Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Nina Simone Recordings Rights Squabble Drags On

(CN) - The legal battle over interests in Nina Simone's recordings continues after a Ninth Circuit panel ruled the district court has jurisdiction over the ongoing litigation.

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 since then.

Simone's former attorney, Steven Ames Brown, claims Stroud owes him 40 percent interest in the singer's recordings for 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 widow Scarlett Stroud took his place in the ongoing litigation.

Last 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, her attorneys argued.

A Ninth Circuit panel disagreed with the Stroud parties Tuesday, determining the district court had jurisdiction over Scarlett.

In a five-page unpublished memo, the panel found Stroud was properly served with a motion to substitute her as a party, because her doorman and building superintendent did not block the process server.

The Stroud parties' appeal "fails on the merits," the three-judge panel concluded.

"The only argument [Scarlett Stroud] raises regarding the substitution order is that her substitution was premature, as she had not yet been appointed as the Estate's representative," the panel wrote.

"However, the district court did not enter any sanctions against the Estate until well after the date upon which all parties agree [Scarlett] had become the proper party for substitution, and the district court granted [her] motion for reconsideration of the substitution order to the extent that it had substituted her prior to her appointment as the Estate's legal representative."

The district court also properly denied the Stroud parties' motion for more time, with the panel finding no error in the district court's conclusion about their attorneys' "repeated gamesmanship and misconduct" and "blatant disregard of the Court's orders."

U.S. Circuit Judges Andrew Kleinfeld, A. Wallace Tashima and Milan Smith sat on the Ninth Circuit panel.

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