Nina Simone Case Crawls Toward Conclusion

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The estate of Nina Simone’s former husband and business partner must turn over a number of materials to Simone’s estate, a federal judge ruled.
     Defendant Andrew Stroud was married to Nina Simone, who died in 2003. Stroud and his companies have been involved in multiple legal battles involving rights to Simone’s recordings.
     In 2008, Simone’s former attorney Steven Ames Brown sued Stroud, claiming 40 percent interest in Simone’s recordings, from representing her in two earlier lawsuits.
     Stroud and his production company countersued Brown and Simone’s estate, claiming to be exclusive owner of the disputed recordings, based on a 1972 settlement agreement with his ex-wife.
     Brown also sought a court declaration that Sony Music Entertainment owns the recordings that Stroud claims to own.
     In 2011, Stroud refused to produce some of the recordings ordered by then-Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s discovery order. The court learned later that Stroud had sold some of Simone’s recordings to an entertainment company called ICU.
     In July 2012, U.S. District Judge Donna Ryu sanctioned Stroud for failing to produce the recordings.
     Days after the sanctions order, Stroud died. His wife Scarlett was put in his place in the pending lawsuits.
     Steven Ames Brown then filed a motion for default judgment against Stroud’s estate and companies. Simone’s estate and Sony Music Entertainment also filed motions for default judgment.
     This April, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins recommended an order declaring that Stroud, his estate and companies do not have any legal right to reproduce “any Nina Simone recordings or audiovisual works.”
     Cousins also found that Simone’s estate rightfully owned a number of recordings, and the Stroud parties had no interest in other recordings. The judge also recommended an injunction against the Stroud parties.
     In a July 11 order, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White partly adopted Magistrate Judge Cousins’ recommendations, and partly rejected them.
     Part of the dispute involved a third-party defendant, musician Wally Roker, who the Simone estate initially claimed had bought Nina’s “intimate, personal, unpublished diaries and other personal property” from Stroud.
     Judge White found that the court does not have diversity jurisdiction because of Roker’s presence in the case.
     “If the Court were to enter default judgment solely against Mr. Stroud, Mr. Roker’s rights under the agreement would still be voided,” White wrote.
     “Moreover, if Mr. Roker was dismissed from this lawsuit, he would lose the ability to challenge the default judgment against Mr. Stroud and the order declaring the agreement void. Alternatively, if Mr. Roker retained the right to file a separate lawsuit to address his rights under the agreement, then the Simone Estate’s claims could be subject to inconsistent judgments.”
     White found that the 2011 lawsuit against Roker should be dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction, and that Simone’s estate can refile the claims in state court or after judgment is entered in related cases.
     The judge also agreed with Cousins that the Stroud parties do not have any ownership or other rights to a number of Simone’s recordings, and granted default judgment against them.
     The Stroud estate has not yet paid sanctions to Brown, Sony, or the Simone estate, and White said the Stroud estate will be found in contempt if the sanctions, totaling around $24,000, are not paid by July 24.
     The Stroud parties must also produce any materials covered by the Simone Estate’s claims within 10 days of the order.
     A case management conference is set for Aug. 8 in White’s courtroom. The judge ordered the Simone estate, Brown, and Sony to file a joint case management statement explaining “how the remaining ownership issues between them should be resolved.”

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