New chapter opens in Benson power struggle

New chapter opens in Benson power struggle

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Attorneys for Tom Benson's estranged heirs argued in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday in hopes of overturning a competency ruling for the Saints owner that was handed down last year.

In June, Judge Kern Reese ruled that Tom Benson was competent and therefore could alter his will to exclude his daughter, Renee, and her two children, Ryan and Rita, from their stakes in the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans franchises.

Reese ruled that after having a conversation with Benson during an April hearing, he felt Benson had the capacity to make reasoned decisions. Two psychiatrists also testified that while Benson may suffer some short-term memory loss, he was capable of making reasonable decisions.

Attorney Randy Smith, who represents the estranged heirs, said that ruling should be tossed because Benson never took the stand and because hearsay was allowed during testimony.

"This is an important appeal, not just for this case, but for the law in Louisiana. It's very important not to silence the elderly and let others speak for them who might take advantage of them," Smith said outside of the French Quarter courthouse.

Tom Benson was present during the short hearing but was not seen by the public. His attorney, Phil Wittmann, said Benson went in through a back door.

"I think the arguments went well. The judges had some good questions asked and promised to give us an opinion in 30 days, and that's the best you can get from the appellate courts. That's a pretty fast decision," Wittmann said.

Wittmann said he did not believe Benson and his estranged family members had any contact while in the courtroom together.

"It's not easy for these folks to lose their father and grandfather who they love and spent their whole lives with. Not just being with, but working for. So yeah, it's tough, but it's something we believe we have to do," Smith said.

Tom Benson owns FOX 8, which is managed by Raycom Media.

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