Hendricks & Lewis PLLC v. Clinton, No. 13-35010 (9th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Clinton is a musician, bandleader, and touring performance artist. H&L, a law firm, represented Clinton in in 2005-2008, billed Clinton $3,341,650, received $1,000,578 in payment, and wrote off $600,000 of the remaining balance. This left $1,779,756.29 due. H&L initiated arbitration. Clinton did not participate; the panel ruled in favor of H&L. The district court confirmed the award of $1,675,639.82, plus interest plus $60,786.50 in attorney fees. H&L pursued collection, including garnishments, levies, and liens across the country. Clinton’s attorney declared that they created a financial “stranglehold” so that Clinton “[c]an’t pay his taxes … it is going to affect... his ability to make a living at 72 years old.” A year later, Clinton sued H&L for legal malpractice. H&L asserted counterclaims and sought an order authorizing the sale of master sound recording copyrights to satisfy its judgments. The district court appointed a receiver and authorized the receiver to use the copyrights to satisfy the judgments. Amending its earlier order, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Under Washington law Clinton’s copyrights in the masters were subject to execution to satisfy judgments against him. Section 201(e) of the federal Copyright Act does not protect Clinton from the involuntary transfer of his copyrighted works. Clinton could raise claims of fraud on the court and judicial estoppel for the first time on appeal, but the claims were meritless.
Court Description: Copyright. The panel filed an order amending its previous opinion, and in the amended opinion the panel affirmed the district court’s order appointing a receiver and authorizing the sale of master sound recording copyrights in an action between musician George Clinton and his former law firm Hendricks & Lewis. Hendricks & Lewis obtained judgments against Clinton for past-due attorneys’ fees, and moved for an order authorizing the sale of master recordings made by Clinton to satisfy the judgments. The panel held that under Washington law Clinton’s copyrights in the masters were subject to execution to satisfy judgments made against him. The panel also held that § 201(e) of the federal Copyright Act did not protect Clinton from the involuntary transfer of his copyrighted works. The panel further held that under Washington law the district court did not abuse its discretion by appointing a receiver to manage or sell ownership of the copyrights. The panel held that Clinton may raise claims of fraud on the court and judicial estoppel for the first time on appeal, but concluded that both claims were meritless. Finally, the panel held that Clinton failed to raise his preemption, Erie doctrine, and due process arguments before the district court, and, therefore, they would generally not be considered, and in any event they were without merit.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on June 23, 2014.