In December 1991, Kurosawa side reached a conclusion that it was impracticable to agree on the draft with Toho. If it is prolonged, there would really be a lawsuit so they decided to submit to MGM a settlement agreement including detailed explanations, regardless of Toho. An English translation of the settlement agreement was sent to MGM on December 2, 1991 together with explanatory letter. The letter arrived at MGM on December 4, on which day MGM raised a suit at Los Angeles Higher Court against Toho, Kurosawa Production and the three scenario writers including Akira Kurosawa.
The news relating to this suit was inserted into the showbiz-related newspapers such as The Hollywood Reporter, etc. Lawyer Graubart who found the raising of the lawsuit by the newspaper articles immediately called Mr. I. In the afternoon of Saturday December 7, I was standing on the Shinkansen platform to go to Niigata. Our offices were having an annual partners' lodge together on that day and ten partners were meeting on the Shinkansen train. Although I left the office and arrived at Tokyo Station early, another partner who came after me told that Mr. I of Kurosawa Production called and he wanted to speak to me urgently. When I called Mr. I, he told me excitedly that Mr. Graubart called him saying that Kurosawa Production was sued in Los Angeles, and asked me what steps should be taken from now on. I said to him that I could not understand why Kurosawa Production was sued, let alone Toho being sued, so I would call Lawyer Graubart on Monday and ask for his explanation.
According to Mr. Graubart, the lawsuit was raised against Toho, Kurosawa Production and the three writers including Akira Kurosawa as defendants, and the contents were confirmation on MGM's ownership of the remake right of "The Seven Samurai" and claim for damages against Kurosawa Production and the three writers. The reason for the claim for damages was assumed to be Kurosawa Production and others illegally disturbed Toho from presenting to MGM the settlement agreement between Kurosawa Production and Toho. Lawyer Graubart said first he would fight for jurisdiction in this suit. Jurisdiction means a competent court, which is generally considered from the standpoint of protecting defendant's position. Namely, this is a consideration to avoid unreasonable disadvantageous to a defendant residing at a distant site if and when plaintiff is able to raise a lawsuit at a court convenient to him/her. In case of the MGM lawsuit, if a lawsuit is raised at the Los Angeles Court against a company or a person existing in Japan, it is extremely difficult for those whom the lawsuit was raised to defend the suit. According to Lawyer Graubart's assertion, under the Code of Civil Procedure of California State, Los Angeles Court does not have the jurisdiction over the Japanese corporation or persons who are the defendants of this lawsuit and thus the lawsuit by MGM should be rejected.
Other than jurisdiction of the court, Mr. Graubart mentioned as one of the reasons for rejecting the statement the illegality of the method of delivery. When a lawsuit is raised, a petition is delivered to the defendant. In Japan, the secretary of the court delivers the petition. In the United States, in most cases, the lawyer who is an attorney for the defendant delivers the petition upon receiving a commission from the court. This time the petition was mailed from MGM's lawyer. It is satisfactory if the defendant is staying or residing in the United States, but this time the defendant is staying in Japan. It should be judged whether the method of delivery under the Code of the United States Civil Procedure is valid or not.
All of these assertions by Mr. Graubart were deemed reasonless by the Los Angeles High Court, and Mr. Graubart further appealed it to the Supreme Court of California but its was also rejected without any specific reason. Since Kurosawas were thinking that these assertions might be understood, they were very disappointed.
The failure at this first stage did not always mean that the lawsuit was going to conclude disadvantageous results for us at the final stage. Kurosawa side was, however, afraid of being given a biased judgement if going into the merits without taking any steps feeling that the court's correspondence to the defendant was somewhat cruel.
The first stage of the California lawsuit finished with the victory of the defendant MGM and the next stage, so-called hearing on the merits started where existence of reason for the claim by the defendant would be sought. The court procedure in the United States is, however, somehow different from that of Japan. Before oral proceedings where plaintiff and defendant exchange their assertions at the court, discovery procedure is conducted where plaintiff and defendant take the materials which are advantageous to them and possessed by the other party. This is a heavy burden as many who have experienced a lawsuit in the United States may feel and unbearable for those who are not native speakers of English. For example, interrogatories including dozens of questions are delivered to you and you must answer them in English. In addition, under request for submitting documents, all contracts, letters, memos, etc. which seem to be related to the case should be submitted. You don't always have to obey all their requirements, but you have to have a proper reason to reject it. If you do not obey these requirements without due cause, or if you intend to escape from the requests by telling a false reason, you might be charged with court insulting crime.
From April of 1992, these documents were sent to us one after another. For those documents which are addressed to either of Kurosawa Production or Akira Kurosawa, we could take reasonably rapid measures. But for those which are addressed to either of Shinobu Hashimoto or Hideo Oguni, I had to make explanations to them and obtain their signatures on our response letter I prepared. Since Mr. Hashimoto lived in Tokyo, there was no problem, but Mr. Oguni lived deep in the Kyoto Mountains, Mr. S had to visit there each time we needed his signature. Kurosawa side began to get irritated by these continued attacks by the defendant. They asked me if there was any measure to answer back to them.