NEW YORK — A lawsuit filed against the Recording Academy over its decision to trim the Grammy Award categories from 109 to 78 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 and fold some genres into larger fields.
“The decision makes it very clear in the eyes of our legal system that we, as we’ve said all along … have done all of the changes that we’ve made through our process based on our own rules, regulations and bylaws,” said Portnow.
The Academy announced last April that after a more than yearlong review, it had decided to trim its categories by 31, 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 the proper procedures to implement the changes, and demanded that the best Latin jazz category be reinstated, saying the removal had a detrimental effect on the musicians’ careers by taking away the Latin jazz category specifically.
Sanabria on Sunday held out the possibility of an appeal, and said he was waiting to see the judge’s official ruling.
“We have to step back from this because we’ve been so involved in this for so long,” he said. “Sometimes you have to take a breather from some things.”
He added: “It’s disappointing but I expected this to be a long fight.”
Sanabria was part of a vocal group that protested the cuts made by the Academy, drawing 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.
However, as the February awards drew closer, few key stars aligned themselves with Sanabria’s cause.
“Frankly, the actual discontent and impact was very, very small when you compare (it) to the majority of the (membership),” he said. “You just didn’t have a huge critical mass here.”
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 made last year.
“This year, I think the review will be a little more micro than macro,” he said. “Overall, I would anticipate that the overall structure would remain the same.”
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.”