South Carolina Supreme Court officials have abandoned plans to force a freelance journalist to reveal her source as part of an ongoing fight over James Brown's estate.
The late soul legend's widow, Tommie Rae Hynie, demanded to know how local reporter Sue Summer had obtained a copy of her diary, excerpts of which were published online last week (ends30Jan15).
The journal entries, which appeared to express Hynie's frustration over the late singer's refusal to stage a ceremony with a justice of the peace to ensure their 2001 wedding was legal.
The posts seemingly contradict Hynie's assertions that she and the music icon were officially married at the time of the Godfather of Soul's death in 2006.
Judge Doyet Early Iii, who has been presiding over the estate battle, ordered Summer to remove the Facebook.com posts and summoned her to court in Aiken County on Monday, when she was expected to surrender her cell phone, notes and other records relating to the diary.
However, higher authorities put a stop to the hearing moments before it was due to begin over questions of legality.
Before the ruling, Summer's lawyer, Thomas Pope, branded the request "idiotic", insisting, "The reporter shield law makes that (revealing source) absolutely sacrosanct."
Summer maintains she was sent the diary anonymously last month (Jan15) in an envelope with no return address.
Agreeing not to press the reporter for her sources, Judge Early Iii used Monday's brief hearing to discuss an upcoming mediation session between the different parties fighting over James Brown's will, urging the group to reach a settlement out of court, saying, "I encourage and hope y'all (you all) will go into this with open hearts and open minds."
The latest developments emerge two weeks after the same judge ruled Hynie, also known as Tommie Rae Brown, was the late star's legal spouse at the time of his passing, amid allegations she was already married when she and the singer exchanged vows in 2001. The judge claimed the marriage was void because her former husband, Javed Ahmed, had committed bigamy.
The decision paves the way for Hynie, who shares a son with Brown, to lay claim to a chunk of the musician's multi-million dollar estate, which has been at the centre of a long-running legal battle.
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