Nobody can question retired Commissioner Lindsay Ellis about her decision to give select attorneys a sneak peek at her plan to approve the draining of an elderly widow's life savings.
Superior Court Judge Robert Budoff has ruled that Ellis can't be hauled into court and asked why she decided to send an advance copy of her decision only to the people who stood to benefit from her ruling. Can't be asked just how cozy her relationship was with one side, the side that wound up with most of Marie Long's money. Can't be asked, well, anything.
She has “absolute immunity”
“Not only Judge Pro Tem Ellis, but also her judicial assistant, court clerk and other staff are protected from compelled testimony relative to any communications that may have occurred with any counsel in these proceedings, ex-parte or otherwise,” he wrote, in a ruling made public this week.
But Budoff noted that evidence can be obtained elsewhere and he rejected Ellis' request that he call off his inquiry into her actions.
Ellis' neutrality has long been questioned in the case of the 88-year-old widow who went from having $1.3 million to nothing after suffering a stroke and coming under the protection of probate court. Probate's presiding judge at the time, Karen O'Connor, twice rejected requests last fall to remove Ellis from Marie's case, claiming there was no evidence of bias.
Then came the remarkable revelation that Ellis, through a judicial assistant, in March sent select attorneys an advance copy of her ruling that they and their clients were justified in collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from Marie's trust. Ellis' ruling also lambasted attorneys for Marie and her sisters, blaming their “hateful and unsubstantiated attacks” for the run-up in fees.
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Probate Judge Can't Be Questioned