Disney shareholders are suing the company’s board and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner, saying that a $140 million severance package for Michael Ovitz, the superstar agent who briefly served as Eisner’s deputy, was financially irresponsible.
Interest is running predictably high in the case, which promises juicy details and a clash of colossal egos and could be deeply influential on future boards of directors. That means the tiny courtroom in Delaware’s Chancery court can barely hold the attorneys for both sides, much less other interested parties.
To remedy the problem, the court is turning to the Web.
“We decided to…have it on the Web site because so many people are interested in the trial,” said Mary Ellen Greenly, assistant to Chancellor William Chandler, the judge who will be hearing the case. “There are only 55 seats in the courtroom, and 35 attorneys coming.”
The decision, virtually unprecedented in American courts, could prove to be the starting point in bringing courtroom proceedings to a wider audience using Net broadcasts.
Judges have historically been loathe to expose trials to the scrutiny of cameras, much less television or live video. That’s changed in recent years with the rise of Court TV and the live broadcasts of high-profile celebrity-studded events such as the O.J. Simpson trial, but many courts still bar cameras.