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1. Bassist Wants REAL Job Back
Highest Court Seventh Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants U.S. Postal Service
Other BANG!
Short Description U.S. Postal worker, Kenneth Truhlar, sued the postal union and the Postal Service for being fired for securing outside employment while receiving disability payments, when he earned around $8,000 from a stint as bassist for a modern incarnation of an obscure early 1970s rock group called "BANG!" The court entered judgment for the union, holding that failing to honor Plaintiff's grievance was not arbitrary, and that Plaintiff failed to establish that the union breached its duty to represent Plaintiff fairly during the grievance process . - LSW & SKR


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2. Rappers Receive Enough Royalties?
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Robinson, Sylvia
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Sanctuary Records
Other Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five
Grand Master Melle Mel
Sugar Hill Gang
Wall Street Mob
Short Description The Sugar Hill Gang, Grand Master Flash, The Wall Street Mob, The Furious Five, and Grand Master Melle Mel, along with Sylvia Robinson, founder of Sugar Hill Records, godmother of rap music, and former member of Mickey and Sylvia, which had a few hits back in the day, sued Sanctuary Records Group for release from record contracts. After obtaining a default judgment for rescission of the contracts, Plaintiffs sought damages in the realm of $30 million, even though they'd initially only sought rescission. and damages from unpaid royalties. Artists were released from contracts after default judgment, but were awarded no damages. Both Sanctuary and the Plaintiffs appealed, the former seeking to vacate the default and the latter requesting monetary relief. After first being unsuccessful, the Court of Appeals later remanded to the District Court to reconsider their denial to vacate the default; it is the preference of the courts to resolve disputes on the merits. - LSW


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3. Mike Love's Long Fight With Brian
Highest Court Ninth Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Newspaper Publisher(s)
Sanctuary Management
Sanctuary Records
Website Proprietor(s)
Wilson, Brian
Other Beach Boys
Short Description Mike Love sued Brian Wilson after Wilson released a successful album in 2004, Smile, with solo versions of Beach Boys songs and new solo material. Wilson went on tour in Great Britain, among other places, to promote his new album. Part of the promotion for Wilson's album and tour was a CD distributed by the British newspaper the Mail on Sunday containing some of his new material. Only 425 of those CDs were distributed in the U.S., and only 18 of those were distributed in California. Meanwhile, Love was touring on his own as The Beach Boys in Great Britain. Love was concerned that Wilson's tour would dampen his ticket sales and brought the present lawsuit. The court entered judgment for Wilson, holding that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over the British company that licensed and recorded the CD. The court also declined to apply the Lanham Act extraterritorially to encompass acts solely committed in Great Britain. [early suits are all jurisdiction, but later suits each address different issues] - SKR


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4. Deep Purple Bassist's Divorce
Highest Court Superior Court of Connecticut
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Spouse of Artist(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Deep Purple
Short Description Roger Glover, is bassist and songwriter for Deep Purple, and has been twice married. These court opinions seem connected to his recent divorce from his second wife (which may not yet be completed). Particularly, Lesley Glover move to receive certain documents pertaining to Glover's business entities and related music companies, which Roger and Co. claimed were confidential. The court's opinion includes the terms of a confidentiality agreement reached between the parties, whereby Lesley would be allowed some access to the documents in exchange for a promise to retain confidentiality. The court did not include any of its own commentary or rulings, but restated the terms reached by the parties. Some info will be disclosed, but Lesley's gotta keep it on the D.L. - LSW


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5. Early Member: "I Co-Wrote 'B.Y.O.B.!'"
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Former Band Member(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Other Amen
Scars on Broadway
System of a Down
Short Description Plaintiff is a former-friend of Daron Malakian (songwriter, guitarist and occasional singer for System of a Down, and singer for the band Scars on Broadway). Plaintiff has, at various times, been associated with the band Amen and with Scars on Broadway, Malakian's side project. Plaintiff was signed to record deal with Malakian's imprint of Columbia. However, their relationship broke down over time. Plaintiff now claims that he co-wrote "B.Y.O.B," with Malakian, which became a major hit for System of a Down. Malakian granted Plaintiff a 2% interest in the song, though not apparently because he felt there was a legal obligation of any kind. The court held that Plaintiff's depiction of the songwriting process was not credible, and that his contributions (which consisted essentially of a single reference to "fascist nations") were not independently copyrightable. Malakian wrote the song with System of a Down, not Plaintiff. Plaintiff is not an owner. - LSW


