|Palm Beach Circuit Judge Martin Colin announced he would not run for re-election|
So in an effort to bring further attention to the issue, an advocacy group that brought about some of those changes plans a town hall on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, followed by a protest in St. Petersburg on Thursday.
“It’s an attitudinal shift we are looking for in the judges,” said Sam Sugar, co-founder of American Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, who organized all three events. “Somehow these judges shifted position — from implementing laws designed to help vulnerable people and their families to a position of exploiting them instead.”
In Palm Beach County, the chief judge last year handed down reforms after The Palm Beach Post reported on conflict of interest, favoritism and complaints concerning former Circuit Judge Martin Colin and his wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, who works as a professional guardian.
And Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has a task force looking into the issue.
On Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Sugar will give a lecture to inform seniors and families about how to protect themselves from unethical guardians and their attorneys, followed by a town hall. On Thursday, he will lead a protest march in St. Petersburg that culminates at a meeting of the Pinellas Guardianship Association.
“We are going to have a very raucous crowd because a lot of victims are coming,” Sugar said of the town hall in West Palm Beach.
“This is directed toward the general public to educate, to talk about the risks families face simply by the virtue of their address in Palm Beach County and how the probate courts operate,” he said.
Then on Thursday in St. Petersburg, the group will march to the Yacht Club where professional guardians are meeting to put pressure on the association to rid itself of what the group believes are bad actors depleting the life savings of incapacitated seniors.
“We want to demand that Pinellas Guardianship Association start protecting people,” he said.
Guardianship town hall
Where: Embassy Suites, 1601 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach
When: Tuesday 5 p.m. lecture, 6:15 panel
Who: Sam Sugar and panel, including state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Delray Beach; attorney Greg Coleman, past president of the Florida Bar; and Anthony Palmieri, deputy inspector general and chief guardianship investigator for Palm Beach County's Clerk & Comptroller. The Palm Beach Post’s John Pacenti will also be on the panel to speak about work on The Post’s series, Guardianships: A Broken Trust.
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Guardianship reform advocates turn up the heat with town hall, protest