The private struggle over the care and legacy of Marvel mastermind Stan Lee played out in public Friday in a Los Angeles courtroom as attorneys working with his daughter shoved aside a previous lawyer and reasserted that they represent the 95-year-old Lee.
They were granted an elder-abuse restraining order against a former manager of Lee, just as the previous attorney had done, but only after a judge heard arguments about who should speak for Lee.
In the tiny courtroom packed with current and former attorneys 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. 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 Lallas was not employed by Lee.
“I’m only concerned who has authority to represent Mr. Lee,” Kleman said.
Lee’s daughter and only child, J.C. Lee, sat in court and smiled at her attorneys when the judge refused to recognize Lallas. Attorneys working with her had provided a signed declaration from Stan Lee denouncing Lallas.
The hearing came on the anniversary of the death of Joan Lee, Stan Lee’s wife of nearly 70 years, whose absence left a void that has resulted in a struggle between would-be friends, attorneys, advisers and managers of the man whose co-creations include Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and the rest of the Avengers.
The latest Marvel film featuring his characters, “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” was released Friday and is expected to top the weekend box office.
The new restraining order was filed Thursday by attorney Stephen Crump. In the application, Crump alleges that Morgan made malicious and false remarks about Lee’s daughter to Lee, and prevented Lee’s financial advisers from seeing him. The order bars Morgan from coming within 100 yards of Lee, his daughter, or his brother, Larry Lieber.
“Stan Lee is currently recovering from the severe physical and emotional injuries caused by Keya Morgan during the period of time Keya Morgan controlled each and every one of Stan Lee’s acts or omissions, and separated Stan Lee from his family, friends and close advisers,” the document states.
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 $5 million 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.
According to the allegations, Morgan’s last interaction with Lee was when he and his mother “abducted” Lee out of his house and took him to an apartment, in a “last-ditch effort to complete (sic) cut Stan Lee off from any meaningful communication with anyone other than himself and those he could control.”
Crump alleges that Morgan is now placing harassing phone calls to J.C. Lee and Larry Lieber, in an effort to pressure them psychologically and to regain control of Lee’s affairs.
“If Keya Morgan is allowed contact with Stan Lee, it is feared he will again attempt to remove Stan Lee to unknown location(s) to further his past attempts to control and manipulate Stan Lee, and alienate him from his daughter, and sole heir, J.C. Lee,” the attorney alleges.
The new application was initially denied, and then granted Friday pending a hearing on July 26.
Morgan told media outlets in a text message 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.
“For over 10 years I have shown nothing but love, respect & kindness to Stan Lee, & his wife, a fact he has repeated countless times,” Morgan stated. “This is a witchhunt by his daughter and her lawyer against me because she cannot stand the fact Stan likes me so much. I will 100% prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the allegations against me are false. The truth will come out.”
Morgan is facing two misdemeanor counts for allegedly placing two bogus 911 calls in late May. In the first instance, he reported that intruders had come to Lee’s house, when in fact police had come to check on Lee’s welfare following an elder abuse report. In the second instance, he allegedly claimed an assault with a deadly weapon against a security guard who had refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
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 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 Lallas to file for a restraining order in his name. In the new docs, Lee’s attorneys claim Morgan’s mishandled more than $5 million of Stan’s money, and he’s suffered severe physical and emotional injuries because of Morgan. The docs also claim Keya’s tried to isolate Stan from his family and moved him to an undisclosed location last month.
“Mr. Lallas has done enough damage already,” the document says. “Hopefully, he will just stop.” The document includes Lee’s original request that Lallas be fired, signed, “Excelsior! Stan Lee.”
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 attorneys were moving to keep Morgan away from him.
Kirk Schenck, a legal rep for Lee told media outlets, “The Lee Family is conducting its own investigation, and working with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the LAPD, in various investigations into Keya Morgan’s and others’ who may have taken advantage of the Lee Family. We will not comment further on the ongoing investigations for witness and evidentiary protection.”