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George Clinton has been a pioneer in many ways, not only as a godfather of the funk genre but also on the litigation trail, getting a judge to acknowledge his ownership in the phrase, “Bow wow wow yippe yo yippie yay,” winning a ruling that his record labels violated his rights by re-releasing four of his 1970s albums, and perhaps most infamously, pursuing an estimated 800 musicians and record labels for illegally sampling his hit songs.
All this aggressive legal action comes at a cost, and now his former law firm, Hendricks & Lewis, wants Clinton to pay the piper. The firm is now looking to garnish Clinton’s wages to the tune of nearly $1.7 million.
Hendricks & Lewis represented Clinton between 2005 and 2008, and during this time, brought many lawsuits on his behalf, including cases against Capitol Records, Universal Music Group, and a host of cases known as “The Bridgeport Litigation,” 476 separate actions that sought declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages from some 800 defendants in the music business for copyright infringement.
The firm resigned as Clinton’s counsel in August 2008, claiming it was owed more than $1.5 million in unpaid attorneys’ fees and costs. Pursuant to the original fee agreement between the parties, the dispute over what was owed went to binding arbitration. A three-arbitrator panel took evidence, and even though Clinton’s new attorneys didn’t put up a fight (with only a motion to postpone the hearing), a partial award was granted to Hendricks & Lewis that Clinton should pay slightly more than $1.5 million.
Clinton didn’t pay, so the law firm next went to Washington District Court to enforce the judgment. Last May, a judge there dismissed Clinton’s contention that the arbitration proceeding had not been proper, and again confirmed that Clinton owed the money, plus costs for the ongoing proceedings.
Clinton still hasn’t paid, so Hendricks & Lewis is now seeking to garnish Clinton’s wages via a checking or savings account at Wells Fargo. Late last week, the firm submitted paperwork for the garnishment, which includes owed legal fees, court costs, and interest in the total amount of $1,633,594.68.
Even though Hendricks & Lewis is no longer representing Clinton, the godfather of funk is still aggressively pursuing alleged intellectual property theft, most recently with a lawsuit filed last December against Black Eyed Peas, UMG Recordings and Cherry Lane Music for allegedly sampling his song (Not Just) Knee Deep on a Grammy-award nominated album.
A representative for Clinton couldn’t be reached for comment.
Eriq Gardner can be reached at email@example.com and can be followed on Twitter.
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