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Thursday, May 11, 2006

CBS and Stern Reportedly Close to Settlement (& The Gammerman Factor)

Newsday reports that CBS and Howard Stern are close to settling their breach of contract spat:

CBS lawyer Irvin Nathan told Judicial Hearing Officer Ira Gammerman, "We have an agreement, but there are details that have to be worked out." He added that the parties were "very close" to a settlement.

It couldn't be any more befitting that the parties have consented to have the case heard by Justice Ira Gammerman - who is past formal retirement, and is now officially a "judicial hearing officer."  Justice Gammerman is Manhattan's closest version of the "rocket docket."  In fact, it is likely that a strong factor incentivizing settlement is the fear of attempting to try this case before Justice Gammerman. 

Back in an April 2004 N.Y. Times article ("Verdicts and Wisecracks at a Speedy Clip"), author David Carr described Justice Gammerman as:

[a] one-stop vending machine of justice, he empanels multiple juries, issues frequent decisions, wisecracks and, when he is in the mood, takes over from the lawyers before him and questions the witnesses himself, all while typing away on other matters on a computer.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine Howard Stern on the witness stand in Gammerman's courtroom.  Woody Allen could certainly attest that witnesses, no matter how famous, are never spared Gammerman's frequent and abrupt interruptions. 

In 2002, Woody Allen was testifying in a suit he brought against his former producer Jean Doumanian.  On the witness stand, he was asked whether he was currently making a film:

''Yes, and that's why I haven't been able to be here all the time, because ----''

''Yes is the answer,'' Justice Gammerman said. . .

Mr. Allen continued anyway. ''Because I have a film crew out now, shooting on the streets of New York, and I'm trying to ----''

''Stop talking,'' Justice Gammerman said.

'Stop talking?'' Mr. Allen said.

''I'm the director here,'' Justice Gammerman said.

Carr explained that "[l]awyers who have appeared before Justice Gammerman liken the process to entering a ferocious contraption where bells go off, smoke belches, the machine shakes, and then they are quickly thrown clear, verdict in hand." 

And Gammerman, in his mid-70's, describes jurisprudence as his hobby.  He doesn't golf; instead, he continues to hear complex commercial matters.  He has no real intention of seriously retiring.  His prediction: "I'm going to say, 'Motion denied,' and then keel over.''

[Meredith R. Miller]

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