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6. Record Label vs. Crofts (But No Seals)
Highest Court N.D. Georgia
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Seals and Crofts
Short Description Defendant Crofts, of Seals and Crofts, entered an agreement to record songs for Plaintiff, but purportedly breached this agreement, resulting in the instant lawsuit. Plaintiff's actions for fraud and equitable rescission were denied, but so were Defendant's motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, to transfer venue, or to compel arbitration, so Plaintiff's breach of contract claim survives. - LSW


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7. Luny Contract Invalid?
Highest Court S.D. Florida
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
LT's Benjamin Records
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
UMG Records
Other Luny Tunes
Short Description Plaintiffs include Luny, of the production duo Luny Tunes, best known for their central role in the reggaeton careers of artists such as Daddy Yankee. Defendants, including entities of the Universal Music Group, contracted to be provided Plaintiff's exclusive output, as per standard recording agreements. In this suit, Luny alleged that Defendants breached their contract, that the contract was an unenforceable restraint on trade, that UMG failed to adequately promote Plaintiff's work, and that he was owed over $2.5 million in past due amounts. This opinion addressed mostly Plaintiff's claims that the contract was an illegal restraint on trade, brought under state statutes. Most record contracts restrict artists' legal rights to perform for other record labels, and this contract was no different. On Defendant's motion to dismiss, the court held that one vital element of the claim, the "reasonableness" of the restrictive covenant in the contract, was an issue of fact that was not properly decided on a motion to dismiss. - LSW


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8. Intruders Intruding on Intruders
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Other Intruders
Short Description This is a classic type of case, in which an old R&B band, here The Intruders (the foundation for the "Sound of Philadelphia"), split off into multiple touring units, each managed by a former prominent member of the band. Plaintiff claimed to have been transferred ownership of the name, and sued Defendants for various counts, including trademark infringement, unfair competition, and interference with performance contracts, the latter arising from Defendant calling clubs and advising them that Plaintiff was not the "real" Intruders. Over several opinions, the court found that neither faction had received title to the name from the name's original owner, but that Defendants had a license, which they could enforce against Plaintiff. To determine this, the court followed the "chain of title" to the band's name. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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9. Misfits Tick Off Misfits
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Other Danzig
Misfits
Short Description The Misfits are among the most popular and iconic of the early punk rock boom, with peak years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Perhaps most famously, the band was the launching pad for lead singer Glen Danzig, better known simply as "Danzig," who has since had a lucrative, if not sometimes comical, solo career. After the band dissolved in the early-mid 1980s, their popularity nevertheless increased, and, in 1992, a lawsuit erupted between the members regarding rights to the songs and other intellectual property. A settlement, reached in 1994, determined that, though Danzig wrote the band's songs, the trademarks and merchandising rights were co-owned by the plaintiffs in that suit and Danzig, and that both parties could exploit the logo and goods without accounting to the other for their profit. Plaintiffs in this suit, members of the band during 1978-1982, were not parties to that suit, but allege they were assured that no member would seek exclusive trademark rights to the name. The band re-grouped shortly after the earlier settlement, and still exist today. When Plaintiffs learned that Defendants, members of the current line-up and the corporation they control, had registered trademarks for the Misfit and its logos, Plaintiffs sued, alleging fraud on the trademark office, a declaratory judgment of co-ownership of the name, and requesting cancellation of the registration and an accounting of profits. However, the court found that New York courts lacked general personal jurisdiction over Defendants, New Jersey residents and a New Jersey corporation, even though Defendants have performed and sold merchandise in New York, because they do not maintain an office, solicit business, keep bank accounts, own property, or have employees or agents there. Furthermore, Plaintiffs' trademark claims do not "arise from" their activities in the state, so no specific jurisdiction was shown either. Last, Plaintiff's claims for an accounting were simply unfounded. - LSW


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10. Which Grupo Bryndis is Legit?
Highest Court W.D. Texas
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Grupo Bryndis
Short Description Grupo Bryndis is an internationally-known Mexican musical group that has existed in some form continuously since 1983. Plaintiffs in this case are the band's recognized leader and the corporation he controls. Despite the band's successes, it appears no one had ever applied for and received a federal trademark for their name. Defendants are former members of the group who formed a new band, initially called Bohemios de Bryndis, that later began billing itself as Grupo Bryndis, and then filed a trademark application for the name. Plaintiff sued for numerous trademark- and property-related causes of action, requesting a preliminary injunction preventing the band from using the name further. The court found that, despite the confusion that might occur among the band's fans due to two different bands using the same name, monetary damages were sufficient to remedy any harm done to Plaintiff, and thus a preliminary injunction, which requires irreparable harm causing damage that cannot be cured by adequate remedies at law, was inappropriate. - LSW


