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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 2006-2008

Guardianship News & Views 2009


Guardianship News & Views 2006-2008

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December 2008

TEXAS

Parents of Phil Manire

By: Kim Manire

The couple in the picture is J.P. and Doris Manire. They have one son named Phil. My name is Kim and I have known the Manires for about 30 years now. Phil and I are married. J.P. and Doris have three grandchildren: Cody (19) Beth (14) and John (17 months). Doris was the owner of Vogue Beauty Salon for 35 years, which J.P. and she started together. J.P. was head of the Engineering Department of Parkland Hospital in Dallas Texas; he was also a WWII vet who served for four years in the U.S. Air Force, in Europe. J.P. also graduated from U.N.T. where he played football.  Phil and I used to take care of any and everything J.P. and Doris needed,  from painting, plumbing, and car maintenance, going to the store, watering the yard, peach trees and garden, changing light bulbs. Just any thing they needed we did to help. Think of the money they saved by not having to pay to have it done for them. We lived as one happy, loving family on their land in a trailer they got us so we could be together.

That was all taken from us by the Denton County Probate Court and its select group of “GUARDIANS” and attorneys, who took over half a million dollars in less than one and a half years. They cashed in CDs, a pension plan, IRAs, sold mineral rights to the land, and went through over $215,000.00 cash. They have been trying to sell the homestead that the whole family lived on, but has been put off with different legal motions. The group of people involved all friends, business partners, a personal attorney, and the ex-wife of the judge, these people were chosen over family members who had always been around the Manire’s and who helped them to save their money over their life time, just so that this group of people could put way over half of it in their pockets and lock this couple up in a nursing home and sell their homestead to put even more in their own accounts.


MINNESOTA

'Is there anything worse than stealing Grandma's money?'

As baby boomers age, Ramsey County anticipates an uptick in crimes against the elderly. So the county attorney's office has created a unit to pursue such cases.

By Pat Pheifer, Star Tribune

12-30-08 --  The names and the details change, but the heartache remains when a son, daughter or other family member financially exploits, physically abuses or neglects an elderly or otherwise vulnerable relative. . . . Oftentimes, the victim is too ashamed to report the crime. Sometimes the victim is too incapacitated to report it. . . . As the population ages, an explosion of such cases is likely, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said Tuesday in announcing the creation of an elder abuse unit to prosecute crimes against people who are victimized because of their age, vulnerabilities or family relationships.



AARP Report Urges Adoption of Stronger State Laws to Prevent Power of Attorney Abuse

12 states set to consider reforms in 2009

PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ --

12-4-08 -- A large majority of state laws lack protections for individuals creating financial powers of attorney, according to a report released today by AARP's Public Policy Institute. Presented at the 8th Annual National Aging and Law Conference, the report urges state legislatures to adopt the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA), a model law that lays the groundwork for keeping seniors safe from abuse, while allowing them to plan for the future. . . . A power of attorney is a legal document used by an individual to empower someone else to act on their behalf, and often is aimed at allowing the appointed agent to act when an older person no longer can. . . . "As the population ages, the power of attorney will be used even more often 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," said Naomi Karp, strategic policy advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute. "Already, we are seeing an explosion of cases in which seniors are losing their savings, their homes and, in some cases, everything they own. This report is a crucial first step to protect older Americans."


November 2008

RHODE ISLAND

Study of elder abuse of R.I. women reveals surprising discoveries

By Tracy Breton, Journal Staff Writer

11-30-08 -- Rhode Island women in their 50s are more likely than older females to be abused by spouses or other intimate partners. Women over 60 are most often victimized by their grown children and grandchildren. . . . In a groundbreaking study of domestic abuse of older women, researchers have found that while Rhode Island police investigate hundreds of cases of domestic abuse reported each year, many of them never go through the court system and those who are prosecuted rarely get sentenced to prison. . . . Researchers discovered “a major divide” between the police and social workers who investigate elder abuse cases for the state. “Few cases referred to the state’s Department of Elderly Affairs were referred to police for criminal investigation and few cases involving eligible victims brought to police were referred to the DEA for services,” the study concluded.

Related links

Read the statewide Profile of Abuse of Older Women and the
Criminal Justice Response

Summary of the 94-page profile


VIRGINIA  

Ex-attorney to serve 2 years

Hanover man sentenced for stealing more than $500,000 from trusts he controlled

By Bill Mckelway, Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

11-19-08 -- A courtroom full of supporters ranged from a former law professor to a fellow employee at the furniture company where disbarred lawyer Michael D. Hancock now works. . . . But Henrico County Circuit Judge George F. Tidey found yesterday that the most convincing evidence in the case was the amount of missing money, about $513,000. . . . Tidey sentenced Hancock, 51, to two years in prison, suspending 13 of the 15 years he initially imposed for three embezzlement charges. . . . Hancock pleaded guilty in August to pilfering the money from three trust accounts that he controlled; a year ago, he began assisting investigators in unraveling a scheme that apparently had no objective other than keeping Hancock's practice going, according to evidence in the case. He agreed to surrender his law license Oct. 24 last year.


Referee Backs Sanctioning Estate in Case Alleging 'Unconscionable' Contingent Fee

Anthony Lin, New York Law Journal

11-3-08 -- A high-profile court battle over an allegedly "unconscionable" contingent legal fee agreement has taken a strange turn following the death of the client who was to have paid the fee. . . . Alice Lawrence, who died Feb. 16 at the age of 83, sued her former lawyers at the New York firm of Graubard Miller over a 40 percent contingent fee agreement executed in January 2005, only a few months before the settlement of a mammoth estate case for $105 million. . . . The contingent fee would have garnered Graubard Miller $42 million, on top of $18 million in hourly bills paid over the two decades it represented Lawrence, plus another $5 million in "gifts" to individual partners. The New York Court of Appeals heard arguments Oct. 23 on Lawrence's motion to dismiss Graubard Miller's enforcement petition on the grounds that the fee deal was "unconscionable on its face."


