An attorney fighting an 89-year-old widow's bid to get some of her money back agreed this week that private communications between a probate judge and select lawyers constituted misconduct. But that, he said, doesn't prove the judge was biased when she ruled that it was “reasonable” for those lawyers and their clients to collect nearly $800,000 from the old lady.
“I think everyone in the courtroom agrees, it shouldn't have happened,” said Corey Hill, referring to the improper e-mails, several of which were sent by his co-counsel Brenda Church. But he said in court Thursday that it's not enough that retired Commissioner Lindsay Ellis, through her former judicial assistant, was communicating with some attorneys while excluding Marie Long's lawyers.
“They have the burden of establishing prejudice and they failed to meet that burden,” Hill said. “The evidence supports the rulings that Ellis made and there's no basis, based upon these innocuous communications, to undo almost five years worth of litigation.”
Even, apparently, the part of the litigation that wasn't litigated – wherein Ellis returned to the case after her Jan. 15 retirement, possibly due to Church's private urging, and approved Church's $230,000 bill for 2009. Returned, even though the case had already been transferred to another judge. And ruled, without even holding a hearing into what those fees were for, or allowing the old lady's attorneys to object.
It's now up to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Budoff to decide whether Marie got a fair shake in probate, as she was being protected right into poverty.
Marie was worth $1.3 million when she entered probate in 2005 after a stroke. By last fall, she was dependant upon taxpayers for support.
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Did Marie Long Get a Fair Hearing?
Marie Long - Protected into the Poorhouse?