Saturday, February 13, 2016

‘Promise you’ll never put me in a nursing home’

Sarah Harris & husband, Ernie
Whenever Sarah Harris and her husband, Ernie, drove past a nursing home, he would say the same thing: That’s where you’re going to put me. That’s where I’m going to be sent.

“I would say, ‘No, I don’t think that’s going to happen,’ ” said Harris, of Fairfax, Va.

Her husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 53. She was 10 years younger and believed she could care for him until the end.

“I knew that he did not like nursing homes,” she said. “His dad lived in a retirement community, and he really did not like facilities.”

His fears, and her assurances, mirror conversations that are playing out increasingly between husbands and wives, children and parents, and others as the population of older Americans swells. By 2050, the number of people 85 and older is projected to triple.

Promise you won’t put me away. It is hard to say no to that request. But it often is even harder to honor it.

For many, the idea of being sent to a facility implies abandonment. Older Americans remember the poorhouse , where the old and infirm were hidden away to die. But many younger people also are repelled by the idea.

There’s now a wider spectrum of facilities catering to different levels of need, but even the best ones can feel institutional. Daily life is often rigidly regulated, robbing residents of autonomy, and the familiar faces and spaces of a person’s life are gone.

Like many caregivers, Harris was concerned that being in an institution would hasten her husband’s decline. People in her position engage in a constant calculus: How long can you hold a job, take care of a declining loved one and stay healthy before something cracks? Where is the line between self-abnegation and self-preservation? How do you balance the best interests of the sick person and those of other family members?

A couple of generations ago, families were more likely to care for their parents at home — but people didn’t live as long. Thanks to modern medicine, even those with devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s can live many years past their diagnoses. But caring for them at home becomes increasingly difficult as cognition and self-care skills worsen. Safety, of the patients and of other family members, can also become a factor.

But even if the spouse or parent gets to the point of not being able to remember the promise — Promise you won’t put me away — the caregiver remembers.

“Oftentimes, people feel duty-bound to do what they said they would do,” said Ruth Drew, director of family and information services at the Alzheimer’s Association’s national office. “They have no idea what they’re signing up for. They haven’t thought about what it’s like to take care of someone who’s a foot taller than you and needs to be lifted to be bathed or put to bed.” 

To Bill Thomas, a geriatrician who is working to change American attitudes about old age, the promise is a red herring. “It’s actually the only thing we know how to do because we don’t have the actual language to say what we’re really asking: ‘Promise me you’ll protect my dignity, promise you’ll protect my privacy, promise to make sure I don’t live in pain.’

“Ironically, the promise has led to significant amounts of abuse and neglect, because there’s a limit to what people can do.”

It wouldn’t be necessary, he points out, if people demanded more from the nation’s nursing homes.

“The nursing home industry has, ironically, benefited tremendously from the low expectations people have,” Thomas said. “They have successfully persuaded people that you’ve got no other choice — it’s got to be cold and sterile and rigid.”

Caregiving can take a severe financial toll, and studies have shown higher rates of depression, physical illnesses and mortality among family caregivers. And yet the impulse to keep a loved one at home is powerful.

Shari Sullivan, 55, swore to care for both her husband, who had Alzheimer’s, and her mother, who is 85 and lives with her.

“My vows were, ‘For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health,’ ” said Sullivan, an accountant who lives in Woodbridge, Va. “The vows don’t stop just because he got sick.” Also, she believed that living apart from their young daughter would have accelerated his decline. “It would have just crushed him.”

With other family members helping, she was able to manage for five years. Then a fall sent her husband to the hospital; he died six weeks later from complications. Her mother still lives with her, with home health care covered by long-term care insurance.

“She said, ‘If I ever got Alzheimer’s, I want you to put me in a nursing home.’ And you know what? I still would not put her in a nursing home,” Sullivan said. “There’s no why or why not. . . . She may need me, but I need her more.”

However, Sullivan has forbidden her daughter from doing the same. “I don’t want caregiving to become her life.”

