Judge Asks Why Parks Can't Testify Vs. OutKast

A federal judge in Detroit ordered yesterday (July 29) that a doctor for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks explain why Parks cannot testify in a lawsuit she brought against OutKast for using her name wi

A federal judge in Detroit ordered yesterday (July 29) that a doctor for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks explain why Parks cannot testify in a lawsuit she brought against OutKast for using her name without permission.

Parks' lawsuit claims the 1998 song "Rosa Parks" constituted false advertising and infringed on her trademark rights. The Detroit resident alleges OutKast and record company BMG exploited her name for commercial purposes.

Lawyers for the defense have asked to interview Parks to explain claims that she suffered emotional and mental distress because of the song. But Parks' lawyers said the 91-year-old woman suffers from an unspecified medical condition and her doctor does not recommend that she testify.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald A. Scheer said during yesterday's hearing that Parks' doctor must release records relating to her medical condition and explain why she cannot be questioned by the defense.

Scheer also excluded OutKast from the lawsuit -- leaving only BMG as a defendant -- because the individual members were not named in the suit, and the group's name was incorrect.

The civil rights hero wants her name removed from future versions of the record. She also is seeking unspecified damages.

OutKast has argued that the song is neither false advertising nor a violation of Parks' trademark rights and is protected by the First Amendment. Only the title of the song, which is about the entertainment industry, refers to Parks by name. The song's chorus is: "Ah-ha, hush that fuss. Everybody move to the back of the bus."

Parks made history in 1955 when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus. Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system by blacks and led to court rulings desegregating public transportation nationwide.

Parks lost the first round of the OutKast lawsuit in federal court, but a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reinstated part of the lawsuit last year. Her claims of defamation and interfering with an ongoing business relationship have been thrown out.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 10.


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