Michael Jackson legal battle shifts to the will

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Michael Jackson legal battle shifts to the will

Thu Jul 02, 2009 @ 10:50AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Jackson,michael3 Another day, another round of Michael Jackson legal news.

Yesterday, we reported about the inevitable filing of the late singer's last will and testament. Nothing too shocking was contained the will (beyond a Diana Ross cameo), but the rather vague document has kicked off its own legal battle.

In Los Angeles Superior Court, lawyer John Branca and music executive John McClain filed a motion to vacate Judge Mitchell Beckloff's Monday decision to appoint Jackson's mother, Katherine, as "special administrator" over the estate. Katherine Jackson made the request on Monday, but Branca and McClain now argue that the will supercedes the mother's claimed control.

In response, Judge Beckloff has urged the parties to get together and resolve the situation. "I would like the family to sit down and try to make this work so that we don't have a difficult time in court," he said.

In a statement, Branca and McClain said, "The most important element of Michael's will is his unwavering desire that his mother, Katherine, become the legal guardian for his three children. As we work to carry out Michael's instructions to safeguard both the future of his children as well as the remarkable legacy he left us as an artist we ask that all matters involving his estate be handled with the dignity and the respect that Michael and his family deserve."

Time will tell whether this situation evolves beyond a dispute of dignity to something more ugly. The estates of well-known entertainers with lots of intellectual property at stake tend to invite massive, ugly litigation, as we saw after James Brown passed away.

This time, there's a lot at stake. For instance, Lewis Stark, head of the royalty and contract compliance group at the NYC accounting firm Eisner LLP, claims he spoke to Michael Jackson himself a month ago, and based on his conversation, he believes there will be significant revenue to come, including the release of more than 200 songs from the King of Pop.

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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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