For Harris, a defining moment came three years after her husband’s diagnosis. She called home one day from her job as a preschool teacher to tell him his sandwich was in the refrigerator. He did not answer. The answering machine picked up, with her voice on it, confusing him. He later told her, “I could hear you, but I couldn’t find you.”

With two children at home, she realized she could no longer keep him there safely. But that didn’t make it any easier. Because it wasn’t just Ernie she’d made the promise to.

“I was making the promise to myself. I felt like I was letting myself down — I should be able to do this. It broke my heart. It was one of the worst days of my life, the day I put him in a nursing home.”

The feeling that one has failed to keep the promise adds to the stress of placing someone in a facility, said Gary Small, director of the Division of Geriatric Psychology at UCLA’s School of Medicine. 

“It’s always best to not make promises you can’t keep or qualify,” he said. “You could say, ‘Look, Mom, I know you want to stay in your home, and we’re going to do whatever we can to keep you there, but . . . there could be things that you don’t anticipate.’
Talking it through early while everyone is still healthy can help. So can doctors or support groups, which can affirm when a move to a facility would be in everyone’s best interest.

There are also those who won’t make the promise. A woman Drew worked with said her daughter would joke, Oh, Mama, don’t worry, I’ll find you a nice nursing home when the time comes. “Her daughter was kind of letting her know that was a boundary for her, that she wasn’t ready to stop her career and become a full-time caregiver.”

But such discussions can take ugly turns.

“I’ve even heard, ‘If you put me in a nursing home, you’ll be cut out of my will,’ ” said Leah Eskenazi, operations director at the Family Caregiver Alliance. “It becomes complicated when someone gets dementia because you can’t have a conversation with them.”

Others expressly reject making such a request.

Paul Hornback’s father and grandmother had had dementia, and he saw the toll caregiving can take.

So when Hornback, a mechanical engineer for the Defense Department, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009, he and his wife visited memory care facilities near their home in Hodgenville, Ky., until he found a couple that he liked. 

“I wanted to see them first while I could still make a decision,” Hornback, 61, said. “Of course, I want to stay home as long as I can . . . but I’d want to leave my house and go to a unit if I am unsafe or harmful to other people.”

He has put together a box of items he would like to bring with him, including photographs of family and of his time in the military, and his Bible.

Reston, Va., resident Evelyn Brown, 64, and her husband Willie made a sort of reverse promise: After nearly 40 years of marriage, her husband told her that he would want to go to a facility if he became seriously ill. “Would you be strong enough to do that if it came down to I had some kind of disease and required that?” she recalled him asking.

“I said yes, I would be strong enough,” Brown said, and he made the same vow to her. A few years later, at 65, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“The only thing he asked me to promise him was to not put him in a facility and walk away from him, and I have not done that,” she said. Two years after his diagnosis, she placed him in an assisted-living facility, where she visits him three to four times a week.

As agonizing as it was, Harris’s decision to put her husband in a facility helped her know he was safe and allowed her to take better care of her children. Her husband died 18 months later. She now runs a support group for family members of people with younger onset Alzheimer’s.

On the day they brought him to the assisted-living facility, “I left him, and he watched after us,” Harris said. “It was very sad.” And then, “he acclimated. Which was amazing.”

Full Article & Source:
‘Promise you’ll never put me in a nursing home’

Justice for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Nursing home abuse in the United States has turned into an epidemic, leaving our elderly loved ones at risk of abuse and neglect each and every day. To understand the scope of the problem, the National Center on Elder Abuse conducted a study in which 44 percent of nursing home residents reported abuse with 95 percent reporting neglect of themselves or other residents within the past year. At Hupy and Abraham, we believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and those who have been victims of nursing home neglect or abuse should be able to recover for the preventable injuries they suffered.

