NEWS: On 5 November 2015, the entertainment gossip web site TMZ published an article about Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Australian wildlife television star Steve Irwin (who was killed while filming an underwater documentary film in 2006), and some contractual difficulties relating to her appearance on the popular Dancing with the Stars television program:

Bindi Irwin is caught in a tangled legal web … her “Dancing with the Stars” contract just got rejected because a judge needs proof her dad is dead.

Lawyers for the show submitted a minor’s contract to an L.A. Superior Court judge … it’s required because Bindi is 17.

Here’s the rub. For some reason the judge wants the same release from Bindi’s dad, the late Steve Irwin. The judge said without proof of Steve giving up his rights to Bindi’s money, “the court is unable to find that it is in the best interest of the minor to be bound by the terms of the contract.” It’s unclear if the judge is unaware Steve died in 2006, or if she’s just a stickler for a death certificate.

The scant information available on TMZ left readers with the impression that the (unnamed) judge in the litigation of an unspecified nature was simply being obtuse, cruel, or otherwise harassing Irwin needlessly. Irwin’s father Steve Irwin died suddenly in 2006 following a diving accident involving a stingray, an event that attracted worldwide media coverage.

Internet reports pertaining to Bindi Irwin’s DWTS contract dispute suggested that a judge in the case demanded ostensibly unnecessary proof that a widely reported event (Steve Irwin’s death) had genuinely occurred. However, TMZ didn’t cite specifics of the case, and the judge’s purported request could very well be a function of established contract law in California.

What didn’t appear to be in dispute was the existence of a challenge to Irwin’s DWTS contract. TV Guide obtained comment from BBC Worldwide, confirming that Irwin was involved in a contract dispute of some description:

Representatives from ABCsaid they had no comment on the report. A spokesperson for BBC Worldwide, which produces Dancing with the Stars, tells TVGuide.com: “We are aware of the situation and our legal team is in contact with the court to work it out.”

Another consideration involved whether Bindi Irwin’s father’s death weakened the contract for parties involved: contracts involving minors carry special considerations with respect to conditions under which they were enforceable. Contract law in California pertaining to minors in the entertainment industry is stringent (due to the fact child actors have historically been exploited), and requires a high standard of proof to protect minors from parties who might not have their best interests at heart:

A parent or guardian entitled to the physical custody, care, and control of a minor who enters into a contract of a type described in Section 6750 shall provide a certified copy of the minor’s birth certificate indicating the minor’s minority to the other party or parties to the contract and in addition, in the case of a guardian, a certified copy of the court document appointing the person as the minor’s legal guardian.

As such, the judge who purportedly issued the order likely was following laws that required documentation of Bindi Irwin’s father’s death in 2006 regardless of the family’s notability. What constitutes proof in a courtroom differs from media accounts, which might be deemed insufficient for legal purposes (or possibly classified as hearsay or considered inadmissible for other reasons).

Last updated: 6 November 2015

Originally published: 6 November 2015