Casting directors rally outside of the 2017 Tony Awards. (Photo: Courtesy of Teamsters Joint Council 16)

Lawyers for Broadway casting directors were directed to begin the discovery process, which they say could cost up to $4.7 million, in the lawsuit filed against them by The Broadway League.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods dismissed the defendants’ motion for stay of discovery, which would have paused the need to compile requested documents, during a pretrial conference Wednesday. This was one of the first steps in the case in which the League has claimed that the casting agencies have banded together to impose a 29% surcharge on negotiated fees and boycotted producers who will not pay it, in violation of antitrust laws.

The case came about after casting directors had been asking the League to recognize their union, Teamsters Local 817, as they fight for health and pension benefits from producers.

The two sides continue to remain diametrically opposed, with lawyers for the League arguing that the boycott is harming producers and lawyers for the casting directors arguing that there is no boycott.

Lawyers from Proskauer Rose, who are representing the League, have asked for documents including tax returns, all contracts and agreements related to casting services, a copy of computerized talent databases and any communications between the defendants from Jan. 2013 to present from all named defendants: Telsey & Co., Tara Rubin Casting, Caparelliotis Casting, Calleri Casting, Carnahan Casting, Tolan Casting, and Stuart/Whitley Casting.

They have also asked for documents from the Casting Society of America and Teamsters Local 817.

The Berger & Montague firm had previously put forward an expert estimate on the cost of discovery in the range of close to $800,000 to $4.7 million with 24 to 48 attorneys working on the case.

A large part of the discovery process, from the League’s perspective, will center on the issue of whether the casting directors are companies that are subject to antitrust laws, and thus conducting illegal activities as claimed in the lawsuit, or whether they are employees that are covered by an exemption for individual laborers.

Judge Woods did grant both parties 210 days, or about seven months, to complete the fact discovery process, which was a compromise between the 270 days proposed by counsel for the defendants, who are representing the casting directors, and the 160 days proposed by counsel for the plaintiffs, representing the League.

The judge did not grant the full time requested by the defendants “given the alleged ongoing nature of the boycott,” that the plaintiffs had cited.

Earlier at the hearing at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, Colin Kass, a lawyer from Proskauer Rose, argued that casting directors were continuing to boycott shows that did not agree to the 29% surcharge, which he said was hurting developmental readings.

He argued that the boycott has caused some producers to delay readings, while others have agreed, in principal, to pay the surcharge.

“As that delay continues, you’re starting to jeopardize the developmental show,” Kass said.

Kass had urged for the shorter discovery period because he was concerned that more “producers are going to capitulate to this cartel,” and pay the surcharge, rather than delay shows.

However, Michael Dell’Angelo, a lawyer from Berger & Montague who is representing the casting directors, said that there is not a boycott nor a surcharge. Instead, he says casting directors asked for a portion of their negotiated fee, rather than a surcharge on top of that fee, to be directed to health and pension benefits.

Further, he argued that the casting directors never insisted on specific and coordinated economic terms and are now no longer listing Teamsters as their bargaining agent on contracts.

“Effectively the casting directors have moved on from where they started,” Dell’Angelo said.

He further argued that there has instead been a boycott of these casting directors, in which readings are going on without them.

Dell’Angelo had put forward the motion for the stay of discovery pending Judge Woods’ determination on his motion to dismiss the case outright.

While he did not rule on the motion to dismiss the case outright, Judge Woods said he did not believe there was reason for the motion to dismiss to hold up discovery.

Judge Woods also directed both parties to continue any discussions of court mediation or other resolutions to the case at that the same time that they work on discovery requests.