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Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and to rob the poor of my people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans.
--Isaiah 10: 1-2


 

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Lawyers, and laymen who deal with legal subjects, should recognize the tell-tale signs of judicial incompetence in any case at any level. 
They are: Avoiding the facts, because they are inconvenient. 
Avoiding the law including U.S. Supreme Court precedents, because they lead in the wrong direction.  And injecting personal opinions into what should be a legal opinion or decision. . . . When all three of these errors occur in a single case, you can be sure it’s an example of a judge violating his/her oath of office, by imposing personal views on the outcome.
 

--John Armor --

John Armor practiced in the US Supreme Court over 30 years, filing briefs in 18 cases. John may be reached at John_Armor@aya.yale.edu

 
 

 

 

 

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Guardianship News & Views 2009-2011

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November 2011

COLORADO   

Colo. Supreme Court Nixes Attorney-Client Privilege for Children in Guardianship Cases

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

11-03-11 -- In a decision that is controversial among child advocates, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that attorney-client privilege is trumped, in guardianship cases, by the duty of a child's attorney to protect his or her client from abuse. . . . A divided court ruled that a lawyer acting as a guardian ad litem is supposed to help the court act in the child's best interest even if the child doesn't want the lawyer to reveal information, the Denver Post reports. . . . The case involves an alleged sexual assault on a girl by a man acting in a caretaker role. He was criminally charged, but the girl refused to testify. The prosecution sought to have her guardian ad litem testify about what she had said, but the defendant's counsel objected. A trial judge ruled that the attorney for the girl could not testify without her consent, which she refused.


NEW JERSEY  

Attorney: Indictment devastated Ocean County College professor from Wall

OCC instructor charged in theft

By Michelle Sahn | Asbury Park Press Staff Writer

11-02-11 -- The attorney for a lawyer arrested Monday on a theft charge said the indictment has been devastating for his client. . . . Freehold-based attorney James Fagen said his client, Lynn Kenneally, 50, of Wall, believed the case had been wrapped up three years ago, when her former paralegal, Tara Howie, 40, of Brick, was arrested. . . . “All of a sudden, this happens,’’ he said of the indictment returned Monday, charging both Kenneally and Howie with theft by failure to make required disposition of property received. “It’s been devastating.’’ . . . Kenneally currently works as a professor at Ocean County College.

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Guardianship Attorney Indicted for Bilking $800,000 from Incapacitated Wards

Written by MC Prosecutor's Office    Atlantic Highlands Herald    

11-01-11 -- A guardianship attorney and her former paralegal were indicted on charges of theft and failing to make required disposition of more than $800,000, Prosecutor Peter E. Warshaw, Jr. announced. . . . The charges stem from a three-year investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office into the guardianship practice of attorney Lynn Kenneally, 50, of Wall. The investigation revealed that Kenneally routinely received guardianship appointments in Monmouth and Ocean Counties for individuals (“wards”) whose interests Kenneally was supposed to faithfully represent, such as senior citizens deemed by judges of the Superior Court to lack the necessary mental faculties to manage their own affairs. In her capacity as a court-appointed guardian, Kenneally’s primary responsibility was the honest and faithful management of her wards’ finances. However, a forensic examination of Kenneally’s law practice revealed that, from October 2000 through December 2006,more than $800,000 of proceeds belonging to Kenneally’s wards was diverted into or through the personal bank accounts of Tara Howie, 40, of Brick, a former paralegal of Kenneally’s guardianship practice.


Judges, lawyers use guardianships to prey on elderly

By: Barbara Hollingsworth, Local Opinion Editor Washington Examiner

11-01-11 -- Think your well-tended nest egg will protect you from the depredations of old age? Don't count on it. . . . Little has changed since the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled almost a decade ago that Probate Judge Kaye Christian abused her power by ordering retired economist Mollie Orshansky, creator of the federal poverty line, removed from her sister's care in New York and placed in a District guardianship against her will. . . . Even multimillionaires cannot prevent a judge from appointing a total stranger to take complete control of their affairs -- and banish family members who object. . . . That's what happened to five-term D.C. Council member Hilda Mason and her husband, Charles, a Harvard graduate who traced his lineage back to the Plymouth landing. Despite Charles' $22.5 million fortune, this power couple ended their lives in squalor. . . . Blind, wheelchair-bound and suffering from diabetes and skin cancer, Charles spent his last days in dirty clothing and worn-out shoes, with fingernails so long they curled around his fingers. . . . "He looked like a hobo," one witness told The Washington Examiner. His frail wife suffered a broken collarbone when one of her "caregivers" ran her over with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.


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September 2011

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  

MacArthur ‘genius’ grant goes to D.C. activist who fights elder abuse

By Christian Davenport, Washington Post 

09-20-11 -- As she crafted her closing argument in a case against a Seattle area man who was charged with allowing his elderly mother to literally rot to death, prosecutor Page Ulrey struggled to find the right words. So she called Marie-Therese Connolly, a former Department of Justice lawyer who knew just what to say: . . . The role of caregiver comes with a legal and moral obligation. And even though the son had said his 84-year-old mother, Ruby Wise, had wanted to die at home with dignity, not in a nursing home, there was nothing dignified about the way she spent her final days — emaciated at 72 pounds, covered in sores so deep that bone was visible through rotted tissue, in a bed stained with urine, feces and blood. Last year, Chris Wise was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. . . . On Tuesday, Connolly, who for years has been trying to place elder abuse in the national spotlight, is being awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the $500,000, “no strings attached,” so-called “genius” grant given annually to a couple dozen artists, thinkers, social advocates and historians.


NEW JERSEY

Financial Elder Abuse Costs Nearly $3 Billion a Year

By: Archer & Greiner, P.C. JD Supra (press release) -

09-11-11 -- Earlier this year, I agreed to serve as conservator, under N.J.S.A. 3B:13-A-1 and Rule 4:86-11, for a 95-year-old woman who lives at home, with assistance. As is my custom in guardianship and conservatorship matters, I try to maintain a banking relationship with the bank where the ward or conservatee had maintained his or her accounts. When I opened the conservatorship account, the bank officer admitted that he had never done one before, and this would be a learning experience for him. Things have proceeded well so far. When I went to the bank last week, it was obvious the bank officer had been waiting for me to come in. He asked if he could speak with me. Without naming names, he discussed a customer of the bank whose banking habits have suddenly changed. Regular checks in large amounts are being written to “cash” and given to a person to whom he is not related. The bank officer asked me: “How does a person get a conservator? I think this customer really needs one.” Banks are often the first to notice questionable financial activity. I told him how to contact Adult Protective Services, and an investigation ensued. APS is now taking appropriate action. . . . As early as 1985, elder abuse was called a “national disgrace” by the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care of the Select Committee on Aging. More than a quarter-century later, it continues to be a national disgrace. Until recently, however, no one has quantified the cost.


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August 2011

NEW YORK

Sara! Sara, come back! Don’t leave me here.

By Carrie K. Hutchens, Dakota Voice  

08-18-11 -- Tragically, Gary Harvey of Horsehead, NY fell down the basement stairs in January of 2006 and received a traumatic head injury. Since that time, he has either been in a nursing home or in the hospital and is under the guardianship of the county. Ironically, the county, who claims to be looking out for their ward’s best interest, was involved in a so-called ethics committee decision that Gary Harvey should be starved and dehydrated to death. The judge over-ruled the call for execution of an innocent man, though a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) remains in effect. Sara Harvey, Gary’s wife, is desperately fighting to get him home. One can only wonder how much he knows of what is going on around him. The following could be what he is thinking as he lays alone in that room, so isolated from the world he knew and the wife and friends he so loves.***


FLORIDA  

Florida's 'Senior Sleuths' uncover scams against elderly

By Alexia Campbell, Sun Sentinel

08-21-11 -- These silver-haired sleuths don't go to crime scenes or carry guns. Some don't even leave their beds. But Florida's growing army of "Senior Sleuths" and other elderly volunteers increasingly are working behind the scenes to go after people preying on their own. . . . The Seniors vs. Crime project, which is expanding in South Florida, has thousands of volunteers who do the unglamorous work of investigating complaints from elderly consumers. . . . Most are retirees who spend their time on the phone in one of the program's 40 offices around the state. On more interesting days, they'll go undercover as shoppers to stores suspected of overcharging customers. . . . They sometimes do get more exciting assignments, just not that often. . . . Take, for example, the 83-year-old Senior Sleuth who took part in a covert operation in the Tampa area in 2001 that led to the arrest of a water-purification system salesman on charges of grand theft. . . . A hidden camera captured the salesman using scare tactics in the sales pitch.


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May 2011

WISCONSIN

Guardian Jeffrey Schend accused in theft of clients' money says he can't afford attorney

Written by Jim Collar, Appleton Post Crescent 

05-25-11 -- A former guardian accused of living lavishly while stealing hundreds of thousands from his elderly and disabled clients will ask the court to appoint an attorney to defend him because he can't afford a lawyer. . . . Jeffrey M. Schend, 44, was charged this month in Outagamie County Court with six felony counts of theft and one misdemeanor count after he was unable to account for about $500,000 in transactions from clients' accounts. . . . Schend's company, JMS Guardianship Services, was hired by Outagamie County in 2004 to serve as a guardian for clients who were unable to handle their affairs. Outagamie County appointed an investigator in the fall to review the accounts of Schend's business, JMS Guardianship Services, and those of his clients after receiving complaints that clients' bills weren't being paid.


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NEW YORK  

NY Judge Rejects Dog Lovers' Bid for First Bite at Queen of Mean's Billions

Brendan Pierson, New York Law Journal

05-06-11 -- A Manhattan surrogate has rejected a bid by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society, and other animal welfare groups to ensure that organizations that help dogs receive funds from a charitable trust created by Leona Helmsley, the late real estate billionaire. . . . Ms. Helmsley, who infamously left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, upon her death in 2007, said in a 2004 mission statement for the trust that she wanted it used for "1) purposes related to the provision or care of dogs and 2) such other charitable activities as the Trustees shall determine." But in February 2009, the Surrogate's Court found that the mission statement did not place any legal restrictions on what donations could be made from the trust, which is reportedly estimated at $5 billion to $8 billion. . . . About six months later, the ASPCA and the Humane Society, along with Maddie's Fund, another pet rescue operation, filed a motion asking the court to vacate its earlier order and allow them to intervene. D.E.L.T.A. Rescue filed a separate motion, saying that the other groups' motion was not representative of rescue groups, an important segment of the animal welfare community.


