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Courtney Love Looks to Sue Ex-Attorney Over Bizarre Kurt Cobain Estate Fraud Claims

In the midst of a defamation battle, Love tells the judge about a letter that was sent to her daughter four years ago.

64th Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet Courtney Love - P 2012
Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Courtney Love's unfettered love of social media has gotten her into much legal trouble over the years. In January, she is scheduled to go to trial for allegedly defaming her ex-attorney Rhonda Holmes in tweets and press interviews. The singer is charged with damaging the attorney's reputation by saying "they got to" Holmes and that her former lawyer was "bought off."

The singer can pack a punch when she takes to Twitter and Pinterest, but she doesn't always like what she reads from others. During this defamation lawsuit, Love says she learned of an April 27, 2009, letter sent by Holmes to her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.

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Love, now being represented by a new attorney, has filed papers this week in L.A. Superior Court to ask the judge's permission to file counterclaims against Holmes for allegedly making "shockingly false and misleading representations" to her kin in that 2009 letter. The proposed countersuit charges Holmes with legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and interference. Love says the attorney caused the deterioration of her relationship with the Cobain trustees and resulted in her daughter filing an application for a temporary restraining order.

In the letter, Holmes allegedly tells Cobain, 16 at the time, that "I represent you, along with your Grandmother Wendy, and your Aunts Kim and Brianne. … I am here to protect your interests. … The work I am doing on all your behalf relates to tracking down and prosecuting the people and entities who have been stealing from and pillaging your late Father's estate since the day he passed away."

The letter could be subject to a dispute over authorship. Holmes says through her attorney that it was actually written by Love.

But let's back up for a second.

In 2008, Love was indeed preparing a lawsuit to charge that the Kurt Cobain estate had been mismanaged. Love says she hired Holmes to draft a complaint over stolen money and property. The following year, Holmes was quoted in the press as saying, "I have never seen such greed and moral turpitude. This case is going to make Bernard Madoff look warm and fuzzy."

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But the lawsuit never came. Love says she didn't ever see a draft of the complaint that Holmes was working on. Holmes allegedly blamed it on others who had "broken into her computer and erased the drafts" and later, how she was "too busy."

As time went on, a fight over Frances Bean Cobain's trust erupted. In 2010, according to a story from The Fix, a settlement was reached to end litigation in Washington state court. A deal amended the trust known as "NMWH," said to be a reference to some of Kurt Cobain's final words to his wife, "No matter what happens, I love you."

Love also lost control of End of Music LLC, which owns Kurt Cobain's publicity rights. Love reportedly relinquished her position as acting manager after receiving a $2.5 million loan from the trust, and agreed not to participate in any revenues until she paid it back. Battles then ensued in arbitration over Kurt Cobain's musical equipment, paintings, and other personal belongings.

What led to all of this?

The countersuit centers on the 2009 letter allegedly sent by Holmes, which is said to have convinced those managing the Cobain trust that Love had hired an unstable attorney to represent her.

According to a motion to support the filing of counterclaims, when Holmes stated in the letter she was representing Love's daughter, it was untrue. She was only representing Love at the time.

Love's lawyer also points to "unduly personal," "bizarre," and "solicitous" statements made to Frances Bean Cobain in that same letter. Among the statements attributed to Holmes, "I lost my own husband from suicide within a few months of your Father's suicide. … I write you now because we all need your help and your support."

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The letter also gives unsolicited advice about education, takes credit for winning "Trial Lawyer of the Year," and tells the teenager that, "You are ALL the unfortunate victims of a very large and very scary conspiracy. I have personally experienced the reach and criminality of these thieves: They have hacked into my PCs (on one such occasion, to make my legal brief in this very case 'disappear'; used my credit cards all over the county; and accessed/drained my savings account."

Cobain is told that she does "not have 1/1,000,000,000th of what it appears you should have in my view. … They accused your Mother of 'diverting money in 2003.' … Yes, as crazy as it sounds, not ONE of your 'protectors' (lawyers, bankers, accountants, managers, etc.) stood up to this. They had too much of an interest in keeping you and your Mom in the dark, sadly."

With less than four months left before a scheduled defamation trial, Love is looking to make her former lawyer pay for the statements made in this letter. She's seeking damages, including for emotional distress.

Holmes' attorney tells THR, "We view this as an act of desperation."

He adds that Love agreed to settle the case earlier this year and make a public retraction, and then breached the settlement agreement by going on Howard Stern's radio show and talking about it.

More to come soon on the Courtney Love front.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner