Appeals Court Upholds Fox Victory Over 'American Idol' Racism Lawsuit

The former contestants didn't file until many years after their disqualifications.
Courtesy of FOX

Ten former black contestants on American Idol who alleged they were the victims of racial discrimination in the way they were disqualified have failed to get the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to revive claims.

The lawsuit came in July 2013 from Corey Clark, Chris Golightly, Jaered Andrews and others, and while sprawling, the complaint concerned the way producers exploited criminal background checks and "rap sheets" of the show's black contestants to deprive them of the opportunity to win the reality TV show.

Last November, U.S District Judge Naomi Buchwald ruled that all but one of the plaintiffs hadn't filed a lawsuit soon enough to survive statute of limitations. Claims brought by Golightly were dismissed, among other reasons, because he hadn't pled sufficient facts to show his race or his criminal record motivated his disqualification.

On Monday, a three-judge panel at the 2nd Circuit affirmed.

"Here, the district court properly concluded that plaintiffs’ claims accrued when they were eliminated from the show, which was communicated to each plaintiff at the time of their respective eliminations," states a summary order. "Insofar as plaintiffs submit that the limitations periods did not begin to run until plaintiffs knew or had reason to know of the allegedly discriminatory motives for their eliminations, we need not here decide whether accrual can ever be so based because plaintiffs have failed in any event plausibly to allege that they did not have reason to know of those motives until 2012."

As for Golightly, the appeals court adds the district judge made no error:

"Indeed, the complaint does not even allege that defendants were aware of his criminal history. Rather, the complaint provides a different, and entirely valid, reason for Golightly’s disqualification: his failure to disclose that he was previously under contract as a member of a music group named Dream5, despite being explicitly asked in the American Idol background questionnaire whether 'he had ever been party to a music-related industry contract.' "

Fox and other defendants including Fremantle and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, were represented by Daniel Petrocelli, Mark Wayne Robertson and Molly Lens.

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