James Brown's lawyers might be hardest working in showbiz

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James Brown's lawyers might be hardest working in showbiz

Tue Apr 07, 2009 @ 05:48PM PST

By Eriq Gardner


James_brownWell-known entertainers should never die. They're mortal, of course, but frankly, our court system is ill equipped to deal with the fallout when hundreds of millions of dollars and valuable intellectual property is at stake for the survivors.

Take James Brown, for instance.

The legendary soul singer passed away in December 2006. Since then, family members have been fighting tooth and nail to be the beneficiaries of the hardest working dead man in show business. A settlement over the estate was close to being reached early last year. At the time, Russell Bauknight, a trustee and accountant of the Brown estate, testified that "the value of the image of James Brown and the value of the estate was being diminished" by all the litigation (like this lawsuit) and controversy. 

It's unclear, for example, whether Spike Lee is still in development on a James Brown film.

Certainly, news of a new lawsuit won't help.

Jacqueylne Hollander, who worked with the singer to create the "I Feel Good Children's Trust" in 1987, filed a complaint yesterday in Illinois court against the Brown estate, claiming entitlement to the money in the trust. 

Previously, the proposed settlement had the money being split between family members and the charity, but Hollander feels she's entitled to all of it.

This isn't a typical charity. Hollander sued Brown for $106 million in 2005 with an accusation that he raped her in 1988. That case went all the way up to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2006, before the singer's death, that Hollander had waited too long to make the accusation.

In the latest suit, Hollander once again brings up the alleged sexual assault, and adds that after 1990, when Hollander moved to Illinois and couldn't work directly with Brown anymore, the singer placed assets into the charitable trust, including the publishing rights to some of his songs. The complaint says "Brown never contributed any material amount toward needy children, and in fact, borrowed freely from the trust assets for his own personal use."  

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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