Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jasper County OPA

Angie Casavecchia will assume the responsibilities of the Jasper County Office of Public Administrator. Joplin Globe: "We wish her well in taking the helm at this troubled agency."

The courts have assigned guardianship to the OPA to manage the financial accounts and physical care for those who are unable to care for themselves.

* The OPA apparently does not have a clear record of exactly who its “clients” might be.

* Many of the wards do not in fact reside in Jasper County.

* Casavecchia also inherits the underlying problems associated with the Emma France case.

More information on the France case:

Former Ward Files Suit

Undrafted Medical Certificate

France is Released

Mother and Daughter File Suit

An Alleged Kidnapping

* There is also the question of fees charged by the OPA to the estate of patients.

* There are many questions and issues associated with the Jasper County OPA that a state audit might resolve and with little controversy.

* We also look forward to how the courts will resolve accusations of civil misconduct associated with the Emma France case.

Full Article and Source:
In our view: Caring for others

See also:
Probate Judge Cannot Hear Case

Class Action Filed

CPS Workers with Criminal History

Assault, burglary, driving while intoxicated, theft, domestic violence, indecent exposure and prostitution, possession of cocaine and marijuana, selling alcohol to minors -- what do all of these crimes have in common?

They are just some of the crimes committed by people who work for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the agency in charge of protecting the state’s children.

KEYE Investigates found at least 370 employees have a criminal background, and some have direct contact with foster children.

Full Article and Source:
At Least 370 Texas CPS Workers Have Criminal Histories

How Many More Cases Are There?

As we move to 2009, remember the lesson from three frail old ladies — Margot Claus, Marilyn Plank and Rose Quattro — who escaped the shackles of probate court-imposed "conservatorship" this year.

Right now, judges from the state's 117 probate courts are considering their own recommendations for reform that they will give to the legislature. Not surprisingly, the judges don't appear too eager: They will not propose consolidating the sprawling court system, let alone requiring that judges be lawyers.

Which is why the cases of Claus, Plank and Quattro must not be forgotten.

These were typical probate cases of three women from very different places: Germany, Michigan and East Hartford. All had strikingly different economic backgrounds. Their cases surfaced in courts in different regions of the state. Without media attention, all might still be conserved.

Each woman was deemed unable to manage her own affairs and, in effect, locked up by probate court. Claus and Plank were conserved under questionable circumstances. Quattro merely wanted to leave a nursing home and live at home with her son.

With Claus and Quattro, even the court-appointed conservators fought attempts to release them from their conservatorship. The judge in Plank's case sat on a plea to free her for a year. How many more cases are there like this, buried within our 300-year-old probate bureaucracy?

Full Article and Source:
Women's Cases Cry Out For Probate Reform

Past Columns Calling For Probate Reform

See also:
NASGA - Connecticut

Roberts Faces Trial

A former Department of Human Services employee now faces trial in two separate Tulsa County felony cases with financially exploiting vulnerable adults.

Debra Maxine Roberts, 50, waived her right to a preliminary hearing in one case.

In the other, Special Judge Cliff Smith heard testimony and found sufficient evidence to bind her over on a charge of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

In the case where a hearing was conducted, Roberts, who was a DHS adult protective services specialist, was charged Dec. 1 with taking nearly $4,500 in funds belonging to James True, 84.

Roberts was a temporary guardian for True after a court determined that he lacked the mental capacity to consent to necessary protective services.

Full Article and Source:
Former DHS worker faces trial on exploitation charges

See also:
DHS Worker Charged Again

DHS Worker Arrested

Accused Abusers Arrested

Five women were arrested and fired from an Allegheny County-run nursing home, accused of assaulting and verbally harassing a 94-year-old Alzheimer's patient.

County police said the investigation began in November, based on reports from co-workers at Kane Glen Hazelon Rivermont Drive in Pittsburgh's Glen Hazel neighborhood.

County Executive Dan Onorato: "If they are found guilty, we don't want to see them working anywhere in this field. We want to send a clear message and an example with these five individuals that this type of activity won't be tolerated."

Full Article and Source:
Pittsburgh Care Home Workers Accused Of Elderly Assault

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Costly Court Battle

In 2003, Christine Wolfe gave birth to Cody after she and Kenneth Barnett had divorced. She already had another child and considered allowing a Dearborn couple to adopt him.

The couple got custody and guardianship of Cody, but Barnett never gave up his parental rights and fought any anticipated adoption. Wolfe also withdrew her consent and the couple went to court, fighting to keep him as his parents' legal bills soared.

Barnett: "We're close to $225,000... This has basically impoverished us."

The child bounced between the parents and the guardians who wanted to adopt him. Wolfe received full custody of Cody, but the other couple tried to get the decision reversed. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in the parents favor.

The costly court battle lasted more than five years and drained the parents' resources.

Cody's parents argue these disputes should never last this long. "He spent three years of his life with two homes, two names, two schools, two religions, two families and nobody could stop and say wait a minute, let's put an end to this."

Appeals Court Ends Adoption Battle

Bill Gallagher Reports: Contested Adoption

Conservator Pay Raise

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge approved over $1.5 million in payouts to those who have assisted Britney Spears, who has been under a conservatorship overseen by her father, Jamie Spears and attorney Adam Wallet, since earlier this year.

The judge approved a pay raise for Jamie due to Britney’s hectic schedule, allowing him to now receive $16,125 a month. He was also approved to receive $37,556 from previous business.

The judge also approved $1,200 per month for Jamie to rent an office, where he will be working on the conservatorship.

Britney’s older brother, Bryan Spears, who is a trustee of a trust established in Britney’s name, was also approved for a payment of $200,000 for his services prior to the establishment of the conservatorship.

Sam Ingham, who serves as Britney’s attorney, was approved to receive $143,643, while $81,849 was approved for co-conservator Wallet.

Luce Forward’s law firm, which represents Jamie Spears, was approved for the largest sum of money — $509,080 – for their work.

Michael Flanagan, who was Britney’s lawyer during her driver’s license case earlier this fall, was ordered to be paid $11,811.

A payment of $15,275 was approved for Laura Wasser, the counselor who serves as Britney’s family law attorney.

Britney’s Dad Gets A Raise!

Court-Ordered Raise for Britney’s Dad

See also:

Prisoner People

Permanent Conservatorship

Big Money Conservatorship

No Right To Counsel

Bad News For Britney

High Court To Rule

Thirty-seven foster children in Southwest Florida have no prospects for permanent, loving families.

