The private struggle over the care and legacy of Marvel mastermind Stan Lee has played out in a Los Angeles courtroom as lawyers working with his daughter reasserted that they represent the 95-year-old.
They were granted an elder-abuse restraining order against a former manager of Lee, just as a previous lawyer had done, but only after a judge heard arguments about who should speak for Lee.
In the tiny courtroom packed with current and former lawyers and associates of Lee, lawyer Tom Lallas asked for a 30-day extension of the temporary restraining order he had received against Lee’s former manager Keya Morgan.
Mr Lallas has said in legal documents and news releases in recent weeks that he was representing Lee.
Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Ruth Kleman refused to consider the motion, saying it appeared Mr Lallas was not employed by Lee.
“I’m only concerned who has authority to represent Mr Lee,” judge Kleman said.
Lee’s daughter and only child, JC Lee, sat in court and smiled at her lawyers when the judge refused to recognise Mr Lallas. Lawyers working with her had provided a signed declaration from Stan Lee denouncing Mr Lallas.
The hearing came on the anniversary of the death of Joan Lee, Stan Lee’s wife of nearly 70 years.
The latest Marvel film featuring Lee’s characters, Ant-Man And The Wasp, was released in the US on Friday and is expected to top the weekend box office.
The new restraining order against Morgan, a 42-year-old movie producer who had worked as Lee’s manager and personal adviser, demands that he keep away from Lee, Lee’s daughter and Lee’s brother.
The request for the order alleges that Morgan has attempted to interfere with Lee’s ability to contact caregivers, doctors and family members, has attempted to alienate Lee from his daughter, and is embezzling or misappropriating five million dollars-worth of Lee’s assets.
Lee’s new lawyers said they would also work with police and prosecutors in an elder-abuse investigation involving Morgan.
Morgan told The Associated Press that he was in New York working on a film. He declined to comment further on the advice of his lawyer but has previously denied abusing Lee in any way.
Morgan’s lawyer Alex Kessel did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the allegations in the new order.
Stan Lee’s declaration said he had fired Mr Lallas in February and had no desire to be further represented by him.
It also said Morgan had likely committed malpractice by disclosing to media and others his opinions about Lee’s health and personal life.
It said that he had no desire for Mr Lallas to file for a restraining order in his name.
“Mr Lallas has done enough damage already,” the document says. “Hopefully, he will just stop.”
The document includes Lee’s original request that Mr Lallas be fired, signed, “Excelsior! Stan Lee.”
Mr Lallas said outside court that he stood by his assertion that he could act on Lee’s behalf, but he was glad at least that Lee’s other lawyers were moving to keep Morgan away from him.