Six months ago today [11/13/10], we learned that the probate judge who approved the draining of an elderly widow's life savings quietly sent an advance copy of her ruling to select attorneys – the ones who wound up with much of the old lady's money.
The revelation called into question whether Marie Long got a fair hearing in probate court. It even seemed to startle the legal community, which so often likes to wax on about high-minded concepts, things like fairness and impartiality. So much so, in fact, they are the first words you'll read in the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct. “An independent, fair and impartial judiciary,” it says, “is indispensable to our system of justice.”
Given that, you can imagine what has happened over the last six months. But first, some background, lest you've been living in a cave. Marie Long was worth $1.3 million when she suffered a stroke and came under the protection of Maricopa County's probate court in 2005. Now, the 89 year old is flat broke, relying on taxpayers for support.
In March, Commissioner Lindsay Ellis ruled that attorneys and fiduciaries were justified in helping themselves to $800,000 from Marie's trust. In her 21-page ruling, Ellis railed against Marie's sisters and her lawyers, saying their “hateful and unsubstantiated” attacks challenging the six-figure bills forced the fiduciaries and lawyers to defend themselves.
With Marie's money, naturally.
Full Article and Source:
Six Months Later: The (Non-Existing) Fallout From Ethics Lapse in Probate Court