Friday, May 22, 2015
Major overhaul in guardianship court
By Kean Bauman. CREATED May 21, 2015
Who is guarding the guardians? That's about to change as major upheaval sweeps through Clark County's controversial guardianship system.
Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears' reports are getting action from the top.
“What you did frankly was help push this to the front burner,” said District Court Chief Judge David Barker.
Contact 13's Investigations into Clark County guardianships sounded the alarm that something needed to be done to overhaul the system.
“Ghandi once said the measure of a society is how it treats the vulnerable,” Julie Belshe told Clark County Commissioners in April. “You are failing the elderly in Clark County!”
Guardianships are legal proceedings where people are deemed unable to care for themselves. They lose their liberty and the court gives control over their life, their money and their assets to another person. It's a process that should have strict safeguards and oversight. But that's not the way it's been going in Clark County.
“Is the system broken? From that perspective, no.” says Judge Baker. “Can we do things better? Yes.”
There are 892 open adult guardianship cases in Clark County with an average of 15 new filings per month. And until today, one man--Hearing Master Jon Norheim--presided over every single case.
This administrative order filed today takes all guardianship cases away from Norheim transferring them to experienced Family Court Judge Dianne Steel. The reassignment is just the first step in a fast-moving process aimed at improving the system.
Judge Barker: “You helped us in that process by bringing this to the attention of those who are interested at the commissioners so you helped me in that and I thank you for it.”
Darcy: “Well let's shake on that ok?”
Barker: “And we're going to move forward. We're going to make this better.”
Reaction is already pouring in from families affected by the guardianship system.
Rana Goodman writes:
"There is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel for seniors and their families that have been caught in this terrible nightmare. We hope that this is just the beginning of reversing the guardianship scandal that has plagued our senior community."
And this from Julie Belshe, whose parents have been under guardianship for almost two years:
“After losing faith in our Family Court legal system for the last two years, today is the best news ever. Our family is overjoyed and overwhelmed.
Terri and Rick Black are struggling to be reunited with Terri’s father:
“This is a great day for the seniors of Clark County. The elder advocates who have fought for their voices to be heard have been redeemed today. The leadership of Nevada are to be commended for their commitment to the public with this important decision. Hopefully other regions around the country fighting to protect their vulnerable elderly conscripted into guardianship will look to the actions taken today in Clark County Nevada.”
Becky Swartz battled for years to get her father out of a guardianship case in Clark County and back to California:
"I’m happy Jon Norheim will no longer be in control of guardianship cases any longer. It’s been a long, long battle to try to fix this family court problem and there is yet much more to do concerning the guardians themselves. But I am sad that this didn’t happen while my father’s guardianship case was going on, it could have saved my family and many, many other families much grief and expense.”
A petition was also filed today in the Nevada Supreme Court. It asks for a commission to be created to study Nevada guardianships and address critical problems.
They're asking for a report and recommendations by the end of this year.
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Major overhaul in guardianship court