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Judge won’t hear media request at Prince estate hearing

MINNEAPOLIS >> The Minnesota judge overseeing Prince’s estate case won’t allow attorneys for several media companies to intervene in an upcoming hearing.

In a letter made public Saturday, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide denied the media’s request to be heard at a Monday probate hearing, but left open the possibility of scheduling a hearing on the issue of access at a later date.

The media groups, including The Associated Press, asked to intervene to ensure the press and public would have access to estate proceedings and records, and to ensure that Monday’s hearing remains open in its entirety.

The hearing in Chaska, a Minneapolis suburb, will cover procedures for determining who stands to inherit part of Prince’s estate. Prince died April 21 of an accidental overdose of the drug fentanyl, and no will has been found.

His estate could be worth up to $300 million, and several people have come forward claiming to be heirs.

DNA tests have already determined that a Colorado inmate is not Prince’s son, as he had claimed, according to a person who saw a sealed document and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to release the information.

With no known children, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and at least five half-siblings could share in the estate.

In a previous order, Eide barred cameras, audio recordings and sketch artists from the hearing and said he might close portions of it if he has to address paternity questions about specific people. Since then, several documents have been filed under seal.

Attorney Leita Walker, who is representing the media companies, said in court documents that closing the courtroom would violate the First Amendment and common law rights of access to court proceedings.

“There is simply no compelling reason here to depart from the presumption that this probate proceeding is open to the press and public,” Walker wrote in a document made public Saturday.

Eide said in his letter that he recognized Walker’s concerns and has been working to “unravel the knotty issues” involving the public’s right to access and confidentiality rules.

Eide also said the court was reviewing legal requirements about the release of documents and, if appropriate, some may be unsealed.

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  • The media wants to intervene in the probate hearing. Outrageous request. Why don’t they try to intervene in all cases of interest to the media and have access to the jury deliberations and the private sessions between the judge and the attorneys where these sessions are necessary.

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