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March 2011

PENNSYLVANIA

Fulton County couple bamboozled own family out of hundreds of thousands

Information is from the Office of the Attorney General

03-30-11 -- Agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Elder Abuse Unit have filed criminal charges against a Fulton County husband and wife accused of financially victimizing family members for their own personal gain. . . . Acting Attorney General Bill Ryan identified the defendants as William Craig Carnell, age 48, and Melissa “Missi” Ann Carnell, age 50, both of 5809 Pleasant Grove Road, Warfordsburg. . . . Ryan said that between 2005 and 2008 William and Melissa Carnell served as caregivers for William’s elderly mother, Margaret “Peggy” Carnell, along with William’s brother, John, who is deaf, speech impaired and requires the use of a wheelchair. . . . “This was a long-running and systematic effort to extract money from family members, rather than provide the care and security they deserved,” Ryan said. “To victimize an older or disabled person is always wrong, but to target loved ones for this kind of financial abuse is reprehensible.” . . . According to the criminal complaint, William and Melissa engaged in a conspiracy to misdirect and misuse funds that were intended to care for Peggy and John Carnell including, the use of Peggy’s home and surrounding land to secure a mortgage, which generated $110,000 in proceeds allegedly used by William and Melissa for personal expenses; opening credit card accounts in Peggy’s name, unknown to her, which were used to generate approximately $55,000 in charges; unauthorized withdrawals from Peggy’s savings account totaling $28,456; the use of $14,940 in proceeds from a certificate of deposit owned by Peggy; and the diversion of $19,952 in Social Security disability checks intended for John.


MINNESOTA   

Unfit to be lawyer, yet a guardian for 200

The case of Terri Ann Hauge, charged with bilking 10 vulnerable adults, shows the flaws in selecting and monitoring conservators.

By James Eli Shiffer, Minneapolis Star Tribune 

03-16-11 -- Terri Ann Hauge's career as a lawyer came to an abrupt end in 1995 when state officials suspended her license for mishandling cases and lying to her clients. . . . But that didn't end Hauge's work in the courthouse. In a professional comeback that raises questions about how the state oversees court-appointed caretakers, Hauge and her business partner went on to amass the state's fourth-largest portfolio of work as guardians and conservators. . . . Though Hauge never sought reinstatement as a lawyer, she and her company, Estate Resources, were given control over the lives and finances of more than 200 vulnerable adults, despite complaints of neglect and mismanagement that go back as far as 2000, court records show.

 


December 2010

ARIZONA  

Maricopa County Probate Court - Court tightens its scrutiny of fees charged

Rising fees can drain assets of those under court's protection

by Robert Anglen The Arizona Republic

12-06-10 -- Judges in Maricopa County Probate Court appear to be cracking down on the kinds of legal fees that have been allowed to deplete the life savings of some individuals placed under the court's protection. . . . Judges in the past month have proposed tough limits on what attorneys and private fiduciaries can charge and have asked lawyers to justify their bills and to waive hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The heightened scrutiny signals a change in how the court monitors and reviews cases. . . . The most dramatic example came during a Nov. 18 hearing when Judge Robert Myers asked several attorneys in one case to voluntarily give up nearly $300,000 in legal fees. They obliged.


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November 2010

NEW YORK  

Bank-robbing lawyer admits embezzling from clients

Buffalo News  

11-24-10 -- When he's finished serving time for two out-of-state bank robberies, a suspended local lawyer will return to Erie County for more jail time. . . . Michael W. Rickard II, 42, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony grand larceny charges lodged against him for embezzling nearly $63,000 from two former local clients. . . . Rickard admitted stealing $10,240 he was holding for a 91-year-old mentally incapacitated woman who lives in a nursing home. He had been appointed her legal guardian. He also took $52,662 from another client's estate. . . . State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia told Rickard he would likely sentence him to a one-year jail term after Rickard finishes his federal prison term of 37 months in a West Virginia prison.


NEW YORK  

Nursing home kept dying Judge John Phillips hostage in 'death house,' lawsuit claims

By Mike Mclaughlin, Daily News Writer 

11-12-10 -- A Park Slope nursing home has been slapped with new charges that it held a frail Brooklyn judge prisoner by blocking his mail and visitors. . . . The allegations are the latest twist in a case launched this year by the family of Judge John Phillips against Prospect Park Residence - where Phillips lived for eight months until he died at age 83 in 2008. . . . "The whole thing was surreal," said John O'Hara, a lawyer for Phillips' family and also a longtime friend. "It looked like a nice place, but it was a death house." . . . Court papers filed Wednesday said nursing home officials misled Phillips' family and attorneys about the services they could provide for the diabetic ex-judge. . . . O'Hara "recently discovered that [Prospect Park Residence] was not in fact an assisted-living facility as they claimed to be," the lawsuit charged. . . . Phillips allegedly didn't get diabetic meals and regular insulin shots, which caused his health to plummet. . . . "Judge Phillips was confined against his will for approximately eight months by the defendants at their facility ... denying [him] proper medical care," the suit charged.


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October 2010

Courts Failing to Detect Elder Abusers, Government Report Finds

FoxNews.com

10-31-10 -- Abuse of elderly Americans by their court-appointed guardians is growing into a multibillion-dollar business, and a new oversight report suggests the government is not doing enough to prevent the crimes. . . . A Government Accountability Office study, the results of which were released last week, examined hundreds of cases of alleged abuse across dozens of states and found several instances where guardians with questionable backgrounds sailed through the screening process. In other cases, the courts did not monitor guardians after they were appointed, "allowing the abuse of vulnerable seniors and their assets to continue." 


CALIFORNIA  

Attorneys, Executor Accused of Filching Rock Archive From Bill Graham's Estate

By Maria Dinzeo, Courthouse News Service 

10-29-10 -- The sons of the late concert promoter Bill Graham claim the executor of his estate and his estate-planning attorneys "conspired to secretly transfer possession, control and title to all of the archives from Bill Graham's estate to Bill Graham's concert promoting company, Bill Graham Enterprises," of which the executor was trustee. The archive contains at least 10 of Graham's scrapbooks and 100 complete sets of original concert posters, according to the federal complaint. ********The Graham brothers say executor Nicholas Clainos, and attorneys Richard Greene and Linda McHall "assumed their work on the Estate in November 1991, and appeared to be operating the Estate in a professional and appropriate manner ... Plaintiffs had no reason to suspect during these years that Clainos and the Greene firm were filing incomplete inventories, hiding assets or planning to wrongfully convert valuable intellectual property for the personal benefit and profit of Clainos. In fact, Clainos and the Greene firm repeatedly assured plaintiffs that they were doing everything they could to be transparent and fair to all beneficiaries." . . .      However, the complaint continues: "Unbeknownst to plaintiffs, Clainos and the Greene firm had entered into an unlawful agreement to conceal the true facts about the archives, so that Clainos would be able to enrich himself. To this end, Clainos and the Greene firm arranged to surreptitiously transfer valuable intellectual and personal property from the estate to BGE."


Legal guardians steal millions from elderly, report says

With elderly abuse rising, government and courts consider stricter guidelines.

By Randy Tucker, Middletown Journal Staff Writer

10-28-10 -- A scathing government report released Wednesday blames lax screening and oversight of court-appointed guardians for hundreds of allegations of financial exploitation and abuse of the elderly. . . . The report to the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging focused on 20 cases from 15 states and the District of Columbia in which guardians stole or improperly obtained more than $5.4 million from 158 victims who in some cases were also neglected and abused. . . . In one case, a former cab driver was convicted of fraud after obtaining guardianship of an unrelated 87-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease, from whom he embezzled more than $640,000. In Ohio, “the potential for such abuse is very real, but there is no uniform structure in place to even try to prevent that,” said Michael Kirkman, executive director of the Ohio Legal Rights Service. . . . Governments and courts are considering stricter guidelines, however. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering a proposal to establish statewide certification and conduct standards for guardians. . . . Meanwhile, Congress next year is once again expected to consider the Elder Justice Act, first proposed in 2005 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which would deal directly with such issues as protection for seniors under guardianship.


VIRGINIA  

Former Grundy lawyer pleads guilty to stealing from trust

By Claire Galofaro, TriCities.com

10-05-10 -- A former Grundy, Va., lawyer pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than $175,000 from a late couple’s family trust, and stiffing the federal government out of $250,000 in income taxes. . . . David Eugene Cecil, 59, was convicted of mail fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Va., according to a Department of Justice news release. . . . The Virginia State Bar revoked his license last year, a month after he was charged with embezzlement by the Virginia State Police, according to State Bar documents. . . . Cecil was hired in February 2007 to administer the $2 million estate of a Buchanan County doctor named Robert Baxter and his wife, Nancy. In 2007, he met with the Baxter’s daughters and quoted a one-time fee of 2 percent of the estate, $40,000, to liquidate the trusts and distribute the money to the family, the documents show. . . . Instead, he wrote himself checks in excess of $175,000, according to the release.


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September 2010

NEW JERSEY  

Ex-attorney Pieter DeJong who ran Flanders, NJ, practice charged with stealing over $265,000 from client's estate

By Peggy Wright • Dailyrecord.com Staff Writer

09-15-10 -- A disbarred attorney who lives in Long Valley was arraigned Tuesday on charges of stealing $265,552 between 2005 and 2008 from a deceased woman's estate. . . . Pieter J. DeJong, 62, was indicted by a Morris County grand jury on Sept. 3 on three theft-related charges that allege he stole between February 2005 and June 2008 money that belonged to the estate of Jane Davis.


CONNECTICUT  

Probate judge facing probe for misconduct

By Lauresha Xhihani, Waterbury Republican American 

09-10-10 -- The town's probate judge is being investigated for misconduct after a decision last year to create two trusts that essentially gave away a farm to three area churches, against the will of its owner. . . . The Council on Probate Judicial Conduct is expected to decide later this month whether there was judicial misconduct on the part of Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello. The creation of the trusts meant the will of an elderly woman was ignored and her farm, appraised at about $1.5 million, was transferred to three area churches.


