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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fight Over Nina Simone Royalties in 9th Circuit

(CN) — Numerous people and businesses with interests in Nina Simone's recordings submitted briefs to the Ninth Circuit in a long-running legal battle over who owns the rights.

Defendant Andrew Stroud was married to Simone, who died at 70 in 2003. Stroud and his companies have been involved in multiple lawsuits involving rights to Simone's recordings.

Simone's former attorney Steven Ames Brown claims he is owed 40 percent interest in the singer's recordings from representing her in two earlier lawsuits. Stroud and his company countersued, claiming to be exclusive owners of disputed recordings.

Stroud died in July 2012, days after a federal judge in San Francisco sanctioned him for failing to produce recordings as part of a discovery order. His wife Scarlett was put in his place in the ongoing litigation.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White partly adopted a magistrate judge's recommendations that the Stroud parties do not have ownership of a number of Simone's recordings, and granted default judgment against them.

This week, a number of parties submitted briefs to the Ninth Circuit in lieu of oral arguments, appealing various aspects of the litigation.

Attorneys for Stroud Productions and Enterprises and his widow Scarlett said the district court should not have substituted her for her husband in the litigation because she was not properly served, so "any judicial proceedings are invalid as to her."

Because Scarlett was not the proper party and the court did not have jurisdiction over her, all the orders involving her should be vacated, the attorneys wrote.

Attorneys for appellees Castle Rock Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Sony said the appeal should be denied, calling the argument about Scarlett's substitution "an extreme and nonsensical conclusion."

"She argues only that she was substituted prematurely, prior to having formally been made Executrix of the Stroud Estate by the New York probate court," the attorneys wrote in their answering brief.

"Even if correct on that point, however, her conclusion goes a league too far: namely, that her substitution in the pending litigation some weeks prior to her formal appointment as Executrix renders void any and all District Court orders and judgments thereafter."

The appellees' attorneys said the district court did have jurisdiction over Scarlett and all the claims in the lawsuit by Steven Ames Brown.

Classically trained, volatile and highly regarded, Simone also was a pianist and an outspoken defender of civil rights.

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