Tom Benson competency case back in court; judge refuses request to unseal records

Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 5:40 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -A New Orleans judge refused a request Wednesday to unseal records related to a competency hearing five years ago on the late Tom Benson.

Lawyers for national news outlets claim recent emails between the saints and the archdiocese of New Orleans warrant unsealing the mental competency files from the 2015 case.

They say Benson and his teams, the Saints and Pelicans, received hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax breaks funded by Louisiana taxpayers and records that do not infringe on medical confidentiality should be released to the public.

But the judge said almost 95 percent of the records involve medical information so what would be the point of releasing them.

The lawyers seeking release of the records says the records contain other information on actions Benson took.

Benson’s competency came up when his estranged daughter and grandchildren claimed he was not in his right mind when he cut them out of his will and decided to name his third wife Gayle as his sole heir.

His estranged family claimed Benson was in mental decline and was being influenced by his wife to put the Saints and Pelicans empire under her sole control.

Orleans Civil Court Judge Kern Reese oversaw the competency hearing and closed the court claiming to protect Benson’s privacy.

Reese eventually ruled Benson competent to manage his affairs.

The request follows another long-running legal battle for transparency about how much the Saints organization advised the Archdiocese of New Orleans on how to publicly handle the credible release of names of clergymen accused of sexual abuse.

Benson died in 2018.

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