Judge Who Ruled Against Kesha in Lawsuit Is Married to Attorney Whose Firm Counts Sony as a Client: Here's What That Means

New York judge who ruled Kesha couldn't be released from her Sony contract is married to a lawyer whose company represents Sony

By Natalie Finn Aug 26, 2016 12:55 AMTags

The music and legal worlds that Kesha and Dr. Luke have been operating in, sometimes together but more recently on opposing sides, just got that much smaller.

The New York judge who in April ruled that Kesha couldn't record outside her contract with Dr. Luke's Kemosabe Records, a Sony Music Entertainment imprint, calling the contract "heavily negotiated and typical for the industry," is married to an attorney who's a partner at a law firm that counts Sony as a client.

According to the New York Post, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich's husband is Ed Kornreich of New York-based Proskauer Rose. E! News has confirmed via public records that the Kornreichs share a Manhattan address.

But what, if anything, does this mean for Kesha's case? On Aug. 1, the artist—who's happily just started touring again for the first time in almost a year—filed to dismiss her sex-abuse suit against producer and record exec Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald) in California, though the case lives on in New York. After she first filed suit in California, Dr. Luke sued her for defamation and breach of contract in New York, prompting Kesha to counter-sue there for sexual harassment and other related claims. And that's where Kornreich dealt the blow that prompted the #FreeKesha movement on Twitter.

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A court representative for Judge Korneich told E! News Thursday, "Where an employee's spouse or children are employed, judicial or non-judicial, is not something we are involved in. If counsel for either party has concerns, they can take it up in the proper venue."

In addition to denying her request to be released from her contract, Kornreich also denied Kesha's claim that Dr. Luke's alleged abuse was a hate crime.

Kesha's personal and legal reps haven't yet returned requests for comment, so there's no word yet on whether or not her team is planning to allege conflict of interest or otherwise attempt to have Kornreich's rulings thrown out.

"Judges are required under the New York state canon of judicial ethics to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," legal expert Troy Slaten tells E! News. "This means judges are not supposed to preside over cases where they have an actual or potential financial interest in the outcome. The rules go so far as to say that even somebody in the judge's family should not have a financial interest in the outcome of litigation."

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Even if Ed Kornreich didn't work on any of his firm's Sony cases, let alone this particular case, his firm—and therefore he, as a partner—would still have an interest in Sony's financial health, Slaten explains.

"Kesha's lawyers could now be in a position to seek that every ruling of this judge be redone by a new neutral and impartial judge who does not suffer from potential or actual bias," he says. "Basically, Kesha can probably get a do-over if she wants."

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Moreover, Slaten says, "a judge has a duty to recuse themselves from a case in which there is an actual conflict. If a judge's spouse has a financial interest in the litigation (i.e. is a partner at a law firm representing one of the parties), that seems like an actual conflict to me."

And "spouses can have pillow talk, even if we would like to imagine judges as living under the proverbial cone of silence."

According to her bio on the New York Unified Court System's website, Kornreich was elected to the Civil Court in 1994 has been an acting NY Supreme Court Justice since 2002; she was appointed to the Commercial Division in 2009. 

At this time, a status conference is still scheduled in the case for Aug. 29, with Kornreich presiding.

Kesha's lawyer told E! News after she dropped her suit in California that, with an eye on getting out of her Kemosabe deal as soon as possible, Kesha recorded 28 songs at her own expense and turned them over to Sony, hoping to get an album out pronto to work toward fulfilling her contractual obligations.

Per the New York Times, Kesha's original deal, which she signed in 2005 when she was 18, had her making as many as six records for Dr. Luke's Kasz Money Inc., with at least six songs per album to be produced by Dr. Luke. KMI struck a deal for Kesha with Sony-owned RCA, and Dr. Luke formed Kemosabe under Sony in 2011. Kesha has put out two studio albums to date, 2010's Animal and 2012's Warrior.

On Tuesday Kesha and the Creepies performed the last scheduled show of their "F--k the World Tour" but promised more dates to come.

Yesterday on Instagram, where she has done the majority of her commenting about her case, Kesha captioned a pic of herself, "No one can ever truly own you because to own you would mean that someone else owns your happiness. And no other person can take that from you. Your happiness is the best revenge. Stay happy in the midst of hell. Or. At least try. And know that you are not alone."

And on another, wrote: "Thank you animals for standing with me. I may not have made it without you."

—Reporting by Holly Passalaqua and Beth Sobol

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