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1. Paul Wall Gig Raided
Highest Court Fifth Circuit
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
Defendants Police Officer(s)
Other Wall, Paul
Short Description As this court opinion makes clear, racism among governmental entities is not a thing of the past, though perhas we'd like to think it is. In the world of music, where racial lines sometimes delineate musical genres' intended populations, these prejudices may unfairly impact people who create, support, and promote specific genres. Hip-hop music, of course, is often the preferred target. In this case, Plaintiffs were two individuals who owned and operated Club Retro, a hip-hop club in Alexandria, Louisiana, operating legally under license from all appropriate agencies. Specifically, the Retro was allowed to admit patrons between the ages of 18 and 21, so long as they did not drink alcohol. The club took appropriate precautions to prevent the admission of illicit drugs, firearms, etc., and complied with governmental restrictions. Regardless, Club Retro was the subject of an excessive, violent S.W.A.T.-style raid, in which a group of police officers burst into the club with shotguns, handguns, and protective gear, physically, verbally, and arguably sexually assaulted numerous Plaintiffs, detained attendees for hours on end, denied patrons access to bathrooms, searched the entire establishment and everyone there, and committed other egregious acts in the process. Despite the intensity of the raid, the club, at the time the officers arrived, was operating legally: it was NOT overcrowded (only 500 people were there, though the capacity neared 700); underage patrons, who were fined by the officers, were present under governmental sanction; and only 7 people (less than 1%) were found with any illicit drugs, which is likely less than at a Phish gig. To make matters worse, the police blockaded a second concert, featuring Paul Wall, the following month, which prevented all but 67 people from attending. Plaintiffs sued, alleging First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations, and the governmental entities claimed "qualified immunity." Thankfully, the federal courts sided with Plaintiffs regarding Fourth Amendment accusations: the officers' actions were not supported by and plainly exceeded any administrative or inspective authority claimed by Defendants, and, in citing underage drinking and fire code violations as jusitications, the raid, arrests, and searches and seizures were objectively unreasonable and unsupported by even an inkling of probable cause. However, the court refused to find Defendants liable under First and Fourteenth Amendments, despite the officers' use of racial epithets during the raid. Though it's sad Defendants were allowed excuses for some of their actions, it's good to know their unacceptable behavior was sanctioned to a large extent. - LSW


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2. Rush Guitarist Fights at the Ritz
Highest Court Eleventh Circuit
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Music Manager(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Rush
Defendants Place of Public Accomodation
Security Guard(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description At a New Year's Eve party at a Ritz Carlton in Florida, Rush guitarist Aleksandar Zivojinovich (better known as Alex Lifeson) and his son, Justin, acted distruptively and were ejected by police officers at the hotel's request. Alex and Justin were admittedly acting inappropriately at the event, but hotel staff exaggerated the story to police officers in an attempt to have them removed. After being asked to leave, the situation escalated, ending in both Alex and Justin getting "tazed," and Alex receiving a broken nose. Both pleaded no contest to restisting arrest without violence, but then a flurry of lawsuits followed, brought by the officers against the Zivojinoviches and by the Zivojinoviches against the officers and the Ritz. Even Rush joined the suit, alleging Alex's injuries were detrimental to the band's business. The court disposed of all counts except one: Alex and Justin's negligence claims against the Ritz. Because hotel staff had lied to police officers to instigate the duo's removal, the court held that the hotel had breached a duty "not to lie," and that the staff's breach increased the risk of injury to the Zivojinoviches. Because hotel staff may have breached their duty, the hotel could be vicariously liable as well. Alex and Justin's actions against the officers for unconstitutionally excessive force were dismissed; the officers had acted appropriately, at least, perhaps, given the inaccurate reports they'd received from the hotel personnel. Rush's cause of action didn't even exist, and the band had no standing. According to the court's summary, all parties acted a bit out of line, so the outcome doesn't seem too unfair. - LSW


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3. Bodyguard: "I'm R. Kelly's Mentor!"
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Kelly, R.
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The former security guard for R. Kelly claimed to have been more than hired muscle, but also a close friend and "mentor," who advised Kelly to learn a dance style known as "steppin,'" taught Kelly how to do the move, and helped Kelly write the song, "Step in the Name of Love." Plaintiff argued he'd offered his assistance and talents at a time when Kelly's public reputation was suffering, and, after the song and dance were released, Kelly's career was revitalized. Plantiff alleged Kelly promised him half the proceeds, and sued R. for breach of oral contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, and even assault. Kelly removed the case to federal court, saying Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claims were simply disguised copyright actions, and the court agreed. Misappropriation of Plaintiff's song and dance is either infringement or an argument for joint authorship, both falling within copyright's ambit, and does not contain the "extra element" necessary to remove it from exclusive federal jurisdiction. While the fraud, contract, and assault claims may stand, they will be tried in federal court as well. - LSW


