Miller Barondess Represents Entertainment Studios in High-Profile Civil Rights Litigation

Miller Barondess represents Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc. in a civil rights lawsuit against Charter Communications. Entertainment Studios is a 100% African American-owned media company that owns and operates television channels featuring lifestyle content with broad audience appeal. The channels are carried by Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, DirecTV, DISH and many other major distributors. Entertainment Studios alleges that Charter Communications—the third largest cable television distributor in the country—engaged in racial discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, by refusing to enter into carriage contract negotiations while, at the same time, launching and expanding the distribution of lesser-known, white-owned channels.

Miller Barondess attorneys successfully opposed Charter’s motion to dismiss filed in the Central District of California, and defended that judgment on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The trial court and appellate court litigation, which garnered national media coverage, involved many cutting edge issues in the fields of civil rights litigation, media and entertainment law and the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and remanded to re-assess Entertainment Studios’ allegations under a heightened causation standard, but Miller Barondess attorneys successfully opposed attempts to have the Supreme Court review the other Ninth Circuit rulings on pleading standards and the First Amendment that are favorable to our client.

Entertainment Studios previously filed lawsuits against AT&T, DirecTV and Comcast for racial discrimination, and those cases were resolved amicably with Miller Barondess’ assistance. Entertainment Studios’ channels are now carried on those platforms.

These are truly groundbreaking cases addressing a long-standing and serious issue in our society – namely, economic inclusion of African American-owned businesses in the country’s economy. This is particularly so in the media business, where Entertainment Studios is the only African American-owned multi-channel company in the country.

The Miller Barondess team included partners Skip Miller and Mira Hashmall, and associate David Schecter, with Dean Erwin Chemerinsky as co-counsel for appellate proceedings in the Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit.

To quote Skip Miller, lead partner, “My hat is off to our client, Byron Allen, for having the will to file these actions, and I’m very proud of the results obtained.  It’s really important to our society to include black-owned business in the mainstream.”