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October 2008

Seniors Victimized in Financial Elder Abuse Scams

By Heidi Turner

10-24-08 --  Sacramento, CA: As the number of people in their senior years increases, so, too, does the number of people willing to take advantage of seniors, making them victims of financial elder abuse. And, while some financial elder abuse is committed by the victim's family members, there is no shortage of so-called professionals who will portray themselves as experts in a certain field so they can con the senior out of his or her hard-earned money. . . . Some seniors are catching on to the game and are refusing to allow the abuse to go on. Case in point: an elderly couple in California was approached earlier this year by a man who claimed to be a contractor. The man offered to repair the couple's roof, worked for 2 hours and demanded $1,900.00 for the work he did. According to Rocklin Today, a local newspaper, the couple felt intimidated by the man and paid him the money, although they did not want to. Afterwards, the couple phoned the police to file a complaint. An investigation showed that the repairs the "contractor" claimed to have done were either not necessary or were not done at all. In fact, the man and his crew actually vandalized the seniors' roof.


CALIFORNIA

Con Man's Plea May Spare His Wife

Dan Levine, The Recorder, Law.com

10-15-08 -- Michael Edison, a con man who stole $2 million from the widow of a legendary law firm founder, has agreed to spend more than five years in jail. . . . But Edison's wife -- an alleged accomplice in trying to obstruct justice by deceiving Edison's own lawyer -- may get no prison time at all. . . . The strange crime drama took a key step toward resolution Tuesday, when Edison pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William Alsup and admitted to all the counts leveled against him. His lawyer, Richard Mazer, and federal prosecutors agreed to a deal that included 63 months in prison and roughly $2.5 million in restitution. . . . The government also agreed that it would not seek any custodial time for Deborah Edison in the event she pleaded guilty. However, she may not even reach that point: A doctor tentatively found her incompetent to stand trial, said her lawyer, Chief Assistant Federal Defender Geoffrey Hansen. Should that determination become final, the government could dismiss her counts, Hansen said.


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August 2008

FLORIDA  

Lawyer Unduly Influenced Wealthy Client, Judge Says

Jack Carey stood to inherit millions from 107-year-old woman's estate.

By Chris Tisch, St. Petersburg Times

8-31-08 -- Jack S. Carey was a successful lawyer and former City Council member whose philanthropic activities earned him much respect. . . . But Carey's solid reputation is now in jeopardy after a judge decided recently that he inappropriately persuaded an elderly client to will him and his legal assistant more than $7 million of her estate. . . . Virginia Murphy retained Carey as her lawyer for almost 25 years. She suffered from several frailties in her later years, including senile dementia, cataracts, hearing loss, depression, hypertension and heart problems. She died in 2006 at the age of 107. . . . While in her 90s, Murphy executed a new will six times. Each time, Carey and his assistant, Gloria DuBois, were named as beneficiaries.


MASSACHUSETTS

Trusts for mentally retarded neglected

Funds tapped for fees, not for their needs; Lawyers, courts fall short on oversight

By Stephanie M. Peters, Globe Correspondent 

8-31-08 -- In 2006, close to $50,000 sat in a trust fund that was intended to make Paul Riley's lot in life more bearable. No fortune, but enough to supplement the necessities he receives in a North Andover group home he shares with other mentally retarded men. . . . But over 22 years, not a dime was ever spent on Riley. Instead, the account has been tapped to pay $17,000 in legal fees, annual investment management charges of nearly 2 percent of assets, and court fees. . . . For Riley and many of the 910 other mentally retarded adults for whom the trust funds were created a generation ago, little of the estimated $30 million in the accounts is ever spent on their behalf. Instead, the money has been siphoned off for bank management charges and legal bills. And for fees charged by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court system, which has long neglected its obligation to ensure the funds are expended for the benefit of some of the state's most helpless citizens. . . . A Globe investigation found serious failures at every level of the system. In most probate courts there has been scant oversight of the trust funds. The bank trustees, who manage investments for the funds, failed, in many cases, to file required financial reports for several years. And most of the personal trustees - the individuals who decide when to tap the trusts for people like Riley, and who almost always stand to inherit leftover funds - did not spend anything for their mentally retarded wards.


NEW YORK  

Rejecting Special Referee's Report, N.Y. Court Suspends Attorney

Mark Fass, New York Law Journal

8-19-08 -- A former senior attorney for the New York Fire Department who visited his cousin in a psychiatric unit in order to complete the paperwork needed to purchase the cousin's house has been suspended from practicing law for five years. . . . In barring David Clinton, the former chief legal counsel for the Fire Department Bureau of Legal Affairs, from practicing law until September 2013, the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, took the unusual step of rejecting a special referee's report, which had found that Clinton had not violated any ethics rules. . . . To the contrary, the "evidence reveals that the respondent, without following the requisite protocol, set forth in the regulations of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene" approached his cousin, Rubin J., with a "deed to execute while [Rubin] was confined to a psychiatric ward ... in a delusional state of mind," the unanimous panel concluded in Matter of Clinton, 2006-00152. . . . "Rubin's vulnerability was patent. The respondent filed and recorded the deed despite being told that he could not obtain signatures on legal documents from patients in psychiatric wards without following accepted procedures."


MASSACHUSETTS   

Lawyer pleads guilty to stealing from client's elderly grandmother

WHDH-TV, The Associated Press

8-13-08 -- A Springfield lawyer pleads guilty to stealing nearly $15,000 from an 87-year-old woman. . . . David O'Desky pleaded in Hampden Superior Court yesterday to charges including larceny over $250 of a victim over the age of 60. . . . Prosecutors say he got the victim to part with her money by saying he was using it for her grandaughter's child custody case. . . . Prosecutors are recommending a 2 1/2-years in jail and three years of probation.


NEW YORK  

Ex-NY Attorney Charged With Stealing From the Dead

New York Lawyer, By Mark Fass, New York Law Journal

8-5-08 -- A former Queens attorney has been charged with taking more than $400,000 from the estate of a deceased man for whom he served as a trustee. . . . Stephen E. Pearlman of Dix Hills, Long Island, maintained a Northern Boulevard practice until 2006, when he resigned from the bar while facing allegations in a separate matter involving misuse of his attorney trust account. . . . According to the Queens District Attorney's Office, Mr. Pearlman, while still a member of the bar, was named the trustee of the estate of James Graham and charged with dispersing his assets. Instead, Mr. Pearlman allegedly transferred more than $400,000 to his own account or the escrow accounts of other clients, leaving the trust with $73.93.