NEW YORK  

Referee Backs Reduction of Fee Sought by Graubard From Widow's Estate

Nate Raymond, New York Law Journal

09-08-10 -- A $44 million contingency fee sought by Graubard Miller for its work on behalf of the widow of a New York real estate magnate should be cut to less than $16 million, according to a court referee's report. . . . If confirmed, Graubard Miller's award, with interest, could climb to about $25 million. But the sum is less than what the firm would have earned under the original 40 percent contingency arrangement Graubard had with its longtime client, Alice Lawrence, whose estate claimed the fee was unconscionable. . . . Howard A. Levine, a former New York Court of Appeals judge who served as referee in the case, also recommended dismissing claims by Mrs. Lawrence's estate and her children seeking to invalidate on ethics grounds more than $5 million in gifts she made to three Graubard Miller lawyers in 1998.Levine said Mrs. Lawrence fully understood that she was making the gifts and was free from undue influence. The referee also sided with Graubard in allowing it to keep $18 million in fees it earned in hourly billings prior to switching to the contingency arrangement.


CALIFORNIA  

BigLaw Firm Faces Fraud Suit

By Kate Moser | The Recorder | New York Lawyer

09-07-10 -- An appeal court today gave an inventor's estate the green light to sue Katten Muchin Rosenman for conspiracy to commit fraud and a host of other claims. . . . The Second District panel said the evidence was "minimally adequate" to proceed, reversing the trial court's findings. . . . The case arose from a falling out between two shareholders in a small company called Motion Graphix Inc. After the founding shareholder's death, his heirs assert, the other shareholder conspired with Katten Muchin attorneys to acquire Motion Graphix assets worth $8 million to $12 million for just $5,000. / The case is Favila v. Katten Muchin Rosenman , B215096.


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August 2010

NEW YORK  

104-year-old heiress gave lawyer 'millions' in gifts

By Dan Mangan, New York Post  

08-30-10 -- A 104-year-old heiress lavished "millions" of dollars in gifts on the family of her lawyer, who is now under investigation for his handling of her finances as she lives out her days in a Manhattan hospital, an ex-employee told The Post. . . . Huguette Clark once bought at auction a dollhouse worth well more than $10,000 for lawyer Wallace Bock's grand daughter, and gave him a check for about $1.5 mil lion to build a "bomb shel ter" for a settlement in Israel where his daughter and her family live, two people said yesterday. . . . Bock's co-workers were so amused by his reliance on the copper heiress that they once gave the estate lawyer a purported signed copy of her last will and testament -- which named him as a big beneficiary -- at the firm's holiday party, said Bock's former paralegal, Cynthia Garcia.


ILLINOIS  

New charges against West Dundee attorney

By Clifford Ward, Special to the Chicago Tribune    

08-11-10 -- Nine new charges of theft have been leveled at a West Dundee attorney who was already accused of taking more than $100,000 from an elderly widowed client's estate. . . . A Kane County grand jury recently indicted William C. Chesbrough, 57, on theft charges involving nine individuals or couples who authorities said have reported that the lawyer stole money that they'd given to a real estate developer who, in turn, entrusted Chesbrough with the funds. . . . The new counts join felony charges of theft and financial exploitation of an elderly person, which were filed against Chesbrough last year in Kane County, where he awaits trial.


July 2010

NEW HAMPSHIRE  

Procrastinating Lawyer’s Lies About Estate Work Require Disbarment, Says Top NH Court

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

07-22-10 -- For nearly five years after Bertha McInnes died on Sept. 12, 1998, attorney Lynn Morse worked on her $461,500 estate, filing an appearance in Rockingham County Probate Court within 10 days of her death. . . . Again and again, Morse sought delays and promised to meet deadlines but didn't. When the executrix, Ruth Ann Mize, called him, he never responded, she says. After Mize replaced Morse with another lawyer in mid-2003, he didn't transfer the file to the new attorney for months. Morse also claimed to have filed tax returns for the estate when, in fact, he had not, recounts the New Hampshire Supreme Court in an attorney discipline opinion provided by Leagle.


RHODE ISLAND  

Attorney Gets Three Years For Embezzling

William Craven stole $400,000 from the estate of a client

By Sanne Specht, Mail Tribune

07-20-10 -- A former Ashland attorney was sentenced Monday to three years in a Rhode Island prison for embezzling money from his clients. . . . Originally charged with four counts of felony embezzlement, William Craven, 67, pleaded no contest in January to a single count of felony embezzlement and three misdemeanor counts in January. He was sentenced Monday in Rhode Island Superior Court to three years in the Adult Correctional Institute, two years of home confinement and 10 years of probation. . . . Craven was accused of embezzling from various clients between 1999 and 2004, while he lived in Rhode Island. A plea agreement downgraded three charges in exchange for his no-contest plea in the case in which he embezzled $400,000 from the family estate of Maurice Longo. Longo, who died in 1992, was a house painter who scrimped and saved to create a better life for his heirs, said Bruce Algier, Longo's ex-son-in-law.


CONNECTICUT  

Probate "Reform" -- Ethical Judge Faces Charges

By Rick Green, Hartford Courant (blog)  

07-12-10 -- A probate judge who provides training to other judges on ethics, Bryan F. Meccariello, now faces misconduct charges arising from his approval to change the will of a woman without bothering to tell the man who was due to inherit much of her estate. . . . This is the same probate system that tells you that all my complaints about probate misconduct are the rants of an extremist. One of their own ethics "experts" has been nabbed abusing the system. In this case, Meccariello approved the change in a will at a hearing nobody was informed of.


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June 2010

NEW YORK  

N.Y. High Court Allows Estates to Sue Attorneys for Malpractice

New York Court of Appeals cited rulings in Florida, Ohio, Maryland and other states abandoning strict privity as a bar to malpractice actions against estate-planning attorneys

Joel Stashenko, New York Law Journal

06-21-10 -- An estate can bring a legal malpractice claim against an attorney for negligence in the planning of the estate, the New York Court of Appeals decided unanimously Thursday. . . . Previous appellate rulings, including the one reversed by the court in Estate of Saul Schneider v. Finmann, 104, had invoked strict privity to block estate planning malpractice suits against attorneys brought by the personal representatives of estates, their beneficiaries or other third parties. . . . But the court relaxed that rule, holding that estates, although not beneficiaries and other third parties, should be allowed to bring such suits. Judge Theodore T. Jones Jr. wrote for the 7-0 court that any other course would be unfair.


NEW JERSEY  

Law Firms Sanctioned Over Billionaire Perelman's 'Frivolous' Estate Claim

Judge orders Paul Weiss and Lowenstein Sandler to pay fees and costs incurred by Perelman's former father-in-law; a hearing has been set for July 8 to determine the amount

Mark Fass, New York Law Journal

06-16-10 -- A New Jersey judge has sanctioned two firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Lowenstein Sandler, for pursuing a "frivolous" and "ridiculous" legal claim on behalf of billionaire Ronald Perelman against his 85-year-old ex-father-in-law. . . . Perelman had alleged that Robert Cohen, the father of Perelman's ex-wife, Claudia Cohen, who died in 2007, had promised Ms. Cohen that she would receive one half of Mr. Cohen's estate. . . . Superior Court Judge Ellen L. Koblitz ruled that Perelman's attorneys should have known that the claim was unsupportable. . . . "No competent attorney could have missed the frivolous nature of this promise claim once the unhelpful testamentary documents were received," Koblitz said in ordering the sanctions last Wednesday. "There was no legal or factual basis for the plaintiffs to proceed with their amended complaint given the evidence they had and the state of the law in New Jersey."

Read a transcript of the New Jersey court proceedings.


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May 2010

TENNESSEE  

Songwriter Nearly Depletes Savings Fighting to Regain Legal Control of His Life

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

05-28-10 -- A Nashville songwriter declared mentally disabled in October 2007 and committed to a psychiatric ward has regained legal control of his affairs after an expensive battle. . . . Songwriter Danny Tate didn’t have a lawyer and he wasn’t in court when Judge Randy Kennedy first found him disabled because of his drug addiction in an emergency hearing, the Associated Press reports. Kennedy ruled for Tate on Monday after seeing proof that he had been drug-free for nine months. . . . Tate admits he was addicted to crack cocaine but says he still was able to manage his affairs, the story says. His brother David, who had petitioned the court and was appointed guardian, maintains he saved Danny Tate’s life. . . . Danny Tate says the legal battle to regain his rights drained most of his savings, including $600,000 in a money market account. He had to pay legal fees both for himself and for the opposing side.


CALIFORNIA  

Probate Attorney Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Amanda Bronstad, The National Law Journal

05-26-10 -- An attorney in Pasadena, Calif., has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $500,000 from his clients' estates, according to prosecutors. . . . Oscar Cruz Parra, 67, a probate attorney who was arrested in March at his home in San Dimas, Calif., agreed in a plea deal to serve five years in state prison and pay $441,000 in restitution to five former clients. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 15. . . . On Friday, Parra pleaded guilty to four counts of embezzlement, according to the Los Angeles County, Calif., district attorney's office. He stole the money beginning in 2000, filing false court papers to cover up his actions.


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March 2010

NEW YORK  

Former Partner Says Firm Overbilled Him to Recoup Termination Payments

Nate Raymond, New York Law Journal

03-30-10 -- An ex-partner at a trust and estates boutique claims his former firm overbilled him for work on his and his mother's estate in order to recoup the termination payouts it made after forcing him to resign in 2005. . . . William Roos IV, who had been a partner at Reynolds Richards before it merged in 2007 with Anderson Kill & Olick, in September sued Anderson Kill in Manhattan Supreme Court. When the firm counterclaimed for the legal fees stemming from the estate work, Roos moved to transfer the part of the case involving his mother's estate to the Surrogate's Court. . . . Last week Manhattan Justice Doris Ling-Cohan rejected Roos' request in the interest of "judicial economy." Neither side should be troubled with having to prove or defend their case in two different forums, she wrote in Roos v. Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C., 112439/2009.


