The legal showdown between Michael Jackson’s family and AEG has yet to begin, but sparks are already flying between attorneys.
For more than a week, jurors have been brought into Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos’ courtroom in groups of 35 and asked whether they had the ability to serve on a trial that is estimated to take as long as four months.
On Wednesday, after Palazuelos mentioned the court could schedule a couple days off to accommodate jurors during the trial, attorney Brian Panish objected to prolonging proceedings in any way.
“I don’t have 1,000-plus lawyers in my law firm and I don’t have 20 lawyers working on this case,” said Panish, who represents Jackson’s mother, Katherine, and the pop star’s three children.
The four filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that AEG negligently hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who gave the singer a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol. The family alleges that the entertainment firm pushed the singer to go forward with a comeback tour even though he was physically incapable of handling it.
AEG, an entertainment giant and a major player in Los Angeles, alleges that Jackson was an eccentric who shopped for doctors and demanded that Murray be brought on board for the tour.
Jackson died two weeks before a planned series of comeback concerts promoted by AEG Live. The tour was to open in London.
Panish accused AEG’s attorneys of dragging the case out and filing unnecessary motions that forced him to seek additional time to write responses.
Palazuelos said she believed the trial could be whittled down to 60 days if both sides cut down their lengthy witness lists, which total more than 200 names, including Prince, Diana Ross, Spike Lee and Lisa Marie Presley.
At one point, the discussion became heated with attorneys speaking over one another. Panish said he had made efforts to be civil but that the defense was wasting court resources by turning everything into “World War III.”
“Is that part of your civility?” AEG’s attorney Marvin Putnam asked.
“Excuse me?” replied Panish, quickly adding, “You’re the most uncivil lawyer I’ve ever practiced against.”
“Are we really going to do this, your honor?” Putnam asked Palazuelos.
“C’mon,” said Panish. “Bring it on.”
A pool of potential jurors who have demonstrated that serving on the trial would not cause them hardship is scheduled to be questioned starting Monday.