Judge dismisses lawsuit over Grammy category cuts
NEW YORK — A lawsuit filed against the Recording Academy over its decision to trim the Grammy Award categories, eliminating such categories as Latin jazz, has been dismissed.
The ruling last week by New York State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Oing granted the Academy’s motion to reject a lawsuit by Grammy-nominated jazz musician Bobby Sanabria and three others.
Sanabria had been the loudest opponent of the Academy’s decision last year to reduce its categories from 109 to 78 and fold some genres into larger fields. A vocal group that protested the cuts drew sympathizers that at one point included Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Sanabria called the cuts unfair, and even racist.
In an interview Sunday, Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said he was gratified by the court’s decision.
Sanabria on Sunday held out the possibility of an appeal.
“It’s disappointing, but I expected this to be a long fight,” he said.
The Academy announced last April that after a more than yearlong review, it had decided to trim its categories, in part to make the awards more competitive. That meant eliminating categories by sex, so men and women compete in the same vocal categories.
But it also eliminated other niche categories and created broader ones. For example, instead of a best Latin jazz album, those musicians competed against a larger group of artists in the best jazz instrumental category.
In his lawsuit, Sanabria accused the Academy of not following proper procedures and demanded that the best Latin jazz category be reinstated, saying the removal had a detrimental effect on the musicians’ careers.
As the February awards drew closer, few key stars aligned themselves with Sanabria’s cause.
Portnow said Sanabria represented a small number of the Academy’s members and that most had no problem with the changes.
The Academy’s board of trustees is due to meet in May to consider last year’s other changes and other matters involving the Grammys. However, Portnow said it is unlikely they will reverse the cuts.
Sanabria was hopeful the board, which he said consists of new members sympathetic to his coalition’s cause, might restore the categories. If not, Sanabria seemed prepared to continue the fight, which he said was for the good of the Academy.
“In families, there is always conflict,” he said. “We love the Academy, and that’s why we’re fighting for this.”
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