WISCONSIN    

Disciplinary proceeding against Jeffrey T. Roethe

Wisconsin Lawyer

On March 24, 2010, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Jeffrey T. Roethe, Edgerton, for misconduct he engaged in while handling two informal-probate matters. The court also ordered Roethe to pay the $24,630.53 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Roethe, 2010 WI 19. . . . By having copersonal representatives sign a fee agreement that provided for a fee based on a percentage of an estate’s gross value, Roethe violated Wis. Stat. section 851.40(2)(e), which controls billing in probate matters, and SCR 20:8.4(f), which states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to violate a statute regulating the conduct of lawyers. . . . By permitting and ratifying his assistant’s conduct in notarizing two signatures on a sworn affidavit, when the two persons were out of Wisconsin and did not appear before the assistant on the date she attested that the signatures were subscribed and sworn to before her, Roethe violated former SCR 20:5.3(c) (effective before June 30, 2007), which stated that a lawyer was responsible for an assistant’s conduct that the lawyer knew about or ratified if the conduct engaged in would have been professional misconduct if engaged in by the lawyer. Roethe also violated former SCR 20:5.3(c) when he permitted and ratified his assistant’s conduct in notarizing a person’s signature on an application for informal administration and on a proof of heirship, when the person did not appear before the assistant on the date she attested his signatures were subscribed and sworn to before her, and when Roethe then permitted the notarized documents to be filed with a court. . . . A referee found, and the court agreed, that the OLR failed to meet its burden of proof with respect to two other counts. . . . Roethe was publicly reprimanded in 2000 for violating conflict-of-interest rules by representing a city, a developer, and a farmer in related real estate transactions and for making misrepresentations to the OLR’s predecessor, the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility.


NEW YORK  

Caretaker Who Secretly Wed Dying Man Loses Claim to His Estate

Mark Fass, New York Law Journal

03-24-10 -- Refusing to "mechanically" apply New York's Estates, Powers and Trusts Law, a Brooklyn appellate panel has held that a caretaker who secretly married a dying retiree with dementia may not claim an elective share of his estate. . . . The unanimous Appellate Division, 2nd Department, panel ruled that defendant Nidia Colon, who married Howard Thomas, 72, while the daughter who served as his primary caregiver was on vacation, "technically had a legal right to an elective share as a surviving spouse" under the EPTL. . . . When a marriage is annulled after a person's death on the grounds of mental incapacity, such as the case here, a "strict reading" of the law requires that the decedent's spouse be treated as a "surviving spouse" with a right of election against the decedent's estate, Presiding Justice A. Gail Prudenti wrote for the unanimous panel in Campbell v. Thomas, 08-02246. . . . However, the panel refused to enforce that right in this case, citing the equitable principle that courts must not allow a person to profit from her own wrongdoing.


PENNSYLVANIA  

Erie lawyer to be sentenced in fraud case

$200,000 was stolen for 'personal and business' expenses

By Lisa Thompson, GoErie.com

03-08-10 -- Disbarred Erie lawyer J. Gregory Moore goes before a federal judge today to be sentenced for stealing about $200,000 from estates in his care. . . . He'll present a stack of letters from community leaders who believe health problems led Moore to mismanage his accounts. They want leniency for their friend. . . . Moore's lawyer, William Weichler, argues that Moore -- a Vietnam War veteran, Sunday school teacher and community volunteer -- deserves probation. . . . But in a forceful document filed Friday in U.S. District Court, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Moore's "own canceled checks" establish no case for special treatment. . . . Authorities have long remained silent on what "personal and business" expenses Moore covered with funds stolen from his clients.


OHIO  

Opinions fervent on rules for attorney guardians

Franklin County probate judge to use input for standards

By Barbara Carmen, The Columbus Dispatch

03-05-10 -- Judge Eric Brown got an earful - and dozens of e-mails - when he asked the public's opinion on rules to protect the addled, aged and disabled from busy or unscrupulous attorney guardians. . . . Some examples: / • Don't require us to visit each ward personally at least once every three months, some attorneys pleaded with the Franklin County Probate Court judge. Many attorneys have only a handful of wards, but others have a large staff to work with hundreds. . . . That rule stays, Brown said. . . . • Don't require those alleged to be incompetent to open their homes to prospective guardians, who lack legal authority to visit, others said. . . . Got a point, Brown decided. He told guardians to ask to visit. . . . • Put as Rule No. 1: "Take no actions which are not in the best interests of the ward," a Texas judge suggested. . . . Brown agreed that would cover everything. An early paragraph now reads, "In all matters, the guardian shall always consider and act in the best interest of the ward." . . . In December, Brown made national news by asking for comments on standards for attorney guardians. He would be the first local judge in the country to adopt the rules, according to the National Guardianship Association. . . . Other states have embraced guardian guidelines, and Brown hopes his standards will help the Ohio Supreme Court as it works to do the same. . . . "These standards will improve the quality of work by the (attorney) guardians," Brown said. "They're going to be better trained. They're going to be more personally involved. They're going to be held to higher standards with regards to ethics and standards."


February 2010

MASSACHUSETTS   

Local attorney Jamie Veara sued for gouging dead man’s estate

By Kevin Mullaney, Provincetown Banner

02-12-10 -- Jamie Veara, a locally prominent attorney who serves as Truro’s town counsel, among other things, has found himself in some hot water as a result of questionable dealings with a Harwichport man’s estate. . . . Veara has been ordered by a Plymouth County Probate and Family Court judge to pay back more than $118,000 to the estate of the late Kenneth E. Simon, to whom he acted as temporary guardian for 83 days in 2005. . . . The decision, which was featured in a front-page article in the Feb. 1 issue of Lawyer’s Weekly, is the result of a trial that took place over 11 days in late 2008 and early 2009. It was issued by Associate Justice Stephen C. Steinberg on Jan. 14. . . . In all, the judge ordered that Veara and Boston attorney Gerald Nissenbaum return $328,771 of the $500,000 they billed the estate in the short time they were involved. Veara works for the Orleans law firm of Zisson & Veara, a firm with nine attorneys which also serves as counsel for the town of Brewster.


NEW YORK

Man with power of attorney accused of stealing money

By David C. Shampine, Times Staff Writer

02-10-10 -- A Watertown man with power of attorney for a woman in her 90s stole more than $232,000 from her, Watertown police charged Tuesday. . . . William D. O'Brien, 70, of 335 S. Rutland St., was arrested on a felony charge of second-degree grand larceny. He was released without bail in Watertown City Court to await grand jury action. . . . A police document filed in court alleges an audit shows that between March 2005 and March 28, 2008, the day of her death, Mr. O'Brien wrote checks on the account of Sophia G. Eaton for his personal use.


January 2010

MASSACHUSETTS   

A Victims-of-Law Associate

Mass. Judge Orders Two Lawyers to Refund $329K in Excess Fees to Client's Estate

Sheri Qualters, The National Law Journal

01-04-10 -- A Massachusetts probate judge recently ordered prominent Boston family lawyer Gerald Nissenbaum and another attorney to refund a client's estate nearly $329,000 in excess legal fees. . . . Plymouth County Probate and Family Court Judge Stephen Steinberg's Jan. 14 order gave the attorneys 30 days to make the payments. . . . The Barnstable County probate case, In re Guardianship of Kenneth E. Simon, ended up on Steinberg's docket after the Massachusetts Appeals Court recused Judge Robert Scandurra of the Barnstable Probate and Family Court in December 2007. The decision does not address the basis for that recusal. . . . According to Steinberg's order, Simon's guardian, E. James Veara of Dennis, Mass.-based Zisson & Veara, and Nissenbaum sought about $500,000 in attorney and guardian fees for an 83-day guardianship of Simon, which ended with Simon's death on Nov. 2, 2005.

 

MASSACHUSETTS   

Court Blasts K&L Gates Team's Huge Fee and 'Unnecessary Lawyering'

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi, Law.com Legal Blog Watch

01-28-10 -- Is it excessive for lawyers to collect more than $800,000 in fees and costs from an estate valued at $1.2 million? Noting that would add up to 67 percent of the estate's total value, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made no bones about its opinion on the fee request, saying that it represented "unnecessary lawyering." . . . That does not mean that the lawyers from K&L Gates in Boston who made the request will go penniless. In an opinion issued yesterday, In the Matter of the Estate of Bartley J. King, the SJC sent the case back to the trial judge to decide a "fair and reasonable" fee award. But the court did not let go of the matter without first letting the litigants know its distaste for the fees requested.


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December 2009

WISCONSIN    

Estate money missing; probate lawyer arrested

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

12-1-09 -- A veteran Milwaukee probate attorney was taken to jail Tuesday after a judge found him in contempt of court for failing to produce almost $190,000 in insurance proceeds he had received as the personal representative of an estate. . . . Leonard V. Brady, 83, is also the subject of civil lawsuits and a criminal investigation stemming from his handling of a different estate. Heirs in that case contend about $700,000 is missing.


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November 2009

NEW YORK  

Disbarred Attorney Pleads Guilty to Guardian Account Thefts

Vesselin Mitev, New York Law Journal

11-6-09 -- A former Brooklyn, N.Y., lawyer has pleaded guilty to fleecing millions of dollars from guardianship accounts he oversaw for incapacitated seniors and children. . . . Steven T. Rondos and his law firm, Raia & Rondos, were indicted in January on money laundering and grand larceny charges for stealing more than $4 million. On Wednesday, Rondos pleaded guilty to all 19 counts of the indictment, said his lawyer, Franklin A. Rothman.


NEW YORK  

Lawsuit claims court-appointed lawyer swindled handicapped woman, senior

By Thomas Zambito, New York Daily News Staff Writer

11-4-09 -- Keishma Smallwood was abandoned by a drug-addicted mother 30 years ago. Blind and brain-damaged since birth, Smallwood, 34, was taken in by a grandmotherly neighbor in 2000 when her longtime foster mother died. . . . Alice Dailyda was an 89-year-old widow addled by dementia when she died in 2005 in the midst of a nasty family dispute over her care. . . . The Queens women lived just miles apart - Smallwood in Jamaica, Dailyda in Woodhaven - but their lives never intersected until now. . . . Their families are joined in a battle to prove that a court-appointed Queens attorney entrusted to oversee the women's assets swindled them out of everything. . . . At the center of the dispute is a Queens real estate firm controlled by two convicted bid riggers, which sold the Smallwood and Dailyda homes to new buyers, scoring a combined profit of $171,000, court papers claim.


