CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota judge overseeing Prince's estate said Thursday he'll consider allowing cameras in court on a hearing-by-hearing basis, but broader questions of access into business dealings of the late superstar's entertainment empire — and the many potential heirs claiming a stake to it — will have to wait.
Media organizations, including The Associated Press, have asked Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide to guarantee public access in the case. Prince, who died April 21 of a drug overdose, had no known will. With no living parents or established children, it's up to the court to sort out which siblings and people claiming to be his offspring will benefit.
Eide has sealed some court filings from potential heirs, and the special administrator handling Prince's fortune has requested a blanket order to seal all business deals. The judge said he's trying to balance protecting the privacy of the fast-paced entertainment business world and the private histories of Prince's potential heirs while also serving the vast public interest in his life and legacy.
After initially banning both cameras and sketch artists from the court room during previous hearings, Eide said Thursday he may grant future requests based on the content of a given hearing.
Leita Walker, the attorney for news outlets, argued that any proceedings and filings regarding questions of paternity should be public.
"We're dealing with adults who voluntarily entered themselves into this process for the sole purpose of obtaining a piece of Prince's estate," she said.
An attorney for Brianna and Victoria Nelson, two potential heirs who initially requested that proceedings be closed and cameras banned, said Thursday they've reversed that position.
But Doug Peterson of Bremer Trust, the court-appointed special estate administrator, said a more cautious approach should be considered, given claimants may have sensitive and private stories. He is also pushing to keep the estate's business dealings under wraps, asking Eide in a filing earlier this week to broadly seal business documents related to its efforts to monetize Prince's estate. Bremer said its potential partners expect confidentiality, and it could lose negotiating power in future deals if details become widely known.
The only people to see proposed agreements involving Prince's music or likeness would be potential heirs and their attorneys, who would have the right to object. Walker asked Eide to provide a five-day window for news outlets to fight any attempt to make those documents private.
Peterson objected: "We are in Day 90 of managing what in many ways is an entertainment empire. We do not want the media's interest ... to slow down the business process."
Ken Abdo, an attorney for three of Prince's half-siblings, sided with Bremer, comparing the media's interest to "celebrity business voyeurism." And he argued that none of the business developments would be public if Prince were still alive.
Walker said that changed when Prince's death launched his estate into the court system.