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11. Surviving Survivors Sue
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Survivor
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Peterik, Jim
Scotti Brothers Records
Short Description Survivor is, without a doubt, best-known for their massive hit, "Eye of the Tiger," that functioned as the theme song to Rocky III. However, they had other hits, and have continued to perform as a band up until today. Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are the band's founder and the band's corporate entity, while Defendants are members of the band who had been with the band at the time "Eye" was recorded and released. In the early days of the band, the members formed a joint venture, which allowed for replacement members to become full venturers in the agreement. Plaintiffs joined the band sometime thereafter. Prior to this lawsuit, in the mid-1990s, members of the band Survivor, including Plaintiffs but not Defendants, realized they had not been tendered royalties or statements by Scotti Brothers, the record label with which they had previously signed. Plaintiffs brought suit, and the parties settled, with 20% of royalties paid to songwriter/producer Jim Peterik and 80% paid to Survivor. However, Plaintiffs represented to Defendants, when Defendants re-joined the band in the late 1990s, that no royalties were forthcoming, because the band was indebted to their record label. This court opinion, which does not state the reason for Plaintiff's lawsuit, addresses Defendants' counterclaims alleging that Plaintiffs committed various wrongs (see the attached list of legal issues) relating to the concealment of Plaintiffs' settlement for royalty payments and subsequent receipt of those royalties. On Plaintiff's motion to dismiss counterclaims, the court found that Defendants introduced evidence, beyond the speculative level, that they were full members of the band (pursuant to the joint venture agreement and subsequent record contracts), and were thus owed royalties, which were not paid by Plaintiffs. Furthermore, Defendants' fraud claims were properly stated, even under heightened pleading requirements, because they alleged that Plaintiffs intentionally misled Defendants into believing no royalties were forthcoming, despite the settlement. Last, because Defendants learned of the nonpayment of royalties in 2009, when Peterik told them of his 20% interest, the statute of limitations had not run. In a related subsequent ruling, the court held Defendants were not judicially estopped from asserting claims against Plaintiffs for royalties, despite not having claimed the royalties or cited the contracts amongst the band members and with Scotti Brothers in a previous bankruptcy proceeding. - LSW


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12. Oh, Poor Vinnie Vincent
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Vincent, Vinnie
Defendants Band Member(s)
Business Entity of Artist(s)
KISS
Polygram Records
Simmons, Gene
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Vinnie Vincent (nee Cusano) was KISS's lead guitarist from 1982-84, at which time he co-wrote numerous songs that appeared on albums. Though he's not too well known by the population at-large, he's well known in courts of law. Vincent sued the band and its members numerous times during the 1990s and 2000s (see, e.g., "Vinnie Vincent Wants In" (I) and (II), and "Vinnie Vincent vs. Metal Edge"). In the late 1990s, he sued his former band-mates for numerous causes of action, including violation of publicity, defamation, and nonpayment of royalties. He lost the case, and KISS were awarded $80,000 in fees and costs, for which the band members secured a judgment lien on Vincent's copyrights. Vincent filed this Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, as wells as numerous adversary proceedings against various parties, including one against BMI for which he was awarded $2,000 of the $20,000 he requested. After third parties motioned to convert his bankruptcy into Chapter 7, Vincent moved to voluntarily withdraw his petition. The court, noting that Vincent had filed in bad faith, barred him from filing for two years and held that no subsequent filing could impact matters relating to the prior litigation between Vincent and KISS. The appellate court, after addressing preliminary issues, upheld the lower court's finding as to "bad faith." Vincent had filed three times in three years and had withheld financial information from courts adjudicating his proceedings. (Ancillary issues were also discussed, but the "bad faith" issue was, according to the court, the most important.) - LSW


