COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Supreme Court has upheld a circuit court decision ruling that a former trustee of legendary singer James Brown’s estate will not receive additional payment for her time in that position.

The lawsuit, Adele J. Pope against the Estate of James Brown and the James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust, “is the latest case in a string of litigation” that’s come after the death of the Grandfather of Soul, according to the decision, published Thursday.

Pope, who practices in Newberry, is a former personal representative and trustee of the estate who was appealing a circuit court order that ruled that she’s not entitled to a fee or commission from serving in the role. Pope is a “well-regarded and accomplished lawyer,” which is “acknowledged by all at various points in the record.”

“It is also clear from the record that Pope worked hard throughout her service in an effort to protect Brown’s estate plan, particularly its charitable beneficiaries,” the ruling reads. “There is no doubting she took actions that benefitted the estate.”

Brown died on Christmas Day 2006. Afterward, his relatives were “suspicious” of the trustees of his estate, David Cannon, Albert Dallas and Alfred Bradley, and emergency petitions were filed to remove them. A court decided to keep them in place, but appointed Pope and Robert Buchanan as special administrators to oversee the trustees’ work.

The two were appointed as replacement trustees in November 2007 after they “uncovered serious financial misconduct” by the three, according to the ruling.

Prior becoming trustees, Pope and Buchanan suggested a formula that valued the estate. They sold some property through Christie’s Auction House, which a circuit court agreed with because it “was necessary to generate funds for the estate,” which didn’t have much cash at the time, according to the ruling. However, that court did not know at the time that Pope only consulted one auction house.

In January 2008, the circuit court ordered Pope and Buchanan to be paid $320,000 for serving as special administrators from March to November of 2007. They were supposed to continue to be paid on an hourly basis as a deposit only, to any full commissions.

They served as trustees until May 2009. They were removed when a circuit court approved a settlement, which removed them. They opposed, because “they believed its terms were contrary to Brown’s desire that the majority of his estate go to charity.”

The state supreme court agreed, set the settlement aside, and ruled that the circuit court had cause to remove them.

A few months after being removed, Pope and Buchanan submitted a claim for $5 million to get money they said was owed to them. The estate then sued, claiming the two were negligent administrators. Buchanan settled.

Pope and Buchanan were replaced as trustees by Russell Baulknight, and were denied the payment. Pope filed a complaint that included accusations, along with a claim she was entitled to the fees. A circuit court dismissed all of the claims, except for the one regarding payment.

A $19 million settlement offer was presented to settle the case, along with the estate’s suit against her. She objected, and a bench trial followed in 2017. The circuit court filed its order in 2019.

The circuit court ruled that she was entitled to the unpaid amount of her special administrator fee, but wasn’t entitled to be paid for being a trustee because she caused “undue delay” in closing the estate and that her decisions “breached her duty of prudence.”

“Put bluntly, the court reasoned that the benefits from her administration did not outweigh the harm caused by what it saw as failing to properly handle the onslaught of complex matters associated with Brown’s celebrity, the entertainment industry, and the various contests to his estate plan,” the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling reads.

Among those issues, the court faulted her for not insisting that Brown’s estate was worth $100 million, that that if she could have saved the estate $640,000 if she’d utilized a Pullman Bond, which is a debt instrument. She also reportedly failed to protect his property because Brown’s house was in bad condition.

During previous court proceedings, the state supreme court had to “admonish her to stop purporting to file documents on the estate’s behalf, and that she prolonged litigation and “unnecessarily expensive.”

“We agree with Pope that it would not be appropriate to hold her administration to a standard of perfection,” the decision reads. “We also fully understand that Brown’s estate faced a mountain of challenges. One witness said it was the most complicated estate he had ever reviewed.”

Those challenges included heirs that were omitted, people who weren’t heirs who were included in the will and the fact that Brown was involved in other lawsuits when he died.

When contacted by News13, Pope said she is unable to comment about pending litigation.