Appraisers to assess value of Chestnut firm

Published 7:19 pm Thursday, March 20, 2014

A circuit judge has appointed two appraisers to assess the former law firm of legendary Dallas County lawyer J.L. Chesnut’s in a suit filed by Chestnut’s estate.

The court order, issued Tuesday by specially appointed circuit judge Brady Mendheim, asks the appraisers to gather evidence and recommend a decision about the fair value of the firm at the time of Chestnut’s death, according to court documents.

The administrator of Chestnut’s estate filed a petition in circuit court in 2011, asking for a portion of money from Chestnut’s previous business partnerships. The petition also asked to remove his name from the law firm Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders and Pettaway LLC.

The trial began in October 2013.

Arguments in the case centered mostly on Chestnut’s involvement in the two black farmers, or Pigford, suits, which alleged African American farmers were being denied loans by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of ethnicity.

Chestnut’s estate — the plaintiffs in the case — seeks a fair and equitable distribution of Chestnut’s ownership in the law firm at the time of his death — Sept. 20, 2008. Chestnut’s share of the firm was approximately 30 percent at the time of his death.

The law firm — the defendants — said in court testimony that Chestnut’s estate should receive a payment, but not without consideration of debts.

During previous court testimony, Rose Sanders estimated the law firm was nearly $2 million in debt following the first Pigford case. The Chestnut family was previously offered a $250,000 settlement, but declined the offer.