Jay Z Lawsuit Halted Due to Lack of African-American Arbitrators

A lawsuit between Jay Z’s company, Roc Nation, and clothing company Iconix was temporarily halted on Wednesday due to the lack of African-American arbitrators available to assess the case, The New York Times reports. Iconix purchased Rocawear clothing brand from Jay Z, real name Shawn Carter, in 2007.  Later, Jay Z produced merchandise with the logo of a newly formed company, Roc Nation. Iconix argued the merchandise violated the terms of the Rocawear sale; Jay Z countersued, which resulted in an arbitration hearing.  Each side needed to select four arbitrators from 200 members of the American Arbitration Association. It was during this process that Jay Z and his legal team discovered no African-American arbitrators were on the roster for large and complex cases. The association could only find three available arbitrators who identified as African-American, and one had a conflict of interest. Jay Z and his legal team filed a petition arguing that the lack of black arbitrators could subject black litigants, such as Jay Z, to unconscious bias from white arbitrators. Further, the petition also argued that the lack of black arbitrators “deprives litigants of color of a meaningful opportunity to have their claims heard by a panel of arbitrators reflecting their backgrounds and life experience.” The court upheld the petition and the arbitration has been halted until the next hearing set for Dec. 11.

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