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Chabad files suit for estate

Jewish center’s leader, Rabbi Reuven Mintz, claims former Rat Pack member wanted to set up foundation in his name.

March 12, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

Garibotti’s attorneys dispute the claim and contend Bishop was alert and competent up until the final months of his life.

Bishop died in October 2007 at his Lido Isle home at the age of 89.

Although Garibotti has claimed in legal documents she was Bishop’s longtime, live-in companion after the death of his wife, Sylvia Bishop, in 1999, Chabad claims in legal papers Garibotti was only a housekeeper and caretaker.

“Mr. Bishop became unable to distinguish between his personal and professional relationships, frequently characterizing anyone who visited him as “a dear friend,’ ” the lawsuit alleges. “Mr. Bishop was acutely vulnerable to the suggestions of others, was no longer able to determine his own wishes and best interests, and was subject to the exercise of influence by others.”

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Garibotti’s attorney, Robert Julian, claims stacks of letters and cards sent between Bishop and his client show the pair had an intimate relationship that began when Garibotti was 18 years old.

“They had a loving and caring relationship that lasted 20 years,” Julian said. “When Nora walked into the room, Joey’s eyes lit up.”

Newport Beach Chabad’s director Rabbi Reuven Mintz was a longtime friend and spiritual advisor to Bishop, according to legal papers.

Bishop told Mintz he wanted Chabad to use his estate to form an entity called the Joey Bishop Foundation and fund a charitable program to help disabled children in Orange County, according to court documents. At Bishop’s encouragement, Mintz traveled to Michigan in 2002 to meet with the founders of Friendship Circle, a program that offers support for children with special needs and their families, according to the lawsuit. Bishop prominently displayed a proposal outlining the Friendship Circle program on his coffee table until Garibotti threw it out in 2005, the lawsuit claims.

“Bishop in the years before he died set up another entity to have this children’s organization started,” Steven Silverstein said, an attorney for Newport Beach Chabad. “We have all kinds of e-mails and letters from attorneys to back that up they themselves made in their files. Whatever they did to change it was without Bishop’s knowledge.”

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