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October 2009

CALIFORNIA  

Court Skeptical of Lawyer's Marriage to Elderly Client

Mike McKee, The Recorder

10-30-09 -- A California appellate court on Wednesday referred a Pacifica, Calif., lawyer to the State Bar for investigation, disturbed that she might have manipulated a now-deceased elderly client into marrying her and changing his trust documents for her benefit. . . . "We find the circumstances of this case to be troubling," Justice Robert Dondero wrote in an unpublished ruling for San Francisco's 1st District Court of Appeal. "In particular, an inference may be drawn that appellant, a licensed attorney, knowingly made a false representation on a recorded instrument in an attempt to take advantage of a client in order to secure a portion of his estate for herself." . . . But Linda Lowney's lawyer, Brian Beckwith of Palo Alto, Calif., called the appeals court's action "really inappropriate," saying his client's a "very truthful person" whose marriage to octogenarian Thor Tollefsen was based on love, not mercenary motives.


NEW YORK  

NY Lawyer Charged With Robbing Dead Client

By Vesselin Mitev | New York Law Journal | New York Lawyer

10-29-09 -- A Rockville Centre attorney has been charged with stealing up to $200,000 from a deceased client's estate, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said yesterday. . . . Joel Post, 58, was set to be arraigned on a second-degree grand larceny charge in District Court in Hempstead yesterday afternoon for allegedly stealing between $50,000 and $200,000 from the estate of a New York man who died in France in 1993. The man's identity was not released, but according to prosecutors, Mr. Post was appointed co-administrator to the man's estate in 1997 and subsequently set up an account to pay out taxes.


NEW YORK  

In Astor Trial, a Lesson for Estate Lawyers

By John Eligon, New York Times

10-25-09 -- While Brooke Astor’s son and a lawyer who worked on her estate face prison time after a jury convicted them of defrauding and stealing from her, experts say the verdict may be felt by others: namely, the people who make wills and the lawyers who help them. . . . The trial has certainly provided talking points for estate planning experts across the country; it has already been the topic at panels of trusts and estates lawyers in New York and other states. To them, the Astor trial is noteworthy not only because of the famous name, but also because the actions of trusts and estates lawyers were parsed in a criminal courtroom, something that usually happens in civil proceedings.


FLORIDA

In Bizarre Case, Weepy Ex-Judge and Rich 83-Year-Old Neighbor's Kin Trade Allegations of Abuse

By Jordana Mishory | Daily Business Review | New York Lawyer

10-21-09 -- An 83-year-old neighbor of former Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin contends he and his family exploited her frail state and swindled the millionaire out of several hundred thousand dollars in real estate, furniture, electronics and school tuition. . . . In an unusual legal twist, Barbara Kasler now is trying to prevent Seidlin from complaining she was abused or exploited by others to law enforcement or the state Department of Children and Families, which already has cleared him of an elder exploitation allegation. . . . Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch convened an emergency hearing last week on Kasler’s motion to enjoin Seidlin, his wife, his in-laws and their attorneys from lodging abuse complaints involving her after DCF and Fort Lauderdale police twice responded to tips that she was receiving inadequate medical and nutritional care.


TEXAS  

Judge Rules Against Fulbright Lawyer Seeking
Part of Friend’s Estate

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

10-21-09 -- A medical malpractice lawyer at Fulbright & Jaworski wasn’t entitled to a portion of the estate of her late companion, Henry J.N. Taub, a Houston area judge has found. . . . The judge’s findings of fact left the lawyer, Mary-Ellen Conway, without the $150,000 in annual payments that she had sought from the estate, the Houston Chronicle reports. The court published the findings on the day the case settled “for its nuisance value,” according to the lawyer for Taub’s children, quoted in a press release.


OHIO  

Ohio High Court Hits Alleged Trust Mill With $6.4 Million Fine

Karen Sloan, The National Law Journal

10-19-09 -- The Ohio Supreme Court on Oct. 14 fined a so-called trust mill and its affiliate company nearly $6.4 million for the unlicensed practice of law in the biggest penalty of its kind in the state's history. . . . The ruling ended seven years of legal wrangling between the Columbus Bar Association and American Family Prepaid Legal Corp. and its affiliated Heritage Marketing and Insurance Services Inc., both former companies based in California and owned by the father-and-son team of Jeffrey and Stanley Norman. . . . In addition to the penalty, the three-judge Ohio Supreme Court panel barred the companies from operating in the state, where they allegedly duped thousands of senior citizens into buying living trusts and insurance products that they often didn't need and couldn't afford.


NEW YORK  

Tough and Relentless, Prosecutor Pulled No Punches During Astor Trial

Daniel Wise, New York Law Journal

10-9-09 -- By all accounts, Joel J. Seidemann, the veteran litigator who closed the case against Brooke Astor's son Anthony D. Marshall and lawyer Francis X. Morrissey, is pugnacious, unrelenting and highly effective.

And Seidemann's take-no-prisoners advocacy finally paid off in what was one of the most high-profile cases of his 27-year career. Thursday, on its 12th day of deliberations, the jury delivered guilty verdicts on 15 counts of a 17-count indictment. . . . Emotion is the key to getting convictions, Seidemann said in an interview before the verdict. "You can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but if no one was hurt the jury will just say 'so what,'" he said. "It's easier to prove a murder than a shoplifting." . . . To steel the jury to convict in the Astor case, Seidemann launched a barrage of attacks on the two defendants' actions, motives and credibility during a summation that lasted more than two days.


Lawyer Led Astor’s Son Astray in $60M Fraud Says Ex-Jury Holdout (a Lawyer)

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-9-09 -- Anthony Marshall repeatedly took advantage the failing mental abilities of his elderly mother, Brooke Astor, diverting millions from the legendary New York socialite's estate, a jury decided yesterday. . . . But he did so under the influence of advisers including a lawyer who also was convicted, Francis Morrissey Jr., a former holdout juror who eventually voted to convict tells Bloomberg. . . . “Nothing of this sort happened until Morrissey entered the scene," Judi DeMarco, 46, a lawyer who works for Bloomberg, tells the news agency. “Maybe he was duped into doing a lot of things and led astray by Morrissey,” she says of Marshall, who is 85.


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September 2009

FLORIDA

Convicted felons could be working in your mother or father's nursing home

A Sun Sentinel Investigation

By Sally Kestin, Peter Franceschina and John Maines South Florida Sun Sentinel

9-27-09 -- Florida seniors and disabled adults too frail to live on their own have been beaten, neglected and robbed by caregivers with criminal records. . . . A cancer patient at a Pompano Beach assisted living facility watched helplessly from bed as a nurse's aide with a record for theft rifled through her handbag and stole $165. . . . "What are you doing with my bag?" a police report quoted her as saying. "You have no right. Put it down." . . . A video camera caught an aide at a North Miami Beach group home for the disabled shoving a cerebral palsy patient face-first to the floor, busting her lip. The aide had previously pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and never should have been working there. . . . More than 3,500 people with criminal records — including rape, robbery and murder — have been allowed to work with the elderly, disabled and infirm through exemptions granted by the state the past two decades, a Sun Sentinel investigation found. Hundreds more slipped through because employers failed to check their backgrounds or kept them on the job despite their criminal past. . . . In Palm Beach County, a woman with pending forgery charges got a job at a nursing home, where she assaulted a patient.


OHIO   

Logan County judge paying for open-records violation

By Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch

9-25-09 -- A Logan County judge must dip into his court's budget to pay thousands of dollars in attorney fees to a woman who appealed his decision to restrict access to court records. . . . In what is apparently the first ruling of its kind, the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday upheld a lower-court decision that the judge must pay the woman's legal fees because he violated the state's public-records law. . . . The justices' unanimous decision upheld an appellate court ruling against Logan County Family Court Judge Michael A. Brady of Bellefontaine. . . . The appeals court ordered Brady to pay $3,250 in legal fees incurred by Rosanna Miller after it found the judge improperly restricted access to a copy of a medical assessment in a guardianship case involving her father.


FLORIDA  

Life on the run ends for Martin Kirby Watson, an ex-attorney accused of bilking estates

By Curtis Krueger, Times Staff Writer

9-14-09 -- Former attorney Martin Kirby Watson virtually groveled in court last year as he explained how he drained thousands of dollars from two estates he was supposed to be protecting. . . . He said he was "thoroughly embarrassed by my behavior." The St. Petersburg man said his actions were "about as low as you can go." He said he would repay every dime because "once you screw up, you've got to step up." . . . lnstead, he stepped out. . . . Watson, 49, failed to show up for court in March, five months after making those comments. He slipped out of the country — just before a trial on two counts of grand theft that could have put him in prison for 60 years. . . . It meant that victims, who saw as much as $500,000 drained from the estates of their family members, did not get to have the day in court they wanted. . . . At least, not yet. . . . As it turns out, the case against Watson didn't disappear as easily as he did.


August 2009

PENNSYLVANIA   

Former Harrisburg Attorney Charged with Fraud

William Smith Allegedly Stole Money from Elderly Clients

Howard L. Sheppard Staff reporter 

8-27-09 -- Agents from the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation have filed charges against a former Harrisburg attorney and an Allentown businessman. They are accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the estates and accounts of senior citizens and crafting bogus investment materials used to sell stock to seniors. . . . The accused are William Trickett Smith, 72, 419 Susan Road, Harrisburg, and Jerome A. Kindrachuk, 64, 3535 Fox Run Drive, Allentown. . . . Attorney General Corbett says Smith allegedly diverted money from the sale of a 90-year old Harrisburg woman's home. The proceeds from that $80,000 sale were intended to support the woman's medical care at a nursing home, but instead were allegedly used by Smith to pay his own personal expenses. . . . Additionally, Smith is accused of using false information and untrue statements to sell $5,000 in stock to a 73-year old Harrisburg woman. The stock was for a business created by Smith and Kindrachuk and marketed using exaggerated or untrue investment materials.


