Variety and two other media outlets are asking a Los Angeles judge to unseal voluminous legal filings in the court fight over media magnate Sumner Redstone’s mental capacity and health care.
A filing by Variety’s attorney’s argued that legal documents, some medical reports and declarations about Redstone’s care should be made public, as the court prepares on Monday to issue a significant ruling in the three-month-old case over the future oversight of the 92-year-old media baron.
“Mr. Redstone’s capacity and the outcome of this matter are of immense importance to his vast business interests, their shareholders, competitors, the viewing public and the stock market,” Variety argued to Judge David J. Cowan. “Mr. Redstone’s health and capacity are at the heart of the future of several companies and by extension a significant portion of the business of media itself.”
Redstone recently stepped down as chairman of both Viacom and CBS, two companies he had long controlled. In late November, his one-time girlfriend and long-time companion, Manuela Herzer, filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying that she had been improperly removed from Redstone’s Beverly Park home and supplanted as his health care agent.
Herzer, 52, claimed that the change was forced on Redstone by people around him and that she was the one that he truly wanted to oversee his care. Attorneys for the billionaire argue that the media titan was fully capable when he ejected Herzer. She has argued that she only concerned about the nonagenarian’s well being. Redstone’s lawyers argue the health care gambit is an opening salvo in Herzer’s campaign to have herself reinstated in his will.
It has been revealed during the proceedings that Redstone updated his estate plan in September to leave Herzer $50 million and his Beverly Park mansion. But Redstone reportedly threw Herzer out of his will in October, around the time she was ordered to leave his home and not return.
Many of the documents in the case have been filed entirely under seal, or heavily redacted, at the behest of Redstone’s lawyers. Lawyers for Herzer and, now, for the three media outlets, argue that much of the information should be in the public domain. Variety’s attorneys, from the firm Freedman Taitelman, said the closed documents go well beyond the private medical record’s Redstone’s lawyers said should be out of public view, including: alleged evidence of undue influence and manipulation of Redstone and the potential “dangers” he faces as a result.
Variety’s lawyers also argued that Redstone had effectively waived some of his privacy concerns by previously putting into the record declarations from his personal physician, Richard Gold, and from a psychiatrist, James Spar, who reported Redstone was lucid and able to make decisions for himself. Redstone’s attorneys should not be able to keep under seal the “countervailing opinions” of Dr. Stephen Read, the geriatric psychiatrist who examined the magnate on behalf of Herzer, her lawyers argued.
The Los Angeles Times and the Hollywood Reporter filed a joint motion to unseal the records as well, also pointing to the far-reaching consequences of decisions about the future of Redstone, who still controls Viacom and CBS through his National Amusements holding company. “He is also at the center of a heated controversy that affects more than just his interests,” wrote lawyer Jean-Paul Jassy. “As a major shareholder, recent chair and chair emeritus of highly visible publicly traded companies, his life matters, and this Court’s decisions about his life matter to a great many people.”
Redstone’s attorneys, from the firm of Loeb & Loeb, have argued that his his “strong privacy interest in his personal medical information and estate planning provides a sufficiently compelling basis for the court to seal these documents.”
The billionaire’s lawyers have argued that Herzer’s whole case has been trumped up to advance her interests, at a time when Redstone is still mentally fit, despite a speech impediment that makes it hard to understand him. They say that Redstone is well protected because he remains in the care of his long-time doctor, Gold, and receives care round-the-clock from a team of nurses.
In addition, they argued, Redstone’s interests are protected because Herzer was replaced in October by Viacom CEO Phillipe Dauman as health care agent.
The Loeb & Loeb attorneys argued that Herzer’s ruminations about conspiracies to control Redstone amount to so much “factual spaghetti thrown at a wall” and a “kitchen sink of nonsense.” They painted an alternate picture of Redstone as “a strong-willed great-grandfather with family and friends in his life, and excellent medical and personal care at his disposal — the very same care Ms. Herzer believed was appropriate before Mr. Redstone decided to terminate his relationship with her.”
Herzer and her attorneys, from the firm of Greenberg Glusker, present a sharply different view of Redstone and the legal issues facing the court. In a new filing Friday, they argued that Redstone needs protection from malevolent forces in his own home. They depicted the billionaire as “isolated from the world, living in a virtual ICU in his own home, and totally dependent on his nurses…surrounded by an estranged daughter and a business associate, both of whom have an incentive to control him.”
Herzer, the said in the filing, is a “conscientious woman resolute to honor her promise to take care of and protect her dear friend in the sunset of his life.”
While Redstone’s attorneys hope to have the case thrown out Monday, Herzer’s representatives said that would be hasty and unjust. They want Judge Cowan to order a full trial, which they said should begin in March. “It is difficult to imagine a case with more disputed facts than this proceeding,” said Herzer’s attorneys. “As the Court well knows, the parties have polar opposite views of Mr. Redstone’s capacity.”