Did Former Lawyer Mismanage Rosa Parks' Estate?

10/16/2014

A former lawyer for civil rights leader Rosa Parks is being sued by a New York auction house, the New York Post reported Tuesday. Guernsey's alleges that Detroit attorney Gregory Reed mishandled the estate, worth an estimated $10 million. As a result, it charges, it missed an opportunity to collect higher fees.

One of the most significant moments in the civil rights movement was when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus. Because of her significance and impact on the lives of others, Parks accumulated many items of historical value that drove the value of her estate up to $10 million. The fight over the estate has been controversial as several lawsuits have been filed.

Recently, another lawsuit has been filed as reported by the ABA Journal in an article titled "Lawsuit says former lawyer for Rosa Parks mishandled her estate." The interesting thing about this lawsuit is that it was not filed by Parks' heirs. The heirs are normally the ones who sue over mishandling estates. Instead an auction house, Guernsey's, filed this case.

At issue is the way Parks' historic items were sold. The lawyer apparently told the auction house that the items could not be sold at auction but that they must be sold together in a single, private sale. That sale has been completed, but Guernsey's claim is that it could have received more for the items at auction. In short, the auction house believes that the lawyer made a misrepresentation when stating the items could not be sold at auction.

Generally speaking, an executor or a lawyer representing an estate does have a duty to maximize the value of the estate. Thus, if the auction house is right in its allegations, watch for a similar lawsuit filed by Parks' heirs in the future.

Reference: ABA Journal (October 1, 2014) "Lawsuit says former lawyer for Rosa Parks mishandled her estate"