Benson mental competency trial gets underway

June 1, 2015
Behind closed doors, lawyers today began discussing doctors' exams and family and friends' observations as a court tries to determine if New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson can handle running his own affairs.

As he made his way into New Orleans Civil District Court, a reporter asked Benson if he considered himself capable of running his businesses. Benson replied, "I've been running them for 50 years."

Benson's daughter Renee and grandchildren Ryan Leblanc and Rita Benson Leblanc are asking a judge to find him mentally incompetent. Their push began after Benson made it public earlier this year that he wants his wife of ten years, Gayle Benson, to take over as majority owner of his business empire, including the two professional sports franchises, in the event of his death.

The 87-year-old Benson has already undergone an evaluation with three doctors: one chosen by his erstwhile heirs, one chosen by himself, and a third that the two sides agreed upon.

The results of those tests, and the proceedings of the interdiction trial itself, have been kept from the public. Judge Kern Reese ruled last week that Tom Benson's medical privacy outweighed the public's right to know.

Various media companies appealed that decision to try and gain access to the proceedings but an appeals court today ruled 3-0 to uphold Judge Reese's decision.