Should gay and lesbian parents be allowed to adopt them?

Under current law, gay people are not allowed to adopt children, but a recent court ruling making its way to the state's Supreme Court may change that. Florida upholds the only outright ban in the nation.

A Miami-Dade judge declared that Florida's 1977 law violated equal protection rights. The state has filed a notice to appeal.

Lawyers for the man seeking to adopt two foster children he has raised since 2004 asked the case to be shipped directly to the state's Supreme Court.

Full Article and Source:
Florida high court to rule on same-sex adoption ban

See also:
Adoption Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

Monday, December 29, 2008

DCF Lack of Clarity

State child workers blew their chances to help two sisters who came from a troubled home and died in a horrific arson fire in April, according to a report.

The newly created Office of the Child Advocate launched a probe in to the state Department of Children and Families’ involvement with Acia, 14, and Sophia Reisopoulos-Johnson, 3, after they died in a blaze at their mother’s home that was allegedly set by her ex-lover.

The probe found that state workers “missed opportunities to recognize the dangers to Acia and Sophia and to intervene.” The report said there was a failure to “connect the dots” on the part of DCF workers and a “lack of recognition of the depth of the family dysfunction over time.” The probe also found a “lack of clarity” regarding guardianship responsibilities.

Full Article and Source:
Probe finds Department of Children and Families failed sisters killed in fire

See also:
Report: State missed chances to help girls killed in fire

Report: Mass. Could Have Prevented Sisters' Arson Deaths

Court Failed to Notice

Peatrice L. Alston wanted to take care of her three children after she was gone, so she named them as beneficiaries of her life insurance policy. More than $150,000 went to the children when their mother was gunned down by her estranged boyfriend.

But when a lawyer was assigned to take over the management of those accounts, she found the inheritance had dwindled to a mere $6.50.

An insurance company alleged that the Wake County clerk's office failed to notice that most of the children's money had been spent by their caretakers and grandparents.

Guardianship bonds that would be worth $67,000 each once they matured were put into each child's trust account. Maternal grandparents Benjamin and Lucy Massenburg took the two young girls and boy into their home and also began handling the trust accounts under the intended oversight of the Wake County Clerk of Court.

The Hartford Fire Insurance Co., which had to replace most of the diverted funds, sued the Office of the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court to recoup more than $110,000 in losses.

The lawsuit accused an assistant clerk of failing to make sure the money was being handled properly by the Massenburgs.

Full Article and Source:
Draining of kids' fund spurs suit

Bureaucratic Breakdowns

The San Francisco Juvenile Court system must review its procedures for awarding guardianships

The death of Jazzmin Davis, the 15-year-old police say was tortured for 15 months and starved to death by her foster mother in their Antioch home, should serve as a catalyst for state and court investigations into the bureaucratic breakdowns that lead to such tragedies.

Social workers, school officials, judges and attorneys involved in the case should all be grilled to determine how they missed the countless warning signs that preceded Jazzmin's Sept. 2 death.

Attorney Tali Soltz, who served as the court-appointed advocate for Jazzmin and her twin brother, told MediaNews reporters, "I feel like everyone did their jobs, as best as I can tell." That's hard to believe. But if it's true, then the entire foster care system is broken and must be repaired.

Child welfare attorney William Grimm of Oakland has examined numerous cases of foster care deaths. Usually, he says, it's not one single failure in the system that led to the fatality. In every case, there are warning signs that were ignored. What this case presents is an opportunity to see what went wrong.

Grimm: "For every Jazzmin Davis there are many, many children who have suffered because of the practices of the agencies and they are hidden from public review."

Shemeeka Davis now sits in a Richmond jail in lieu of $1.5 million bail, facing charges of murder in Jazzmin's death and torture and abuse of both twins.

Davis served as the twins' foster parent from their infancy until she was awarded guardianship just six days before Jazzmin's death.

Full Article and Source:
Daniel Borenstein: State must find out why system failed dead teen

See also:
The San Francisco caseworker overseeing the care of a 15-year-old girl who starved to death in her aunt's home failed to follow state and agency regulations:

Worker didn't heed rules in starved girl's case

Rules ignored in starved girl's case

Davis charged with murder, torture

Marshall's Criminal Trial

Brooke Astor, philanthropist and queen of New York society, died in 2007 at the age of 105 while her family was embroiled in a bitter fight over her care and millions of dollars - a battle that continues as Tony Marshall, Astor's only son, faces criminal charges of looting his mother's estate.

Marshall originally was accused of mistreating Astor in a civil suit by his son, Phillip, who wanted his father removed as Astor's guardian. Phillip Marshall, who long has had a strained relationship with his father, counted on the support of such heavy hitters as Annette de la Renta (Oscar's wife) and David Rockefeller.

Eventually, the Manhattan district attorney leveled his own accusations, charging Tony Marshall with grand larceny, falsifying business records, conspiracy and possession of stolen property.

Marshall's criminal trial is scheduled to begin in January 2009.

Full Article and Source:
Story of Brooke Astor a family feud, NY style

See also:
Mrs. Astor Regrets

Too Sick for Court?

The Issue: Elder Abuse

According to the California attorney general's office, elder abuse is one of the largest growing crimes and is one of the most under-reported.

Peggy L. Osborn, with the attorney general's office, Bureau of MediCal Fraud and Elder Abuse: "The true scope of elder abuse is not truly known, it is estimated that one of every 20 seniors is a victim of neglect or physical, psychological or financial abuse."

Every year, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of those or other forms of abuse and neglect, according to information offered by the American Psychological Association.

Scam Alert: Seniors face many threats

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seeking Class Action Against DHS

Department of Human Services (DHS) received serious complaints of abuse and neglect involving foster children in its care but failed to disclose the complaints to judges handling their child welfare cases, according to documents filed in an ongoing Tulsa federal lawsuit against the agency.

The attorneys suing DHS cited two cases as "graphic proof” that the safety and welfare of Oklahoma’s foster children are not being adequately protected by DHS and the state juvenile court system. They want a Tulsa federal judge to declare their case to be a class action so they can represent all children in DHS custody. There are about 7,230 Oklahoma children in foster care.

Full Article and Source:
Group cites examples in Oklahoma DHS suit

Judge Wants New Hearing

A former Luzerne County judge described as a bully asked a state court to reconsider its decision to remove her from the bench and prohibit her from holding any other judicial office.