TEXAS

Elderly Couple Forced into State Custody

Becky Oliver --KDFW-TV

8-22-09 -- They’re not criminals. They’ve broken no laws. But they’re being held against their will by the State of Texas. Why? It’s a tragic story about what can happen when you are alone in the world and lose control of your rights, your money, and your ability to complain. . . . Jean and Michael Kidd never imagined their retirement would play out like this. “I feel like I am not in America,” said Michael Kidd. “I can’t believe I have been hi-jacked off the street, virtually from the hospital, and imprisoned,” Kidd told FOX 4. . . . Michael Kidd and his wife Jean have been living out of a tiny room for months. They have lost control of their money, their home, even their car. They say they’ve been robbed of their dignity and their voice. And who do they say is responsible? The State of Texas. . . . “It is a shock to our system,” says Kidd. “We are still kind of in a state of shock,” Kidd told Reporter Becky Oliver. . . . Michael Kidd worked as an engineer at KDFW for 23 years. He retired in 2001 with a pension, retirement account, and social security. Last month, he called the station for help. The Kidds have no children or relatives nearby. In November Michael fell and broke his hip. He was taken to a Plano hospital and into surgery. After a few days, the hospital called the state Adult Protective Services to report Jean had been in the waiting room for days and wasn’t eating. What happened next is a complicated, legal tale told in hundreds of pages of documents filed with the Collin County Probate Court.


NEW JERSEY  

Judge Rejects Ron Perelman's Claims Against His Late Ex-Wife's Family

Andrew Longstreth, The American Lawyer

8-21-09 -- Among Ron Perelman's four ex-wives, the late Claudia Cohen holds a special place in his heart. After Cohen died in 2007 of ovarian cancer, Perelman donated $20 million to the University of Pennsylvania and had a building named after the onetime gossip columnist. He also initiated a lawsuit on her behalf. In April 2008, acting as Cohen's executor, Perelman (and his and Claudia's daughter, Samantha) sued Claudia's father, Robert Cohen, and her brother, James Cohen, for allegedly cheating Claudia's estate out of hundreds of millions of dollars. But the lawsuit has been a flop. On Wednesday, Bergen County, N.J.Superior Court Judge Ellen Koblitz dismissed all the remaining claims (pdf) against Claudia's father and brother. . . . Perelman, who was represented by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Lowenstein Sandler, had alleged that Robert Cohen, the former CEO and chairman of the Hudson Group, had verbally promised Claudia half of his and his wife's estate. Perelman also alleged that James Cohen, the current CEO of the Hudson Group, had used "undue influence" to frustrate that promise by having more than $500 million in assets transferred to him.


GEORGIA  

Marietta lawyer gets 10 years for bilking retirees

Ponzi scheme collapsed, leaving attorney owing $28 million to 125 victims

By Christian Boone , The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

8-20-09 -- A Marietta attorney who bilked hundreds of retirees out of more than $40 million was sentenced today to 10-plus years in federal prison. . . . Robert P. Copeland, 47, was also ordered to pay restitution of $16.7 million. He plead guilty in April to wire fraud after investigators uncovered his real estate investment scheme. . . . “Many victims lost their life savings and retirements as a result of this massive and long-running scam, perpetrated by a lawyer who purposefully solicited retirees,” said U.S. Attorney David Nahmias.


July 2009

FEDERAL COURTS

3rd Circuit Recognizes New Cause of Action for Civil Rights Violations at Nursing Homes

Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer

7-1-09 -- In a landmark opinion that recognizes a new category of lawsuits, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments give residents of county-run nursing homes the right to bring civil rights claims under Section 1983 to challenge the quality of their treatment. . . . "The language used throughout the FNHRA is explicitly and unambiguously rights-creating," U.S. Circuit Judge Richard L. Nygaard wrote in his 23-page opinion in Grammar v. John J. Kane Regional Centers. . . . "These provisions make clear that nursing homes must provide a basic level of service and care for residents and Medicaid patients," Nygaard wrote in an opinion joined by U.S. Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith.


A Victims-of-Law Advertiser


June 2009

NEW YORK  

Poverty Lawyer Finds Coverage Problems in ‘Travel Protection’

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

6-29-09 -- A poverty lawyer turned to a newspaper columnist after her parents discovered their “travel protection” plan wouldn’t give them a cruise refund, despite her father’s heart attack and later death. . . . Catherine Bendor’s parents had agreed to pay for a cruise costing nearly $10,000, and paid an extra $978 for travel protection, Bendor told the New York Times’ “Haggler” columnist. Mailings sent after the couple purchased the travel protection plan said they would not forfeit the cost of the cruise if they had to cancel for a covered medical reason; the fine print warned that any trip “refund” would be in the form of a credit for a future trip. . . . Bendor, a Harvard law grad and a lawyer with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, told the Haggler her mother wanted her money back. The columnist helped Bendor resolve the matter—details weren’t released. But the column questions whether such protection plans can be misleading—and also looks at the specifics of the sales tactics used in the case of Bendor’s parents.


FLORIDA  

Lawsuit: 'Rank Greed' Led Judge Seidlin To
Exploit Elderly Widow

By Bob Norman, Broward New Times

6-17-09 -- A half-priced downtown condo on the Intracoastal. . . . A $50,000 piece of land. . . . More than $500,000 in cash that was was used to pay off mortgage, buy a second home in Pennsylvania, and pay tuition at an expensive private school.  . . . Family jewelry, a Dell computer, and a widescreen TV. . . . These are just some of the things Judge Larry Seidlin obtained from elderly widow Barbara Kasler, according to a civil suit filed by the widown's attorney yesterday. The Fort Lauderdale lawyer representing Kasler, Robert Bissonette, filed the suit yesterday claiming that "rank greed" led Seidlin to pilfer the widow's assets and belongings. . . . The suit alleges that Seidlin exploited Kasler after her second son, Frank Gardner, died, leaving her virtually alone. That's when Seidlin pounced, according to the lawsuit.


NEW YORK  

Prominent N.Y. Lawyers Jab at Each Other in Astor Trial Main Event

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

6-16-09 -- There appears to be little love lost between two prominent New York attorneys who are pitted against each other as witnesses in an ongoing Manhattan courtroom battle over $60 million or so of a high-society estate. . . . The verbal jousting between the two lofty estate practitioners, G. Warren Whitaker, 58, and Henry Christensen III, 64, is one of the main events at an ongoing criminal trial, as the two witnesses figuratively yank at each other's ties in lawyerly fashion, reports the City Room blog of the New York Times. . . . Christensen, for instance, admitted during his seven days of testimony in the New York Supreme Court case that he had once described Whitaker as a "second-rate lawyer," the Times notes. . . . Asked what he had said about Whitaker, “Mr. Christensen blushed and pulled back as if he was about to deliver an appalling four letter word,” recounts an earlier New York Times article about the Astor trial, as a previous ABAJournal.com post notes. “He said he did not recall, but eventually chipped in, ‘It has been said that I called Mr. Whitaker a second-rate lawyer.’ ”


GEORGIA

Elderly victims find help to fight fraud

Many targeted by very people claiming to care.DeKalb creates task force to combat rise in crime against seniors.

By Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

6-14-09 -- At 92, unsteady on his feet and hard of hearing, Harold Williams needed someone to care for him. . . . After returning to his Decatur home from a stay in a rehab center, Williams answered an ad placed by Rukhsana Burton’s caregiver company, signed her up for $14 an hour and had her come by six days a week. . . . Burton, 29, took care of Williams’ household needs, ran him on errands and, only a couple of months into the job, swindled the former Defense Department industrial engineer out of a large chunk of his life’s savings. By the time Burton was arrested, she had forged Williams’ name on more than two dozen checks totaling more than $200,000. . . . Williams is like many retirees who want to spend their golden years in the homes they’ve lived in for decades instead of moving into an institutionalized setting. Not only is it more comfortable, it’s also more affordable. But it also puts elderly residents in vulnerable positions, with their caregivers often having the run of the house, often with access to their client’s finances and the mail. . . .  Williams fell prey to what DeKalb District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming calls an “opportunist” —- a caregiver who comes into the home or a family relative who lives there and takes advantage of an elderly victim.


OHIO  

Lawyer pleads guilty to mail fraud

By Dan Horn • enquirer.com

6-12-09 -- Beverly W. Hersh wanted most of her $12 million fortune to go to charities and other worthy causes after her death in 2005. . . . But prosecutors say her lawyer gave about $9 million to himself, friends and relatives. . . . Cincinnati lawyer Robert L. Schwartz pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of mail fraud and filing a false income tax return in connection with his handling of Hersh's estate. . . . Schwartz, 69, was supposed to move Hersh's money into trusts that would be used to benefit worthy causes, but federal prosecutors say he used most of the money for personal expenditures and gifts to friends and associates. . . . The fraud charge is tied to his failure to give $2.5 million to Hadassah Hospital in Israel, as Hersh had instructed him to do. Schwartz also gave away large sums of money from a $6.3 million "discretionary trust" that he controlled, prosecutors say. . . . Hadassah Hospital received about $5,000 and other charities about $50,000. Prosecutors say Schwartz informed the hospital it would receive money from Hersh's estate, but he never said how much.

[PDF] Cincinnati Attorney Pleads Guilty To Almost $2.5 Million Fraud

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat


WASHINGTON   

High court suspends lawyer Eugster

City Council hopeful must pay widow’s estate

Richard Roesler, spokesman.com

6-12-09 -- After a long-running battle over his handling of an elderly widow’s case, Spokane attorney Steve Eugster has narrowly avoided disbarment. . . . The state Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday that Eugster should instead be suspended from practicing law for 18 months. He will also have to pay $13,500 to the now-deceased woman’s estate. . . . “Eugster breached his duty to maintain his client’s confidences, used confidences to take action directly contrary to his client’s interests, and created a nightmare for his client who had to spend $13,500 defending a petition to declare her incompetent,” Justice Tom Chambers wrote for the majority. “However, Eugster’s misconduct was the first in a long career.” . . . The four-justice minority called for a harsher penalty. . . . “The only conclusion that can be drawn … is that Eugster should be disbarred,” Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote. . . . Shawn Newman, an Olympia attorney representing Eugster, characterized the ruling as a win. “Once the bar unanimously recommends disbarment, it is almost unprecedented to get that turned around,” he said.