Many people discover their loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect when a resident suffers a preventable physical injury or dies as a result of negligence. However, nursing home abuse and neglect cases can be difficult to prove. Due to the advanced age or already poor health of a resident, proving that neglect was the cause of an injury or death can be complicated, but there are certain injuries that can indicate that neglect may have occurred.

Types of injuries that can result from neglect or abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility:
· Falls
· Avoidable bedsores
· Dehydration or malnourishment
· Injury or illness as a result of medication errors
· Broken bones or hypothermia as a result of wandering or elopement
· Infections

At Hupy and Abraham, we have represented clients who have suffered from severe abuse and neglect that resulted in successful wrongful death settlements. In one sadly common example, an elderly resident received such poor care that a pressure ulcer (bedsore) was allowed to develop and go untreated for months, resulting in her death. The family of the victim received significant compensation in a wrongful death claim, but it will never undo the pain and suffering that such serious neglect caused. Unfortunately, these atrocities happen all the time.

Hupy and Abraham, S.C. has a successful track record when it comes to helping victims of negligence and abuse. So if you have any questions regarding nursing home abuse or neglect, or suspect that a loved one has been a victim of such abuse or neglect, please contact Hupy and Abraham, S.C. today. Call 800-800-5678, or start a live chat with us anytime at to schedule an initial consultation.

Full Article & Source:
Justice for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

EM man accused of financially exploiting his grandmother

An East Moline man is charged with forging checks in his grandmother's name, exploiting her out of several thousand dollars.

During the last month, Christian M. Lannan, 19, is accused of writing more than $10,000 in checks to himself, forging the signature of his 74-year-old grandmother and cashing the checks, according to charges filed this week.

East Moline Police Lt. Darren Gault said officers were called about 1:15 p.m. Wednesday to Triumph Community Bank, 701 Avenue of the Cities, for a report of a suspicious person cashing checks.

Through further investigation, police determined Mr. Lannan allegedly took the checks from his grandmother and cashed them for "large amounts of money," Lt. Gault said.

Mr. Lannan was arrested and made an initial appearance the same day in Rock Island County Circuit Court.

He is charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person. The Class 2 felony alleges he "knowingly and illegally" used assets or resources of his grandmother, with whom he held a "position of trust."

He also faces four counts of Class 3 felony forgery, alleging he cashed the fraudulent checks on several occasions between Jan. 1 and Wednesday.

Lt. Gault said police recovered some of the funds, and the case remained under investigation.

Mr. Lannan is held on a $75,000 bond and must post at least 10 percent -- or $7,500 -- to be released.

However, a judge's order signed Thursday prohibits him from posting bond before a hearing is held to determine the source of money he may use to bond out.

The order was granted on a motion filed by Assistant State's Attorney Justin Umlah, who wrote that Mr. Lannan also faces charges in two other pending felony cases.

Those charges accuse Mr. Lannan of possessing cannabis, with the intent to deliver, on two different dates and also of possessing less than 15 grams of a substance containing Alprazolam.

Mr. Lannan had obtained thousands of dollars by "means of deception" and "admitted to moving tens of thousands of dollars of narcotics," Mr. Umlah wrote in the motion.

He added that, according to police, Mr. Lannan was not employed and had "no legitimate source of currency" to use as bond.

Mr. Lannan is represented by the Rock Island County public defender's office and is scheduled for a Feb. 23 preliminary hearing in the forgery case.

Full Article & Source:
EM man accused of financially exploiting his grandmother

Friday, February 12, 2016

Guardianship bill gets unanimous support

The Florida Senate on Wednesday unanimously backed the expansion of the state’s regulation of guardians who care for frail elders, including allowing the state Department of Elderly Affairs to discipline private guardians who violate care standards.

At the same time, a similar measure cleared its final House committee, meaning the bill is now ready for a floor vote in the House.

“We all recognize there is a problem,” said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who has called the bill (SB 232) her top priority for her final regular session in the Legislature.

The measure follows up on a law that Detert helped pass last year to curb abuses in the adult guardianship system, including regulations on public guardians, who are appointed to care for incapacitated seniors who are poor.