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4. Former Employee vs. Puffy (I)
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Bad Boy Entertainment
City Entity and/or Official(s)
Combs, Sean
Police Officer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description A two-time former employee of Bad Boy, Sean Combs' entertainment company, was terminated but given "contact sheets" that contained job leads with other music industry companies. The Plaintiff did not open the envelope until some time later and discovered the envelope contained Combs' personal info, so the Plaintiff contacted Combs to return the sheets. After the meeting, Combs became suspicious that Plaintiff had stolen his Grammy award. Shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff, a diabetic, received a phone call to attend what he thought was a job interview. He arrived at the address to learn it was a police station, where an officer questioned him for hours concerning the contact sheets and missing Grammy Award. The Plaintiff wound up being transported to the hospital for diabetic shock multiple times, and was charged with several counts. The Plaintiff sued Combs and the police. He alleged that Combs conspired to violate his civil rights with the arrest. The Court determined Combs had not acted in concert with a state actor to deprive the Plaintiff of his rights. While Combs may have filed a false report, that would not give rise to the claim the Plaintiff was making. The court then dismissed the various charges of conspiracy and false imprisonment. - JMC


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5. Constitutional Violations at Concert?
Highest Court S.D. Ohio
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Concert Attendee(s)
Defendants Music Promoter(s)
Police Officer(s)
Other Cash Money Millionaires
Short Description When Cash Money Millionaires canceled their concert, Plaintiffs decided to leave before the crowd got rowdy. A fight broke out in front of the venue, and someone seems to have shouted that Plaintiffs had guns in their cars. Police officers stopped Plaintiffs and searched them and their car. Plaintiff's suit against concert promoters and police officers for violation of civil rights was dismissed. - LSW


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6. Lynyrd Skynyrd Fan Legally Must Get a Life
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 1999
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Lynyrd Skynyrd
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description After a drug-related relationship between Lynyrd Skynyrd and a "high-profile fan" soured during a concert in Jackson Hole Wyoming in the summer of 1997, the fan sued for breach of contract, claiming the band never delivered on their promise to give him four tickets to a concert in Dallas, per a settlement agreement. The court granted Defendants' motion of summary judgment, holding that the fan's breach of contract claim was legally insufficient since he requested the tickets only two days before the Dallas concert. - SKR


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7. Really, Really Ticked Photographer Keeps Suing (I)
Highest Court First Circuit
Year Ended 1996
Plaintiffs Photographer(s)
Defendants Capitol Records
Music Manager(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
State Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Ross, Diana
Segar, Bob
Short Description A photographer claimed that preventing his photography at public events constituted a violation of his First Amendment rights. The photographer had been prevented from taking pictures at concerts held at the Providence Civic Center when the venue's contracts with performers prevented photography. The photographer had frequently sued the promoters and others, often being dismissed for failing to comply with procedural rules. The Court upheld the dismissal of his latest claim for many reasons, but mostly dealing with the photographer's refusal to abide by rules. - JMC


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8. No Mo' Peabo? Oh No!
Highest Court Court of Appeals of Georgia
Year Ended 1989
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Bryson, Peabo
Short Description Plaintiff entered contract with Defendant, a city alderman, for a Peabo Bryson concert, but Defendants canceled the show and Plaintiffs sued, recovering a little over $2,000 at trial. When Plaintiff appealed the judgment, he failed to produce the requested court transcript within a reasonable time, and his appeal was dismissed. The judgment was affirmed. - LSW


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9. Smokey Arrested By Mistake
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 1974
Plaintiffs Robinson, Smokey
Defendants Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Police Officer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description In 1967, an individual rented a limousine for three days, impersonating Smokey Robinson. The limo owner filed a complaint, and Robinson sued the city and police department after he was arrested at a San Francisco nightclub. Officers arrested him despite his attempts to show them he was not the individual on the warrant, and that they just shared aliases. The police officer made no effort to figure out if Robinson was actually Robinson. At trial, Robinson was found not guilty. A police officer has immunity for false arrest if the arrest was without malice and in reasonable belief that the person arrested is the person in the warrant. Robinson argued that the jury could have questioned the reasonableness of the officer's actions. The Appellate Court reversed the summary judgment for the police officer because a jury could decide whether the officer's was unreasonable in not allowing Robinson to prove his identity at the arrest. - JMC


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