In a motion filed, Ann H. Lokuta called the sanctions "unduly harsh and excessive" and requested a new hearing on the sanctions and a new trial on the merits of the original complaint.

On Dec. 9, the Court of Judicial Discipline voted 6-1 to remove Lokuta from the bench.

The court ruled that Lokuta, who had been a judge for more than 15 years, violated canons of the state Code of Judicial Conduct and behaved "so extreme as to bring the judicial office into disrepute."

Full Article and Source:
Pa. judge asks court to reconsider her removal

See also:
Removing "Bully" Judge

Is The Judicial Complaint System Unconstitutional?

The secrecy surrounding the state's judicial complaints system is being challenged by attorneys who are defending Tulsa County District Judge Jesse Harris against a felony charge.

Harris' lawyers maintain that he should be allowed to use materials that the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints contends must remain secret.

A recent filing on his behalf asserts that provisions of a statute that "prohibits a judge who is the subject of a pending judicial complaint from revealing any information concerning the complaint, is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment."

The pleading states: preventing a judge from disclosing any information about a "proposed or pending judicial complaint relevant to his case" is "an unconstitutional restriction on free speech because it is overly broad and not susceptible to a narrowing construction."

Full Article and Source:
Judicial complaint system ripped

See also:
Judge wants secrecy rule waived

Judge faces felony charges

Judge under investigation for alleged indecent exposure

Woman says she feared Tulsa judge

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Judges Will Get Even"

Gov. Charlie Crist promoted Palm Beach Judge Jorge Labarga to a seat on a South Florida appellate court despite Labarga's comments from the bench last year that judges will get even with lawyers who cross them, even if it takes years.

Labarga said:

"When you pick a fight with a judge, ultimately, you are gonna lose. Not today, but five years from now, 10 years from now, six years from now. That judge is going to remember you, always, always."

"And, you know, when you do -- there is an old saying that if you go after a judge, you better kill him. Because, like I said, it's true."

Anthony Alfieri, founder and director of the University of Miami law school's Center for Ethics and Public Service, called Labarga's statements in open court "injudicious and unwise."

Alfieri: "They damage the credibility of individual judges and tarnish the integrity of the courts as a public institution."

Labarga did not recall making the specific statements.

Full Article and Source:
New appellate judge says he never forgets

Concerns About DCF

Parents attended a Department of Children and Families hearing to voice concerns about the organization.

They said the state is quick to take children away and won't give them back, even if there is a family who wants and loves the child.

Trina Porter said she has spent two years trying to get her niece, Isabella, out of state custody.

Linda Holden said her adopted daughter, Chelsea, who has behavioral problems, has been in state custody for two months. She said Chelsea was only supposed to be evaluated for four days.

Some state leaders recommended breaking up DCF to make it a better agency. The committee that conducted the hearing will make recommendations to the General Assembly at a later date.

Parents Air Concerns At Final DCF Hearing

"The testimony was sad enough, even without mentioning the DCF's latest problem: the pepper-spraying of young psychiatric patients.

It's happened three times since September during attempts to calm agitated young patients at Riverview Hospital, the DCF-run psychiatric facility for children in Middletown"

Full Article and Source:
Pepper Spray The Latest Issue For DCF

See also:
Comments - Familiar Complaints Aired At Hearing On DCF


Florida law does not permit appointment of a foreign guardian who is not a family member, yet that’s exactly what North Carolina imposed upon this innocent and defenseless lady. The foreign guardian, appointed without due process by a Superior Court clerk, incarcerated Hazel in a 32-bed facility in Port Charlotte, Florida, without good cause or necessity. The same clerk later refused to hear evidence on her financial abuses. He expressly allowed this stranger to rip Hazel from a loving, stable and stimulating environment with her daughter in Asheville, NC. The relocation was against the advice of Hazel’s court-appointed guardian ad litem, doctors, day care case manager, her sister, her brother, her brother-in-law, another caregiver/friend, and of course, repeated pleas of Hazel’s daughter. Hazel’s daughter even asked to be allowed to care for her mother in Hazel’s own Florida home without any compensation. Her daughter was willing to give up her home and career, so Hazel would not have to go to a facility. Why should Hazel be “warehoused” when she has willing and able family or friends to care for her. The response: “Denied.”

Despite a successful appeal against such order, reversing for “prejudicial error,” the clerk’s office ignored the appeal ruling upon remand, even after the guardian ad litem testified that moving Hazel would be a violation of the guardian’s fiduciary duty, was against the public policies of NC for in-state and non-facility confinement, and was grounds for the guardians’ removal. Hazel’s “institutional confinement” also contravenes the 1999 US Supreme Court case, Olmstead v. L.C., as well as the stated legislative intent in two states and Florida’s statutory prerequisites for facility confinement.

The guardian has total control of Hazel’s estate which was worth $450,000 in January 2006. The guardian testified in December 2006 that Hazel’s assets were worth $300,000-350,000. The clerk made no inquiry about this extraordinary loss of value. The guardian would not let Hazel’s daughter into her mother’s home to retrieve Hazel’s most precious property. So, Hazel’s property (including Florida homestead property with no mortgage) is essentially gone. The guardian hired attorneys in two states to maintain her powers and Hazel’s assets pay them. Hazel does not have a lawyer since the guardian successfully argued to a Florida judge that Hazel is “incompetent” so cannot “hire” one, even if the attorney serves pro bono. Although this guardian consistently acts in conflict of interest with Hazel’s interests, her appointment continues although statute and case law authorizes her “removal.”

The Florida Dept of Children and Family Services (DCF) is aligned with the guardian since the 20th Judicial Circuit Court has “regularly appointed” her for about 18 years. There can be no “elder abuse” if the court authorizes the guardian to act, notwithstanding the lack of meaningful scrutiny. She is under no obligation to maximize Hazel’s resources. This guardian is the president of a corporation (for administering guardianships), even though “appointed” individually, has admitted going to court hundreds of times, and has told Hazel’s daughter that she never loses and the court does whatever she wants.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Changing School With Guardianship

Kim Thomas says her son was badly beaten at Conemaugh Valley High School. She put a large sign in her front yard to highlight the situation.

Over a weekend, someone painted over part of the sign.