The new bills extend a series of regulations and state oversight to private guardians, who now must have a background screening and meet certain training requirements. It would include a system for investigating complaints and disciplining private guardians.

“It left a whole segment of the elderly open for abuse and they have been targeted, especially wealthy older women,” Detert said, adding it is a problem not only in Florida but across the nation.

She said Florida would have “the strongest laws” in the country if the bill becomes law as anticipated. “I know you will agree that protecting the elderly is one of our top priorities,” Detert said.

In a tribute to Detert, the 39 other senators agreed to become co-sponsors of the legislation as it heads to the House.

Earlier in the day, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously backed a bill (HB 403), sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, that would expand the Department of Elderly Affairs (DOEA) power to monitor and regulate public guardians to include private guardians.

All the guardians would be required to register and would be regulated by the DOEA’s renamed Office of Public and Professional Guardians.

“Under this bill the office can investigate allegations of abuse and fraud and take disciplinary action when warranted,” Ahern said.

Ahern cited the press reports of abuses of elderly Floridians as one of the motivations for the legislation. The Herald-Tribune’s December 2014 series, “The Kindness of Strangers,” highlighted cases of frail seniors who had been taken advantage of by unregulated private guardians.

“We don’t want to read another story about someone who has been appointed by the courts and given complete autonomy over a person’s life and estate and uses that position to take advantage of the person they were entrusted to protect,” Ahern said.

The House committee also heard from Doug Franks, who has fought to remove his mother from a private guardianship in Pensacola.

“This bill is going to put some oversight on this where before we had no oversight on professional guardians,” Franks said, adding he wanted to eventually see stronger laws, including criminal penalties for guardians who abuse their trust.

Under the current law, Franks said it is difficult for family members to “get their parents back because once they’re in guardianship, professional guardianship, they can’t get out.”

“It’s not like foster care where you get a chance to get your children out. When they’re in guardianship, forget it,” Franks said.

The legislation has the support of the AARP and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. Detert said the legislation also has the backing of Gov. Rick Scott and DOEA Secretary Samuel Verghese.

The bill provides $822,000 in funding for the DOEA’s expanded guardian office, which will include six full-time employees.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship bill gets unanimous support

Appeals board reverses another VA executive’s punishment

WASHINGTON – An appeals board has handed the Department of Veterans Affairs a third straight reversal in a high-profile executive malfeasance case, this time voiding the dismissal of the embattled director of the Albany-Stratton VA Medical Center in New York.

But VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson is vowing not to reinstate the director, saying the Veterans Choice Act that Congress passed in 2014 gives him the authority to discipline staff, intensifying a growing battle between VA and the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears appeals from federal employees about punishments.

“I am disappointed that the MSPB judge in this case did not afford my judgment the deference the Choice Act envisioned, but I will nevertheless continue to hold VA senior executives to the highest standards of conduct regardless of the risk of having my decisions overturned,” Gibson said in a released statement after the decision to reverse the dismissal of Albany-Stratton Director Linda Weiss. “Because of this high standard, I do not intend to return this individual to any position, in Albany or elsewhere, where she would be responsible for patient care or safety.”

Veterans Affairs officials have withstood criticism from lawmakers, who have harangued them routinely for not punishing executives accused of wrongdoing. Now department leadership faces a new challenge: an appeals board that is routinely voiding disciplinary actions, contending the VA is going too far in their punishments of executives.

In announcing the decision of Judge Arthur S. Joseph to overturn Weiss’s dismissal, the Merit Systems Protection Board did not give reasons for the decision, saying it will be released by Feb. 16.

“This is yet another MSPB ruling that defies common sense,” said Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. “It will likely force VA to create a do-nothing job for an employee it has no confidence in.”

At times, judges have struggled with Veterans Choice Act rules that force them to adjudicate VA appeals within 21 days. In one recent ruling, a judge who reversed VA’s proposed demotion of St. Paul (Minnesota) VA Regional Director Kimberly Graves noted she and the lawyers involved had just 2 ½ weeks to pore over 3,800 pages of documents.

