Flavor Flav Loses Lawsuit for Public Enemy Royalties on a Technicality

Steven T. Lowe

On May 9, 2022, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit said a California federal court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled that William J. Drayton, professionally known as “Flavor Flav,” can’t revive a lawsuit against Public Enemy’s business manager and producer, Gary Rinaldo. Flavor Flav lost this case because his attorneys failed to timely file pretrial documents. The parties were required to file a number of documents by March 25, 2019, including a “Memorandum of Contentions of Fact and Law,” a witness list, and a joint exhibit list. By April 4, 2019, Flavor Flav was required to file a proposed pretrial conference order signed by both sides. These documents were not timely filed. Flavor Flav didn’t attempt to file the “Memorandum of Contentions of Fact and Law” until 21 days after the March 25, 2019 deadline, when it was then rejected. Instead, on March 25, 2019, Flavor Flav filed an unopposed motion (1) to amend the complaint to add a new defendant and (2) to reset the trial schedule. On April 18, 2019, the district court issued an order denying that motion, concluding that Flavor Flav had failed to show good cause for such a late request. One month later, the district court dismissed the action.

Originally, Flavor Flav filed suit in August 2017, alleging he was owed music royalties and compensation for the use of his image and voice for Public Enemy’s “Nothing Is Quick In The Desert” album, originally released in 2017. The lawsuit named Rinaldo and his company Eastlink, bandmate Ridenhour, and other members of Public Enemy, including Ice Cube, as defendants. The complaint alleged that “despite Drayton’s position in Public Enemy, the group’s management and related companies have for years attempted to minimize his role in the Public Enemy business while continuing to rely upon Drayton’s fame and persona to market the brand.”

After the case was dismissed on a procedural technicality, on Flavor Flav’s appeal before the Ninth Circuit, his counsel argued the district court “ruled in an irrational manner by providing no warning to Flavor Flav that dismissal with prejudice was a possibility.” Flavor Flav’s counsel also argued that there were many factors leading to why the filings were late. Among other reasons, Flavor Flav’s counsel had expected the case to settle. Flavor Flav said that just because he missed a deadline by a few days, he should not be “denied his day in court.” However, he missed the deadline by more than a few days, and in one instance, he missed the deadline by three weeks. Flavor Flav also argued that the district judge’s failure to warn him that dismissal was “imminent” was an abuse of discretion.

However, the district court explained that “Drayton’s expectation that the case would settle did not warrant disregarding the pretrial deadlines and that Drayton’s failure to file the pretrial papers on time both hindered the expeditious resolution of cases and made it ‘impossible for the court to manage its docket.'” The Central District of California, in particular, is “burdened with heavy civil and criminal caseloads,” which generally favors dismissing the case. The Ninth Circuit ruled the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the case.

Drayton is represented by Eric Bjorgum and Marc Karish of Karish & Bjorgum PC.

Rinaldo is represented by Michael G. York of the Law Office of Michael G. York.

The case is Drayton v. Rinaldo et al., case number 19-55765, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is an entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving entertainment and music law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

Find us at our website at www.LoweLaw.com