NEW YORK  

NY Lawyer Targeted in Criminal Probe of Pilfering of Guardianship Funds

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

8-5-08 -- The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is investigating a Brooklyn-based lawyer who allegedly took funds belonging to those he was appointed to protect as a guardian, sources report. . . . The probe is examining the work of Steven T. Rondos of Raia & Rondos, who handled guardianship accounts in three counties, most of them in Brooklyn, the sources said. . . . Stephen Flamhaft of Flamhaft Levy Kamins Hirsch & Rendiero confirmed he represents Mr. Rondos but otherwise declined to comment.


July 2008

CALIFORNIA

D.A. charges 21 with defrauding in-home care agency of $2 million

Steve Cooley says a growing number of fake identities are being used to bilk a state-funded, Los Angeles County-run program that helps the disabled and elderly.

By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 

7-25-08 -- Charges have been filed against 21 people accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $2 million in benefits from a state-funded program designed to help the disabled or elderly receive in-home care, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley announced Thursday. . . . A growing number of fake identities are being used to scam the $1.6-billion program, called In-Home Supportive Services, which is administered by the county, Cooley said. The fraud is committed both by people posing as recipients and by those posing as providers. . . . At least a dozen of the 21 charged were arrested Thursday morning by investigators, Cooley said. . . . He called for identity checks on people receiving the benefits, including photographing, fingerprinting and criminal background checks. Cooley cited a recent civil grand jury report that said such fraud can be prevented with these measures.


FLORIDA  

Judge Wrongly Substituted Judgment In Schiavo Death

North Country Gazette Commentary

7-15-08 -- Pinellas County probate court judge George W. Greer didn’t follow the rule of law in dictating the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo. The court wrongfully took it upon itself to determine the proper course of treatment for the brain-injured 41-year-old woman, based on its own assessment of the facts and law. . . . Florida law aims to prevent error and abuse by providing for the appointment of a guardian to ensure that the wishes of the patient are being identified and implemented, particularly when proxy decision makers are unavailable or unwilling to do so.  Moreover, the Florida law makes clear that the presiding judge may not serve simultaneously as arbiter of the case at hand and the guardian of the patient.  In this way, the Florida law attempts to prevent any party – including the court – from succumbing to the temptation of substituting its own judgment for that of the incapacitated patient. . . . George Greer broke the law.


NEW YORK  

Attorney Ordered to Repay $403,000 for Mishandling Ex-Judge's Affairs

Daniel Wise, New York Law Journal

7-2-08 -- A Brooklyn, N.Y., judge Monday assessed $403,000 in surcharges against a lawyer for mishandling the financial affairs of former Civil Court Judge John J. Phillips during the three years she served as his guardian. . . . Acting Supreme Court Justice Michael A. Ambrosio also denied in toto the request of the lawyer, Emani P. Taylor, that she be paid $853,000 for her work as the former judge's guardian. . . . Ambrosio lacerated Taylor's performance, calling her conduct "egregious" and reflecting "a fundamental lack of understanding of what her role as a guardian entailed." At one point, he called her explanation for not producing time sheets and other records a "dog ate my homework excuse." . . . The judge, however, recognized that Taylor stepped into a difficult job when she became Phillips' interim successor guardian in September 2003. At that point, he noted, the former judge's finances were "in shambles" and, of his real estate holdings, which at one point had been estimated to be worth $10 million, "virtually no properties" were left in his name.


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June 2008

MASSACHUSETTS   

Lawyer accused in theft from 95-year-old client

By Associated Press

6-26-08 -- A Walpole lawyer and a business associate have been charged with stealing insurance money from a 95-year-old client. . . . . A Middlesex grand jury on Thursday returned an indictment against the 46-year-old attorney, Bruce Namenson, and 59-year-old Gerald Schena of Medford. The pair are charged with multiple counts including larceny and forgery. . . . . Investigators allege the victim hired Namenson to represent him after the elderly man had been injured in a car accident. Prosecutors say Namenson and Schena settled the injury claim with the victim’s insurance company for $20,000, but pocketed the money for themselves while telling the victim the case.



March 2008

MISSOURI

95-year-old asks court to overturn guardianship
w/ motion to set aside guardianship of Emma France

By Susan Redden

03-07-08 -- Orders that made Emma France a ward of Rita Hunter, Jasper County public administrator, are being challenged in the probate division of Jasper County Circuit Court. . . . A motion filed Tuesday argues that the decision that made France a ward of the county was based on actions that ignored and violated the rights of the 95-year-old Carthage resident. It asks the court to set aside the ruling and to remove France from the public administrator’s authority, and to order the public administrator’s office to return to France money that was charged against her estate in the period she has been a county ward. . . . France’s daughter, Delores Forste, 67, of Needles, Calif., was charged with kidnapping after taking France, at her mother’s request, from Jasper County to California. Forste was arrested in November in California and jailed for two weeks. She was returned to the county in December, then was not even required to appear for a Feb. 21 preliminary hearing after the county elected to defer prosecution. . . . Since then, France and Forste have filed lawsuits against Hunter and her attorney, John Podleski. The lawsuits seek damages and contend that the actions making France a ward of the county were void because, among other things, France was not allowed to attend the hearing and testify, and because her family was not given notice of the hearing. . . . The lawsuit filed on behalf of Forste contends that actions that led to her arrest were based on her mother having been made a ward of the county unlawfully and without due process. Kidnapping charges also were filed against Forste’s husband, Steve Forste, 71, but he was never arrested.


