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Martin Luther King Jr.'s Family Legal Battles Disrupted by Unauthorized Restraining Order, Estate Attorney Acted Without Permission

( [email protected] ) Jan 16, 2015 06:34 PM EST
Earlier this week, we reported on a legal dispute between the sons and daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in regards to the late civil rights leader's estate, including his valuable Bible and Nobel Peace Prize that were said to fetch several millions of dollars. But a new motion filed today aims to dissolve an unauthorized restraining order and bring a peaceful resolution to the family's legal battles.
Martin Luther King III, Bernice King, and Dexter King shown in Washington D.C. on August 28. Photo: Maria Saporta

Earlier this week, we reported on a legal dispute between the sons and daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in regards to the late civil rights leader's estate, including his valuable Bible and Nobel Peace Prize that were said to fetch several millions of dollars. But a new motion filed today aims to dissolve an unauthorized restraining order and bring a peaceful resolution to the family's legal battles.

On January 7, Judge Todd Markle entered a temporary restraining order against the King Estate's Board of Directors from resolving the conflict. This was certainly cause for concern as King's sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King were reportedly fighting against their sister, Bernice King, for control of their late father's Bible and Nobel Peace Prize. Reports claimed that the sons were looking to sell the Nobel medal while Bernice claimed that it wasn't theirs to sell, but rather was given as a gift to their mother, Coretta Scott King.

But Martin Luther King III and Bernice King agreed to settle the dispute without the temporary restraining order (TRO), which they claim wasn't even authorized in the first place.

"Martin King, III, the Estate's Chairman of the Board, specifically notified Mr. Hill (Attorney WIlliam Hill) in writing that Mr. Hill was not authorized to seek this TRO on behalf of the estate," the motion's civil action file paperwork reads.

"As Judge McBurney stated in declining to issue a similar TRO in the King litigation that is assigned to his Court: 'Settlement is to be encouraged in any case -- this one in particular,'" the motion continues. "'It is hard to fathom how the important legacy that the competing parties claim to be seeking to protect will be well-served by yet another very public airing of the disputes and squabbles that have sadly divided the King family in recent years.'"

The paperwork goes on to describe the events that led up to the filing of the temporary restraining order, stating that attorney William Hill was explicitly told not to prevent Bernice King and Martin King III from discussing a resolution, and that Mr. Hill filed the order "presumably because he had previously been removed as counsel for the Estate in the Estate's litigation against Ms. King personally by Judge McBurney because of his conflict of interest," according to the documents.

This new development would go far to disprove the notion that Martin King III and Bernice King are at odds with each other over their slain father's estate, and show that it seems to be the work of one attorney operating outside of the authority of the majority shareholders in the King estate.

Later in the documents, it's described that Mr. Hill acted in the interest of Dexter King without consulting Martin King III or Bernice King. 

"In filing his emergency motion, Mr. Hill knowingly disregarded the interests of two of the three estate directors (i.e. the majority), including the Chairman of the Estate's Board, in favor of the interests of one director, Dexter King," the motion reads.

William Hill's "unwaivable conflict of interest" is mentioned in the motion as preventing him from continuing as the legal counsel for the King estate, but a trial date of January 26 is still mentioned as being scheduled.