Tom Benson estranged heirs file appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court after losing their first appeal. The 88 year old owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans continues to fight in court. His ousted heirs believe Benson is in mental decline (despite attending and participating in NFL owners meetings including this week’s meeting) and is being manipulated by his current wife, Gayle Benson, and Saints executives.
The estranged heirs seek control of Benson’s $2.2 billion business including the Saints and Pelicans. They believe Benson should have been required to testify at trial instead of testifying privately in his offices. He was questioned by the judge in the case, Judge Kern Reese. Reese’s decision was upheld by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Reese’s decision was in line with the competency evaluation of Tom Benson by three psychiatrists who evaluated Benson were split, 2-1, in favor of finding Benson capable of making reasoned decisions, despite some “mild cognitive impairment” that affected his short-term memory.
“Today, Renee, Rita and Ryan filed an appeal with the Louisiana Supreme Court challenging the rulings of the lower courts which created a new privilege to refuse to testify in an interdiction proceeding, contrary to existing law,” the family’s attorney, Randall Smith, said in a statement. “If not overturned, the rulings of the lower courts will permit the truth to be concealed by manipulation of those in a weakened state.”
Phil Wittmann, attorney for Tom Benson, said the petition filed Wednesday “raises no new issues, and we’re confident that it will be denied for the reasons previously stated by the trial court and unanimously affirmed by the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.”
The estranged heirs have also asked the state Supreme Court to partially unseal records in the case, which has been closed to the public.
Confidential medical information could be kept secret while unsealing other case documents, such as “testimony of lay witnesses, trial exhibits, memoranda and other documents in which any confidential medical information is not at all interwoven,” they argue in a filing with the Supreme Court.