S.C. Supreme Court sticks ex-Brown trustee with attorneys' fees

COLUMBIA — A former trustee of James Brown’s estate cannot escape attorneys’ fees for his nearly 5-year-old contempt charges.


The S.C. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that David Cannon is still responsible for the attorneys’ fees stemming from his contempt charges, and that the amount owed the opposing counsel was not erased by Cannon’s time in jail.

The Supreme Court heard Cannon’s appeal in January. Cannon’s attorney, Max Pickelsimer, argued that a lower court’s order “wasn’t jail time and attorneys’ fees. It was an either/or option.”

Contempt charges against Cannon were leveled in 2007. At that time, Circuit Court Judge Doyet Early found him in contempt of court for violating a 2007 order to hand over his authority over Brown’s estate, trusts and all other entities. That same year, Early also ordered Cannon to pay back $373,000 to Brown’s estate.

Cannon was also ordered to be incarcerated for six months. He posted an appeal bond, but when his bond ran out, he reported to the Aiken County Detention Center on Feb. 11, 2009, and was released three months later.

In 2010, the circuit court said Cannon had to pay $113,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by Atlanta attorney Louis Levenson’s clients, who included several of Brown’s children and grandchildren. The sum came from Levenson’s fees and expenses, specifically 277.9 legal hours and 51.75 paralegal hours.

Wednesday, the Supreme Court dropped the amount to $89,000.

Cannon objected, in part, on the grounds that he couldn’t afford to pay. Chief Justice Jean Toal and others took issue with his $1 million vacation home in Honduras.

Toal said the house “was paid for with, our record shows, money from the (Brown) estate,” and said the dwelling cost “well in excess of anything that is being asked for in attorneys’ fees.”

Cannon’s suit was one of a handful centering on Brown’s assets and what he intended in his will.

Brown died on Christmas Day 2006. Six years earlier, he had signed an irrevocable trust and last will and testament designating almost all of his fortune to the education of underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia. Cannon, Buddy Dallas and Alfred Bradley were named trustees.

Brown family members, and at least one individual who has argued unsuccessfully that he is related to the soul singer, have been disputing the validity of the documents.



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