William Spencer, spokesman for the Merit Systems Protection Board, would not comment Monday on the Weiss ruling or the board’s disagreement with VA over the department’s authority to discipline executives.

A VA spokeswoman said Monday that Weiss received information in March 2015 showing a certain nursing assistant “should not be involved in direct patient care” but did not remove the assistant from patient care until July. The spokeswoman did not offer more specifics.

More so, Weiss retired in January after finding out she would be removed and it is unclear what the judge’s ruling means as far as the department’s obligations, the VA spokeswoman said.

Two staff members were caught stealing drugs at the Albany-Stratton medical center during Weiss’ tenure as director. One staffer was found in the hospital incoherent with a used syringe nearby, according to the Albany Times-Union.

Weiss could not be reached for comment Monday.

The week before the Weiss decision, two other VA executives had high-profile disciplinary positions overturned. Diana Rubens and Graves, the directors of the Philadelphia and St. Paul VA regional offices respectively, were found to be involved in a scheme to move themselves to new positions with lesser responsibilities at their higher salaries while also receiving about $400,000 in relocation compensation.

VA had recommended Rubens and Graves be demoted and separate judges found both were guilty of wrongdoing. Yet, the MSPB overturned their punishments, finding the VA was inconsistent in its punishments.

The MSPB’s decisions also appear to be emboldening Miller to expand the scope of his criticism beyond VA, calling for reform of the entire federal employee disciplinary system.

“The MSPB coddles and protects misbehaving employees rather than facilitating fair and efficient discipline,” he said. “And as long as we have a system in place that requires a similar standard to discipline federal workers as it does to send criminals to prison, accountability problems at VA and across the government will only continue.”

Full Article & Source:
Appeals board reverses another VA executive’s punishment

State to hold training sessions on investment fraud

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A series of training programs to teach certified public accountants about investment fraud and financial exploitation will kick off this month in Las Cruces.

The state Securities Division is holding the programs so CPAs will be better able to “recognize signs of vulnerability to financial exploitation and make appropriate referrals for (those) deemed vulnerable or for those who’ve already been defrauded,” according to a news release.

The first session will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 22 at the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library. Other sessions will be held on March 14 in Roswell, May 24 in Santa Fe and June 7 in Albuquerque.

Full Article & Source:
State to hold training sessions on investment fraud

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Judge in Post series moved from guardianship cases

Circuit Judge Martin Colin’s tenure as a probate judge is over in the wake of The Palm Beach Post’s investigation into the the veteran jurist and his wife in the guardianships of incapacitated seniors.
But it remains to be seen whether he still has a role in guardianship through a mediation program he helps coordinate.

Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath, with little fanfare, posted Colin’s transfer on the judicial circuit’s website on Tuesday, moving him from the Probate & Guardianship Division in Delray Beach to the Civil Circuit division in the central courthouse in West Palm Beach.

He is also no longer hearing Family Division cases and will instead hear civil disputes and hold jury trials involving disputes in amounts of more than $15,000.

The move was buried on the circuit’s website and not readily seen without searching an announcement section that appeared blank on the home page.

Circuit Judge Jaimie Goodman will take Colin’s place, hearing guardianship, probate and family cases in the South County Courthouse.

Colin assumes Goodman’s docket as of Monday in the circuit civil division. Colin said he will not seek re-election following The Post’s series, Guardianship: A Broken Trust.

Colin’s transfer comes just as the Florida Senate approved legislation that would give Florida its first regulatory authority over professional guardians. The bill – along with one passed this past year – is in response to complaints of guardians bilking the savings of the elderly as appointed officers of the court.

Many of these elderly seniors — called wards — suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.

