Artist News Legal

Judge accepts most of Frank Ocean’s affirmative defences in $14.5 million libel dispute with his dad

By | Published on Friday 14 July 2017

Frank Ocean

The court considering the $14.5 million libel action being pursued against Frank Ocean by his father has allowed most of the ‘affirmative defences’ submitted by the former in response to the latter’s lawsuit to stand. Though the judge also warned Ocean that if he presents defences with “no factual support” he could face sanctions.

As previously reported, in the wake of the attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub last year, Ocean wrote a post on Tumblr in which he said: “I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a faggot as he dragged me out a neighbourhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty. That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t”.

Ocean’s father, Calvin Cooksey, denied that the incident ever took place and sued for libel. Ocean responded by saying his original Tumblr post “speaks for itself”. In his legal response he then listed seventeen ‘affirmative defences’ which, he said, together, demonstrated why his father’s libel proceedings should be dismissed.

For his part, Cooksey then responded by arguing that his son’s defences lacked “specificity” and were “either factually unsupported or legally insufficient”. Far from dismissing his libel action, Cooksey argued, it was Ocean’s list of defences that should be dismissed by the court. But the judge overseeing the case has decided that all but one of those ‘affirmative defences’ should, in fact, stand. Though his ruling also cautioned Ocean about his response to the litigation

In a ruling, published by Pitchfork, the judge wrote that “while the court cannot strike most of the defendant’s affirmative defences under the prevailing case law, the defendant is on notice that several of his affirmative defences indeed seem to have been put forward without any sort of factual basis”.

He went on: “As the case proceeds, if it becomes clear that the defendant is persisting with arguments with no factual support in order to confuse the plaintiff or hide the truth of the matter, the court would consider sanctions against the defendant or his counsel as a remedy for such conduct”.

Concluding, the judge said: “The court notes that both parties have appeared to engage in litigation tactics that are peripheral to the merits or progress of the case, including the present motion. The court discourages both sides from continuing to do so. This is a fairly straightforward case that does not warrant intensive litigation tactics that do not get to the heart of the matter”.

So that’s them told. The case continues.