Former James Brown songwriter, producer sues for property rights

COLUMBIA — While one James Brown lawsuit leveled against South Carolina officials concluded Friday, another lawsuit against the state, brought by Brown’s former songwriter, remains open in U.S. District Court.


For at least the third time since 2009, Jacquelyn Hollander, a former songwriter and producer for the Godfather of Soul, has taken her objections over the handling of Brown’s death and her treatment in the proceedings to court.

Hollander is suing South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and special assistant attorney general Sonny Jones, according to documents filed in January. The attorney general and 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Doyet “Jack” Early had recently been the target of a suit brought by a man claiming to be Brown’s “brother/cousin.” On Friday, a federal judge dismissed the man’s complaint.

In Hollander’s suit, the Illinois woman alleges Jones used “fraudulent misrepresentations” to bar her from probate court and settlement negotiations. She says that denied her of property rights to Brown’s trust.

In 2000, Brown, who lived in Beech Island, signed an irrevocable trust and last will and testament, directing most of his money to a fund for the education of poor children in South Carolina and Georgia.

His heirs, however, contend Brown’s advisers manipulated him when he was drafting his intentions. In November, the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments in a dispute over a settlement that Early had approved in 2009, which replaced the charitable trust with “The Legacy Trust,” handed control to the South Carolina attorney general, and replaced the trustees.

In 2008, Brown’s assets, including royalties and publicity rights, were estimated to be $100 million.

Hollander is seeking damages, based on an accounting of Brown’s trust since 2006, costs and attorneys fees, and an order that directs the attorney general’s office to investigate Brown’s death at age 73 on Christmas Day 2006.

“Several private parties have investigated Brown’s death and determined that it was not from natural causes, but those parties have little or no authority to act on their findings,” reads her latest filing with the court, dated Jan. 9.

Records with U.S. District Court indicate no pending deadlines or hearings for Hollander’s suit.

In 2010, Hollander filed a temporary restraining order in California to block the final disbursement of the James Brown estate. Hollander filed a similar suit in 2009, claiming she helped create the “I Feel Good” trust in 1986, intending it to be a for-profit organization, and as the only surviving partner, she should gain control. It was dismissed.

She once claimed Brown raped her at gunpoint in 1988, but a federal judge dismissed the suit in 2005, saying she waited too long to file, according to coverage by The Augusta Chronicle.

Hollander said she first met Brown at an airport when she was a teenager.

She was diagnosed with cancer of the intestines in 1969 when she was 16. After one chemotherapy session, her father took her to the airport “because she loved planes.” At that moment, Brown was arriving from a concert tour, and she approached him.

“Hollander told him that she wanted to write songs when she grew up. Brown gave her a business card and wrote on the back of it, ‘James Brown, The Godfather of Soul. Bring me back your first hit song.’ Brown then departed the airport leaving an awestruck young girl behind,” according to Hollander’s account.



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