S.C. attorney general asks court to revisit Brown settlement

COLUMBIA — Citing a danger to the credibility of the office, the South Carolina Attorney General has asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to take another look at the settlement of James Brown’s estate.

The high court threw out that settlement, which had been negotiated by then-Attorney General Henry McMaster, in February.

In March, state Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a petition saying that “we do not believe the court had the full story concerning the attorney general’s role in the Brown settlement.”

It also takes issue with the justices’ characterization of McMaster.

“Contrary to the court’s implication throughout its decision, the attorney general is not a dictator, and he did not dictate the terms of this settlement,” it reads.

“This settlement arrived at was fair, reasonable, and was approved by a highly regarded circuit judge after seven strenuous, hard-fought days of hearings.”

Wilson’s petition asks the court to modify its opinion and says the power of the office is at stake.

It reads: “We fear the decision will have a lasting adverse impact upon the credibility of the Office of Attorney General, which this court has recognized as the executive office designated to protect charitable trusts and defend the public interest.”

In February, the Supreme Court overturned the settlement, writing that McMaster was wrong to “become completely entrenched” in the process that discarded Brown’s will and placed McMaster in charge of choosing a managing trustee.

In November 2011, the Supreme Court had heard arguments over whether to invalidate a settlement that Judge Jack Early of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court approved in 2009.

The settlement gave half of Brown’s assets to a James Brown Scholarship Fund; a quarter to his widow, Tomi Rae Brown; and a quarter to the six adult children named in Brown’s will.

The legendary singer’s wishes, however, were to help impoverished children in South Carolina and Georgia schools.

He had left his personal and household effects to named adult children, a maximum of $2 million for a family educational fund, and most of his assets to scholarships for needy children.

In documents filed with the rehearing request, Wilson defends the settlement procedures.

“The Brown trust was at risk of being enervated, if not decimated, by litigation,” the documents say. “In our judgment, a trust, created by a music legend for one of the most noble of purposes, was at risk of receiving nothing.”

The settlement was reached after Brown’s family members fought the singer’s plan, alleging he had suffered from the “undue influence” of others.

But the Supreme Court had said there was no evidence Brown had been manipulated by others when he spelled out his wishes.

Brown died at age 73 on Christmas Day in 2006.

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TOPIC PAGE: James Brown

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