar were bound by a collective-bargaining agreement between the Directors Guild of America (DGA) (defendant) and the studios. The collective-bargaining agreement included a procedure for directors seeking to replace their name with a pseudonym in a film credit. The procedure required a director to obtain approval from a DGA council and then a joint panel composed of representatives of both the DGA and the studios. However, another clause of the agreement provided that any relevant grievances or disputes could be submitted to arbitration. Apted secured the DGA council’s approval for the use of a pseudonym, but the joint panel was apparently unable to meet prior to the scheduled broadcast of Thunderheart. With the help of the DGA, Apted submitted his claim to an arbitrator, who found that Tristar had breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the severity of its edits. The arbitrator gave Tristar a choice between replacing Apted’s name with a pseudonym or adding a disclaimer explaining Apted’s disapproval of the television cut. Tristar opted to replace Apted’s name with a pseudonym. Tristar then brought an action in state court, arguing that the arbitrator had overstepped the bounds of the arbitrator’s authority. The case was removed to federal district court, which upheld the arbitrator’s award. Tristar appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kozinski, J.)

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