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South Carolina Judge Ordered Release of James Brown's Estate Documents
A judge in South Carolina ordered the state's attorney general to turn over records relating to the estate of soul singer James Brown to a freelance journalist investigating the court dispute over the estate.
Journalist Sue Summer wished to see the documents, which included: the diary of the woman who claimed to be Brown's wife at the time of his death in 2006, an appraisal of Brown's assets, and documents stating how much trustees and attorneys are being paid from Brown's estate. The request for the documents was made under the state's Freedom of Information Act.
Circuit judge Eugene Griffith Jr ruled against the previous decision by Attorney General, Alan Wilson. In his decision Wilson stated that he should not be forced to release the records as they are part of different lawsuits over Brown's estate.
However, in his ruling last month, Griffith stated that Wilson's position was "inconsistent with both the letter and spirit" of the open records act of the state, which allows public records to be kept secret only in very limited circumstances.
The diary of the woman claiming to be Brown's wife is currently under a court order not to be released. Wilson said in court filings, that the other documents that the judge ruled are to made public have now also been made off limits.
The order provided Wilson just under a week to hand over the records. While he may have been able to argue that some of the documents must be kept private under the law, he would have been forced to show them to the journalist's lawyer and the judge for a hearing.
Summer stated that she was pleased with the ruling and said the main reason she was pursuing the story was to ensure Brown's dying wish of providing scholarships for poor children in South Carolina's Aiken County and Augusta, Georgia, is fully realized..
"It is past time for the secrecy that has surrounded the James Brown estate proceedings to come to an end. It is past time for the public to receive an answer to the question after seven years, will Mr Brown's last wishes be honoured in the State of South Carolina? The needy children Mr Brown wanted to help with his education charity are waiting for an answer."
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