The estranged relatives of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson have asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to unseal some of the court records in a mental competency lawsuit they filed against the family patriarch last year.
In a filing made Friday, attorneys for Benson’s daughter and grandchildren argue that the “blanket seal of the record” originally ordered by Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese violates the public’s right to access court records and keeps the parties involved from being able to speak freely about the dispute.
They also said that certain parts of the record may be relevant to other litigation involving Benson.
In one of those cases, Benson is asking a federal judge to let him remove various business assets — including nonvoting shares in the Saints and Pelicans — from trust funds that benefit the relatives in return for other assets that he claims are of equal value.
In another case, Benson’s former personal assistant, Rodney Henry, alleges that he was fired for complaining that Benson’s wife, Gayle, had discriminated against him based on his race. Henry is African-American. The Bensons deny the allegation.
The twice-widowed Benson announced in January 2015 that Gayle, his third wife, would inherit his business empire, cutting out his daughter, Renee, and grandchildren, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc.
In the lawsuit that followed between Benson and his relatives over his mental competency, Reese ordered the courtroom closed and the record sealed. The judge ultimately sided with Benson.
Renee and her children appealed. A state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal panel heard oral arguments in the case last month, also in a closed hearing. A ruling from that court could come as soon as Wednesday.
Benson’s relatives had previously asked the 4th Circuit to unseal part of the case record, but they were unsuccessful.
They insist that no confidential medical records pertaining to Benson, 88, would be released.
In a separate dispute pertaining to the Benson family feud, Renee sued in Texas for control of a trust fund that her father had been overseeing. A recently approved settlement gave Renee oversight of the trust, which was created by her mother, the late Shirley Benson, Benson’s first wife.
That trust has shares in a family-owned bank, car dealerships and real estate, but it does not contain any Saints or Pelicans stock.