Emrit v. Universal Music Group et al. (19-cv-30147).

  • November 8, 2019

In 2019, Ronald Satish Emrit filed a pro se complaint against rapper Rick Ross, his record label Def Jam Group, Universal Music Group (which owns Def Jam), and the estate of Shakir Stewart, the A&R agent who signed Ross to Def Jam, accusing them of utilizing the backing track from one of Emrit’s songs as the backing track for Ross’ song “Billionaire.”  I noted at the time that personal jurisdiction was questionable, as none of Emrit or any Defendant resided in Massachusetts, and the sole connection to the Commonwealth was Emrit’s suggestion that he might move to Massachusetts in the near future.

Judge Mastroianni sua sponte dismissed the complaint without prejudice shortly after it was filed, noting that courts have inherent power to dismiss a case under the prior-pending action doctrine and that Emrit had already filed a virtually identical action against the same defendants in the Northern District of Iowa (which 19-00116).  He noted that he would likely have dismissed the case for improper venue in any event.   

Emrit appealed to the First Circuit, but failed to either pay the $505 filing fee or request in forma pauperis status, and his appeal was dismissed.  Judge Mastroianni has now denied Emrit’s motions to reopen the case and vacate the judgment.  He notes that Emrit still indicates that he wants to, but has not yet, purchased a residence in Massachusetts, and that this still does not provide a basis for relief from the judgment rendered. 

Emrit is a “frequent flier” in the federal courts (he has been a named party in 302 federal complaints, covering copyright and trademark infringement, civil rights cases, product liability, employment cases, among others), and had filed seven different cases against some or all of the same defendants in federal courts in Alaska, Hawaii, California and Florida (twice).  He fared no better in the Iowa case, where his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was denied, and his appeal was denied for the same reason as the First Circuit appeal – failure to file for in forma pauperis or to pay the required fee.  His motion to vacate the subsequent judgment and reopen the Iowa case were likewise denied.  One of the Florida cases was the only case to proceed for any length of time, and it too resulted in dismissal.  That court found no personal jurisdiction over the Defendants, and also noted that Emrit had been deemed a vexatious litigant in the Sourthern District of Florida and determined that leave to amend should not be granted because the complaint was filed and pursued in bad faith, in no small part because the various complaints seemed to be mere leverage to get the Defendants to sign Emrit to a record deal.

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