For Saints, Pelicans owner Tom Benson, 5 hours of questioning over two days in court coming soon _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Saints Owners Tom Benson listens at a press conference where New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton announced he is staying as head coach at the Saints training facility in Metairie, La. Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.

Attorneys for Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson succeeded Wednesday in limiting the amount of time Benson can be questioned by his opponents in a federal lawsuit involving non-voting stock in his sports teams.

But he will face questioning sooner than he wanted.

Citing the 88-year-old Benson’s health problems, a judge ruled Benson will be questioned for a total of five hours on March 24 and 28, rather than nearly seven hours over three days, as requested by the opposite camp.

His attorneys also had hoped to push Benson’s deposition back until the middle of next month, after other witnesses who know the inner workings of his various businesses already will have been questioned.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson disagreed. He said deposing Benson early makes sense so that lawyers involved would know which questions to aim at his subordinates.

The case involves shares in the Saints and Pelicans that Benson is trying to remove from a group of trust funds benefiting his estranged relatives.

Benson’s deposition will mark the first time he has faced direct questions from his opponents in a legal battle that broke out early last year after the two-time widower struck his daughter Renee Benson, granddaughter Rita LeBlanc and grandson Ryan LeBlanc from his succession plans in favor of his third wife, Gayle Benson.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Wilkinson also ordered Benson’s attorneys to turn over any documents in his possession from officials of either the NFL or NBA that may shed light on the value of sports teams that have recently gone up for sale.

Those would be relevant because the case concerns whether Benson is offering assets of sufficient value in return for the team shares that he wants taken out of the trusts.

Attorneys for trust overseers Robert Rosenthal and Mary Rowe argue Benson has not offered enough to make the proposed swap fair.

Aside from Benson, others set to be deposed in the case include Renee Benson; Rita LeBlanc, a former high-ranking executive for the Saints and Pelicans; and Dennis Lauscha, the sports teams’ president.

A trial is scheduled to begin June 20.