The legal battle over control of Sumner Redstone’s, 92 anni, healthcare casts privacy Vs public interest, and in a Wednesday afternoon hearing, the court tilted the balance toward the latter.
Mr. Redstone’s attorneys asked the court to deny public access to certain portions of the trial, in an effort to maintain some semblance of privacy for the mogul amid a very public, very ugly legal battle that he did not start.
Judge Cowan has acknowledged the fact that Mr. Redstone did not ask for this and has repeatedly expressed concern that the proceedings should not “unnecessarily impinge on Redstone’s privacy or dignity.”
The attorneys representing Manuela Herzer, Mr. Redstone’s former companion who sued to regain control of his healthcare directive after being booted from his estate last fall, argued that shutting the public out of this process would be unconstitutional.
While some of the trial testimony may be uncomfortable, Judge Cowan said, he will not be shy about stopping people from crossing unnecessary lines during proceedings.
“Nobody wants to see this trial to degenerate into things that we don’t need to hear about,” said the judge. “Understand from the outset that I’m not going to be happy if we deviate from that.”
Ms. Herzer’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell said “As we state in our papers, ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ and it is in Mr. Redstone’s interest that his competency be evaluated in an open trial rather than behind closed doors.”
Ms. Herzer’s attorneys also have served Redstone with a notice to appear at trial.
“Recent developments in this case have made it clear that Mr. Redstone should not be kept in seclusion, away from the trial, but should have the opportunity to speak directly to the Court, and that the Court would benefit from hearing directly from Mr. Redstone,” said Mr. O’Donnell’s statement. “That Mr. Redstone’s purported attorneys so vehemently oppose letting the Court speak to Mr. Redstone directly itself speaks volumes.”
A hearing is set for Monday afternoon to decide whether Mr. Redstone will give testimony.
The trial is set to begin on 6 May, and Judge Cowan agreed if the parties can pare down their witness lists he will give them 2 additional days of trial. Those days would be 13 and 16 May.
In order to save time, the judge decided to bifurcate the trial in terms of the 2 directives that are now at issue.
The updated directive created earlier this month will be off the table, and the trial will only focus on Mr. Redstone’s capacity and whether he was unduly influenced in regard to the October directive, which was the document that inspired Ms. Herzer’s petition.
Sumner Redstone is a longtime media mogul, he controls Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) and CBS (NYSE:CBS)
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