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December 2007

Email from a concerned friend of Judge John L. Phillips

NEW YORK ATTORNEY NEEDED FOR RETIRED JUDGE

10-14-07 -- “I am concerned about my friend, retired Judge, John Phillips who had over $10 million dollars stolen from him.  No one is being held accountable for this. He is 84 years old and has no immediate family in New York.  Judge Michael Pesce and others are in on ruining this man. I need help in finding a good lawyer to assist him in getting his property and money back and his name restored. . . . More on the story follows:”

Erasing the Kung-Fu Judge

by Christopher Ketcham, The Brooklyn Rail

The case of the plundering of the estate of retired judge John L. Phillips is the nexus where corruption and a rainbow coalition of cliché meet, Brooklyn-style: you have an Irish hack district attorney and an Italian magistrate who is either a greedhead or an imbecile, plus a Jewish money-man for the D.A. allegedly buying up property at fixed auctions, not to mention a viper’s nest of well-dressed blacks from the neighborhood getting their taste. Indeed, Kafka, Dickens and Scorsese together would have a hard time fictionalizing the web of courtroom criminality that has ensnared 84-year-old Phillips, himself retired from the very Brooklyn “justice system” that has presided over the dissolution of his affairs. . . . Phillips was once known as the Kung-Fu Judge for his habit of employing martial arts moves on the bench. He grew up poor on a Kansas farm, served in World War II, was the first black man to be admitted to the Montana State Bar, studied kung-fu in Japan, and eventually became a self-made millionaire buying up real estate in Bedford-Stuyvesant. When he ran for a judgeship in Brooklyn civil court in 1976 as the anti-machine candidate, his hired sound-trucks blasted the hit song, “Kung-Fu Fighting.” . . . Fast-forward a quarter-century: In 2000, Brooklyn D.A. Charles “Joe” Hynes, a master of the tricks of the law who had become one of the most powerful machine politicians in the borough, began a secret action to seal up Phillips’ assets and declare him mentally incompetent. Hynes claimed he was concerned about the old man’s health—Phillips was 77 years old at the time, long retired from the bench, and had no close relatives, and so Hynes sought to “help” him, according to public statements. But others wonder if Hynes’ concern was a calculation of the coldest kind: Phillips had tried to run for the D.A.’s seat in 1997—until Hynes’ election lawyers knocked him off the ballot—and the humiliating loss Hynes suffered in the 1998 race for governor suggested the D.A. was vulnerable again in 2001, when he was up for a fourth term. Phillips was thus considered a potential challenger to Hynes in 2001.


Be Wary of Waiving Your Rights
By Ken Connor

10-14-07 -- "America needs more lawsuits. That's the message hundreds of plaintiffs' trial lawyers from across the country are taking to Capitol Hill this week as they lobby Congress to make it easier to bring more lawsuits." It was clear from the opening paragraph of Lisa Rickard's article "Lobbying for Lawsuits" (posted 10/3/07) that Town Hall readers were in for yet another trip into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's fantasy land, where "greedy trial lawyers" abuse the legal system with "frivolous lawsuits." . . . No one should be surprised that this latest excursion was led by Ms. Rickard. She is head of the Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform and its chief in-house advocate for measures to erode individuals' rights in the civil justice system. . . . But Ms. Rickard started this trip off on the wrong foot. The lawyers who were on Capitol Hill last week were there primarily to lobby members of Congress to support the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007, a bill that supports voluntary arbitration while preserving the constitutional guarantee of citizen access to the courts. . . . You see, what the Chamber of Commerce and its corporate members want is mandatory binding arbitration—the kind of arbitration that permanently precludes deserving individuals from ever seeking legal redress in the courts when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others.



September 2007

Courting Trouble: The document granting
'power of attorney' often leads to abuse

First of a series

By Dennis B. Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

9-2-07 --  Across the country -- and notably in Western Pennsylvania, where the number of vulnerable elderly has compounded the problem -- a simple legal document called a power of attorney is disrupting the ever-lengthening lives it was supposed to benefit. . . . A durable power of attorney, known less formally as a POA, allows people too busy, too old, too ill or too far away to designate an agent to take care of financial and property transactions. The POA may authorize an agent to pay bills, change documents, write checks, enter into contracts or buy and sell their house. The purpose is to help people unable to attend to their own affairs. . . . In most cases, it works. When it goes wrong, lives can be ruined, families torn apart and, wealth and savings lost in a mist of legal wrangling and dubious transactions.


July 2007

NEW YORK  

Evidence of Missing Funds From Retired Judge’s Estate

Latest Accounting Reveals Financial Mismanagement
By Charles Sweeney, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

7-9-07 -- A retired judge’s former court-appointed property guardian may be on the hook for a considerable amount of money, if a recent accounting of her tenure as financial manager of his estate is accurate. . . . The most recent accounting of attorney Emani P. Taylor’s tenure as property guardian, prepared by Court Examiner Seth Cohen, has recently been filed with the presiding judge overseeing retired Judge John Phillips’ guardianship case. If the figures are correct, Taylor will have to answer for several expenditures — including $119,300 in disbursements she made to herself during 2006 and $49,813 she made in 2004. . . . According to a source familiar with the accounting, in 2004, Taylor made cash withdrawals from the retired judge’s account for $49,813. In some instances, Taylor withdrew the funds as cash directly from one of Phillips’ accounts, then used the funds to make out bank checks to herself. In the past, Taylor has been accused of using Phillips’ bank accounts to write checks directly to a mortgage company, payments on a property she owns on Decatur Street — the same Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where Phillips remains a local legend. More evidence that Taylor used Phillips’ bank accounts to make mortgage payments on the townhouse appears in this latest accounting.


FEDERAL COURTS

2nd Circuit Re-Examines Standard for Probate Exception

Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal

7-5-07 -- A retired attorney's long-running fight with the Bank of New York and a White Plains, N.Y., law firm over her parents' estate gave a federal appeals court the chance to explore the new standard on the probate exception to federal diversity jurisdiction. . . . The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision changed the scope of the exception and the circuit's own case law, with the result that some of the claims brought by Adrienne Marsh Lefkowitz against the bank and McCarthy, Fingar, Donovan, Drazen & Smith can stay in federal court. . . . Second Circuit Judges John Walker and Peter Hall, with Southern District of New York Judge Denise Cote, sitting by designation, decided Lefkowitz v. The Bank of New York, 04-0435-cv. Hall wrote for the panel. . . . Lefkowitz had made several claims against the bank and the law firm, including that the bank paid inflated and fraudulent bills to McCarthy Fingar from 1990 to 1999, refused to distribute some personal property to her from her parents' estate and refused to pay her legal fees for the probate contests over the estates.


