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L.A. Times, Hollywood Reporter seek to keep documents open in Sumner Redstone competency case

The Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter and Variety have asked a judge to keep open documents in a contentious legal dispute over whether media Sumner Redstone is mentally competent.

The three news organizations on Friday asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan to deny requests to seal documents in the court case. Attorneys representing Redstone have filed two motions that ask the judge to shield court records from public view.

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"Sumner Redstone is one of the most influential entertainment and media figures of the last half century," attorney Jean-Paul Jassy wrote in the motion filed Friday on behalf of The Times and the Hollywood Reporter.

"He is also at the center of a heated controversy that affects more than just his interests," Jassy wrote. "As a major shareholder, recent chair and chair emeritus of highly visible publicly traded companies, his life matters, and this Court’s decisions about his life matter to a great many people."

Redstone is the controlling shareholder of CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. This month, the ailing mogul relinquished his role as executive chairman of the two media companies.

Redstone’s attorneys earlier this month filed two motions asking the judge to seal certain documents in the case. They said the documents should be off limits to members of the public to protect the privacy of the ailing 92-year-old media mogul.

Some of the documents relate to findings by physicians who have examined Redstone as well as activity logs kept at the mogul’s home.

"Mr. Redstone’s strong privacy interest in his personal medical information and estate planning provides a sufficiently compelling basis for the court to seal these documents," Redstone attorney Amy Koch wrote in one of the two motions to seal court records.

The request by The Times and Hollywood Reporter, relying on the 1st Amendment as well as California’s constitution, is expected to be heard by Cowan in open court on Monday.

Variety, another Hollywood news organization, filed a separate motion asking that the Redstone documents remain open.

“Secrecy about the operation of the courts breeds cynicism and suspicion about, and a lack of respect for, the fairness of judicial decision-making. This concern is heightened when the case involves wealthy and powerful public figures and serious allegations of abuse of a mentally incapacitated individual, unlawful disinheritance, and an orchestrated cover-up,”  attorney Bradley H. Kreshek wrote in Variety's motion.

The Redstone case was already headed for a high-stakes showdown. Cowan on Monday also was scheduled to decide whether to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Redstone’s former companion, Manuela Herzer.

Herzer, 51, sued in November after Redstone last fall removed her from his will and as the agent in charge of his advance healthcare directive.

Herzer’s attorneys have been trying to keep the case alive. On Thursday, they scored a victory when a New York judge ordered Viacom Chairman and Chief Executive Philippe Dauman to give a deposition.

Dauman had been trying to avoid providing testimony by arguing that he was not central to the dispute.

The New York judge disagreed and told Dauman to make himself available within 30 days. The deposition is expected to delve into conversations Dauman said he had with his mentor and former boss, Redstone, during visits to Los Angeles on Oct. 8 and Nov. 3.

Dauman replaced Herzer as the agent in charge of Redstone’s health care directive on Oct. 16. That same day Herzer was removed from Redstone's will.

"We are thrilled about this significant positive development as we continue to gather more and more incriminating evidence that Mr. Redstone is the victim of severe mental and emotional abuse, fraud, and manipulation by those close to him," Herzer's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said in a statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Redstone’s attorneys submitted more court documents on Friday, labeling Herzer’s legal arguments as "factual spaghetti thrown at a wall."

Koch, the Redstone attorney, wrote that Herzer is motivated by money — not by love or concern about Redstone’s welfare as Herzer claims. Koch noted that until Redstone removed Herzer from his will, Herzer was in line to receive $50 million and his Beverly Park mansion after the mogul dies.

"Ms. Herzer is looking to ‘win’ at all costs," Koch wrote. "To what end? Ms. Herzer’s goal here is to force herself back into Mr. Redstone’s life [and] into a position of authority. But he does not want back the women he kicked out of his house."

For their part, Herzer’s attorneys continue to hint at a conspiracy.

"The court has still yet to hear from Mr. Redstone in this matter," Herzer attorney Bertram Fields said in a reply brief on Friday. "It is certainly highly unusual that a patient whom counsel adamantly [asserts] has capacity has not come forward and addressed the court directly."

meg.james@latimes.com

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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