LATEST: Michael Jackson's lawyer THOMAS MESEREAU JR has denied reports he dropped the superstar from his client list because of late payments.

The white-haired attorney and his legal partner Susan Yu successfully defended Jackson in his 2005 child molestation trial after they were brought in to replace the case's original lawyer MARK GERAGOS in April 2004.

However, last week (ends24FEB06) Mesereau Jr and Yu formally withdrew themselves from two impending lawsuits.

But despite reports of financial difficulties, Mesereau Jr insists he never intended to form a long-term partnership with Jackson and remains close friends with the THRILLER hitmaker.

In a statement Mesereau Jr says, "I am very disturbed by the false, erroneous, and self-serving reports about the relationship between Michael Jackson, my law partner, SUSAN YU, and me.

"For approximately seven months, we assisted Michael Jackson in this effort. We never intended to assume these obligations on a permanent basis.

"We are still in communications with Michael Jackson, and his assistants, and remain close friends. People should leave Mr Jackson and his family alone."