James Goding; Lawyer in Royalties Case

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

James Burr Goding, 99, a Washington lawyer who represented jazz musician Charlie Byrd in a landmark case that expanded royalty rights for musicians, died of congestive heart failure Feb. 12 at his residence at Sibley Memorial Hospital's Grand Oaks assisted living facility. He was a longtime Bethesda resident.

Mr. Goding represented the classically trained jazz guitar virtuoso in his lawsuit against saxophonist Stan Getz and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Byrd contended that he did not get the royalties owed him for "Jazz Samba," a 1962 bossa nova album he and Getz recorded at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington.

In 1967, Mr. Goding argued that the fact that Byrd and Getz worked together as "joint venturers" was ample evidence of an "implied contract" that entitled Byrd to half the royalties. The jury agreed.

"He was delighted. He couldn't get over beating MGM," Mr. Goding told The Washington Post when Byrd died in 1999.

Mr. Goding was born in Boston to a family with 13 children. A small loan from his sisters allowed him to attend West Virginia University for two years, after which he received his law degree from Northeastern University's law school in Boston. After passing the Massachusetts bar exam, he opened a legal practice in Boston.

He moved to Washington during World War II to take a job with the Federal Security Agency, created in 1939. Assigned to its Food and Drug Division, he prosecuted perpetrators of food and drug scams.

After the war, he entered general practice with specialties in food and drug matters, personal injury and entertainment law. He retired in 1992.

Mr. Goding was an inveterate writer of letters to the editor. As a proud son of the Bay State, for example, he took The Post to task in a 1952 letter for referring to "the State of Massachusetts" instead of "the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

He also showed up occasionally in columns by his neighbor, Post writer Bill Gold. In 1956, Gold reported that the Goding family dog, Inky, "has never been known to obey Jim, but she does tolerate him in her own patient way, so there has never been any real trouble between the two."

When Mr. Goding's daughter, Jane -- whom Inky did obey -- prepared to leave for summer camp, Mr. Goding had her tape-record all her standard commands for Inky.

It worked, the columnist reported, for everybody but Inky. "The poor dog is going nuts trying to figure out where Jane disappears to after she calls him."

Gold reported in 1978 that Mr. Goding's Father's Day gift was a T-shirt that read: "Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal."

It was an appropriate gift for a man who relished good jokes. He loved hearing jokes and telling them, family members recalled, though he rarely was able to finish telling one because he would be laughing so hard.

He cultivated a sumptuous garden every summer, enjoyed art, music, theater and good conversation and was a keen student of French.

He enjoyed speaking the language on his world travels and counted many members of the French community in Washington among his friends and clients. He had been a member of Temple Sinai for more than 50 years.

His wife, Rose Yoffe, a prominent painter, died in 2005.

Survivors include two children, Jane Lazerow of San Diego and Irene Mackler of Potomac; and four grandchildren.

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