Post Malone scored a two-month trial delay in the battle over his Grammy-nominated hit single “Circles” this week after his lawyers promised he’ll voluntarily attend the proceeding and even testify.
But in a sharply worded decision, the judge made it clear he bumped the trial from October 11 to December 13 based on an agreement by both sides — not Malone’s one-sided request and that he was frustrated by the way Malone’s lawyers filed an emergency request to perform a last-minute “forensic examination” of a cell phone belonging to Tyler Armes, the fellow musician now suing for a “Circles” songwriting credit.
In his Wednesday ruling in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright, II, called it “patently improper” that Malone’s side asked for the phone using an emergency request for sanctions against Armes.
The judge said such sanctions “are only for instances of egregious discovery abuses,” and that Malone’s claims Armes failed to turn over certain text messages fell short of that bar “by a wide margin.”
The judge denied Malone’s request outright, saying the musician should have instead filed a request to reopen discovery. The judge then said Malone might even face sanctions himself for “abusing” court procedures.
“We believed in good faith that we were following the court’s procedure,” Malone’s lawyers wrote in a follow-up filing Wednesday, saying their goal was to “protect” their client. “We did not intend to cause the court any inconvenience and are mindful of the court’s admonitions in the order.”
In a prior filing on Tuesday, Malone’s lawyer, David A. Steinberg, said his client requested the two-month trial delay based solely on his touring schedule. He told the court Malone wanted “to make his commitment to appear and testify at trial clear.” The statement came after Armes’ lawyer told the court she believed Malone was evading her attempt to subpoena him.
“He fully intends to appear to refute plaintiff’s claims,” Steinberg wrote.
Malone, whose legal name is Austin Richard Post, is being sued alongside his co-defendant in the case, Frank Dukes, over claims the two men unfairly cut Armes out of any authorship credit on “Circles” after the trio allegedly collaborated on a rough mix of the multiplatinum song during a jam session in August 2018.
Armes filed his original complaint in April 2020 in California. The same day, Malone sued Armes in New York. The suits were consolidated in Los Angeles.
The court previously dismissed Armes’ claim for authorship of the “Circles” recording, leaving only authorship of the composition still at issue.
In his filings, Armes claims he wrote the part in “Circles” where the F major chord changes to an F minor chord. He also alleges he’s the the one who suggested the vocals and guitar should have a “large amount of reverb,” and that he was “sitting next to [Post], verbally singing the second half of the melody and cadence out loud, giving Post direction as to exactly which notes to play.”
Post, meanwhile, has admitted Armes “was present for one early session” related to the “Circles” composition, but his filings argue that Armes never contributed anything “original,” offering only “an admittedly extremely commonplace guitar chord progression,” known as 1-4-5 or C-F-G, and possibly a non-recorded “fragment” of a guitar melody.
According to Armes, he was offered a five percent cut of the publishing royalties on “Circles” but tried to negotiate a larger share before the offer was revoked.