Free Credit Report


May 2009

Amid Financial Abuse, a Blind Spot for Family

By Paula Span, New York Times

5-19-09 -- Outside the courtroom where socialite Brooke Astor’s son and former attorney are on trial for conspiracy and scheming to defraud her estate, a witness stopped to talk to a columnist for the New York Post. . . . Betsy Gotbaum, New York City’s public advocate and Mrs. Astor’s close friend, had just testified to Mrs. Astor’s mental decline, which prosecutors say left her unable to understand the changes to her will that benefited her son, Anthony Marshall, 84. Whatever his culpability, Ms. Gotbaum said, “She wouldn’t want him to go to jail.” . . . It’s a sentiment that experts often hear in cases of alleged financial exploitation. One reason the crime proves difficult to detect and prosecute is that so often “the abuser is someone the elder has loved and trusted,” said Thomas Hafemeister, a University of Virginia law professor studying financial elder abuse. Who wants to see a loved one — even one who may be ripping you off — in handcuffs? . . . As with other forms of elder abuse, basic facts about financial exploitation — even how widely it occurs and to whom — remain elusive. Experts think all varieties are substantially underreported, and financial manipulation, unlike broken bones or bruises, can happen almost invisibly. . . . But in elder abuse cases substantiated by adult protective agencies in 11 states, the most common abusers weren’t strangers, but sons and daughters, the National Center on Elder Abuse has found (PDF). A recent report on financial abuse from the Metlife Mature Market Institute (PDF) also points to family, along with “trusted professionals,” as the primary predators.


NEW YORK  

Disbarred Lawyer Who Stole $130,000 Gets 3 to 9 Years in Prison

Mark Fass, New York Law Journal

5-6-09 -- A former Queens, N.Y., lawyer who admitted stealing $130,000 from her client escrow account to finance a gambling addiction was sentenced last week by New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grosso to three to nine years in prison. . . . Arelia Taveras ran a general practice before being disbarred in 2007. In two videotaped statements, including an apology she posted on YouTube, Taveras admitted taking the money from her escrow account to pay for, among other things, marathon gambling sprees in Atlantic City.


Lillian Vernon Online


April 2009

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  

Former lawyer bilked elderly clients of big sums of money

By: Bill Myers, Washington Examiner Staff Writer

4-26-09 -- A disbarred former lawyer faces nearly five years in prison when he is sentenced in on Monday on charges that he bilked elderly clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars as their health and finances withered away. . . . Reginald “Reggie” Rogers was like “a son” to several elderly clients — cleaning their homes, cooking for them, singing for them to lift their spirits, and spending weekends and evenings with them. Prosecutors allege it was all an act — that his only interest was getting his hands on his clients’ money. . . . He has been convicted of emptying out his clients’ bank accounts, spending the money on expensive clothes and airline tickets. Prosecutors John Griffith and Diane Lucas are asking for a 57-month sentence. . . . He was arrested shortly after the niece of one of his victims complained to the D.C. Bar Counsel, the city’s top legal ethics enforcer.


WISCONSIN    

Lawyer accused of robbing client

Guardian sues attorney, firm over $600,000

By Marie Rohde of the Journal Sentinel

4-26-09 -- The guardian for an elderly woman has filed a lawsuit against a prominent Milwaukee law firm and a suspended lawyer, claiming the lawyer stole more than $600,000 from her. . . . Supportive Community Services, the legal guardian for Dorothy G. Phinney, filed the lawsuit against Quarles & Brady and Jeffrey Elverman, a lawyer who was with the firm when the alleged theft occurred between December 2001 and September 2004. . . . According to the lawsuit, Phinney hired Elverman in 2000 while he worked at Quarles & Brady. . . . Christopher Stawski, a lawyer representing Phinney, said the money was discovered missing in 2008, shortly after a Milwaukee County judge found Phinney incompetent and appointed Supportive Community Services as her guardian. Elverman, Stawski said, fought the appointment, saying that she had given him her power of attorney.


GEORGIA  

Ga. Lawyer Used Elder Law Practice to Snare Ponzi Victims

Robert Copeland pleaded guilty this week; his lawyer said he 'didn't want to do this anymore'

R. Robin McDonald, Fulton County Daily Report

4-24-09 -- For five years, a Marietta, Ga., attorney who specialized in elder law arranged community workshops where he sought investors for a bogus financial scheme that would siphon more than $40 million from his unsuspecting clientele, according to a federal prosecutor. . . . When the scheme collapsed earlier this year and investors began complaining to local police and the FBI, attorney Robert P. Copeland confessed to federal prosecutors in Atlanta, said his Decatur lawyer, Marcia G. Shein. . . . Shein said that Copeland surrendered to authorities because, "He didn't want to do this any more. He needed to resolve the problem." . . . In U.S. District Court on Monday, Copeland pleaded guilty to a criminal information (charges filed either prior to or in lieu of a grand jury indictment) charging him with a single count of wire fraud. He is free on $100,000 unsecured bond pending his July 10 sentencing.


NEW YORK  

NY Lawyer Faces Questions on Two-Year Suspension If He Testifies at His Trial for Looting Astor Estate

By Daniel Wise | New York Law Journal, |  New York Lawyer

4-24-09 -- A lawyer facing criminal charges in connection with the handling of socialite Brooke Astor's estate planning can be questioned about his two-year suspension in the mid-1990s if he testifies at his upcoming trial, the presiding judge has ruled. . . . Attorney Francis X. Morrissey and Ms. Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, have been accused of taking advantage of the doyenne's diminished mental capacity to redirect millions of dollars to Mr. Marshall that had been bequeathed to charity. Opening statements in the case are set for Monday. . . . Acting Supreme Court Justice A. Kirke Bartley ruled in People v. Morrissey, 6044/07, that prosecutors could question Mr. Morrissey about several matters related to the suspension, including whether he had lied under oath at the disciplinary proceeding.


Tips for Preventing, Detecting, and Reporting Financial Abuse of the Elderly

ElderLawAnswers.com

4-6-09 -- As the economy worsens, incidences of elder financial abuse are reportedly on the rise. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to scams or to financial abuse by family members in need of money. . . . A recent study found that up to one million older Americans may be targeted yearly. Family members and caregivers are the culprits in 55 percent of cases, although financial losses are higher with investment fraud scams. . . . While it is impossible to guarantee that an elderly loved one is not the victim of financial abuse, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances. One option is to have more than one family member involved in caring for the loved one. You can also encourage the elder to get involved in community activities to ensure he or she has a wide range of support. Using direct deposit as much as possible is also helpful. And of course you should always screen caregivers carefully and verify references.


March 2009

New Terri Schiavo Documentary Gives Facts Media Distorted in Euthanasia Death

by Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com Editor

3-13-09 --St. Petersburg, FL (LifeNews.com) -- A new documentary about the life and death of Terri Schiavo presents facts that the mainstream media distorted. Schiavo was killed in a painful starvation and dehydration euthanasia death over the course of nearly two weeks when her former husband won a court order to kill her. . . . Though the media maintained the disabled woman was in a persistent vegetative state experts say she was in a minimally conscious state and her family indicated she repeatedly interacted with them. . . . Now, Franklin Springs Family Media has put out a newly-released documentary called The Terri Schiavo Story that it says provides previously unexplored facts of the case through in-depth interviews with participants in the saga. . . . The documentary is hosted by author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, who became personally involved in the case in 2005 and is herself disabled because of a diving accident. . . . So what did the mainstream media overlook? Several things, according to the film's producer and director Ken Carpenter. . . . "I think most people thought Terri was in a vegetative state with no prospects of improving," he told LifeNews.com. "The truth is, the doctors believed Terri was a candidate for rehabilitation, but her husband withheld that treatment."


FLORIDA   

Boca Raton lawyer ordered to repay $1 million to client's estate

By Jane Musgrave, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

3-12-09 -- A Boca Raton lawyer, who has claimed he is fighting to protect his longtime client's desire to leave the bulk of his estimated $50 million fortune to the poor children of Panama, has been smacked by a Palm Beach County judge. . . . Attorney Richard Lehman has been ordered to repay $1 million to the Florida estate of Wilson Charles Lucom, an eccentric Palm Beach millionaire who moved to Panama in the last years of his life. . . . Calling Lehman a "covetous opportunist," Circuit Judge John Phillips said Lehman misused $655,000 that was part of Lucom's Florida estate to get his hands on tens of millions in Panama. In an 11-page ruling, Phillips ordered Lehman to repay the money along with the $390,000 that was spent tracking how the money was spent. . . . He also ordered Lehman to pay the fees of lawyers who represented Lucom's Panamanian widow and her children. . . . Lehman disputed Phillips' findings. "I never put a dollar in my pocket and I spent $1 million of my own money defending the estate," said Lehman, vowing to appeal.


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February 2009

OHIO  

Chillicothe lawyer found guilty of disorderly conduct

By Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch

2-19-09 -- A lawyer scheduled to go on trial on charges of tampering with records and obstruction of justice entered a plea agreement and was convicted of two misdemeanor counts. . . . Edward Bunstine, a former Chillicothe law director, pleaded no contest today to two counts of disorderly conduct. He was convicted and fined $300 by visiting Judge James Luse in Ross County Common Pleas Court. . . . Paul Scarsella, chief of the special-prosecutions section of the Ohio attorney general's office, said a spokeswoman said the plea agreement spared some elderly theft victims the stress of testifying in the case.


NEW YORK  

Indicted Guardian Always Had Excuses for Filing Late, Examiners Say

Vesselin Mitev, New York Law Journal

2-11-09 -- Obtaining regular reports from Steven T. Rondos, the Brooklyn attorney accused of fleecing guardianship accounts of $4 million, was like "pulling teeth," said one of the court-appointed examiners charged with monitoring Rondos' performance. . . . Albert E. Spencer, a Manhattan attorney, inherited two cases from prior court examiners in early 2006. He said that Rondos had not provided the required reports for 2004, 2005 and 2006. . . . After Rondos' indictment last month, the Office of Court Administration acknowledged that court examiners who monitored Rondos' accounts should have detected sooner at least some of the alleged thefts that occurred between 2001 and 2008. . . . At least 16 examiners had signed off on the accounts that gave rise to the investigation of Rondos.


January 2009

NEW YORK  

Oversight Tightened After Guardian Thefts

Vesselin Mitev and Joel Stashenko, New York Law Journal

1-30-09 -- The former Brooklyn judge who appointed Steven T. Rondos to oversee at least seven of the guardianship accounts Rondos is charged with fleecing expressed dismay at the news in a phone interview Thursday. . . . "I must say I am disappointed -- I just thought he was really one of the good guys," said former Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Leonard Scholnick, who was reached at his Florida home. But, he added, "nothing shocks me anymore." . . . Rondos, who is booked under the alias Stavras Rontoyiannis, is at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey awaiting extradition. . . . A spokesman for the Office of Court Administration acknowledged Thursday that there had been some "inherent flaws" in the system for overseeing the work of guardians but said those flaws had now been corrected.


