ORANGE, Calif. — A California judge appointed a lawyer Monday to oversee the estate of Nadya Suleman's octuplets, saying he wanted to ensure they weren't exploited by reality television shows, tabloid photo spreads or other paid ventures.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Gerald Johnston dismissed arguments for family privacy and ruled Monday that an independent party should be appointed to scrutinize the finances of Suleman's octuplets.
The petition was filed on behalf of Paul Peterson, a former Disney Mouseketeer who is an advocate for the fair treatment of children in entertainment.
During a brief hearing, Arthur J. LaCilento, a lawyer for Suleman, called for the petition to be dismissed based on the family's needs for privacy.
Johnston denied the request for dismissal and said a guardian ad litem was the "least intrusive" type of oversight possible.
"I do believe it is appropriate and justifiable at this time to provide an objective voice to report to the court," said Johnston.
During his arguments, LaCilento also said the lawyers who brought the petition – Gloria Allred and co-counsel John Deily – were "nosy" and "grandstanding."
"We're only here because we're concerned about securing the financial security of these octuplets," Allred said.
Suleman appeared in court wearing a light suit, her hair pulled back in a bun, and didn't speak during the hearing.
Labor abuses have been at issue with the octuplets in recent months. Four citations were brought against Web site RadarOnline by state regulators for the video taping of the first two octuplets to go home from the hospital on March 17.
The Labor Commissioner said RadarOnline's secret deal to chronicle the mother of 14 and her newest babies over a seven-week period failed to get the required state permits and taped the infants too late at night and for too long.
It's unknown exactly how much Suleman has amassed through her dealings. RadarOnline has posted more than 100 items about her and her brood, some of them diary-style videos of Suleman. Photo spreads in tabloids show her cradling her babies in softly lit images – the same types of spreads known to earn movie stars millions. An unknown sum of donations has been collected for the care of her children.
In March, Suleman moved into a new home that listed for nearly $500,000.
Suleman has said that she's lived off student loans, her children's disability payments and, before December, disability checks she received for a 1999 back injury sustained while working in a state mental hospital.
A reality show is slated to start filming Suleman and her 14 children, all under age 8, on Sept. 1. The children's reality television contracts were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, and await a judge's approval.
Collectively, the children stand to earn nearly $250,000 over a three year period of filming in the contract with European production company Eyeworks.
Deily noted that Suleman herself has a contract, but it is not a matter of public record and "there's no discussion" of how much she will earn. Deily said a guardian ad litem was necessary to advocate for fairness on behalf of the octuplets.
The company has helmed other reality shows, including "The Biggest Loser" and "Breaking Bonaduce."
A call to the Los Angeles area office of Eyeworks was not returned Monday.
Santa Ana lawyer Norbert Bunt was appointed guardian ad litem, and is scheduled to appear at the court's next hearing, Aug. 31.
Suleman gave birth to the world's longest-surviving set of octuplets on Jan. 26. The medical curiosity of their delivery turned to public outrage when it was learned that the single, unemployed mother had been caring for her six other children with the help of student loans and Social Security disability payments for three of the youngsters.