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Judge finds 'no urgency' in Sumner Redstone competency dispute

Judge finds 'no urgency' in Sumner Redstone competency dispute
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge determined there was "no urgency" in deciding whether ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone was mentally fit last month when he removed his former girlfriend as the agent in charge of his advance health care directive. Redstone pictured here in 2013. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Media mogul Sumner Redstone won't have to submit to a battery of medical tests to determine his mental competence – at least for now.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Monday denied a request by Redstone's former girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, to speed up the legal process to determine whether Redstone is mentally fit to make decisions about his health. That would have required the 92-year-old executive chairman of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. to immediately give videotaped testimony and submit to brain scans, among other tests.

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"I did not find there was any urgency," Superior Court Judge Clifford L. Klein told the courtroom filled with lawyers, reporters, publicists and others interested in the media companies that Redstone controls.

"Mr. Redstone is not suffering from any critical health issues ... other than his age," Klein said. "But at 92 years old, conditions can change very rapidly."

The judge made his ruling during a 13-minute court hearing. The case is being closely watched because of its potential ramifications on Viacom and CBS.

The judge said the motion by Herzer, 51, centered on a narrow legal question: Whether Redstone was mentally fit when the decision was made last month to oust Herzer, his former girlfriend, from her prominent position as the agent in charge of his advance healthcare directive.

Klein listed four factors that influenced his decision that the case did not constitute an emergency: Redstone's personal physician visits him two times a week; Redstone has a round-the-clock team of nurses at his Beverly Park home; Redstone was not suffering from a critical health issue; and the agent in charge of Redstone's advance healthcare directive was an attorney and the chief executive of Viacom: Philippe Dauman.

"Mr. Redstone continues to make his own healthcare decisions," Redstone's attorney, Gabrielle Vidal, told Klein during the court hearing.

"That is in dispute," Herzer's lead attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, shot back.

Herzer wanted the judge to expedite the proceedings so that her attorneys could begin to take videotaped testimony of the mogul who may have suffered from a stroke and has trouble speaking and signing his name.

Herzer's attorneys also wanted the mogul to submit to a series of sophisticated brain scans -- not just a single CT scan that was recently conducted.

"We are pleased the court today expressly rejected Ms. Herzer's claims of urgency and granted our request to stay discovery pending next year's hearing on our motion to dismiss," Vidal said in a statement after the hearing.

O'Donnell, on the steps of the courthouse after the hearing, described Klein's ruling as a victory for Herzer's side because the judge did not dismiss their case.  O'Donnell said neither he nor Herzer knew why she was suddenly ousted from Redstone's mansion Oct. 12.

That's when Dauman became the agent in charge should Redstone become incapacitated.

"Mr. Dauman was not the person that Mr. Redstone wanted when he was competent," O'Donnell said. "Mr. Dauman was not his first choice, he was his third choice."

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Attorneys for Redstone allege that Herzer has little interest in Redstone's ongoing healthcare regimen and instead is worried that she has been cut out of Redstone's will that will distribute Redstone's personal fortune, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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