June 2007

RHODE ISLAND  

Judge: Neither daughter is fit to be guardian

By Tracy Breton, Journal Staff Writer

6-27-07 -- Superior Court Judge Alice B. Gibney decided yesterday that neither of Laurette Borduas Eifrig’s grown daughters is suitable to be her guardian, saying there is too much animosity between them to put either in charge of their mother’s care and finances. . . . In a 33-page decision issued shortly before the courthouse closed for the weekend, Gibney ordered that North Providence lawyer Paula M. Cuculo remain as guardian of Eifrig, a 90-year-old retired schoolteacher who is blind and suffers from dementia. Only Cuculo has the right to access any of Eifrig’s trust funds, the judge decreed. While she said Cuculo should “consider Mrs. Eifrig’s wishes” regarding her finances, health care and place of residence, “ultimately … Ms. Cuculo will be responsible for making all final decisions.”


TEXAS  

Questions, allegations surround Texas probate courts
Observers say
Harris County has most flagrant cases

By Lise Olsen, Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

6-25-07 -- A Houston Chronicle investigation of hundreds of records and thousands of court-ordered payments, as well as interviews with judges and lawyers, found evidence of questionable billings and favoritism in Texas probate courts — with the most troubling examples in Harris County. . . . The Chronicle documented cases in which probate judges allowed appointees to charge more than $200 an hour for nonlegal work, including selling cars, visiting pawnshops and arranging to get the lawn mowed. . . . Earlier this year, one Harris County judge approved paying $1,000 in fees to a lawyer for attending her ward's funeral and burial. . . . In several complex cases, judges approved unusually high fees as well as questionable deals and expenditures, the newspaper found. . . . Statewide, 2,000 lawyers report they primarily practice probate law. But, according to a Chronicle analysis of approved court fees over three years, a handful of attorneys handled the most lucrative probate court deals. . . . The Texas Code of Judicial Conduct says judges should avoid "favoritism and nepotism." Jurists are further instructed to avoid regularly conducting business with those likely to appear in their court.


Perry Whatley battles probate court to the end
When probate court threatened to take away his assets, Perry Whatley gave up and fled — and ultimately died far from his home

By Lise Olsen, Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

6-25-07 -- Perry ''Bit" Whatley, 84, a former Baytown refinery worker and lifelong Texan, spent his final days in self-imposed exile, a fugitive from a more than two-year-old fight with the state probate courts. . . . Whatley was living in Arizona when he died, but it was not where he wanted to be, away from his home, cut off from his family and his $2 million fortune. . . . It was an unlikely, but perhaps unavoidable, end for the retired machinist, a frugal man who had wisely invested his savings in Humble Oil, which became Exxon, then Exxon Mobil. The investment made him a millionaire nearly twice over, and yet for 20 years after his retirement he lived a simple life in a simple Baytown bungalow until last summer, when he fled the jurisdiction of Harris County Probate Court. . . . Whatley died Feb. 14 in a rental home in Tempe in the company of his longtime caregiver, Dawn Johnson Whatley, 63, whom he married in a bedside ceremony in January 2005. His wife was his sole heir. . . . The Whatleys, both seniors with serious health problems, abandoned their own home and went into hiding together last summer. They left to avoid a hearing and, later, orders issued by Probate Judge Mike Wood that declared Whatley incapacitated, took away control of his assets and could have forced him into a nursing home.


A Catch-22 if you want lawyer's work reviewed

Initially, the cost of investigating comes from estates of those who were allegedly harmed

Houston Chronicle

6-25-07 -- Probate courts do have an internal mechanism for reviewing the work of court-appointed lawyers. . . . However, the cost of investigating, at least initially, comes from personal estates — the people allegedly harmed in the first place. . . . Houston lawyer Sheila Latham was a top-paid guardian in Harris County until her accounting got sloppy. . . . A lawyer appointed by Probate Judge Mike Wood to review her work discovered Latham had taken about $72,000 from a bedbound and nonresponsive elderly man, powerless to complain. She cashed her ward's CD and put the money in her greeting-card business, records show. . . . Latham eventually was convicted of theft and misapplication of fiduciary property and lost her law license. She could not be reached for comment for this report. . . . In 2004, after six years, attorneys managed to obtain a $97,000 settlement for the elderly man's estate. . . . By then, the man was dead.


RHODE ISLAND  

Judge limits daughter’s access to ailing mother

By Tracy Breton, Journal Staff Writer

6-13-07 -- A Superior Court judge is now prohibiting Laurette Borduas Eifrig’s Virginia daughter and only grandchild from having unsupervised contact with 90-year-old Eifrig, who is in an assisted-living facility on Smith Street. . . . The new restrictions on family visits isolate Eifrig, a former schoolteacher who is blind and suffers from dementia, from all immediate family members and has left her with no visitors except two lawyers, one of whom is her guardian. . . . Over Easter weekend, Judge Alice B. Gibney issued an order blocking Eifrig’s Rhode Island daughter, Suzette Gebhard, the former head of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters, from having any contact with her mother, calling her a “kidnapping risk.”



May 2007

OHIO  

Lawyer's license suspended for overbilling elderly clients

By Kevin Mayhood, The Columbus Dispatch

5-18-07 -- A Columbus lawyer who went toe-to-toe with Franklin County Probate Judge Lawrence A. Belskis took it on the chin this week. . . . Bryan Bright Johnson, who charged in 2002 that Belskis had spent public funds on golf, Christmas parties and tickets to the Memorial Tournament, had his license suspended for six months by the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday. . . . Johnson's allegations about Belskis' ethics came after Belskis complained that Johnson grossly overbilled two elderly sisters. . . . "I caught him stealing" and the allegations were retribution, Belskis said in a 2002 interview.


