Executives at a 900-lawyer California law firm double-crossed their client, comedian Terry Hodges, to cover-up their mistake of failing to run a “conflict check” and then accidentally suing a major firm client, Netflix. According to Hodges’s Atlanta lawsuit, an irate Netflix immediately called the top lawyer at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani (which trades as “Gordon & Rees”) to demand action, and the firm delivered by double-crossing Hodges. Hodges has sued Gordon & Rees for defrauding him & betraying fiduciary duties. Gordon & Rees has admitted to a mistake in not running the conflict check but denies any wrongdoing.
Although the ethical rules required the firm to recuse itself immediately due to the conflict, Hodges claims that head attorney Roger Mansukhani and the “Firmwide Management” intervened and devised a plot to sabotage Hodges’ claims against Netflix—all to ensure that the Netflix premiere of the film “Chris Tucker Live” would not be delayed and that Gordon & Rees would soothe Netflix enough to keep it as a client.
Hodges had hired Gordon & Rees in 2015 to enforce his rights to a co-producer credit on Chris Tucker Live under an agreement he claimed to have Tucker. For several years, Hodges had worked on Tucker’s world tour and claims he helped write the material that would become the concert film. Tucker denied the existence of any agreement with Hodges for a co-producer credit.
A few days before the scheduled premiere of Chris Tucker Live, Gordon & Rees (acting as Hodges’s lawyers) sued Tucker and Netflix in Los Angeles, and asked the judge to prevent Netflix from premiering the movie unless Hodges received a co-producer credit. Hodges alleges that when Netflix read about the suit in the Hollywood press, it immediately called top Gordon & Rees attorney Mansukhani to demand action. Mansukhani, whose name is part of the firm’s name, was the attorney who was personally handling all of the firm’s work for Netflix.
Per the suit, Mansukhani quickly concocted a scheme to make Hodges’s claims against Netflix disappear. Within hours, Gordon & Rees attorneys lied to Hodges by falsely telling him that his claims against Netflix had all disappeared when Tucker moved the case from state to federal court. Overnight, the firm filed a new complaint that removed all mention of Netflix, and Chris Tucker Live premiered without any delay. Weeks later, the firm secretly filed paperwork to remove Netflix entirely.
Hodges alleges that as Gordon & Rees continued to represent him against Tucker for months despite the conflict, the firm secretly sabotaged his case to protect Netflix. Hodges quotes from notes written by Gordon & Rees attorney Richard Sybert, Esq. during his settlement conversation with Tucker’s attorney Susan A. Adamson, Esq. The notes state that Tucker’s lawyer acknowledged that Hodges had never signed a blank 2012 contract giving up his rights in the film. But the suit notes that a few weeks later, a different lawyer representing Tucker showed up with a “signed” version of that 2012 contract, yet conflicted Gordon & Rees’s failed to “pounce” on what Hodges says is an admission of forgery by Tucker’s attorneys.
Hodges alleges that Mansukhani directed the scheme by email, which the firm hid from Hodges for years. Finally, the Atlanta judge threatened to hold Gordon & Rees in contempt of court unless it handed those emails over to Hodges. An amended complaint that Hodges filed last February attaches an email from a Gordon & Rees lawyer to a Netflix lawyer that informs Netflix that Gordon & Rees was filing papers to get rid of Hodges’ claims against Netflix. Another email shows one Gordon & Rees lawyer instructing another to remove several Netflix personnel from a witness list they were preparing for the court. Several other emails that apparently planned the scheme are quoted in the court papers, but the words are redacted by black boxes.
Hodges has now asked the Atlanta judge assigned to the case to compel Chris Tucker Enterprises LLC and Netflix, Inc. to bring forward documents in response to subpoenas issued in summer 2016.
As of today, the judge has not ruled. There’s a scheduled settlement offer on December 3rd.