One Month Prior To Trial, Basketball Agent Battle Between Aaron Mintz/CAA and Priority Sports Begins To Heat Up
The federal court jury trial of Aaron Mintz/Creative Artists Agency v. Mark Bartelstein and Associates, Inc. d/b/a Priority Sports & Entertainment is set to begin on November 13, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. PST; however, neither party wants the case to ever reach a trier of fact. To that end, all parties have filed motions for summary judgment, which will be heard in front of Judge Stephen V. Wilson in the Western Division of Los Angeles on October 29. While it is unlikely that the Judge rules entirely for one side or the other as a matter of law (and instead leaves the various matters to a jury to decide based on their findings of fact), it is possible that the court decides to grant partial summary judgment to one or both sides due to lack of evidence presented in relation to individual issues.
The pending litigation was spawned by National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) certified player-agent Aaron Mintz’s resignation from Priority Sports & Entertainment in March 2012. Soon thereafter, Mintz signed an employment agreement with rival Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Mintz claims that his employment agreement with Priority Sports & Entertainment included a two-year non-compete clause, which California Business and Professions Code Section 16600 will not recognize and that the employment agreement’s requirement that Mintz provide at least fourteen day notice before terminating the agreement violated the same Section. He also claims that Priority Sports hacked into his personal email account.
Priority Sports fired back with a slew of counterclaims, including breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, conversion, and defamation. Priority Sports claimed that Mintz was working for and soliciting clients for CAA while employed by Priority Sports, disclosed confidential information, and failed to give the required written notice prior to terminating his employment agreement.
The court consolidated the cases in June and set the cause for trial immediately thereafter.
The most interesting, recent filings have been the declarations drafted (under penalty of perjury) in support of the motions for summary judgment. All of the declarations filed on behalf of the Mintz/CAA motion for summary judgment were submitted to the court on October 1.
- Robert H. Horn, Senior Counsel for Proskauer Rose LLP and counsel for Mintz/CAA in the lawsuit, declared that the total fees incurred in connection with discovering that Brad Ames (a Priority Sports employee) purportedly accessed Mintz’s personal Gmail account without his authorization was $25,796.25.
- Steven Heumann, an NBA player agent at CAA, declared that CAA neither employed Mintz nor asked him to solicit his own clients for CAA’s benefit, prior to Mintz resigning from Priority Sports.
- Jason Chambers, brother-in-law of NBA player Paul George, declared that Mintz never told him that he was thinking about moving to CAA or that George should leave Priority and sign with CAA, prior to Mintz leaving Priority Sports. In fact, Chambers says he had dinner with Mintz 2 days before Mintz resigned from Priority Sports and that when Chambers later found out about the switch he asked, “Why didn’t you say anything about this at dinner?”
- Josh Ketroser, business manager of NBA player Kris Humphries and former Priority Sports employee, declared that Kenny Zuckerman (President of Athlete Representation at Priority Sports) called Ketroser on soon after Mintz resigned from Priority Sports and told Ketroser “that Aaron Mintz was an ‘idiot’ because he had accessed his personal e-mail account from a company computer…Kenny said he couldn’t believe that Aaron had left Priority Sports for less money.”
The declaration filed by Priority Sports in support of its motion for summary judgment was that of attorney Christopher Dacus, associate of the law firm Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP, which simply validates the authenticity of exhibits attached to support the motion.
There are over 100 exhibits listed on the Joint Exhibit List, including an Agent/Agency List from DraftExpress.com, emails to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype.com, and many Standard Player Agent Contracts. The Joint Witness List includes Paul George, Danny Granger, Acie Law, and Nick Young. There is no indication that any of the players will or will not be called on to testify at trial.