NEW YORK  

Court Orders Release of Retired Judge from Nursing Home,

OKs Transfer to Park Slope Assisted Living Facility

By Charles Sweeney, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

5-14-07 -- After spending just over two years living in a cramped, foul-smelling room in a bleak nursing home at the outer reaches of the Bronx, a beloved, retired Brooklyn judge is finally being transferred to an assisted living facility closer to his Brooklyn home. . . . At a guardianship hearing in Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday, a judge ordered retired judge John Phillips’ release from East Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility in the Bronx, where he’s languished for more than two years while court-appointed lawyers haggled over his mismanaged estate. . . . State Supreme Court Justice Michael Pesce ordered Phillips transferred to Castle Senior Living on Prospect Park, an assisted living facility close to the retired jurist’s Bedford-Stuyvesant home neighborhood. There, Phillips will reside in a private room, in a facility with many of the amenities of home — while simultaneously receiving the proper care he requires for his Alzheimer’s condition. Calling his decision “a milestone moment” given the travails that Phillips suffered due to financial mismanagement in the past, Pesce called the transfer “a step that will be much better for John Phillips, and a considerable improvement from where he’s at currently.” . . . Pesce gave the job of managing the nuts and bolts of Phillips’ transfer to Castle Senior Living to court-appointed geriatric specialist Sam Rausman, who said Phillips’ move could be affected in “24 to 48 hours,” provided there was an opening at the facility. . . . Castle on Prospect Park will provide Phillips with far more freedom of movement than he ever had at East Haven, attorney Ezra Glaser said. Glaser is the attorney representing Phillips’ niece and personal guardian, Symphanie Moss.       


At 95, NY Lawyer Fights a Neverending Battle for Fellow Seniors

New York Lawyer, By Janine Friend, New York Law Journal

5-14-07 -- Elizabeth Fass has a reputation for doing all she can to help senior citizens in her role as pro bono attorney in the senior affairs bureau of the Kings County District Attorney's Office. So her colleagues were not surprised when she went the extra mile for Frances Lundstrom. . . . Ms. Fass, who is 95, signed onto the seniors bureau, started by District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, in 1992 and has spent the last 14 years educating the elderly on how to avoid becoming crime victims. . . . Ms. Fass says she has spent "endless hours" traveling to senior centers around the borough, lecturing and answering questions on topics such as mortgage fraud, predatory lending and personal safety. She is also hands on, assisting elderly victims of crime during grand jury testimonies and lengthy interviews with assistants. Seniors feel comfortable with her, she said. . . . The elderly cannot relate to young, "fresh, bright and strong" attorneys, Ms. Fass said. They lack one thing she added, "grey hair and a few wrinkles." . . . It was her familiar presence in the community senior centers as the legal expert that prompted Grace Brandi, director of the Surf Solomon Senior Center in Coney Island, to call Ms. Fass in December 2005, after she heard a comment from Ms. Lundstrom, who took part in the center's recreational activities. . . . Ms. Lundstrom, a resident of Haber House Senior Center in Coney Island, told her friends she had won the "El Gordo" lottery. Ms. Brandi reported to Ms. Fass that Ms. Lundstrom was asked for the number of the account where the money was to be deposited.


NEW YORK  

At long last, please set Judge Phillips free

By Christopher Ketcham for The Brooklyn Paper

5-11-07 -- Could the tragic, six-year-long saga of retired Brooklyn Civil Court judge John L. Phillips finally be nearing a conclusion? . . . In 2001, Phillips was placed under a county-run guardianship program because he was declared to be “mentally incompetent” and needed the aid of government. . . . Now, six years later, this self-made multi-millionaire who served honorably for 13 years, is destitute and confined against his will to a Bronx nursing home. He is barred from receiving visitors or mail or even phone calls without permission of the court. His property has been sold off in unpublished and possibly illegal auctions. Millions in assets have disappeared.

• • •

Judge Phillips’s epic troubles began when Assistant District Attorney Steven Kramer, who worked for DA Joe Hynes, sought to have a guardian appointed for Phillips, claiming concern about the safety of the old man’s considerable assets. Phillips was 77 years old at the time and had no family, and Hynes sought to “help” him, according to letters his office has written to The Brooklyn Paper and elsewhere. A question exists, however, that Hynes may have had another concern — after all, Phillips had tried to unseat the DA in 1997 and was gearing up for another run.


April 2007

RHODE ISLAND

Family face-off hits courtroom

By Tracy Breton, Journal Staff Writer

4-21-07 -- Suzette Gebhard, the former head of the Governor’s Justice Commission, went on trial yesterday for obstruction of justice, a charge that stemmed from her secreting her 90-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia, in her house in Warren, keeping a court-appointed guardian from seeing her. . . . If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Gebhard, 60, a one-time Democratic congressional candidate who also served as head of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters, faces up to one year in prison and/or a $500 fine.


NEW YORK

The Tax Travails Of the ‘Kung-Fu Judge'

By Joseph Goldstein, Staff Reporter of the Sun

4-18-07 -- To see a man with really bad tax troubles, look no further than the East Haven Nursing home in the Bronx, home to a retired judge who owes more than a million dollars in taxes. . . . For the last six years, April has come and gone without a tax return from John Phillips, who was for decades a prominent political figure in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. . . . Mr. Phillips, 84, suffers from dementia and is hardly a tax cheat. Since 2001, the responsibility for his taxes has been with a string of law guardians appointed by the state court since 2001. . . . But for reasons that are not yet clear, the lawyers involved in the case never filed tax returns. . . . Mr. Phillips, who is neither married nor has any heirs, was put under the care of a legal guardian at the request of the office of the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes. Prosecutors had begun to suspect that Mr. Phillips's real estate holdings were being fraudulently stolen, and that Mr. Phillips was no longer able to care for himself, Mr. Hynes has said in the past.



December 2006

NEW YORK  

NY Lawyer Arrested in Las Vegas, Charged With Stealing $1 Million From Aunt

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

12-29-06 --A White Plains attorney was held without bail yesterday after being charged with stealing money entrusted to her by her aunt. . . . Shelley Ann Rivera, who was holding more than $1 million from the sale of the aunt's two houses, failed to produce the $860,000 the aunt, Annette Rivera, needed to close on a new home in Riverdale on Oct. 11. . . . After failing to turn over the funds, the attorney went to Las Vegas, where she was arrested, according to the Westchester District Attorney's Office. . . . In a letter to her family, Ms. Rivera apologized and acknowledged a gambling problem, according to Joel J. Reinfeld of Fischer, Porter & Thomas, who represents the aunt in a lawsuit to recover the funds. . . . Ms. Rivera, who represented her aunt in the two earlier sales, faces automatic disbarment and a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years if convicted on the second-degree grand larceny count charged in the indictment.


