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Report: Attorneys fees drained Rosa Parks estate

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Aug 11, 2011

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - A lawyer for two attorneys accused of charging excessive fees that drained the Rosa Parks estate said in a filing Monday that he wants the Michigan Supreme Court to stay out of the fight.

According to the Detroit Free Press, attorney Alan May is representing court-appointed attorneys John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr. and Wayne County Probate Judge Freddie Burton Jr.

A state Supreme Court filing last month revealed that the Parks estate, worth nearly $400,000 when she died in 2005, has since been consumed by lawyers fees.

According to the Free Press, the legal filing showed that Burton allowed Chase and Jefferson to accumulate more than $240,000 in fees from the estate.

The filing also alleged that Chase and Jefferson persuaded the judge to award them Parks' collection of memorabilia -- including a hat she wore on her historic bus ride -- and the rights to license her name.

However, Parks already gave her name to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development before she died.

The institute was co-founded in February 1987 by Parks and Elaine Eason Steele, in honor of Rosa's husband, Raymond.

According to its website, the institute is the "living legacy of two individuals who committed their lives to civil and human rights." Its central mission, it says, is to motivate youth to "reach their highest potential."

The lawyer for the institute, Steven Cohen, has since asked the state Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's decision to support Burton's handling of the case.

Now, May is accusing Cohen of defaming his clients and says that the case isn't worthy of the Court's time, the Free Press reported.

The newspaper said it could take months before the Court decides whether to take up the case.

Parks, referred to as the "Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement," is known for that famous bus ride in 1955. Parks refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger on the segregated bus at the demands of the driver.

Her arrest would spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which introduced the world to a young Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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