Doug Pardue, The Post and Courier's watchdog and special-assignments editor, has won the 2010 Taylor/Tomlin Award for investigative reporting for a series he wrote last year on how the probate court system can victimize vulnerable adults.
The series, "The Price of Living," revealed how the probate court, which is supposed to protect the incapacitated elderly from abuse and financial exploitation, can turn against them. The stories, which ran on Nov. 28 and 29, detailed how the court can empty an elderly person's life savings through court-approved fees for lawyers, guardians and conservators.
A week after the newspaper's series ran, Jean Toal, the chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, which oversees the state's courts, characterized the reporting as "thoughtful and powerful."
She said the newspaper's "excellent research has given me much to ponder. I will be taking action to move this issue forward." Toal has not revealed what that action will be.
While the series was being reported, the Charleston County Probate Court also began limiting fees.
The Taylor/Tomlin judges called the series "a classic example of excellent investigative reporting by a reporter who used all of the tools of his trade -- energy, doggedness, documents and personal contacts -- to shed light on the plight of elderly citizens in the probate court system."
The judges said the series also accomplished two important criteria for the award -- it heightened public awareness and performed a public service by causing beneficial change.
The award was presented [4/13/11] during a ceremony at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which administers the news competition.
Series on Probate Court Wins Reporting Award
The Price of Living