In a tentative superior ruling issued Monday, the Los Angeles County Court judge said he is inclined to grant a request by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for summary judgment against producer Michael Shamberg’s lawsuit challenging the group’s interpretation of its bylaws.
Judge H. Jay Ford III said he was persuaded that the courts must “decline to exercise jurisdiction over the disputes concerning the rights and duties of members of a private voluntary association.”
The ruling isn’t final, but it nearly closes the door on Shamberg and his lawyers at a hearing set for Tuesday in Dept. The of the court’s Santa Monica branch.
Shamberg had sought a determination that the Academy’s Board of Governors was required to vote on his proposals for an Oscar-related social media program and an annual member survey. The governors said they were not required to vote on member-proposed changes to the bylaws; but they subsequently amended the rules to clarify the process for member proposals. Shamberg’s suit said that post facto limitation on member proposals violated California law.
In his ruling, Ford said the conflicting interpretations showed ambiguity in the bylaws — a situation that required the courts to abstain from passing judgment, lest they be drawn into a “dismal swamp” of disputes.
While declining to vote on the Shamberg proposals, the Academy governors have said they plan to implement annual meetings of the membership, and the group has been expanding its social media presence.