'Grand' $Lam On Estate Lawyer

By Alex Ginsberg

12-20-06 -- The lawyer accused of mismanaging the affairs of an elderly ex-judge while improperly paying herself $300,000 will have to pony up a grand each day she fails to turn over documents relating to the botched case, a judge ordered yesterday. . . . "Starting tomorrow, $1,000 a day," Justice Michael Pesce told the lawyer, Emani Taylor, after finding she'd failed to hand over a single tax document in connection with her three years' work as guardian. . . . The delay is preventing Taylor's successor guardian from filing tax returns on the estate of the Alzheimer-stricken ex-Judge John Phillips. . . . "How can I prepare returns?" asked the successor, James Cahill. "Should I write hypothetical numbers?"


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.


Flint attorney on other side of the law

Shannon Pitcher charged with 4 counts of embezzlement

(WJRT) - (12/15/06)--A Flint attorney has found herself on the other side of the law. Shannon Pitcher has been charged with four counts of embezzlement. . . . Authorities say she stole money from vulnerable clients who the court appointed to be their guardian or a conservator. . . . Investigators say over the last five years, Pitcher stole nearly $500,000 from different clients. Much of the money is unaccounted for, and Pitcher buried it in different back yards. . . . Shackled and in tears, Pitcher faced a judge Monday who charged her with four counts of embezzlement. . . . Investigators started looking into Pitcher's actions in October when attorney Margaret Brandenburg noticed the accounting on one of her client's father's estate didn't add up. . . . Brandenburg claims Pitcher never provided the records she needed and Pitcher was eventually held in contempt of court and jailed. . . . Months later, investigators estimate as his conservator Pitcher stole $286,000 from Elvin Brittain, who died last year at the age of 91.


WASHINGTON   

Prolific sealer of files also accused of ethical lapses

By Cheryl Phillips & Maureen O'Hagan, Seattle Times staff reporters

12-04-06 -- For years, King County Superior Court Commissioner Stephen Gaddis oversaw the guardianships of thousands of vulnerable people. He also hid more of these court cases from public scrutiny than any of his colleagues. . . . Gaddis sealed at least 48 guardianship cases in their entirety since 1990, according to a Seattle Times review of available sealing orders. Not one was properly sealed. . . . He also seemed to play favorites in court, go on tirades, and take glee in spotting paperwork flaws, according to complaints filed against him. . . . In some cases, wards paid the price. . . . The state Commission on Judicial Conduct and King County Superior Court both reprimanded Gaddis. Last year, he retired from the King County bench.


Secrecy hides cozy ties in guardianship cases

Your Courts, Their Secrets

By Cheryl Phillips, Maureen O'Hagan, & Justin Mayo, Seattle Times staff reporters

12-04-06 -- Karen Weed nearly lost her life when a cement truck crushed her car. She survived a coma and cardiac arrest, broken bones and brain damage. . . . But she was determined not to lose her independence. After Weed got a significant insurance settlement, a family lawyer filed papers to have her declared a ward of the court, saying she couldn't manage her money without professional help. . . . Weed and her family later objected, but the lawyer persisted. So they fired him. . . . Yet when Weed's family walked into a Snohomish County courtroom last March for a hearing on whether a guardian would be appointed, there he was again: Michael Olver, the lawyer they had told to get lost. . . . "What's he doing here?" wondered Weed's daughter, Laura Box. . . . Olver had switched sides. He now represented EthiCare, the company trying to become Weed's guardian. The same company had been Olver's client for years — and would soon take control of Weed's life, charging her thousands of dollars along the way.


Missing money points up flaws in state oversight of guardians

Your Courts, Their Secrets

By Maureen O'Hagan & Cheryl Phillips, Seattle Times staff reporters

12-04-06 -- When Mabel Miller died in 1998 at the age of 94, she wanted her estate to be divided among relatives and a Seattle neighbor who had cared for her. . . . But when the heirs tried to collect their money, a big chunk of it — about $140,000 — was missing. Miller's guardian had no idea where it was and had kept the problem secret for years. . . . This case of the missing money reveals flaws in the oversight of guardians, both by the courts and the state Certified Professional Guardian Board. . . . Washington's guardian system offers more protections than do those in most states. Only a handful have a board that regulates guardians. Wards here have the right to a lawyer. Formed in 2000, Washington's board decides whether applicants are qualified to be guardians, provides them training and investigates grievances.

Where to learn more

Information on guardianships and less-restrictive alternatives for care can be obtained from the AARP and the Washington courts. The state Certified Professional Guardian Board, which handles certain complaints about guardians, can be reached at guardians.program@courts.wa.gov. Its Web site is www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/Guardian.

You can get advice about guardians at the AARP Web site: www.aarp.org, or by calling 1-888-OUR-AARP.


NEW YORK  

NY Lawyer Faces Ethics Probe Over Guardianship of Former Judge

New York Lawyer, By Tom Perrotta, New York Law Journal

12-01-06 -- The attorney accused of mishandling a former state judge's estate did nothing criminal, but she may be in line for disciplinary action by the Appellate Division, First Department, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office said yesterday. . . . The lawyer, Emani Taylor, was appointed as a law guardian to retired Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John L. Phillips in 2003. She was removed from the case at her request this year, and the new guardian discovered that Ms. Taylor had written $200,000 in checks to herself from the judge's accounts. . . . After an investigation, the Brooklyn district attorney concluded that Ms. Taylor was owed that money for her work, but had failed to collect the necessary paperwork for the checks from the judge presiding over the case, Justice Michael Pesce, according to Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the district attorney.


November 2006

TEXAS  

A Broken Trust: Denton County Judge fails another ethics test

Dallas Morning News Opinion

A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.". Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2, Section B

"11-27-06 -- In eight lawyerly canons, the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct outlines basic ethical guidelines for our state's judges, from justices of the peace to justices on our highest courts. . . . That includes Denton County Probate Court Judge Don Windle, although he apparently doesn't see it that way. His disregard of these standards is breathtaking. . . . As Dallas Morning News reporters Kevin Krause and Brandon Formby revealed, the issue is Judge Windle's handling of the elderly Veatch sisters, Mildred Erle and Helen, and their joint estate, worth nearly $825,000. . . . Probate courts typically preside over cases involving those unable to care for themselves and their estates, mental health and custodial issues and guardianships. . . . Told that neither Veatch sister was able to manage their assets, Judge Windle placed them under guardianships in his court, moved them to a nursing home and restricted access to them. . . . And that might have been fine, except for this: When Mildred Erle followed her sister into death last summer at age 95, her will – rewritten less than a year into her guardianship – left a large amount of the estate to Judge Windle, his court or people he assigned to manage the estate. Among the new beneficiaries? The judge's former wife and his personal accountant. Legal? Possibly. Ethical? You be the judge.


