A lawyer is accusing a Michigan judge and two other probate lawyers of conspiracy in attempting to bilk civil rights icon Rosa Parks’ estate out of $507,000 in legal fees, according to court papers. Ms. Parks’ estate consists of several thousand pieces of civil rights memorabilia, including her personal papers, letters, photos, books, awards and, clothing, all of which has been valued at upwards of $10 million. The items have been sitting in an auctioneer’s warehouse for months as the estate’s probate litigation continues.

Many Michigan residents may remember the civil rights pioneer who became one of the most prominent symbols of the civil rights movement when in 1955 she refused to give up her seat to a white male on a bus in Montgomery. She died at the age of 92 in 2005 after moving to Detroit, Michigan. Although Ms. Parks did not have any children, she did have an estate plan, which outlined all of her personal and intellectual property was to be distributed to her care giver, Elaine Steele.

Both the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, and Ms. Parks’ one-time caretaker, Ms. Steele are represented by the attorney who filed the court papers last week accusing a judge and two other probate attorneys of conspiring to drain the estate by trumping up legal fees and putting the estate $88,000 into debt.

In a court hearing, the Michigan judge said he would not recuse himself from the case after the attorney now representing the estate now requested he do so. According to a Detroit Free Press, the attorney said the judge cannot preside over a case in which he is a defendant. The judge also said in the brief court hearing last Tuesday, that he does not intend to hear arguments from any attorneys on the motion filed and plans to make a decision on the matter in the next 45 days.

The attorney for Ms. Parks’ estate and Ms. Steele said that he believes the judge has been holding secret meetings allowing him to make “improper rulings,” which in turn allowed the pair to create a non-existent breach of confidentiality dispute that was the vehicle for bilking his clients of their individual shares of Parks estate. The attorneys accused deny any wrongdoing.

Source: MyFox 4, “Lawyers for Rosa Parks estate clash over judges role in decision,” May 23, 2012

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