Colbath did not respond to a request through his spokesperson to comment. He also would not answer repeated queries about whether Colin will continue in his role coordinating the court’s elder care program, a mediation program for guardianship disputes, where many former judges work. Chief Judge Colbath’s father, for example, former Chief Judge Walter N. Colbath Jr., is listed as a mediator for a local company.

Also, it appears that Colbath is not taking any direct action regarding Colin’s wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, a professional guardian who has taken tens of thousands of dollars from the life savings of incapacitated seniors prior to court approval in guardianships and in follow-up probate cases.

The couple’s finances improved substantially after Savitt became a guardian in 2011 after years of foreclosures, liens and unpaid loans to private individuals.

As a court-appointed professional guardian, Savitt takes over the lives of seniors and other adults who no longer can care for themselves, managing their finances, medical care and whether they can remain in their homes. She has access to hundreds of thousands of dollars. She was a tennis pro before she became a guardian.

The families of these seniors, backed by reams of court documents, say that besides taking fees without court approval, Savitt double-billed, funneled money to relatives of the ward who are suspected of financial — and even physical abuse. In numerous cases, she was accused by families of creating unnecessary litigation in order to generate more fees for herself and the cadre of attorneys who represent her.

Those attorneys regularly appeared in front of Colin, sometimes seeking his approval for generous fees in other cases. When The Post started investigating, Colin started shedding their cases: 115 recusals from July 1 to Dec. 31.

Colin’s colleagues on the bench presided over his wife’s cases. Currently, she has at least two guardianships but has also been involved in managing special-needs trusts and as a personal representative of estates.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan told The Post for its series that Savitt’s role as a professional guardian created an appearance of impropriety for Colin that put him in jeopardy of violating the state’s judicial canons.

Savitt and Colin have denied any wrongdoing.

Colin didn’t hear Savitt’s cases, but his colleagues do – particularly Circuit Judge David French, a friend who once planned a cruise vacation with the both of them.

French, for now, appears to be staying put in the Probate & Guardianship Division. Earlier this month, Colbath announced a five-point plan that directed all “current” south county judges to recuse themselves from Savitt’s cases so it is uncertain whether Judge Goodman will be hearing Savitt’s cases.

Colbath’s plan also includes training for probate judges and their staff, standardization of billing practices and a wheel system to provide random assignments of guardians to cases.

Dr. Sam Sugar, who has led the charge for legislative reform in Florida as head of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, said Colbath has not gone far enough.

“The response from Judge Colbath is an outrage and reinforces the widely held and growing perception that the Florida court system does not deserve the trust of the people,” he said.

“Years of blatant conflicts of interest, looting of innocent people’s entire estates, self serving protection of rapacious guardians and lawyers has resulted in no discipline, no consequences, but every indication that this egregious system will continue.”

For Skender Hoti, Colbath’s actions smack of a whitewash.

Hoti is the restaurateur who in February 2012 watched as Savitt – assisting a family guardian — tried to seize possessions from one of his homes using an order by Colin. Hoti claims he is still missing cash, jewelry and other possessions.

Hoti cared for Gwendolyn Batson for decades before the senior’s brother sought to find her incapacitated and seize her assets.

Hoti said Colbath’s changes are sweeping the problem under the rug.

“We’ve been caught so we will change clothing and continue as usual,” Hoti said. “A septic tank plumbing would be more appropriate.”

While Colbath shook up the judiciary with Colin’s move, lawmakers aimed to do the same to professional guardians. The Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to provide the state’s first real regulatory authority over the burgeoning industry, while the House’s Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced a bill that would do the same.

SB 232,is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, while its House companion HB 403 is sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole.

“I think a year from now this is going to be the top issue on 20/20 and 60 Minutes,” Detert said before the vote. “I think with this bill we will have the strongest law in the nation.”

The bill would create the Office of Public and Professional Guardians and give the state the power to investigate and discipline professional guardians. The bill has received support from Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida State Guardianship Association.

Ahern, speaking to the Judiciary Committee, said reports of guardians taking financial advantage of the elderly person they are sworn to protect are overwhelming. He told lawmakers that they don’t want to read another story of guardianship abuse.