Piece of estate left to those paid to guard it

By Kevin Krause & Brandon Formby / The Dallas Morning News

11-16-06 -- By all accounts, the sisters in their 90s were no longer able to look after each other or their $824,766 joint estate. Mildred Erle Veatch began to show signs of senility and delirium in 2001. Her sister, Helen, was in worse condition and would die later that year. . . . Their doctor notified Denton County's probate court that neither sister was able to manage her assets anymore. There were no other relatives to help. . . . Probate Court Judge Don Windle immediately placed both sisters under court-appointed guardianships, moved them to a Denton nursing home and restricted access to them. By early 2002, Mildred Veatch was rewriting her will – which had not been updated since 1960 – with the help of her court-appointed guardian and attorney. . . . When Erle, as she was known to friends, died this summer at age 95, the rewritten will was opened and contained a few surprises. Among the 10 beneficiaries were:

•Judge Windle, who was to receive $50,000.

•Beverly McClure, the court-appointed guardian of Ms. Veatch and Judge Windle's ex-wife and court investigator, who was to receive $100,000.

•Duane Coker, a court-appointed attorney who represented Ms. Veatch's interests, who was to receive $50,000.

•Roy Anderson, Judge Windle's personal accountant, friend and court-appointed guardian of the Veatch estate, who was to receive $50,000.

An additional $120,000 was used to cover court fees that Judge Windle approved for the appointees and their lawyers during the sisters' cases.

Guardianship and probate experts say it's unusual for a probate judge and court appointees to be written into a will during an active guardianship case. . . . Darlene Payne Smith, an experienced Houston probate lawyer, said she isn't aware of any legal prohibition against accepting the money. But that doesn't mean someone in that situation should accept it, she said. . . . "If it was me as ad litem, I'm running, if it's $20 million or $20,000," she said. "It's an appearance I wouldn't want."


NEW YORK  

Lawyer's 'Lies' Sent Me To Bad Pa

Complaint Vs. Kids' Charity

By Brad Hamilton

11-13-06 -- A 16-year-old Manhattan student says a court-appointed lawyer badly botched her parents' custody case, convincing a judge to send her to an abusive father by falsely testifying about how she felt toward her mom. . . . April Soler, who attends a prestigious Upper East Side private school on a scholarship for underprivileged kids, said lawyer Hal Silverman misrepresented her when he told a Family Court judge she was resentful about her mother's failed suicide try. . . . "That was blatantly not true," said Soler, who claims Silverman, a senior member of the high-profile charity Lawyers for Children and a social worker with the group, never told the judge what she had made clear: that she wanted to live with her mother and she feared her dad's temper. . . . In March 2004, Manhattan Family Court Judge George Jurow awarded custody to Soler's father, Pedro, the super of a building on West End Avenue, tearing April and her 10-year-old sister from their stay-at-home mom, Debora. . . . On Feb. 21, 2005, the father was arrested for hurling a hunk of ham and a peanut butter jar at April. . . . April was returned to her mother after her father's violent outburst. Debora had found work as a paralegal and moved into her own apartment in Spanish Harlem. . . . But the mother and the siblings are still in court trying to get the younger sister, whose name they asked not to be used, back in her mom's custody. . . . Soler's complaints are among several being leveled at Lawyers for Children, a not-for-profit group that gets $2.2 million a year from the state court system and $1.2 million more in private funds to help foster-care kids and those facing abuse or neglect.


**** Probate courts, which appoint conservators, are supposed to monitor their conduct, scrutinize their financial reports and fine or remove those who misuse their authority. Yet the courts have failed dismally in this vital role.” . . . Robin Westmiller of Thousand Oaks, California, couldn’t agree more. In her new book, “Blood Taste Lousy With Scotch,” she recounts the true events of a Florida family services organization — appointed legal guardian of her elderly father at the behest of a cousin — which legally drained her father’s accounts of nearly $250,000 before Westmiller was able to have her father once again declared mentally competent. Westmiller has formed an organization — the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA, www.stopguardianabuse.org)


CALIFORNIA

Governor Signs Bills on Handling of Conservatorship Cases

By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer

9-28-06 -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday signed into law four bills designed to improve the administration of conservatorship and guardianship cases in the trial courts. . . . The package, collectively designated the Omnibus Conservatorship and Guardianship Reform Act of 2006, will “help ensure that individuals entrusted with the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens are not taking advantage of or harming them,” the governor said in a statement, adding he was “proud to sign this legislation to protect those who cannot care for themselves.”

The bills are:

AB 1363 by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, which mandates improved court oversight, increased information sharing with relatives of conservatees, and expanded assistance to non-licensed conservators and guardians through conservatorship and guardianship court proceedings; 

SB 1116 by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Altadena, which imposes new requirements for court oversight of transactions related to conservatees’ real estate, and encourages maintaining a conservatee in his or her personal residence by establishing notice requirements and requiring a more thorough review before placing a person in a place other than his or her residence;

SB 1550 by Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, which establishes a licensing and disciplinary scheme for professional fiduciaries, defined as persons that perform conservator or guardian duties for two or more persons to whom they are not related, as well as persons who act as a trustee or specified agent for more than three people or three families to whom they are not related, and establishes a Professional Fiduciaries Bureau within the Department of Consumer Affairs; and

SB 1716 by Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina Del Rey, which seeks to prevent financial abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled conservatees and of wards by providing courts with additional oversight tools, including increased access to information regarding assets and financial records, and improved oversight over conservatorships through more frequent court reviews and unannounced inspections. 

Increased protection for conservatees and wards has been an issue for several years for advocates, who have pointed to events such as a Riverside County scandal earlier this decade.


Groups Related to Guardianship Issues

 

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION TO STOP GUARDIAN ABUSE 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 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

 



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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Updated 01/26/2012