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13. Village Person vs. Village People
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Village People
Short Description The Village People, though their name and image was been well-preserved through the years and has undoubtedly become a staple reference in American pop culture, enjoyed only a brief period of success, between the years 1977 and 1979. The band was formed by a production company that owned all associated trademarks to the band's name and image. In their initial existence, Defendant was the "cop" persona and a lead singer in the band. After Defendant left the band in 1979, the group re-grouped numerous times with different members. Plaintiff in this case is the corporate entity formed by the other members, which received permission from the trademarks' owner. Near the end of the first decade of the 2000s, Defendant began to threaten Plaintiff and the band's new members, alleging their performances constituted "fakes" and consistently reiterating that he intended to "dry up" their commercial feasibility. He even attended various events in his cop uniform and intimated what appeared to be gun shot hand motions. After the sent a cease and desist letter and communicated with various third parties that intended to book the band, all explaining his intention to sue the band, Plaintiff brought actions for interference with contracts and business, unfair trade practices, and more. Defendant counter-claimed and asserted several affirmative defenses. Of importance to this court opinion, Defendant cited California's "Anti-SLAPP" statute, which allows Defendants to strike complaints that chill protected speech activities. Unfortunately for Defendant, the court found, first, that Plaintiff's suit arose from much more than his letter, a "pre-litigation communication," but also from his numerous other actions and blatant attempts to interfere with their success. Second, they had demonstrated a probable success on the merits of their complaint. Thus, Defendants' Anti-SLAPP motion was denied. - LSW


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14. Return the Montrose Guitar!
Highest Court N.D. California
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Moore, Gary
Other Montrose
Short Description Ronnie Montrose, the man behind the band Montrose, for whom Sammy Hagar sang in his early career, sued British guitarist Gary Moore, demanding return of a guitar stolen from Montrose 37 years earlier, and legitimately acquired by Defendant in good faith. The court needed not address the perceived ridiculousness of the complaint, because the court found it did not have personal jurisdiction over the Plaintiff; Defendant's operation of a website and sale of songs on iTunes did not confer general jurisdiction. - LSW


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15. Who Owns "Expose" Mark?
Highest Court S.D. Florida
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Producer(s)
Record Label(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Talent Agent(s)
Other Expos?
Short Description This is a trademark dispute between the band Expose (an all-girl, early 1990s singing group) and a film company that owns a trademark in the name for music performance-related products, regarding ownership of the name. During settlement negotiations between the band and Plaintiff's predecessor-in-interest during the mid-1990s, the band admitted Plaintiff's predecessor owned the name, and entered a trademark license agreement stating as much. In 2007, the band's legal counsel sent a letter saying Plaintiffs did not actually own the name, stating that the band would seek to register it for themselves. Plaintiffs brought suit for trademark infringement and unfair competition, among numerous other related causes of action. The band's entities counterclaimed, alleging the earlier settlements were induced by fraud, and requesting rescission of the settlement. After venue was found to be proper, the court held that--while the contract cannot be rescinded because Plaintiff was not a party to settlement negotiations, but merely purchased the name from that party--Defendants' counterclaim for fraud was validly stated. Justifiable reliance required further fact-finding, and could not be dismissed summarily. - LSW


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16. Korn's Singer: "Plaintiff is Demented!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Korn
Short Description Jonathan Davis, the lead singer for nu-metal pioneers, Korn, was once a fond collector of serial killer memorabilia, and even contemplated financing a museum for the purpose of displaying that kind of stuff. Plaintiff was the party with whom Davis contracted to organize and fund such a museum. However, when Davis changed his mind, the two entered a settlement in which Davis granted to Plaintiff a Volkswagen vehicle previously owned by Ted Bundy, two clown suits previously owned by John Wayne Gacey, four paintings by John Wayne Gacey, a confession signed by Albert Fish, and five drawings by Richard Ramirez. As part of the settlement, Davis promised not to disparage Plaintiff, his venture, or the materials. However, shortly thereafter, Davis did precisely that, calling the stuff "sick shit" and publicly distancing himself from such "negative" things. When plaintiff sued for violation of the agreement and fraud, Davis sought to dismiss, citing California's Anti-SLAPP act, which can dispose of complaints brought against protected expression unless Plaintiffs can demonstrate a likelihood of success. In this case, the court held Plaintiff met the burden. Davis's comments breached the settlement and caused diminution in the memorabilia's value. Further, Plaintiff made a prima facie showing of fraud. Defendant's Anti-SLAPP motion denied. Though, in all fairness, this is sick shit. - LSW


