SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Nina Simone’s former husband and business manager disobeyed a court order and must pay more than $40,000 in sanctions to the jazz great’s estate, record label, and attorney, a federal judge ruled.
Defendant Andrew Stroud was married to Nina Simone, who died in 2003. The couple divorced in 1970, but Stroud has been involved in several legal battles involving the rights to Simone’s recordings.
Attorney Steven Ames Brown sued Stroud in Federal Court, claiming he has a 40 percent interest in Simone’s recordings, which he recovered 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.
“Following the ICU sale, counsel for Stroud took the position that her client could not produce additional responsive recordings because they were no longer in Stroud’s ownership, possession or control as a result of the sale. The other parties cried foul, claiming that the sale was the equivalent of evidence spoliation,” U.S. District Judge Donna Ryu wrote in her summary.
Ryu noted that Stroud may have been involved in “inappropriate gamesmanship” and issued an order to show cause why he should not be sanctioned.
“Stroud responded to the order to show cause and cryptically argued that certain recordings in his possession – ‘whether it is a tape of a Nina Simone home rehearsal that Stroud has never marketed or any other non-commercial recording that Stroud has never copyrighted or claimed an interest’ – did not fall within the scope of the court’s August 24, 2010 Order and thus were not produced for inspection and copying, and may have been part of the sale to ICU,” Ryu wrote.
“This tortured wording suggested that Stroud believed he could own or possess a Nina Simone recording, yet somehow not ‘claim an interest’ in it, and therefore need not produce it in discovery.”
Ryu found that Stroud and his attorney violated the court order to produce the recordings, and ordered sanctions.
“Stroud applied an unjustified interpretation of a court order that defied its plain meaning, without first seeking clarification or even discussing the matter with opposing counsel,” the judge wrote.
“This interpretation resulted in Stroud’s withholding of the vast majority of responsive recordings. By not revealing that he had applied his own strained reading of the court’s order, Stroud effectively hid the existence of a large cache of responsive recordings for well over a year.”
Ryu noted a difference in culpability between Stroud and his attorney, who claims she did not know about the sale to ICU until after the fact.
Stroud was ordered to pay more than $35,000 to Sony and $4,700 to Brown (who sued pro se) for attorney’s fees. The Estate of Nina Simone was granted around $2,000 in costs.
Stroud and his attorney were ordered to pay half of the sanctions awarded to Sony and the estate.