Saturday, September 15, 2012

FOI: James Brown estate case gets CJR attention

The smelly pile of legal compost that the estate of soul singer James Brown has turned into has gotten some national attention for the Newberry Observer freelance reporter who has been dogging it for years.

Columbia Journalism Review had turned its sights on Sue Summer's battle against subpoenas from the state attorney general's office. Summer has been reporting on the attempts by the AG's office to block open-records requests from a former trustee of the Brown estate.

Current AG Alan Wilson is pursuing the case against Summer, seeking all her notes and other records of conversations. It was Wilson's fellow Republican, predecessor Henry McMaster, who stepped in to reapportion Brown's estate after all sorts of allegations of misappropriation of money went flying.

The crux of the battle is whether Tommie Rae Hynie was married to Brown at the time of his death and is entitled to some of his estate. McMaster's creation of a new trust to oversee the estate gives her a piece of the action.

CJR's interest apparently was drawn to the case by a recent story by Columbia's Free Times.

(The Observer has a history as an aggressive paper, having sued the state and won a key FOI case victory many years ago that established that state agencies can't issue blanket denials for records because parts of them might be exempt. But, according to the articles, the Observer isn't providing Summer any legal help in this case.)

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