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Dismissal of Lawsuit Legitimizes Blatantly Racist Concert Promotion Policies

(Photo: KOMUnews / Flickr)

In the 114-year history of William Morris, the world’s largest talent agency, no black concert promoter has ever been allowed to contract with a white entertainer or artist for a live concert performance. Yet, white concert promoters are able to contract with artists of all races. The Civil Rights Act 42 U.S.C. 1981 plainly states that no person can be denied the right to engage in a contract based on their race.

Also, black concert promoters always have been required to pay a 50 percent deposit upfront for the artist that they were contracted to promote – which consisted of black artists only. White promoters, however, have been required to pay zero to 10 percent as a deposit to promote any and all artists of their choice. These are merely two instances of the disparities between black and white concert promoters in the industry, and by no means exhaustive.

In 2001, 30-year veteran concert promoter Leonard Rowe, then-president of the Black Promoters Association, along with colleagues, initiated a landmark anti-trust and civil rights lawsuit against William Morris. This battle has been waged by Rowe for 15 years to right the wrongs that exist in the concert promotion industry. Despite all the evidence Rowe proffered and despite the standard for granting a summary judgment motion, Rowe’s case was erroneously dismissed at the summary judgment level.

In his lawsuit against William Morris and other defendants, Rowe sought damages in the amount of $750 million for violation of anti-trust and the Civil Rights Act.

On January 2005, Judge Robert P. Patterson granted defendant’s summary judgment motion – dismissing the case – despite the fact that the standard for granting summary judgment according to the US Supreme Court and the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure is that the nonmoving party (Rowe) merely had to show that there are specific facts demonstrating that there are genuine issues for trial. Further, the nonmoving party’s evidence, must be viewed in the light most favorable to him.

Rowe literally submitted 10 boxes of evidence that, in addition to more than 2,000 contacts, contained emails and testimonies (affidavits and declarations) by white concert promoters conceding the discriminatory and inequitable practices against black concert promoters within the concert promotion industry. Rowe also presented disposition testimony to the court of several white promoters who stated under oath that “what we have in the concert promotion industry is a good ol’ boy’s club.”

The law also firmly states that when a defendant moves for a summary judgment motion to have the case dismissed, it should be granted rarely, particularly in discrimination cases, because evidence is so often buried in testimony.

Here, the injustice plot thickens: Rowe contends that if a jury had been allowed to view the evidence, the case would have been decided in his favor. But not only was evidence hidden from the judge, it was also hidden from Rowe – by his own attorney.

During litigation of Rowe Entertainment v. The William Morris Agency, Rowe paid $200,000 to retrieve email evidence that later revealed executives at William Morris and Creative Artists Agency referred to black people as “n———,” “spooks,” “coons” and “monkeys,” among other names.

Rowe states that during discovery, his own attorney, Willie E. Gary, worked with co-counsel Martin R. Gold of Dentons LLP and the opposing side to conceal this key evidence from him and the court. Rowe further states that Gary was entrusted not only by his client but by the entire black music industry, as well as black people across this nation, to make sure that justice would be properly served in this case. Without Gary’s duplicitous conduct, Rowe believes his case would not have been dismissed by summary judgment.

Gary has the reputation in the legal profession as being a shrewd businessman, as well as a great and tough negotiator, Rowe said. Rowe contends that Gary and the other plaintiffs’ attorneys engaged in fraud, betraying their own clients when there was a preponderance of evidence against the wealthier defendants.

Rowe asks: Does anyone truly believe that these well-seasoned and experienced attorneys would allow a case in which 28 of the 33 defendants had already settled with lesser evidence against them, would stand to allow the case to be erroneously dismissed against the wealthiest of the defendants, without benefitting in some way? Rowe believes Gary benefited the same, if not more, than he would have had the case had been decided by a jury, by the defendants cutting a side deal with the plaintiffs’ attorneys, allowing the defendants to maintain the stranglehold that they have on the concert promotion industry, which includes a monopoly, as well as discriminatory practices.

In February 2014, Rowe filed and recorded the commercial liens in various county recorder’s offices against William Morris Endeavor and its law firm, as well as against Gary and his law firm. The liens are based upon the violation of the oaths taken by the respective attorneys – violation of their ethical duties of professional responsibility – and for engaging in fraud and conspiracy against Rowe and co-plaintiffs’ interest. Also, each $500 million lien further reflects the violation of Rowe’s civil rights as well as the theft, asportation and concealment of Leonard Rowe’s personal property – i.e. the emails that were part of the discovery process.

So the question emerges: Do the civil rights laws no longer apply to black people in America, although they apply to women (mostly white women, at that)? This appears to be the position of Judge Robert P. Patterson, who sits on the bench in the Southern District of New York and who dismissed Leonard Rowe’s case, ignoring all of the evidence proffered. Rowe submitted 10 boxes of evidence – which in addition to the more than 2,000 contacts, contained emails and testimonies (affidavits and declarations) by white concert promoters conceding the discriminatory and inequitable practices against black concert promoters within the concert promotion industry

What could account for this miscarriage of justice?

Rowe states that if the defendants truly believed that the liens were bogus or fraudulent and should not have been placed, to get them removed is simple: File a complaint, and have them removed by a jury trial – as required by the process to remove liens. However, many feel that they are not doing that, for the simple reason that their collusion to allow the summary dismissal of the lawsuit would be revealed.

The commercial lien process allows those that are the target of the liens to refute each claim, by submitting their own affidavit in rebuttal, before the liens are recorded. So, before anyone feels sorry for these lien debtors, know that each had four opportunities to rebut the claims asserted by Rowe in their own affidavit, yet, each offered no rebuttal. Now keep in mind that an affidavit, which is distinguished from a declaration, is a sworn and notarized statement as to truth of the matters asserted and can be rebutted only by the individual to whom it is directed with their own affidavit. All statements contained within an affidavit must be sworn to be the truth and notarized. And if any statement is proven false, the affiant may be subjected to criminal penalties. Just as importantly, lawyers, who are officers of the court, stand to lose their law license if found to have perjured themselves in their sworn affidavit. This could be the reason why the parties in this matter have not offered a rebuttal.

Further, to have the liens removed, the parties must appear before the trier of fact, i.e., a jury, which Rowe has repeatedly and consistently requested. A judge has no jurisdiction in the process of having commercial liens removed. The liens can be removed only by the individual who placed the liens or by a jury of 12. Thus, the ball is entirely in the defendants’ court, if they want the liens removed.

This decision by Patterson will historically and categorically place him firmly with the likes of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who stated in the Dred Scott decision, “the negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.” This decision by Taney denied a black slave, Dred Scott, and his family their freedom. This is not only an injustice to Rowe but an injustice to all people everywhere.

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