The judge who will preside over the retrial of Nicollette Sheridan's lawsuit against Touchstone Television Productions—stemming from an alleged assault by Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry and the decision to write her out of the show—told lawyers Wednesday he did not watch the former hit ABC comedy.
"I've never seen the program and I don't know exactly what it's about," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern said during a brief hearing. "I don't know anything other than there were a bunch of people living on a block."
However, Stern said his wife, long-time Automobile Club of Southern California Board Member Antonia Hernandez, knows Desperate Housewives co-star Eva Longoria.
Defense attorney Adam Levin and lawyer David Crochetiere, on behalf of Sheridan, said after Wednesday's proceedings that Hernandez's acquaintance with Longoria will not be an issue.
Desperate Housewives was filmed on the Universal Studios lot, and Patch has interviewed multiple cast members from the show. See past stories here:
- 'Desperate Housewives' Narrator Shares Real Gossip of Wisteria Lane
- Marcia Cross Reflects on 8 Years of 'Desperate Housewives' at Universal Studios
- Eva Longoria Reflects on 8 Years of 'Desperate Housewives' at Universal Studios
- Felicity Huffman Drops Hints on Final 'Desperate Housewives' Season to Patch
Crochetiere said an amended complaint will be filed Friday that will reflect a decision handed down last Aug. 16 by a three-member panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal. The justices said the actress cannot have a retrial of her wrongful termination claim, which was part of her original suit, filed in April 2010.
The panel ruled that Sheridan could revise her complaint and make a claim under a section of the state Labor Code protecting employees from being terminated or threatened with termination if they make a complaint about workplace safety.
Levin said he will file a motion challenging the amended complaint. Stern scheduled a hearing for March 11.
The 49-year-old Sheridan was not present for today's hearing.
The jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of Sheridan on the wrongful termination claim during the first trial, which ended last March. But the appellate panel found that Judge Elizabeth Allen White should have granted Touchstone's motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the cause of action.
Defense attorneys filed a motion to remove White from presiding over the retrial and the case was randomly assigned to Stern.
During oral arguments on Aug. 9 before the appellate court justices, Levin argued that all of the evidence showed that Sheridan's employment on Desperate Housewives came to an end naturally with the end of her contract.
The actress' lawyer, Mark Baute, countered that Sheridan was fired in retaliation by Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. Sheridan testified that Cherry hit her "upside the head" in September 2008 when she questioned him about the elimination of a line from a scene.
Baute noted that Sheridan was the only actor out of the main cast not to be brought back for the next season and had recently complained of being slapped by Cherry.
Cherry maintained that he was trying to give Sheridan instructions for filming a scene and only tapped her. He also said the decision to kill off her character, Edie Britt, was made months before the incident.
Justice Thomas Willhite Jr., who wrote the 10-page unanimous opinion, said Touchstone's legal position was the correct one.
"A cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy does not lie if an employer decides simply not to exercise an option to renew a contract," Willhite wrote. "In that instance, there is no termination of employment but, instead, an expiration of a fixed-term contract."
Willhite also said Sheridan was "not fired, discharged or terminated."