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17. Local Rapper's Murder Wrap
Highest Court Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs State Prosecutor(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Plush Brothers
Short Description This is an incredibly depressing case involving the murder of an individual after an argument over who could use the basketball courts on a playground. Defendant, was a rap artist in an underground Philadelphia group called the Plush Brothers. His case is only included in this database because they're mentioned by name, and because Defendant argued that his rap lyrics, which unsurprisingly described and purportedly glorified situations precisely like the crime for which he stood trial, should not have been admitted as evidence. (Defendant offered many other arguments, and only pursued this one early on; see the issues list for some others and the opinion list for the number of appeals). Among other reasons, the court found that since Defendant presented himself as a college student and an artist he opened the door to having his artwork and writing analyzed. Furthermore, the evidence was not harmful to him, even if somewhat prejudicial. - LSW


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18. Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (II)
Highest Court Seventh Circuit
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Individual(s)
Lawyer(s)
Nonprofit Organization(s)
Record Label(s)
Other Stormy Weather
Short Description This "over-litigated" case was mired by subpar lawyering and excessive legal filings, turning what could have been a rather straightforward copyright lawsuit into a pathetic symphony of sanctions, bogus motions, and attorneys' fees. The case revolves around the song "The Wonders of Indiana," written and performed by the Gary, Indiana doo-wop group, Stormy Weather. The band's leader Henry Farag, told the band that an Indiana visitors' center was interested in a song about the state, and songwriter, Cheryl Janky, took to the task of penning the tune. After some small changes were made, at Farag's suggestion, Janky regsitered the song in both of their names. When the song was released on CD, used at the visitors center, and included as "hold music" for the center's phone lines, Janky adjusted her registration to remove Farag's name and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit. A slew of motions, appeals, etc., followed, many of which pertained to procedural issues or to the numerous sanctions granted against Janky and her lawyers. These are well summarized in "Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (II)." At trial, Defendants presented various theories as defenses, including 1) the song was a work-for-hire, and thus owned by the visitors center or Farag and 2) the song was co-authored by Farag and Janky, as evidenced by her initial copyright registration naming Farag. After many motions were filed by Plaintiffs and denied, around $50,000 in sanctions were levied against Plaintiff and her lawyers (possibly more, since it's difficult to discern) over the course of this lawsuit. At trial, the jury returned a verdict for Janky, finding Defendants liable for $100,000 in damages, though around $15,000 in sanctions (against Janky herself) offset that amount. After more appeals and an alternate lawsuit was filed ("Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (II)"), the case found itself in the federal Court of Appeals. There, the court reversed the lower verdict in Plaintiff's favor, finding the song was co-authored by Janky and Farag; though Janky denied as much, the court held that the song was written with mutual intentions to be merged into an inseparable whole, and that Farag's contributions were independently copyrightable. The case was reversed and remanded, and Janky--facing tens of thousands of dollars in sanctions--seemed S.O.L. - LSW


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19. Crazy Plaintiff: "Tavares Made Me a Slave!"
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Mentally Unstable Individual(s)
Defendants Assorted Celebrities
Band Member(s)
Individual(s)
Other Tavares
Short Description Plaintiff is quite clearly insane, suing not just a slew of public figures for a variety of claims, but including somewhat-obscure musician Perry Lee "Tiny" Tavares, of the 1970s family funk group, Tavares. Plaintiff accuses Tiny of slavery, which is quite clearly outlandish, and the complaint is dismissed. - LSW


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20. Ex-Starr Becomes Ex-Husband
Highest Court District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Spouse of Artist(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Atlantic Starr
Short Description Atlantic Starr is largely forgotten, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this New York-based R&B band had several sizeable hits, including the #1 pop song "Always." After their stars faded, trumpeter William Sudderth's musical stability waned, and he and his wife agreed he should leave music for the sake of their marriage. He gained some computer training, but it appears he was unable to find consistent work, and he spent much of his time maintaining properties owned by him and his wife. She was an attorney and was the main "breadwinner" in the relationship. In fact, after the couple's separation, which preceding this suit, Sudderth was "homeless, taking loans from family members to survive, and his education did not exceed high school and some computer training." The divorce court awarded Sudderth some of the couple's property, which they owned "by entirety," in lieu of alimony, and granted him half of his wife's retirement savings, which was around $12,000. Over the wife's objections, the appellate court affirmed the property division, which was appropriately equitable. However, Sudderth's award of attorneys' fees was reversed, as it wasn't based in proper authority. - LSW


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