Thursday, February 7, 2013

Great Moments in Court

We don’t hear much of him these days but Marshall Bruce Mathers 111 (1972-), better known as Eminem and by his alter ego Slim Shady, has sold more than 100 million records world wide. This year he will star in the films Shady Talez and Have Gun, Will Travel

Back in 1999 Mathers released an album, The Slim Shady LP, the majority of the tracks being from the perspective of the character Slim Shady. The success of the album made Mathers a high-profile celebrity. 

One of the tracks, Brain Damage, describes the abuse directed at him by a bully, D’Angelo Bailey. 

Sample lyrics: 

Way before my baby daughter Hailey
I was harassed daily by this fat kid named D'Angelo Bailey
An eighth grader who acted obnoxious, cause his father boxes
so everyday he'd shove me in the lockers
One day he came in the bathroom while I was pissin
And had me in the position to beat me into submission
He banged my head against the urinal til he broke my nose,
Soaked my clothes in blood, grabbed me and choked my throat
I tried to plead and tell him, "We shouldn't beef"
But he just wouldn't leave, he kept chokin me and I couldn't breathe

Apparently Bailey liked the attention when the song was first released but later changed his outlook, bringing suit against Mathers for damages for defamation. He maintained that he had never touched Mathers. 

In 2003 the matter came before Judge Deborah Servitto (1956 - ), pictured below, who agreed to an application by Mather’s lawyer for summary judgment before trial. Judge Servitto was of the opinion that the statements in the song were clearly hyperbole rather than statements that could be construed as stating actual facts about a person. 

Judge Servitto delivered a 13 page judgment and added a closing footnote: 

11. To convey the Court's opinion to fans of rap, the Court's research staff has helped the Court put the decision into a universally understandable format: 
Mr. Bailey complains that his rap is trash
So he's seeking compensation in the form of cash
Bailey thinks he's entitled to some monetary gain
Because Eminem used his name in vain

Eminem says Bailey used to throw him around
Beat him up in the john, shoved his face in the ground
Eminem contends that his rap is protected
By the rights guaranteed by the first amendment

Eminem maintains that the story is true
And that Bailey beat him black and blue
In the alternative he states that the story is phony
And a reasonable person would think it's baloney

The Court must always balance the rights
Of a defendant and one placed in a false light
If the plaintiff presents no question of fact
To dismiss is the only acceptable act

If the language used is anything but pleasin'
It must be highly objectionable to a person of reason
Even if objectionable and causing offence
Self-help is the first line of defence

Yet when Bailey actually spoke to the press
What do you think he didn't address?
Those false light charges that so disturbed
Prompted from Bailey not a single word.

So highly objectionable it could not be
--Bailey was happy to hear his name on a CD
Bailey also admitted he was a bully in youth
Which makes what Marshall said substantial truth
This doctrine is a defence well known
And renders Bailey's case substantially blown

The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact
They're an exaggeration of a childish fact
Any reasonable person could clearly see
That the lyrics could only be hyperbole

It is therefore this Court's ultimate position
That Eminem is entitled to summary disposition 

Bailey v. Mathers
Case No. 2001-3606-NO, slip op. at 13 n. 11 
(Macomb County Circuit Court, Oct. 17, 2003).

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