A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who threw out a 13-year-old suit over Winnie the Pooh royalties against Walt Disney Co. refused Monday to step down from the case or admit bias.
Another judge must review the motion by Stephen Slesinger Inc., which two weeks ago argued that Judge Charles W. McCoy favored Disney and should step down from the case. Such a move would have vacated the pro-Disney ruling he made March 29.
Slesinger claims Disney shortchanged it on U.S. merchandising royalties to the honey-loving bear by hundreds of millions of dollars.
But McCoy, backed by an opinion from Superior Court lawyer Frederick Bennett, said Monday that he had acted fairly and had no prejudice. Bennett asked the judge who will review the case to reject the Slesinger motion without a hearing, which would affirm Disney’s victory in the case.
Slesinger claims that McCoy wrote a book that in one section praised Disney, and that a lawyer who worked for Disney is associated with a firm that McCoy once worked for. McCoy said he had not met the man and was not aware of the connection.
“Contrary to [Slesinger’s] contention here, that [court] decision, however stern, does not provide a legally cognizable ground for disqualification,” wrote Bennett.
Disney lead lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said Bennett’s decision should be respected.
“The court’s counsel, who has handled over 1,000 of these disqualification matters and who himself is a renowned expert in the field, has concluded that the Slesingers’ position is groundless, and we certainly agree,” he said.
Slesinger has also asked for a new trial in a separate motion arguing that McCoy’s dismissal of the case was too harsh a remedy. Disney has opposed that.
Stephen Slesinger acquired the U.S. merchandising rights to Winnie the Pooh in 1930 from British author A.A. Milne. His widow, Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, and her daughter, Patricia Slesinger, granted Disney the merchandising rights in 1961 in exchange for royalties.