Appeal rejected in dispute over Joey Bishop estate

The California Supreme Court this week rejected a Jewish organization’s appeal against the estate of Joey Bishop, the late entertainer and member of the “Rat Pack.” But the legal battle over his fortune isn’t over yet, an attorney for the Newport Beach Chabad Center said Friday.

The center filed several lawsuits and claims against Bishop’s estate, alleging that the entertainer’s advisors and live-in caretaker blocked his final wishes to have part of his estate go toward setting up a charity for special-needs children in Orange County. A longtime resident of Newport Beach, Bishop died Oct. 17, 2007, at his Lido Isle home at the age of 89.

The court declined to hear the case based on technical reasons, and did not address the merits of Chabad’s case, attorney Bob Weinberg, who represents Chabad, said Friday.

“Mr. Bishop was the victim of elder abuse. The lawyers and accountant and the housekeeper got Mr. Bishop’s money despite Mr. Bishop’s repeated statements that he wished the bulk of his estate to go to charities run by Chabad,” Weinberg said. “The court did not ever address nor reject the truth of these contentions.”

Chabad is still weighing its legal options, but the fight is far from over, Weinberg said.

“Chabad is going to continue to fight for the vindication of Joey Bishop’s wishes,” he said.

In a written statement released Thursday through her attorneys after the court had made its ruling, Bishop’s live-in girlfriend and caretaker, Nora Garibotti, blasted Newport Beach Chabad Rabbi Reuven Mintz.

In court filings, Chabad has claimed Garibotti was only Bishop’s housekeeper, and that she and the entertainer’s lawyers and accountant conspired to usurp his estate.

Garibotti and her attorneys have always maintained that she and Bishop were in a long-term, committed relationship, and that he wanted her to inherit at least part of his estate.

Mintz was once a spiritual advisor to Bishop and has maintained that the late entertainer wanted the bulk of his estate to go toward The Friendship Circle, a Chabad program that provides outings and summer camps for special-needs children.

Garibotti claims that Bishop decided in 2005 that he did not want to leave his money to charity.

“Rabbi Mintz has caused tremendous monetary costs to Joey Bishop’s estate and to myself, and may have a lot of explaining to do in the future,” Garibotti said in the statement. “Sadly, Rabbi Mintz probably caused Chabad, which is an organization that involves itself in good deeds, to pursue what I believe to have been a wrongful course of litigation without a proper basis, which was likely at significant expense to them.”

Garibotti went on to claim that Rabbi Bernie King, who is retired from Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine, was Bishop’s rabbi in his last years, not Mintz.

“Rabbi King was a wonderful human being to both of us, good hearted, with no motives, and genuinely there for Joey. Rabbi Bernie King visited us at our home, was there for Joey when he became ill, visited him at the hospital regularly, gave Joey his last rites in the last hour of his life, and conducted his funeral services for a private gathering,” Garibotti said in the statement. “I want to make clear that Rabbi Reuven Mintz, in my opinion, was adverse and hostile to Joey’s trust and estate and to me. He does not deserve to have his name associated with Joey Bishop in my opinion.”


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