Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Who Guards the Guardians, Part three

In April 2013, four years into her ordeal, [Rosamond Bradley] the retired schoolteacher, who volunteered for years with her church and had traveled to all seven of the earth’s continents, appealed to Head for freedom. In a handwritten note she pleaded with the court, “Dear Sirs, I feel very competent to take care of myself. I request that all my civil rights be restored.” A year passed and Rosamond heard nothing.

She wrote again: “I want my rights restored! Thank you.” This time her note caught the attention of Gene Valentini at the county’s office of dispute resolution, which is Lubbock’s closest thing to a court investigation office. Valentini mentioned her case to Terry Hammond, an El Paso attorney who is active in the national guardianship community. He flew to Dallas to meet Rosamond. Because Phil still managed all of her bank accounts, Hammond allowed her to retain him with a nylon American flag.

Hammond had a Dallas County court visitor check in on Rosamond, and the court visitor confirmed what Rosamond had been saying all along: Even if she had once needed a guardianship, she didn’t anymore. She could balance her checkbook, the report noted, and seemed to get along fine with Jim helping to care for her. A report from Rosamond’s doctor in Dallas affirmed she was fit to make her own decisions.

Head ignored the recommendations. He determined the Dallas court visitor lacked standing to intervene, and kept the guardianship in place. Another year of legal wrangling passed before he finally transferred her case to Dallas. Rosamond’s sons hired a new attorney in Dallas, who argued, against the court visitor’s recommendation, to maintain the guardianship. It took another year for the court to finally restore her rights.

“We’re finding that the vast majority of cases have problems,” [Office of Court Administration Director David Slayton] says. Most common are missing annual reports from guardians about a person’s well-being or their finances. In other cases, there’s no record of a court-ordered bond, which the law requires to guarantee a guardian won’t walk off with his or her ward’s money. In Webb County, Slayton says, 80 to 90 percent of the guardianships are missing some piece of vital paperwork, such as annual reports on the person’s welfare, or an account of their spending from the estate. An earlier review from Slayton’s office, after a quick look at 14 counties including Lubbock, mentioned finding letters from concerned family or friends tucked into the files. “Often it did not appear that the correspondence or documentation had been provided to the court,” the report said. “In some instances, even though the court may have been made aware of the query, the matter did not appear to have been addressed.” In this light, Rosamond Bradley’s unheeded calls for help from Head seem at once less remarkable and even more troubling. “There’s very little oversight occurring in those [cases] to ensure there’s no exploitation,” Slayton says.

It’s clear, he says, that the problem goes well beyond any one county or judge — counties simply have nowhere near enough money to ensure that people under guardianship are being kept safe.

Full Article and Source:
Who Guards the Guardians?

1 comment:

Betty said...

This is one of the best exposes I've seen on the problem. Thank you Texas Observer. Your hard work and heart shine brightly in this piece.