NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Benson power struggle is center stage in a Texas courtroom Wednesday at the same time the court filings continue to pile up in court in New Orleans.
Tom Benson's attorneys say some of his relatives are trying to go on a fishing expedition about his health. In a new filing, those same relatives argue they are trying to "protect" their father and grandfather.
At issue now is whether a Texas judge will continue to freeze the assets in a trust fund Benson controls. Benson's daughter, Renee, requested that freeze on the Shirley L. Benson trust.
Shirley Benson was the Saints and Pelicans owner's first wife and Renee's mother. She died of lupus in 1980.
Renee, and her children Rita and Ryan Leblanc, are fighting in San Antonio to have the freeze that went into effect Jan. 21 continued. They say Tom Benson is failing in his role as trustee, missing payments on property taxes and rent.
The three have filed a lawsuit in New Orleans, claiming Tom Benson is mentally incompetent to control his more than $1.7 billion empire.
Renee, Rita and Ryan are asking to have Tom Benson evaluated by a geriatric psychiatrist. They say they want to protect their father and grandfather, and that he is making uncharacteristic decisions that go against his long-standing policy of putting family first.
Tom Benson's attorneys filed a memorandum opposing such an exam, saying it is nothing more than a "fishing expedition."
His family asked to have Dr. Ted Bloch examine Tom Benson in the response. His attorneys call Bloch a "hired gun" who will not conduct a "truly neutral examination".
Tom Benson's court filing says his family would submit him to an "extensive and harassing series of tests in hopes of finding something - anything - upon which to prop up the flimsy allegations found in the petition for interdiction."
"This should not be allowed," Tom Benson's family fired back. "Petitioners appreciate the fact that interdiction is a harsh remedy. It is for that reason that filing the petition was such a heart-wrenching decision for them,
but their need to protect their father and grandfather was stronger."
The hearing in Texas is expected to last all day and perhaps go into Thursday.
The judge there says he will let the New Orleans judge decide on Tom Benson's level of competence to handle his businesses. In Texas, they are just focusing on whether to continue the freeze on the Shirley L. Benson trust.