A U.S. District Court judge in New York has ruled in favor of a group of agents and promoters in a case brought against them by four African-American concert promoters who claimed they had faced discr

NASHVILLE -- A U.S. District Court judge in New York has ruled in favor of a group of agents and promoters in a case brought against them by four African-American concert promoters who claimed they had faced discrimination in the concert business.

The Jan. 4 summary judgment effectively brings to an end an extended legal tangle that saw several defendants opt to settle out of court.

In November 1998, the black promoters filed a $700 million lawsuit against numerous booking agencies and promoters (most of the latter are now under the Clear Channel Entertainment banner), alleging antitrust and civil-rights violations for "maintaining and profiting from a conspiracy to do business only with white promoters and to exclude black promoters."

The plaintiffs in the suit -- members of the Black Promoters Assn. -- were Rowe Entertainment in Atlanta (Leonard Rowe), Sun Song Productions in New York (Jesse Boseman), Summitt Management of Memphis (Fred Jones) and Lee King Productions of Jackson, Miss.

The 176-page summary judgment, handed down Jan. 4 by Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr., says the plaintiffs failed to present evidence to support their antitrust claims or of a conspiracy in restraint of trade.

Creative Artists Agency, the William Morris Agency and independent promoters Jam Productions in Chicago and Beaver Productions in New Orleans were among the remaining defendants in the case.

The Agency for the Performing Arts, followed by Variety Artists, CCE and the Howard Rose Agency, had all previously settled with the black promoters and were subsequently dropped from the suit.

"Thankfully, the judge realized the same things we realized, that [the plaintiffs] were trying to extort us and blackmail us," says Jerry Mickelson, co-president of Jam. "We feel fully vindicated. The court system really works."

The suit was marked by picketing in front of the Beverly Hills offices of CAA and WMA. Civil-rights activist Dr. Joseph Lowery, chairman of the Black Leadership Forum, also joined the cause.

In 2001, high-profile litigator Willie E. Gary joined the legal team representing the plaintiffs; Gary is known for winning large damages for small businesses in cases against corporate giants.

Plaintiff Leonard Rowe tells ELW that Judge Patterson's ruling is not the end of the suit. "We're disappointed with the court's decision, and at the present time, as I speak to you, we're working on an appeal for the appellate court," says Rowe.