A judge today granted a request by lawyers representing Nicolas Cage for an order preventing the actor's upcoming deposition in a home defect lawsuit from being made public.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu said he wanted to strike a balance between the privacy rights of the "Leaving Las Vegas" star and the public's access to court records.
Cage is named in a suit brought on behalf of filmmaker Bradley Lindsley by his family trust. The complaint alleges Cage sold Lindsley a $3 million home without disclosing water drainage problems.
"Cage's evidence that he is subject to routine media and tabloid speculation and coverage, concerning even irrelevant minutiae of his life, is undisputed," Treu stated in his ruling. "Under these circumstances, and notwithstanding the fact that the discovery in this action is directed at a 2003 transaction, the court finds good cause justifying the proposed protective order to preclude public dissemination of Cage's deposition."
Cage's deposition is scheduled for Dec. 19-20 at his lawyers' offices. Treu also issued financial sanctions of $4,200 against the plaintiff and his lawyer, Mark Scott. Cage's lawyers maintained that Scott refused to meet with them to discuss a proposed deposition confidentiality order to present to the court.
The trust originally sued the developer, the Lee Group, in May 2009. It then added as a defendant Cage -- whose well-publicized real estate woes include sales of some of his other homes at drastically reduced prices -- as well as the actor's former business manager, Samuel Levin, and real estate adviser, Richard Nazarian.
The suit alleges fraud and negligent non-disclosure by Cage.
Cage attorney Brian Wolf said the public has no right to access the depositions taken during trial preparations.
According to court papers submitted on the actor's behalf, Cage is "subject to unrelenting tabloid and media scrutiny and reporting" and information about him is "highly valuable and routinely sold" to the media.
The order forbids any written, audio or video proceedings from the deposition from being released to third parties, including the media.
Wolf told Treu he tried to reach an agreement with Scott and avoid having to move for an order.
Scott said during a November hearing that he had philosophical problems with such an order.
"I don't think there should be a separate celebrity Code of Civil Procedure,"Scott said.
Wolf said he favors the appointment of a discovery referee -- a third party who typically is a retired judge -- to review the disputes between the parties and make recommendations to Treu, but the judge said he will delay making a decision for now. Treu said he wants to see how Levin's deposition, which is scheduled to resume Dec. 14, proceeds before deciding whether a referee is necessary.
Levin's attorney, Daniel Kim, complained today about Scott's earlier deposition questioning of his client. Scott said Levin left early from the previous session to go to a Dodger game.
Numerous cross-complaints have developed out of the original complaint. Levin sued Cage in February 2011, contending that the Oscar-winning actor is bound by an agreement to pay for his attorneys' fees and cover any financial losses he may suffer if sued in connection with his role as a co-trustee of the Hancock Park Real Estate Trust, a legal mechanism through which Cage holds title to property.
Levin resigned from his co-trustee role three years ago and maintains Cage did not follow up on his obligations to him after Lindsley bought the home in Los Angeles' Venice area from the actor nine years ago.
Nazarian, owner of The Nickel Co., sued Cage and Levin. He wants both ordered to pay at least part of any judgment against him, as well as his attorneys' fees.
Cage, 48, bought one of two single-family homes the Lee Group built adjacent to each other on Ocean Front Walk in November 2002, according to the complaint.
Other cross-complaints have been filed for and against various sub-contractors who worked on the home.
Lindsley alleges that some time after Cage moved into the home, the actor and his neighbor in the other Lee Group residence had problems with flooding and informed the developers.
When Lindsley bought the house from Cage in May 2003, the actor did not tell him about the defects, according to the complaint.
When another man expressed interest in the property before Lindsley did and found out about the drainage problems, he canceled escrow, according to the suit.