One side reads “CVHS administrators do your job”, the other “CVHS allows bullying”. Thomas said her son was beaten up in the school's locker room. When the student responsible was punished, Thomas says her son was attacked again. A second student choked him until he passed out.

East Conemaugh police chief Ronald Pavic tells WTAJ News they arrested two juveniles for the incidents, and he feels the school dished out the appropriate punishments.

But Thomas doesn't feel the two day suspensions were enough.

She signed over guardianship of her son to her parents who live in nearby Nanty Glo. He now lives with them so he can attend Central Cambria Middle School.

Bullying Battle

See also:
Local Parent Blasts School Bullying Policy

Vandals deface mother’s yard sign

Mom: District didn’t prevent son’s beatings

Money-Making Ventures

Reports of financial exploitation of elderly dances right past the biggest financial exploiter of the elderly of all — forced guardianship.

Guardianships are money-making ventures for guardians and their attorneys at the expense and detriment of the very people the court has appointed them to protect. Guardianship wards lose everything — their life savings, homes, personal possessions and many times their lives.

Here’s the difference between being financially exploited by a relative or a caregiver or by a forced guardianship: There’s a chance of recovering funds and holding the thieves accountable if they are relatives or caregivers. A guardianship ward is stripped of all rights — including the right to complain. The plundering of assets through guardianship is all done with the approval of the court, so there is no accountability, no chance of recovering funds. No chance at all.

The National Association to STOP Guardian Abuse, NASGA, is composed of victims who have stood helpless in courtrooms while their loved ones are exploited by greedy guardians and ravenous attorneys. Our members have been maligned by guardians and lawless courts for their efforts to free their captive loved ones. We have suffered defeats at the hands of a system where the cards are already stacked. We have had our families ripped apart and our pocketbooks emptied trying to right the terrible wrong. And now, we’ve joined forces to see to stop the abuse and the abusers.

Ask us. We can tell you who the real abusers are, those who get rich by preying on the vulnerable do so “legally” to the tune of billions of dollars nationwide.

Written by a NASGA member

No-Show Attorney

In court when a jury came back with their guilty verdict, there was someone important missing: the defendant.

Ed Bolding, a longtime lawyer was representing himself against fraud charges and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say he stole from trust funds he managed.

Prosecutor Kim Ortiz: "He's convicted of taking more than $700,000 from clients over a ten year period."

A verdict came back, but Bolding was a no-show.

Prosecutors say a warrant has been issued nationwide for Bolding's arrest.

Full Article and Source:
Attorney defending himself skips verdict

See also:
Lawyer represents himself in fraud trial

Caregiver Arrested

A caregiver arrested for allegedly stealing a credit card from a woman with Alzheimer’s has been charged with stealing from other residents at a home for the elderly.

Heather Whitehouse was arrested Dec. 11 and charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, false pretense, unlawful taking of tangible personal property and fraudulent use of a credit card, for allegedly stealing the card and making 22 unauthorized purchases totaling more than $4,000.

Shelburne Police later charged Whitehouse with stealing another resident’s credit card and making 20 unauthorized charges, and stealing jewelry from a third resident who was unable to communicate because of her illness.

For the latter two thefts, Whitehouse faces additional charges of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and grand larceny.

Caregiver faces more stealing charges

Six People Indicted

A Sangamon County grand jury has indicted six people in unrelated cases on charges that they financially exploited elderly people.

*Robert T. Ford, who allegedly siphoned off more than $100,000 from an 83-year-old relative from 2004 to 2008. The victim has Alzheimer’s disease, prosecutors said. Ford, who is charged with three Class 1 felony counts of financial exploitation, each punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison, has a $100,000 bond.

*Shelly Cassens, who is charged with one count of financial exploitation of the elderly. She was a caretaker for a 62-year-old and allegedly took less than $300. Her bond was set at $1,000.

*Karon List, who is charged with five counts of financial exploitation, all involving the alleged theft of food stamps from five residents of Bethesda Lutheran Home in Springfield. Her bond also is $1,000.

*Latanya Mitchell, who allegedly stole and cashed checks belonging to a 90-year-old for whom she was a caretaker. She is charged with a Class 3 felony and has a bond of $1,000.

*Mary L. Hamilton, who faces two counts each of theft by deception and unlawful use of a credit card and one count of financial exploitation of the elderly. She allegedly stole checks belonging to a 72-year-old and an 88-year-old while she was their caretaker. Hamilton’s bond is $3,000.

*Laura A. Constant, who allegedly took more than $10,000 from two people for whom she was caring. The victims were 86 and 94 years of age, respectively. Constant’s bond is $10,000.

First assistant state’s attorney John Milhiser: "We’ll continue to aggressively prosecute those who prey on the elderly.”

Six accused of financially exploiting elderly

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Bronx Bomber

A Bronx fixer's scandalous history doesn't bother Yankees or Democrats

Stanley Schlein remains a lawyer in good standing, negotiating with governors and senators.

Schlein sat down at the elegant University Club in midtown across from Governor David Paterson and Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith. Schlein was there representing the three renegade Democratic senators.

A Democratic legislator: "Schlein is a very skillful negotiator."

Another happy client is the New York Yankees, who keep Schlein on retainer as lobbyist, lawyer, and all-around fixer for issues dealing with city government. Public records show that Schlein has collected some $150,000 from the team over the past two years in legal and lobbying fees.

When the Voice asked for permission to use a photograph of Schlein from a recent charitable dinner for Easter Seals, the group's vice president called to praise him.

John McGrath: "This is the guy who makes Christmas happen. He brings the kids toys from the Yankees, raises tons of money. This is an amazing human being."

But in fact, a Voice investigation found that in a dozen cases, Schlein had repeatedly ignored the desperate pleas of family members and loved ones.

There was the construction worker, brain-damaged from an accident, whose family could never get hold of Schlein when they needed him so that they could spend money from a lawsuit settlement to buy a wheelchair and clothes. Schlein somehow let a condo the victim owned go into foreclosure and be sold at auction. At the same time, he steered legal work from the estate to his friends in the Democratic Party.

There was the elderly incapacitated woman whose taxes Schlein never got around to filing and whose valuable stock certificates were allowed to expire. And there was Mary Johnson, 87, retired Irish domestic servant and devoted Catholic, whose life savings Schlein put in an account earning 1 percent at a bank where he was a major stockholder and which he also represented. Johnson was in a nursing home on Gun Hill Road, just minutes from Schlein's home on City Island, but nurses never saw the lawyer at Mary's side. Her family's one request—that money be set aside so that her last surviving friend, another elderly retired domestic, could use a car service to visit her—went ignored as well.

