Possible Camden courtroom reunion looms for Bryants

Goldin Auctions' website showcases "The Bryant Collection" of Kobe jerseys, trophies, more.
Goldin Auctions' website showcases "The Bryant Collection" of Kobe jerseys, trophies, more.
Posted: May 16, 2013

It'll be quite the reunion for the Bryant family in federal court in Camden on June 17.

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is expected to fly in from the coast, and his parents are prepared to jet across continents from Thailand, where his father, Joseph "Jellybean" Bryant, coach of a basketball team, is in the middle of playoffs.

There'll be hugs and kisses - or maybe not - while a judge, or perhaps a jury, will determine whether a Camden County auction house has the right to sell off the player's Lower Merion High School sports uniforms and other memorabilia set for sale by Kobe's mother, Pamela.

Kobe says the items aren't hers to sell.

It'll be quite the reunion, unless -.

Unless the case settles. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb scheduled a mediation conference for Friday morning before U.S. Magistrate Joel Schneider.

Or unless the issue moves to California, where there is a twin case. But Bumb doesn't seem inclined to give up the case.

"It seems to me that a quick trial is the best way to proceed," Bumb told lawyers for both sides, setting trial for June 17. The date was chosen because that was the first week the parents and their son would be available to be in court, lawyers said.

Pamela Bryant consigned the items to Goldin Auctions L.L.C. in Berlin. On April 30, it began to publicize the online auction. Kobe Bryant's items, about 100 in all, are worth an estimated $1 million.

They are set to be part of a 900-item sale beginning in June. The other items could command $1.5 million.

Kobe Bryant quickly countered with a cease-and-desist letter to stop the auction, which Goldin countered with a lawsuit filed May 2 in Camden. The auction house asked a federal judge to declare that it has the right to sell Kobe's high school jerseys and shorts, a Lakers jersey and shorts, high school trophies, and other items.

Meanwhile, Bryant made a crosscourt move, filing a May 6 lawsuit against Goldin in Superior Court in Los Angeles, seeking a temporary restraining order on the sale. Goldin blocked by getting the California state court suit moved to federal court there.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford in California granted Kobe Bryant's request for an order to stop the sale.

"Unfortunately, the case is being litigated in two forums," Bumb said in court Tuesday.

Kobe Bryant's attorney, Christian D. Carbone of Loeb & Loeb's New York office, told Bumb that he will try to convince her, through legal briefs, that the case belongs in California, in part since that is where Bryant is.

In legal papers, Bryant says he has no connection to New Jersey. The last time he visited New Jersey was Dec. 12, 2010, when the Lakers played the former New Jersey Nets, now the Brooklyn Nets, the papers say.

Though Kobe Bryant's parents aren't parties in the case, they will be key witnesses, said Goldin's attorney, Jeffrey Cohen of Flaster Greenberg in Cherry Hill.

Gathering evidence, both sides want to see any e-mails, letters, text messages, insurance forms, police reports, or other documents that would prove who owns the memorabilia.

The legal paperwork includes competing declarations from mother and son.

The mother said Kobe Bryant left the memorabilia in her house and she asked him to take it. He said she could have it, according to the declarations.

Eventually she moved it to a storage facility in New Jersey, paying $1,500 a month to house and insure it. So far, she has received a $450,000 advance from Goldin, which she is using to buy a house in Nevada, according to court documents.

The son said that he never gave the memorabilia to his mother and that he asked her to return it. "The items listed for sale . . . have tremendous sentimental value for me," he wrote.


Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.

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