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Disney Seeks to Oust Katzenberg's Legal Team

Company Town

September 10, 1997|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the latest move in what has become a game of legal chess, Walt Disney Co. is seeking to remove the legal team of its former studios chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is suing Disney for $250 million he alleges he's owed.

Lawyers for both sides declined to talk specifically about Disney's beef, which is contained in a sealed motion. But Katzenberg lawyer Bert Fields described Disney's move as a "bullying tactic" that he vowed to fight.

Disney's motion is said by sources to center on Helene Hahn, a lawyer now with DreamWorks SKG, the new studio where Katzenberg is a partner, who has been working on the case.

Disney contends that because she was a longtime Disney employee that she should be removed, as should Katzenberg's entire legal team.

It's unclear why Disney is trying to disqualify the entire Katzenberg team over the issue, or how it can make that argument. When contacted, Disney lawyer Lou Meisinger declined to comment on his motion.

Fields said that the move by Disney is "designed to gain tactical advantage to make the litigation more expensive for Mr. Katzenberg on the eve of trial by denying him the counsel of his choice. We certainly will resist the motion."

Fields also quoted his co-counsel, noted New York lawyer Herbert M. Wachtell, as saying: "You can be sure we are not making any motion to disqualify Disney's counsel."

The dispute, first reported Tuesday in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a legal publication, is scheduled for hearing on Friday before Superior Court Judge John W. Ouderkirk.

Katzenberg contends in the case, scheduled to go to trial in November, that he is owed the money under a contract that entitles him to substantial payments based on the performance of Disney's films.

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