Attorneys for Tom Benson will be in federal court Wednesday trying to limit the amount of time he will have to spend being grilled by opposing lawyers in a legal dispute that involves stock in the Saints and Pelicans.
In legal filings, his attorneys have asked to cap Benson’s deposition at five hours spread out over two days, April 13 and 14. They cite a doctor’s letter pointing out that Benson, 88, is being treated for various cardiac conditions.
Attorneys for the overseers in charge of trust funds that hold nonvoting shares in the two sports teams want to question Benson for up to seven hours over three sessions on March 24, March 28 and April 15.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson will make the call, setting the ground rules for what will be the first time Benson has been directly questioned by the opposing camp since his family legal saga began last year.
The federal lawsuit concerns only a set of trust funds that hold shares in the Saints and Pelicans. But Benson’s performance during the deposition is sure to draw scrutiny from anyone looking for clues about the state of his mental health.
Benson never took the witness stand last year in a separate civil trial over his mental competence. Instead, he met privately with Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese, who ruled Benson was still sharp enough to make his own business decisions, something his daughter and grandchildren disputed after being cut out of the family patriarch’s succession plans. A state appeals court has since upheld Reese’s decision.
In the federal lawsuit involving shares in the sports teams, Benson’s lawyers want to limit the kinds of questions he can be asked. They want to exclude any inquiries about loans or money transfers to Benson from his companies, his past dealings with “any banking or lending institution” and any power of attorney he has signed over to any person or group, among other things.
The case boils down to whether Benson will be allowed to replace assets in a group of family trust funds containing the Saints and Pelicans shares with other assets that he claims are equally valuable.
Attorneys for trust overseers Robert Rosenthal and Mary Rowe argue that Benson has not put up enough other assets to make the swap fair.
Depending on the timing ultimately set for his deposition, Benson would be toward the top or bottom of a witness list that also includes his daughter, Renee Benson; his granddaughter, Rita LeBlanc, a former high-ranking executive for the Saints and Pelicans; and Dennis Lauscha, the sports teams’ president.