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Courtroom sealed for Saints, Pelicans owner Tom Benson family legal battle

The courtroom will be closed to the public and the media for the remainder of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson’s legal battle against his estranged heirs, a judge ruled Tuesday.

According to NOLA.com, Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge Kern Reese ruled in favor of a motion by Benson’s attorneys to seal all hearings, including a trial that is scheduled to begin June 1, to keep Benson’s medical and financial information private.

Benson’s daughter, Renee Benson, and grandchildren Rita LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc sued the billionaire owner after he cut off contact with them and made efforts to hand control of his vast business empire to his wife, Gayle, in the event of his death. The jilted heirs claim Benson lacks the mental competency to make such decisions and that he is under the undue influence of Gayle, his third wife, whom he married in 2004.

Benson, 87, was ordered by the judge to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to help determine the merit of the lawsuit. That testing has concluded, but all filings in the case were previously ordered to be sealed from public view.

Randy Smith, the attorney for Benson’s jilted heirs, argued against closing the courtroom Tuesday, especially when it came to testimony from non-medical personnel.

“The Benson press machine had spent months churning out all sorts of information about my clients that is not correct,” Smith said, according to NOLA.com. "Now they want, when the truth is going to come out in sworn testimony, they want to seal the court.”

Benson’s attorneys argued that medical and financial information will be part of almost all testimony in the case, so it would be impossible to separate it.