Full Article and Source:
Stanley Schlein Rides Again

While rooting the Yankees to a new home, Democratic political fixer Stanley Schlein failed his other clients

A few weeks before he guided the Yankees to their victory at City Hall, some of those complaints, many of them years old, finally caught up with Schlein. They came in the form of a brief letter from Ann T. Pfau, one of the state's top administrative judges. The February 22 letter informed Schlein that he was being removed from the list of those qualified to serve as court-appointed fiduciaries those named by the court to handle large sums of other people's money and oversee their property.

Judges, elevated to the bench with the party's approval, routinely name attorneys with clubhouse ties to serve as guardians, receivers, or referees. Many of the appointments are on behalf of the elderly or the infirm, those who have become incapacitated for one reason or another and are deemed no longer capable of managing their own affairs. The positions are highly prized because they usually offer a light workload and a virtually guaranteed payday that can range from a few hundred dollars to many thousands for each case.

As befitting his years of service to the Bronx Democrats, Schlein has long been a key recipient of appointments from judges who come out of the borough's political machine. Since 2000 he has received some $125,000 in fees. But that gravy train came to an abrupt halt with Pfau's letter. While offering no specifics, the judge cited his mishandling of property in two cases, that of a Bronx construction worker named Vincent Robinson, who lapsed into a coma after a construction accident, and an elderly Manhattan woman named Sylvia Friedland, who was institutionalized due to dementia.

Pfau wrote: "Accordingly, you will be removed from the list of qualified applicants by the Court as of the date of this letter."

Full Article and Source:
The Bronx Bomber

See also:
Fine Schlein In Misuse of Staff For Law Work

Former official fined for misusing city resources

Man Charged With Embezzlement

Officials said that a man who was supposed to be looking out for his 93-year-old mother's best interests instead stole more than $50,000 from her.

Archie Moore was charged with embezzlement Monday after a task force that safeguards vulnerable adults alleged he emptied his mother's bank account in three months.

Moore attended a mandatory conservator class last year when was appointed conservator for his mother, Eddie.

Moore received a $50,520 settlement for a lawsuit that his mother had filed against a Vienna Township nursing home. Moore put the money in a bank account for his mother but a month later began what would become a series of 19 withdrawals that left the account with a negative balance.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert J. Pickell said the charge is the latest in a pattern of court-appointed guardians abusing their access to people's money.

Full Article and Source:
Man charged with embezzling $50,000 from his elderly mother in Genesee County

See also:
Man charged with stealing from mother

Man Charged With Embezzling $65K From Mom

Legacy: The Killing Judge

How did the Schiavo case affect George Greer's life?

Greer: "Well, on the job it was just incessant toward the end, motion after motion. Professionally, it took centre stage. Personally, it kind of restricted us. We didn’t want to inconvenience those whose job it was to protect us, so we spent a lot of non-working time just sitting in the condo watching TV."

To judge the judge

See also:
How Many Others?

In Memoriam - Terri Schindler Schiavo

Financial Crimes Against Elderly

Deputy District Attorney Kim Connors, a guest speaker at a recent Realtor tour meeting, told members of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors that financial crimes against the elderly are becoming more widespread, and the only way to prevent these scams from happening is to always keep informed and warn everybody you know about them.

Examples of financial crimes include forgery, lying to get your money (e.g., "My child is dying of cancer and needs surgery"); deceiving you into signing any document (e.g., quit claim, grant deed, will); improper use of conservatorship, guardianship or power of attorney; and cold calls.

Connors also said beware of calls or e-mails informing you that you have won the lottery.

She also warned against the "Enter to Win" cards people see and fill out at shopping centers. Always read the fine print, she cautioned, because once you fill out the information and sign the card, the fine print in many of these cards states you wave being on the "Do not call" registry.

The latest trend in fraud is the foreclosure rescue scam, which can result in equity stripping, phantom help, fake sales or fake rentals.

The elderly are especially susceptible to these crimes and very vulnerable to predators.

Full Article and Source:
District attorney talks to realtors about crimes against the elderly

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rich Targets: Baby Boomers

“Gone to Texas” was a phrase used by Americans immigrating to Texas in the 19th century and is applicable again today as the Baby Boomers (Americans born 1946-1964) begin to retire and relocate, as in times past, to Texas. Georgetown, Texas, was just named a top retirement town by Where to Retire magazine and a recent report by the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement lists Texas as the #2 state for retiree relocation surpassing Arizona and continuing to close the gap with Florida.

Whether in Texas or elsewhere, being a retirement “hot spot” energizes everyone from government officials and Chambers of Commerce to Realtors and other business interests. The concentration of a retirement-age population, however, can bring another element into a community – predators seeking to operate within probate venues so as to divert estate assets from intended beneficiaries or heirs. In more simple terms, modern day looters and poachers intent on using the American legal system to steal property from the dead or disabled/incapacitated.

Full Article and Source:
Boomers Will Be Rich Targets For Estate Looters

See also:
Estate Looting

Nursing Home Ratings

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a Website ranking nearly 16,000 nursing homes. Reuters Health reported that this is the first-ever federally-managed Website that ranks nursing home facilities for quality.

Nursing Home Compare

CMS: "In this first round of quality ratings about 12 percent of the nation's nursing homes received a full five-star rating while 22 percent scored at the low end with one star. The remaining 66 percent of facilities were distributed fairly evenly among the two, three and four star rankings."

The CMS oversees the Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs. The nursing homes rated by CMS participate in the public insurance system.

Government Web site Rates Nursing Homes

22 percent of nursing homes get poor rating

Quality Rating Stars are Posted on Nursing Home Compare Website by CMS

Monday, December 22, 2008

Guardianship Workshop

A workshop will be held Jan. 23 from 8 to 11:30 a.m. on the subject of guardianship.

Dohn Hoyle, executive director of The Arc Michigan, a state organization on developmental disabilities, will discuss reasons people have sought guardianship and current methodologies that may eliminate the need for guardianship.

This workshop will be held at the Jim Miles Professional Development Center, 5204 U.S. Highway 98 S. in Lakeland. Call 863-647-4258 for details.

