Man's Daughter Can't Sue Probate Court, But Why Can't She Sue His Lawyer, Conservator?
I wanted to shout out, sitting in the dignified, ornate chambers of the state Supreme Court Monday morning, as a string of lawyers debated what should be a basic right.
If somebody you have hired absolutely ruins your life — shouldn't you be able to sue them?
And yet, the Supreme Court is being asked to grant immunity to lawyers and conservators appointed by the probate court, no matter what devastation they create.
The court Monday began considering this fundamental question because of the abuse that Daniel Gross, an elderly New York man, suffered during 2005 and 2006 at the hands of a Waterbury probate court after he became sick while visiting his daughter.
The long-running Gross case has become a battleground for probate court, Connecticut's separate judicial system that handles wills, estates, adoptions, name changes — but also very delicate and controversial questions such as whether an elderly or sick person can live independently.
After he was hospitalized and his children fought over his care, Gross was conserved by probate court in Waterbury, which meant all his rights were taken away. A lawyer, Jonathan Newman, was appointed to advocate for him. A conservator, Kathleen Donovan, was appointed to represent him.
Newman failed to object to the conservatorship, despite knowing Gross' opposition. Donovan made sure Gross was placed in a locked ward of a local nursing home for 10 months.
Donovan and Newman (supported by the state's probate judges, by the way) are looking for special treatment for the lawyers and conservators who make a living off the courts. We all know that if a physician seriously injures a patient, that person can sue. Yet in this case, the Supreme Court is being asked to protect the people who are appointed to work for the elderly and frail — even if they royally screw up.
A lawyer for Gross, Sally Zanger, reminded the justices that "people lose their freedom" when a conservator is appointed. "We really need to be concerned about frail and elderly people who are conserved,'' Zanger said.
Richard Roberts, a lawyer for Donovan, argued that a conservator "is but an agent of the court,'' merely carrying out the court's wishes. "You shouldn't have to look over your shoulder when you are making these judgment calls."
These judgment calls left Gross, a man who lived independently in his own home on Long Island, locked in a Waterbury nursing home for nearly a year.
These judgment calls meant that even when Gross fled home to New York at one point, his conservator pulled him out of a Long Island hospital and brought him back to Connecticut.
These judgment calls can destroy someone's life.
Full Article and Source:
Supreme Court Hears Case Of Man Committed Against His Will