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WGA holds hearing to determine if Jay Leno broke strike rules

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The Writers Guild of America, West held a hearing today with comedian Jay Leno aimed at determining whether the NBC late-night host broke union rules by penning his own monologues during last year’s writers strike.

A source familiar with the proceedings said Leno was scheduled to appear before the Writers Guild of America’s trial committee to answer charges that he violated the guild’s injunction against writing during the 100-day writers strike that ended in February 2008. The guild’s West Coast board discussed Leno’s planned appearance during a board meeting on Monday.

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Leno is the most high-profile among a handful of writers whose cases are being reviewed by the committee, which will make a recommendation to the board on whether any action should be taken against the comedian. Possible penalties include a reprimand and a fine or even expulsion from the union.

The source said the committee had been given strict instructions to judge Leno on the merits of the case, and not take into account his stature as a famous comedian.

Leno triggered the investigation when he returned to the air without his writing staff in January 2008, nine weeks into the strike. At the time, the comedian said he was penning his own monologue, assuring his audience, “We are following the guild thing. We can write for ourselves.”

His stance put the guild in an awkward position, as its own strike rules prohibit any WGA members from performing the work that usually would have been done by the striking writers. As a guild member and a writer credited on the show, Leno was also barred from writing in general.

Leno and NBC maintained that as a performer, he was exempt from the rules.

-- Richard Verrier and Matea Gold

Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


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