In a highly unusual move, a lawyer is suing a Wayne County probate judge and two court-appointed lawyers, accusing them of looting the estate of the late civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
Attorney Stephen G. Cohen said in court papers that Judge Freddie Burton Jr. conspired with probate lawyers John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr., enabling the pair to rack up more than $507,000 in mostly unnecessary legal fees that drained Parks' estate of its cash, leaving it $88,000 in debt.
Cohen also said Burton, through secret hearings and improper rulings, allowed the pair to concoct a bogus breach of confidentiality dispute. Cohen said Burton used the dispute to strip Elaine Steele and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute that she created with Parks of their share of Parks' property, said to be worth up to $8 million .
"Chase and Jefferson, together with Judge Burton, illegally, maliciously and wrongfully conspired... for the illegal purpose of raiding Mrs. Parks' estate of its value," Cohen said in a 38-page probate petition.
He requested a jury trial in probate court and asked Burton to remove himself from presiding over Parks' estate.
Burton declined to comment on the dispute, the latest twist in a long-running battle that began when Parks' nieces and nephews challenged the validity of her trust after her death in 2005. Chase and Jefferson didn't return calls seeking comment.
Probate experts predicted Cohen's move would fail.
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Lawyer Sues Judge, 2 Others in Rosa Parks Estate Case
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