AG asks court to reconsider decision on James Brown estate

  • Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:15 a.m.
Wilson
Wilson

The legal fight over the estate of late soul singer James Brown continues, as the Attorney General is asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to throw out a settlement agreement.

Attorney General Alan Wilson is asking the S.C. Supreme Court to reconsider throwing out an agreement on the distribution of assets and referring the estate back to an Aiken County courtroom.

In its rejection of the agreement, the high court found significant fault with then-Attorney General Henry McMaster.

“The compromise orchestrated by the AG in this case destroys the estate plan Brown had established in favor of an arrangement overseen virtually exclusively by the AG,” Associate Justice John Kittredge wrote.

The James Brown Irrevocable trust was willed almost all of Brown's assets, but after a long legal process an agreement was settled on where 50 percent of the assets went to the educational trust, with Brown's estranged wife getting 25 percent and the rest of his heirs 25 percent.

Filings asking the court to reconsider the decision deny that McMaster “hijacked the proceedings” but rather was in a tough, but fair fight with all involved.

“However, to the extent that the Court's opinion is premised upon the Attorney General's having effected a 'total takeover' of Brown's estate or his having 'hijacked the proceedings here,' the Court is mistaken,” Wilson writes.

“This was not a situation where the Attorney General's Office directed anyone or anything ... here, all other Respondents had widely divergent interests and adverse positions to each other. Those positions were each represented vigorously by well-respected counsel. The settlement of such complexity and magnitude cannot be arrived at by Attorney General (arbitrarily).”

The justices criticized McMaster, who helped reach a deal after the estate had languished in court for years following the singer's death on Christmas Day in 2006. McMaster's deal removed Brown's original trustees, who the singer's family accused of mismanaging the estate to the point where it was almost broke. A professional manager took control, paid off more than $20 million in debts and made it possible for needy students to receive scholarships for college. The settlement also allowed a financial manager to license Brown's music for use in commercials, which have included spots for Gatorade and Chanel perfume. While the justices agreed with the decision to remove the original trustees, who subsequently sued, the judges said the settlement could discourage people from leaving their estates to charity for fear their wishes would be ignored.

A hearing date has not yet been for the motion to reconsider.

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