The lawsuit, filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, calls for the Best Latin Jazz Album category to be reinstated.
"They shouldn't have done this," said Roger Maldonado, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, who include Bobby Sanabria, a Grammy-nominated Latin jazz musician and Grammy nominee Mark Levine, a pianist and composer.
"Not only does it devalue the category of music and the work these musicians do," he said, "It makes it much harder for them to gain recognition."
The lawsuit names four plaintiffs and looks to include other members of the academy who would compete in the category to sign on.
In a statement, the academy said it "believes this frivolous lawsuit is without merit, and we fully expect to prevail."
The academy said in April that the number of award categories was being cut from 109 to 78. The changes included decisions like eliminating the male and female divisions in the pop vocal category to one general field as well as reducing categories like children's spoken-word album; Zydeco or Cajun music album; best Latin jazz album; and best classical crossover album.
Instead, artists who would have competed in those categories will now be part of a broader pool all competing in a general field. So instead of vying for the Best Latin Jazz Album, the musicians could go up against a range of artists looking to take home the Best Jazz Instrumental Album, for example.
But that larger pool could tip the balance in favor of bigger, more well-known artists at the expense of smaller ones, Maldonado said.
"The concern is by lumping several categories together, it makes it much easier for larger record labels and those artists who have already gained recognition to dominate," he said.
The lawsuit accuses the academy of having a detrimental effect on the musicians' careers by taking away the Latin jazz category specifically.
"Even being nominated for the award has enormous value for these musicians," Maldonado said.
It also says the academy didn't follow the proper procedures to make this kind of change and that members weren't informed or given the chance to offer input on how the cuts would affect them.