King siblings spar over lawyers in court



ATLANTA — A lawyer for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter argued Friday that a lawyer for her father’s estate should be disqualified from participating in a dispute over the ownership of King’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize.

The slain civil rights icon’s estate, controlled by his sons, is locked in a legal dispute with his daughter, the Rev. Ber­nice King, over ownership of the items.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Estate Inc., which is run by Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King, wants to sell the items, while Bernice is opposed to the sale. The Bible and medal are being held in a safe deposit box controlled by the court pending the outcome of the dispute.

Ron Gaither, a lawyer for Bernice, argued that William Hill and his law firm should not be involved in the case because he was appointed by a judge to help in a similar 2008 dispute between the King children and the entities they control.

Bernice’s lawyers said in a court filing that “Hill played a vital and substantial role in adjudicating a multitude of disputes that arose between the parties.” They said that gives Hill a unique advantage in the current case and puts Bernice King at a disadvantage.

Hill said in court Friday that his only responsibility in that matter was to review documents related to Coretta Scott King’s estate
and that he didn’t have access to privileged information.

He said after the hearing that the attempt to disqualify him is a stalling tactic.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBur­ney said he would issue a ruling very soon on whether Hill should be disqualified.

Lawyers for both sides and the judge agreed that seeking the disqualification of an opponent’s lawyers is very unusual and generally not favored in Georgia courts. But in this case, lawyers for both sides have taken that step.

McBurney said he would also schedule a hearing on a motion filed by the estate’s lawyers to disqualify Bernice King’s lawyer Eric Barnum and his firm.

The court filing says Dexter Scott King consulted with Bar­num over possible legal representation when Harry Belafonte sued King’s estate seeking damages and a declaration that the singer was the rightful
owner of some papers that had belonged to the civil right’s icon and his widow and that Belafonte wanted to auction off.

Barnum did not end up representing the estate, but Hill said he still had privileged conversations with Dex­ter King on the
matter, which Hill said should disqualify him from the case.

Hill said the estate had been willing to turn a blind eye to what he said is misconduct by Barnum but that Bernice King’s lawyers had forced the estate to
seek Barnum’s disqualification by seeking to disqualify Hill.



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