Source: Local News Brief - Two special-needs workshops coming up

Class Action Victory

Represented by a team of lawyers (Pro Bono) and several nonprofits, a class of 6,600 developmentally disabled residents of state-owned facilities in Illinois will now be able to choose their own living arrangements.

The settlement is expected to bring Illinois in line with a national movement toward improving care for developmentally disabled citizens by shifting them from large residential institutions into smaller, community-based facilities.

Illinois' failure to join that trend prompted seven name plaintiffs to file suit against the state in July 2005.

According to the consent decree institutionalized individuals will undergo evaluations to gauge their desire for moving to different facilities. A "meaningful choice," will be provided to those individuals should they or their relatives desire a move.

Full Article and Source:
Sonnenschein Secures Pro Bono Class Action Victory for Disabled Clients

Notarized Wills

Lawrence W. Waggoner has written an article entitled The UPC Authorizes Notarized Wills.

The article reports on a 2008 amendment to the Uniform Probate Code that permits notarization as a method of will execution.

The UPC Authorizes Notarized Wills , p.83

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lawyer Ordered to Vacate

The San Antonio lawyer jailed this fall for contempt of court in a bizarre case involving her grandmother's estate and allegations that she had embezzled from it was ordered by a Bexar County probate judge to leave the Monticello Park home she bought with the fortune.

Michelle Valicek has yet to fully account for what's happened to the estate of her 95-year-old grandmother, retired ballet instructor Margaret Lorenz, and the sizable estate Lorenz inherited from a nephew who died in 2005 without a will.

Amid allegations of elder abuse, Valicek was stripped of her responsibilities administering the estate by Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff in the spring. According to court records, Valicek was spending from the combined fortunes $25,000 a month.

Among her purchases were a Lexus, a baby grand piano and a pool table.

Rickhoff had Valicek jailed for one night in October for contempt of court after she apparently failed to cooperate with the new administrator of the estates.

Her lawyer said Valicek was in a nearby parking lot crying and “hysterical,” and it was his recommendation that she be committed to a hospital. He asked Rickhoff to make plain to his client the need for her to vacate the house in the 200 block of Mary Louise, which she had agreed to do by Dec. 13.

That was in an agreement reached last month that saved her from being jailed, an agreement in which she conveyed the deeds to five properties to the administrator.

But she continues to occupy the Mary Louise house.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer ordered to leave grandma's former home

See also:
Lawyer Accused of Elder Abuse

Pharmaceutical Kickbacks

A major pharmaceutical firm funneled kickbacks to Texas health officials, distributed false marketing materials and deployed phony advocacy groups to get its top-dollar schizophrenia drug prescribed to low-income Texans, the state alleges in a new filing in a major fraud lawsuit.

The records in the civil suit allege that Janssen Pharmaceuticals defrauded the state of Texas repeatedly over the last decade to secure a spot for the drug, Risperdal, on the state's Medicaid preferred drug list and on controversial medical protocols that determine which drugs are given to adults and children in state custody.

The attorney general's office wrote in the filing: "Janssen officials targeted Texas Medicaid with their sophisticated and fraudulent marketing scheme."

Allen Jones, a Pennsylvania whistle-blower who brought the Janssen case to the attention of Texas authorities: "It's standard practice in the industry to influence a few key decision-makers, But this is perhaps the most transparent example I have seen."

The News has also reported that the state is investigating possible criminal fraud on the part of the state officials and researchers involved in putting Risperdal on the state drug protocols. No charges have been filed.

Full Article and Source:
Filing alleges drug maker defrauded Texas to get on Medicaid list

Download: Read the state's filing

Mom Wants Son Back

For the past six and a half years, Cunningham has not been considered a fit mother in the eyes of the Baltimore City Juvenile Court. They have ruled that Cunningham’s older sister, Jacqueline Parker, is a better parent to Maleek. But Cunningham says Parker has custody of “her baby” because her sister set her up and made it look as if she was violating probation, when she didn’t. Then, when Parker knew there was a warrant out for Cunningham’s arrest, Cunningham says she believes Parker told the police where they could find her.

Parker is the same sister who Cunningham says is responsible for getting her addicted to crack cocaine at the age of 15. And Cunningham says that 42-year-old Parker, the woman who is raising her son, is still addicted.

“She’s on drugs, she has my baby, and I’ve got to get him back,” Cunningham says with passion.

Now 33, Cunningham acknowledges she knows a little bit about crack, too. But she says she has been clean and sober for six and a half years. She sits composed and clear-minded on her living-room couch, dressed in black shorts and a white T-shirt, with chalk-white hoop earrings that give her a little ’70s flair. Her hair has that fresh-from-the-salon look, styled with a flip in the back, reminiscent of Mary J. Blige. It is perhaps no coincidence, since Cunningham says Blige is “one of my favorites.” And like Blige, Cunningham is unafraid to reveal the pain lurking behind her pulled-together exterior.

“I’m an honest person—not afraid to tell my past to anyone,” she says. Then she details all—the drugs, the arrests, the births of her children, and the fight to regain custody of her son. Her message? She’s made a lot of mistakes, but she has also had quite a bit of bad luck. And if she has turned her hard-knock life around, why shouldn’t she be allowed to regain custody of her son? After all, her troubles could have happened to anyone who had the type of upbringing that she had, growing up, as she says, “in the ’hood,” in West Baltimore on Franklin and Monroe streets. And now she is fighting not only for her son, but also for other mothers and fathers in similar straits, asking, in effect, if people who lose their liberty because of a conviction should necessarily lose their children forever.

Full Article and Source:
In Custody

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Allegations of Courtroom Abuse

* Baby Boomers watch out, the legal system of Judge's Attorney's and Guardian's want your money and they will do whatever they can to get your money. The Courtroom is nothing less than a Mockery of Justice, so prepare now so you do not become a victim. *

Judge Norman Gerstein took over a fraudulent guardianship case and continued to allow the elderly person to lose all of her assets. While the case was under investigation, Norman Gerstein allows large somes of money to be extorted from the then 74 year old, Yvonne Sarhan, the victim. After the investigators found that Yvonne Sarhan Constitutional Rights were violated and that this case should be dismissed, Norman Gerstein, delayed proper procedure and swept the fraudulent activity under the rug. Gerstein stated, He would have to check with the Florida Bar to see if this were a conflict of interest, he never came back with an answer, but dropped out of the case.