Jodi Rich, whose uncle was in a contentious guardianship under Savitt, said bills are a good sign of change for the industry to hold bad professional guardians accountable.

“It’s a good idea that the state now looks out for seniors’ welfare,” she said.

Not everybody, though, was a fan.

During public comment in front of the House Judiciary Committee, the bill came under fire for not addressing how new standards will be formulated and was called a Band-Aid on a massive wound.

“It is all about the money,” said guardianship reform advocate Douglas Franks of Pensacola, who has fought a professional guardian on behalf of his mother. “Isolate, medicate and steal the estate — that is what these people go by.”

Full Article & Source:
Judge in Post series moved from guardianship cases

See Also:
Chief judge keeps public waiting on details of guardianship shakeup

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Attorney: "Courts Have Allowed This Culture"

Guardianships: A Broken Trust, 115 Recusals in Six Months

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Judges Socialized, Planned Trips Together

Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato to resign

Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato, who was facing disciplinary action from the state's Supreme Court over her conduct following a 2013 DUI arrest, will resign by the end of the month, Broward Chief Administrative Judge Peter Weinstein confirmed Tuesday.

"I spoke to her today and she indicated that in the next few days she's going to send a letter to the governor announcing her retirement from the 17th Judicial Circuit," Weinstein said. "Judge Imperato was an excellent judge and a dedicated public servant. I think I speak for many people here when I say we will be very sorry to see her go."

In October, the Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended a three-month unpaid suspension and a fine of $20,000 as punishment for Imperato's refusal to cooperate with police who had pulled her over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in Boca Raton. Imperato was later found guilty of DUI and sentenced to 20 days of house arrest, which she served last summer.

But in January, the Supreme Court appeared unsatisfied with that recommendation and ordered Imperato to give justices a reason she should be allowed to keep her job. She has until Monday to respond, but her resignation makes that unnecessary.

Imperato was a Tallahassee police officer who earned her law degree in 1989 from Florida State University. She went on to become an assistant statewide prosecutor from 1990 to 2003, when Gov. Jeb Bush tapped her to replace Circuit Judge Estella May Moriarty, who had resigned.

Full Article & Source:
Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato to resign

Justice Eakin's trial over Porngate emails scheduled for March 29 in Philly

Suspended state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin will be tried next month in Philadelphia over allegations that he engaged in inappropriate email practices that tainted the reputation of Pennsylvania's court system.

Superior Court Judge Jack A. Panella, who is also conference judge for the state's Court of Judicial Discipline, scheduled Eakin's ethics trial for March 29 in an order issued Tuesday. The setting will be Courtroom 612 in Philadelphia City Hall.

In choosing that site, Panella noted the courtroom is "high-tech equipped" so emails Eakin sent or received can be shown on a video screen during the trial, which will be open to the public.

Eakin is on the hot seat in the so-called Porngate scandal, for being part of an email chain that passed on what critics contend were offensive message that were sexist and racist.

Eakin, a former Superior court judge and Cumberland County district attorney, has apologized for his email activity, but argued that his online actions don't warrant discipline. In December, a three-judge panel of the Court of Judicial Discipline suspended him with pay over the emails.

The stakes will be high for Eakin when he enters that courtroom in Philly. If the disciplinary court rules against him he will face punishment, including possible removal from the state's highest court.
The 67-year-old Republican was elected to the Supreme Court in 2001 and won retention in 2011. By law, Pennsylvania judges must retire at age 70, although there is a push to extend that cut-off to age 75.

Eakin is one of the highest officials to come under scrutiny in Porngate, which was triggered by emails Attorney General Kathleen Kane uncovered while reviewing the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case. A fellow Justice, Seamus P. McCaffrey, was suspended and then retired in 2014 after disclosure of his questionable emails.

Full Article & Source:
Justice Eakin's trial over Porngate emails scheduled for March 29 in Philly