NEW YORK  

Attorney Charged With Stealing Millions From Guardian Accounts

Law firm has been indicted for money laundering, grand larceny and a scheme to defraud

Vesselin Mitev, New York Law Journal

1-29-09 -- A Brooklyn lawyer has been charged with stealing more than $4 million between 2001 and 2008 from guardianship bank accounts he supervised for incapacitated elderly people and children. . . . Steven T. Rondos, 44, and his law firm, Raia & Rondos in Brooklyn, have been indicted for money laundering, grand larceny, a scheme to defraud and offering a false instrument for filing, Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said in a statement. . . . Rondos, who was born in Canada but is a U.S. citizen, was arrested in his Ridgewood, N.J., home early Wednesday morning and taken to the Bergen County, N.J., jail. He was listed as a "fugitive from justice" on the jail's Web site. . . . A spokesman for the New York court system acknowledged Wednesday that some of the thefts "should have been caught earlier" and reported that "a handful" of examiners assigned to monitor the accounts of guardians had been asked to resign.


Power of Attorney Abuse: What States Can Do About It

Source: AARP Policy & Research (Public Policy Institute)

1-29-09 --This PPI research report explores the problem of power of attorney abuse and how state legislatures can protect vulnerable adults. Powers of attorney are legal documents used by individuals to empower someone else to act on their behalf. As the population ages, the power of attorney will be used increasingly to appoint trusted family members or others to handle financial decision-making. But it also can be a ‘license to steal,’ because it grants broad powers with little oversight. The report shows that a large majority of states lack protections against abuse. The Uniform Power of Attorney Act, a model law, lays the groundwork for keeping seniors safe from abuse, while allowing them to plan for the future. (88 pages)

+ In Brief (PDF; 48 KB) / + Full Report (PDF; 766 KB)


FLORIDA  

Jackson native's $1 million estate plundered

by By Steven Hepker | Citizen Patriot

1-25-09 -- Marilyn Jacob is living in an Alzheimer's facility in Seminole, Fla. Her brother, Robert Howard, died in late 2006. Though mentally handicapped, he had a maintenance job with the Department of Veterans Affairs and left Jacob and other heirs a nearly $1 million estate. . . . "I know that Robert was somewhat incapable of writing a will because he had been on disability for over 60 years and was mentally disabled," said nephew Eric Jacob, of Florida. "I knew it would be easy for an attorney or guardian to embezzle his estate." . . . Enter Richard McQuillan, a former Jackson attorney who was Howard's legal guardian for 25 years. . . . "My dad assured me that Mr. McQuillan was honest and he even cried on the phone about the death of Robert," Eric Jacob said in an e-mail to a reporter. McQuillan then asked to open the estate so that he could pay funeral expenses, Jacob said. . . . McQuillan also cried on Dec. 31 when he admitted to Jackson County Probate Judge Diane Rappleye during a court hearing that he plundered the estate of more than $900,000 in a few months in early 2007.


MICHIGAN  

Lawyer admits robbing estate

By Steven Hepker, Citizen Patriot

1-25-09 -- A judge jailed a Jackson attorney Wednesday after he admitted plundering a $1 million estate. . . . Court documents indicate Richard McQuillan wrote numerous checks to himself from the estate of Robert T. Howard ranging up to $200,000 each. . . . Probate Judge Diane Rappleye ordered McQuillan to account for the missing money in a show-cause hearing Wednesday. . . . Sobbing and apologetic, McQuillan said he stole more than $900,000 and juggled money among a number of disgruntled clients in 2007. . . . ``By May 2007 these funds had almost disintegrated because of my criminal conduct,'' McQuillan said during the hearing. He apologized to Rappleye, other attorneys involved in the case, and courtroom staff. . . . ``I don't need an attorney appointed,'' he said. ``I need to pay the piper.''  . . . Rappleye found him in contempt of court and sentenced him to a 90-day jail term. . . . A city police officer went to the jail Wednesday afternoon to question McQuillan. He could face embezzlement charges with penalties up to 20 years in prison.


ARIZONA

Valley inheritance case imperils rights of elderly

Not Dead Yet

by Dennis Wagner, The Arizona Republic

1-22-09 -- Patricia J. English is very much alive, but that hasn't stopped her kids from squabbling over who gets the 78-year-old Scottsdale woman's house when she passes away. . . . In a Maricopa County Superior Court complaint that could break legal ground in Arizona, Robert Jaeger says his brothers and sisters persuaded their mom to revise her will to cut him out. He is seeking more than $1 million in punitive and compensatory damages, far more than English's home is worth. . . . Legal experts and advocates for the elderly say the case could further erode the rights of older Americans, who face increasing challenges to their independence. . . . "It's rampant, and it's usually done by sibling rivalries," said Carole Herman, president and founder of an advocacy group known as Foundation Aiding the Elderly. "It's all about the money." . . . Kathy Cubit, director of advocacy at the Philadelphia-based Center for the Rights of and Interests of the Elderly, agreed that such quarrels are common.


MINNESOTA

Woman charged with swindling West St. Paul grandmother

Courtney Fultz is accused of taking $77,000 from a CD and trying to put the 86-year-old's condo in her name.

By Pat Pheifer, Star Tribune

1-13-09 -- -- Courtney Fultz's grandmother had already given Fultz her house in West St. Paul free and clear, according to court documents. Then the 33-year-old woman allegedly tried to get her grandmother's condo put in her name and took more than $77,000 from her grandmother's certificate of deposit. . . . Fultz is being prosecuted by the Ramsey County attorney's office's new elder abuse unit. She was charged Tuesday with felony theft by swindle. She is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 19 and could not be reached Tuesday to comment. . . . According to the criminal complaint: . . . St. Paul police were contacted in July by Dakota County Social Services about the financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult identified only as E.T.K. The 86-year-old woman suffers from memory loss and dementia.


Nation's Guardianship System Plagued by
Attorney Conflicts of Interest

HALT (An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform)

12-15-06 -- On December 4, a Seattle Times investigation revealed that lawyers often use the guardianship system for their financial benefit to the detriment of America's most vulnerable consumers.

A guardianship begins when an individual petitions the court to show that someone else is unable to care for themselves. Courts often appoint professional guardian lawyers, who charge fees as high as $95 an hour, to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual.

In one case, Karen Weed suffered brain damage in a car accident and subsequently received a cash settlement. For help managing the money, her family was referred to a lawyer specializing in guardianship law. The lawyer recommended the guardianship company Ethicare, but when the family became unhappy with the company’s actions, the attorney represented Ethicare in the case rather than the Weeds, and then charged the family for his services.

According to the Seattle Times, conflicts of interest like this regularly occur in guardianship cases. In most areas of law, lawyers specialize in representing one side or the other. Prosecutors, for example, never represent criminal defendants. But only a small circle of lawyers practice in the guardianship field and many represent both the guardianship companies as well as the people subject to those companies’ control.

“Attorney abuses and unchecked conflicts of interest are the guardianship system’s dirty little secret,” stated HALT Associate Counsel Suzanne M. Blonder. “Tens of thousands of guardianship cases in this country are removed from public record so there’s no way to monitor the lawyers entrusted with making critical financial and life style decisions for our most defenseless citizens.”

The Karen Weed file, for instance, has been stamped secret, and the Seattle Times found that judges and court commissioners in Washington State alone have sealed the entire file in at least 398 guardianship cases since 1990.

HALT has worked before to fix the broken guardianship system that allows attorneys to take advantage of conflicts of interest and profit from being paid multiple times for the same work. In 2004, HALT submitted comments to the District of Columbia Superior Court urging the court to fix its standards for attorneys working in guardianships, following an investigation by the Washington Post.

“Meaningful reforms in the guardianship system are long-overdue in jurisdictions across the country,” stated Blonder. “Courts need to strengthen oversight of attorney guardians and records need to be available for public scrutiny.”

Click here to see HALT’s comments to the D.C. Court.


Groups Related to Guardianship Issues

National

Association to


Guardian Abuse

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION TO STOP GUARDIAN ABUSE

NASGA is not just another place to discuss personal horror stories of which there are too many, or offer token solace and empty promises. This Association will ACT to put an end to this insidious new crime by using the power of the press, the power of the political system and the power of the PEOPLE to do exactly what the title's name says. 


The National Organization to End Guardianship Abuse

OUR MISSION . . . The National Organization to End Guardianship Abuse (NOTEGA) is a non-profit organization committed to ending the abuse of Elderly and Dependant Adult through education outreach and by creating a single voice calling for National and State Reforms to protect America’s vulnerable citizens in Guardianships and Conservatorships. 


The Elder Justice Coalition is a national membership organization dedicated to eliminating elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in America. The Coalition works to fulfill its mission through education, advocacy, and support of federal initiatives to address this crisis.


Shining Light on the Dark Side of Estate Management

 


Definitions

Guardian
A person lawfully invested with the power, and charged with the duty, of taking care of the person, who, for defect of age, understanding, or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his own affairs. One who legally has responsibility for the care and management of the person, or the estate, or both, of a child during its minority.
-Black's Law Dictionary-

Ad litem

From the Latin, meaning "for the lawsuit" -- that is, for purposes of the current legal action. A guardian ad litem is a guardian appointed by the court to act on behalf of a minor or incompetent person.

--From Wex, everyone's resource for law learning--

Legal Guardian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 


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Black Robed Hooliganism

A collection of stories about unruly judges, and their attorney friends.

Scott A. McMillan
La Mesa, California, United States

 

Just a simple country lawyer
 from La Mesa, California.


We Are Pulling the
Curtains Back on
Judicial Misconduct & Lawlessness &

Shining The Bright Lights

of Public Scrutiny on the

“OutLaw Judges”


National
Association
to

Guardian
Abuse
©


 

 

Guardianship - a good law, gone bad!

Once Under Guardianship You Have Less Rights than A Criminal!

 If you have no assets and little income, you are safe.

Guardianship is all about money (even a modest amount).

 

Victims-of-Law has compiled this list for educational & research purposes.
The inclusion of links to any site in no way constitutes an endorsement by Victims-of-Law.

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Inaugurated on September 30, 2006
Updated 01/26/2012