After a two year investigation we found that Judge Bruce Levy violated Yvonne Sarhan's Constitutional Rights of Due Process by allowing Enrique Zamora to represent Yvonne Sarhan when he was already representing the Emergency Temporary Guardian, Barbra Resier, an adverse party. Even after Yvonne Sarhan was ruled competent by Dr. Mario Sanchez Martinez and Dr. David Racher, Judge Bruce Levey stated, "She is not competent until I say she is competent, her rights are denied."

Full Article and Source:
Judge Norman Gerstein Allows Elderly People to be Abused and Exploited in his Courtroom

See also:
Federal Suit Dismissed

Plea for Justice

Family Court of Injustice

Many good fathers find themselves getting railroaded too many times in Family Court, this non-criminal venue. The court’s mission is to operate "in the best interest of the child." I would like to ask, can anyone in the Family Court show us how many families they save? I personally know of many families the courts have torn apart – the Family Court’s interest is with those who have benefited from troubled relations and children in need of a little guidance.

Darryl Brown now knows he is not an exception to the rule. Since November 2006, Brown has found himself locked in an un-winnable battle with his daughter’s mother, Arlanda Murray; the Department of Education (DOE); the New York City Corporation Council, which is the city’s Law Department; the Administration for Children Services (ACS); Lawyers for Children – a private organization funded by the state; and, Leake and Watts – a private institution in Yonkers New York being referred to as a "Residential Treatment Center," where he says his daughter is being held, beaten as punishment, and drugged for "treatment."

Here’s the irony of this story. Brown petitioned the Family Court complaining about how his daughter’s mother was treating her and filed for sole custody of the child. The mother in turn responded with her own set of tricks – making counter complaints and allegations as Brown witnessed the system turning on him. It is sad to say too many fathers have learned they do not have a friend in Family Court.

Full Article and Source:
The Family Court Of Injustice

Contact Winkfield for his consideration regarding covering your own story: (347) 632-2272 By mail: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423;
Email: or
call (212) 481-7745.
Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

Whistleblower Settlement

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $148,000 settlement for an employee of the Department of Public Social Services who blew the whistle on in-home-care fraud and elder abuse.

The case involved Sandra Siedenburg, who worked as an In-Home Supportive Services social worker for more than six years an office of the DPSS.

In the process of working on files, Siedenburg noticed many instances of elder abuse, theft of government funds and fraud committed by IHSS providers and clients.

In one case, she reported that an IHSS worker beat up an elderly woman who had a disabled son in a vegetative state in her home. She also reported the case of an IHSS provider who stabbed the blind boyfriend she was caring for in his heart. And she reported six cases in which IHSS providers took care of "phantom" clients, using fake Social Security numbers and Social Security numbers of dead people.

Siedenburg: "Within my caseload, I actually have some IHSS providers who are currently serving prison sentences for assaulting my clients. Also, I am finding that there is a large population of providers who are allegedly using drugs while caring for clients."

Siedenburg reported the fraud and abuse to her superiors, but the county failed to conduct investigations. Later, officials retaliated against Siedenburg by threatening to investigate her, transferring her and removing her as a backup supervisor.

Whistle-blower settlement OK'd

See also:
Suit alleges retaliation for complaint

Friday, December 19, 2008

Judicial Hellholes

The American Tort Reform Foundation has released its Judicial Hellholes 2008/2009 report, naming some of the nation's "most unfair civil court jurisdictions."

Included in the report are perennial "Hellholes" West Virginia, South Florida and Cook County, Illinois; relative newcomers Clark County, Nevada, and Atlantic County, New Jersey; as well as Los Angeles County, California, and Alabama's Macon and Montgomery counties, both of which are returning to the unwanted spotlight after respective absences.

The report also cites several "Watch List" jurisdictions that are on the cusp -"they may yet fall into the Hellholes abyss or rise to the promise of Equal Justice Under Law."

Included in the Watch List are the Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast of Texas; the once notorious Madison County, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis (the City of), and St. Louis and Jackson counties, Missouri.

Also noted less severely as "other areas to watch" were Orange County, California; St. Clair County, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington; New Orleans, Louisiana; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the states of Minnesota and Oklahoma.

American Tort Reform Association’s -
Annual list of America’s worst “Judicial Hellholes”

American Tort Reform Association’s -
Press Release

See also:
'Judicial Hellhole' Report Pushes Need for Balanced Civil Justice System

Estate Looting

The legal profession is not generally well regarded. A particularly heinous sub-culture surrounds the probate industry in which lawyers and select clients (wannabe heirs, disgruntled family members, etc.) use probate venues and/or estate planning instruments (wills, trusts, guardianships) to perpetrate Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) actions – or more simply put, to loot assets of the dead or disabled/incapacitated.

IRA actions found in high profile cases often parallel the looting acts perpetrated on estates of far less value. These high profile cases can establish precedents - both good and bad - that impact people at all levels of the economic spectrum. It´s important to understand these "infamous" cases as similar scenarios could play out in your life.

Full Article:
Estate Looting of the Rich and Famous (and How It Can Happen to You)

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture ( ). She also is producer of The Lynn Woolley Show, a Texas-based talk radio program. Lou Ann may be contacted at

See also:

Lawyer Suspended For One Year

Accused of misusing client funds, a local lawyer will not be able to practice law for a year.

The state Board of Bar Overseers’ suspension of Lawrence P. McLaughlin’s license stemmed from Mr. McLaughlin’s handling of a trust and his Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account.

The board said Mr. McLaughlin had represented the executor of an estate and was confirmed as trustee of a related trust. Mr. McLaughlin didn’t open an individual trust account for the trust as required and, in August 2005, the executor transferred the estate’s remaining funds to Mr. McLaughlin’s IOLTA account. The board said Mr. McLaughlin should have been holding at least $285,812 for the trust’s beneficiary.

The board noted that Mr. McLaughlin failed to keep a “chronological and accurate check register” for his IOLTA account. He also failed to maintain individual client ledgers, as well as copies of deposit tickets and checks with information identifying clients.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer’s license suspended for one year

Custody Battle: Arrest and Suspension

The North Carolina Medical Board suspended Dr. Werner Scott Haddon's license – after the doctor was arrested and charged with multiple counts of assault and battery with intent to kill and one count each of kidnapping and burglary.

Dr. Haddon, a general surgeon, was arrested after he allegedly kidnapped his son, who was in the guardianship of his grandmother.

