An appeals court has rejected the argument of former GHOST members that the judge who ordered the dismissal of their lawsuit against the band's leader, Tobias Forge, had a conflict of interest in overseeing the case.
Forge, who founded GHOST nine years ago, was sued by the four ex-members in April 2017. They accused the singer of cheating them out of their rightful share of the profits from the band's album releases and world tours.
The trial in Linköping District Court lasted for six days, and on October 17, 2018, a 108-page decision was released dismissing the case. The four former GHOST members were also ordered to pay Forge's legal fees, which could amount to approximately $146,000.
The musicians — Simon Söderberg (Alpha; member of GHOST from 2010 until 2016), Mauro Rubino (Air; member of GHOST from 2011 until 2016), Henrik Palm (Eather; member of GHOST from 2015 until 2016) and Martin Hjertstedt (Earth; member of GHOST from 2014 until 2016) — appealed the ruling, and their attorney, Michael Berg wrote in court documents that "it must have been almost impossible" for judge Henrik Ibold "to objectively and impartially assess the probative of the information that Tobias Forge has provided" since both Ibold and Forge are members of the Swedish Order Of Freemasons (Swedish: Svenska Frimurare Orden).
An appeals court has now determined that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate an actual conflict of interest. In the decision, the court wrote that in Sweden there is a constitutional freedom of association which means that all citizens — even judges — have the right to belong to organizations.
"The mere fact that a judge and a party in a case that the judge is presiding over are members of the Swedish Order Of Freemasons does not mean that the judge" is operating under a conflict of interest, said court president Charlotte Brokelind. However, the appeals court wrote in the decision that the judge should have informed the parties involved of his membership as soon as he became aware that Forge might also be a member. Having said that, "his failure to do so is not in itself sufficient to warrant a disqualification," the court wrote.
In an interview with NT.se, Ibold denied having known that Forge was a member of the Swedish Order Of Freemasons, but admitted that he had "heard some rumors that it could be so."
The original lawsuit was filed in the district court of Linköping, Sweden, where GHOST was originally based. It claimed that a partnership agreement existed between Forge and the four former members, all of whom performed anonymously in the band as Nameless Ghouls. As a result of the lawsuit, Forge was forced to reveal his identity after years of performing in a mask as Papa Emeritus.
Forge responded that "no legal partnership" ever existed between him and the other members, that they were paid a fixed salary to perform as his backing band, and that they were essentially session musicians.
Söderberg, Rubino, Palm and Hjertstedt have reportedly spent more than 2.9 million kronor (approximately $320,000) in legal fees on the case so far.
Forge told The Pulse Of Radio that the lawsuit only inspired him to work harder at making GHOST a success. "I had a situation that urgently told me to salvage the situation and reclaim what is mine and also justify that it was mine to begin with," he said. "It's just growing pains, and all this has just been — it's the result of things going well, not the opposite."
GHOST recently completed a massive North American fall tour.
The band's latest album, "Prequelle", landed at position No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. The disc, which arrived on June 1, shifted 66,000 equivalent album units in the week ending June 7. Of that sum, between 61,000 were in traditional album sales.