|Rosa Parks worked for|
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
The high court on Friday gave Judge Freddie Burton Jr. 28 days to reinstate the pair. Steele was Parks’ longtime assistant and caregiver; Shakoor is a retired 36th District Court judge.
Burton had asked the state Supreme Court on Jan. 17 to relent from its Dec. 29 directive ordering him to put Steele and Shakoor back in control, saying, in part, that Steele had previously violated his court orders.
Steele’s attorney, Steven Cohen, denied those charges and urged the Supreme Court a few days later to remove Burton from the case.
Cohen called Friday’s order a significant victory. Even though the high court didn’t remove Burton, he said, it rejected his accusations.
“This reverses three years of Judge Burton’s rulings,” Cohen said Saturday. “We undertook the entire appeal process to ensure that Mrs. Parks’ long-held and deeply felt wishes were going to be carried out.”
Alan May of Troy, who represents the two court-appointed lawyers Burton put in charge of the estate, John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr., said Burton still could give them a role in the estate.
“He could appoint Steele and Shakoor, or he could appoint all four,” May said.
Parks sparked the modern civil rights movement in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus.
She died in 2005, leaving most of her estate to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which she created with Steele.
After she died, Parks’ nieces and nephews challenged her estate plan, and Burton replaced Steele and Shakoor with Chase and Jefferson. The institute, Steele and the relatives eventually settled their differences, but Chase and Jefferson remained in place.
Cohen asked the Supreme Court to intervene in July, saying the two lawyers, with Burton’s approval, had drained the estate of nearly $243,000 and fabricated phony charges that Burton used to order the institute and Steele to forfeit their share of Parks’ vast memorabilia collection, potentially worth $8 million. Burton indicated in court documents that he planned to give the forfeited share to a charity of his choice.
Chase and Jefferson have denied any wrongdoing, and the Michigan Court of Appeals has praised their work on behalf of the estate.
Their lawyer, May, and Cohen agree that the Supreme Court’s Dec. 29 order voids Burton’s forfeiture order. The bulk of the profits from the eventual sale of the memorabilia is expected to go to the institute.
Rosa Parks Estate Court Order January 27, 2012
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