U.S. judge in lawsuit against Jay Z over logo won't recuse himself

Fri Jul 24, 2015 5:51pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday refused to recuse himself from a $7 million copyright lawsuit against Jay Z over his Roc-A-Fella Records logo, after the plaintiff said the judge appeared to be biased toward the rap star and music entrepreneur.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis in Manhattan said there was no evidence that he showed "deep-seated favoritism or antagonism" in handling the lawsuit by Bronx clothing designer Dwayne Walker, or that his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

In his July 2012 lawsuit Walker claimed that he created artwork in 1995 depicting a vinyl record that became the basis for Jay Z's Roc-A-Fella logo, which includes a superimposed "R."

He is seeking damages for alleged copyright infringement from Jay Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, and other defendants including Roc-A-Fella and its parent Universal Music Group Inc, a unit of France's Vivendi SA.

In seeking Ellis' recusal, Walker had accused the judge of issuing inconsistent rulings favoring Jay Z, and basing one order on a private call with defense lawyers.

"Walker mischaracterizes both the facts surrounding these decisions and the supporting rationale provided by the court," Ellis wrote.

Gregory Berry, a lawyer for Walker, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Walker v Carter et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-05384.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

Jay-Z performs on stage during the Global Citizen Festival concert in Central Park in New York September 27, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri