Jury Finds Famous Funkster George Clinton Didn’t Defame His Former Producer
Steven T. Lowe
On August 11th, 2021, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury found in favor of the highly influential funk musician, George Clinton, author of such well-known funk standards as “Flash Light,” “Mothership Connection (Star Child),” and “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off That Sucker.”
In 2015, Clinton’s former producer, Armen Boladian (“Boladian”), filed a defamation suit against the Parliament-Funkadelic founder. Boladian claimed that Clinton defamed him in 20 different statements in Clinton’s autobiography, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?: A Memoir. Some of the allegedly defamatory statements made in the book were that Boladian attempted to evict Clinton from his own farm, robbed Clinton of some of his songs and that Boladian had been known to use “ill-gotten copyrights.” Clinton’s memoir also included statements that Clinton never signed agreements assigning Clinton’s ownership of the sound recordings of his earliest albums to Boladian’s record label. Boladian argued that these statements were false and claimed that Clinton signed agreements assigning his copyright ownership in the albums to Boladian in both 1972 and 1975.
Ultimately, the jury issued a verdict in Clinton’s favor. The jury found that Clinton had not defamed Boladian for a few reasons. In its responses to questions asked by the court, the jury found that the average reader would not think most of the statements at issue suggested that Boladian committed a crime or an unethical business practice. Thus, these statements were found to not be defamatory. Where the jury found that a statement did suggest Boladian committed a crime or unethical business practice, the jury found that those statements couldn’t be proven to be true or false and thus these statements were not defamatory either. Of the six statements that survived these questions out of the original 20 statements at issue, the jury found three to be true and thus not defamatory. The jury finally found that the three remaining false statements were also not defamatory because Boladian was not able to prove that Clinton knew that the statements were false or did not have reason to seriously doubt the truth of the statements.
When asked about the verdict, Clinton stated, “I will continue to speak truth to power and to fight against the forces that have separated so many songwriters from their music. Investigate. Interrogate. Litigate. Unseal. Reveal. If we don’t get this right, then they win.” The two have been in a variety of legal disputes over the past few years. In 2020, Boladian accused Clinton of filing unwarranted suits against Boladian for the sole purpose of stirring up interest in Clinton’s memoir. The Court in that case granted summary judgment for Clinton.
Author’s Note: It has become increasingly difficult to succeed as a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit. There are a ridiculous number of obstacles to a successful recovery. This case is a perfect example. In this author’s opinion, many of Mr. Clinton’s statements were defamatory.
Boladian is represented by Richard S. Busch and Brittney R. Dobbins of King & Ballow.
Clinton is represented by Jordan Susman and Margo Arnold of Nolan Heimann LLP.
The case is Armen Boladian et al. v. George Clinton et al., case number BC576665, in the California Superior Court, Los Angeles County.
* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is an entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving defamation and libel, 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.