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Tycoon’s Competency|Trial Will Be Public

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A California state court judge ruled Wednesday that a trial challenging the competency of Sumner Redstone to make his own health care decisions will be open to the public.

Redstone's ex-girlfriend and former caretaker Manuela Herzer filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court late last year, claiming the 92-year-old majority shareholder of CBS and Viacom was mentally incapacitated when he revoked a Sept. 3, 2015, advance health directive.

Redstone's attorneys sought dismissal, saying Redstone is capable of making his health care decisions and that the probate case intrudes on his privacy.

The attorneys had also sought to seal trial testimony and exhibits so that the public and press would have been barred from seeing portions of the trial.

But Judge David Cowan said that it would be impractical to close off parts of the trial. There is a strong public interest in leaving his courtroom doors open, the judge said.

"In this country we have open trials. This is not Russia," Cowan said.

Cowan said he was mindful of the need to protect patients' dignity and privacy and said that the focus of the trial should be on the legal issues.

He said that his ruling is without prejudice — which allows Redstone's lawyers to bring up the matter again.

Redstone could yet appear as a witness at trial after Herzer renewed her bid to take his testimony. Cowan will hear that matter May 2 at 1:30 p.m. in his downtown courtroom.

Herzer's petition, filed in November, claims Redstone was incapacitated when he revoked the advance health directive.

According to Herzer, Redstone — who is worth more than $5 billion — was under the "undue influence" of his estate planning attorney Leah Bishop when a new health care directive was created on Oct. 16.

Herzer describes herself as Redstone's "longtime friend, companion and caretaker" and says she moved into his home more than two years ago. She began to take care of his medical needs after his relationship with Sydney Holland, his girlfriend of five years, came to an end last year, Herzer says.

The case is set for trial on May 6. Cowan had initially scheduled two full days and three half days for the proceedings but told the attorneys on Tuesday that he would give them an extra two days, provided they pare down their witness lists.

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