Dr. Haddon held his son hostage and became involved in a police standoff. After firing several shots at officers, the boy escaped, and Dr. Haddon continued to fire at police. He was taken into custody after police returned fire and shot him.

New York Suspends Licenses Of Three Doctors

See also:
Doctor shot while fleeing with his son -Boy escapes after police stun suspect

Amid struggle over child, surgeon had been labeled a high risk for violence

Tense drama included gun to boy’s head

Raleigh surgeon could lose license

Doctor Shot by Police After Authorities Say He Fired On Officers

Kidnap suspect out of hospital, appears in court

Notice of charges and allegations against Dr. Werner Scott Haddon

Order of summary suspension of license for Dr. Werner Scott Haddon

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Battle Over Judge's Will

A feud between the late Judge Earl Morgan’s descendants and a North Platte animal charity is being waged in Lincoln County Court.

In his will, the former Lincoln County District Judge left the bulk of his estimated $3.2 million estate to Paws-itive Partners Humane Society.

Morgan’s two remaining children – Bob Morgan and Dorothy Simants – are contesting the will and willing to wage battle in court to hold onto their father’s estate.

In a filing petition to set aside the informal probate of the will, they claim Morgan was “susceptible to the exercise of undue influence because of his advanced age and physical and mental condition” when he signed his final will May 5, 2006.

Morgan would have been 87-years-old then.

According to the petition filed by attorney George Vinton: “The execution of the will was procured by the exercise of undue influence by a representative of Paws-itive Partners Humane Society …” The petition also said that the disposition of Morgan’s assets was not his decision but that he was influenced. The petition asks that a judge deny probate.

The petition said that Morgan did not have sufficient mental capacity to understand the terms and provisions of his will and did not know the extent of his property and did not understand what would happen to the land according to the will.

The petition says Morgan’s will is “void and unenforceable” and should be ruled invalid.

The petition also seeks to remove long-time North Platte attorney Charles W. Baskins as the estate’s personal representative and replace him with Dorothy Simants, Morgan’s daughter.

Full Article and Source:
Legal battles loom over will of former judge

See also:
Family contests will after money left to animal group

DCF Violated State Laws

According to an internal report by the department’s general counsel obtained by the Times-Union, the Florida Department of Children and Families repeatedly violated state laws and its own procedures by not releasing records to lawyers for children in a Nassau County foster home abuse case.

The department also improperly destroyed and misplaced some records, failed to retrieve others from foster parents and illegally released confidential child-abuse reports without a court order to a lawyer representing department employees.

Those were the same records that department lawyers in Jacksonville told the children’s lawyers they couldn’t find, a situation the report called “inexplicable.”

The report says: “The facts and circumstances of this case reveal that record management procedures in the Northeast region are inadequate.”

Full Article and Source:
DCF shirked procedures in Nassau abuse case

See also:
DCF slapped over sloppy records -
Report criticizes agency in case of suspected foster children abuse

Court allows suit over alleged abuse

State Lost Track

According to his lawyer, Robley Carr Jr. was a victim of the state Department of Social and Health Services' (DSHS) mistakes. He was a victim not once, but twice. In 2003, state and federal authorities paid $5 million to settle claims that Robley and three siblings were horribly abused in foster care.

Now, the state has agreed to pay an additional $320,000 to settle a claim that it failed to protect Robley even after that.

He died at age 15.

"How did they lose track of him again?" asks Tim Tesh, the Seattle lawyer who filed both legal claims. "It's a hard question to answer."

The state said only this:

"All I can tell you is that DSHS regrets the unfortunate death of this young man. We believe the $320,000 award is a fair and just settlement."

Full Article and Source:
DSHS settles case of boy's death; lawyer asks how state lost track

See also:
Washington settles foster death claim for $320,000

Guardian May Be Ordered

The Clark County Guardianship Commissioner ordered that Sharoni Dagani, the wife of former Nevada Board of Education member Greg Dagani, be evaluated by doctors to determine whether a guardian should appointed for her personal welfare.

The 50-year-old husband Greg Dagani was called an “undue influence” by Scott Cantor, the lawyer for Sharoni Dagani’s mother, Joan Albstein. Sharoni Dagani, 21, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

Dagani and her husband had been living in a filthy apartment but have not been updating their whereabouts with officials responsible for managing her personal trust fund and Social Security and Medicaid, according to testimony.

Outside court, Greg Dagani dismissed the allegations as “lies” and said he has never told his wife what to do. He said they are living comfortably in a three-bedroom house.

Source: Guardian might be ordered for ex-board of education member's wife

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Removing "Bully" Judge

A Luzerne County judge described as a bully has been removed from office.

Our second-hand study of the case suggests that Judge Ann H. Lokuta had abused her office to such an extent that the Court of Judicial Discipline's report is "scathing."

So - good. She is off the bench.

What is not good is that the case took more than four years to reach its conclusion. Four years is too long.

Full Article and Source:
Judge's removal OK, but it took too long

A county judge described as a bully on the bench was stripped of her office in the longest and most costly judicial ethics investigation in Pennsylvania history.

The Court of Judicial Discipline also banned Luzerne County Common Pleas Judge Ann H. Lokuta from holding any state judicial office in the future.

Lokuta, who attended the hearing, said she would appeal to the state Supreme Court but declined further comment.

Full Article and Source:
'Bully' Judge Banned From Bench After Record-Setting Investigation

The Court of Judicial Discipline voted 6-1 on Tuesday to remove Lokuta from office based on its findings that her behavior on the bench brought disrepute to the office and prejudiced the administration of justice. Lokuta has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The key issue is whether Lokuta’s seat is truly “vacant” given the possibility that the decision could be overturned on appeal.

Full Article and Source:
Appeal could slow replacing Lokuta

See also:
Lokuta benched

State court bans Lokuta from bench

Ethics board, Sprague rip upstate judge

Luzerne judge vows to fight violations of judicial code

Pa. ethics panel: Judge's behavior 'scandalous'

Understanding Attorney Fees

Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on legal fees. While some are satisfied customers who are getting competent legal help at reasonable prices, many others believe legal fees are way too high and would rather leave a legal problem unresolved than pay for services they cannot afford. As a legal consumer, your best defense against paying more than you should is to educate yourself about legal fees before signing on the dotted line.

To learn more about lawyer fees and tips on how you can lower your legal costs, download HALT’s new guide Understanding Attorney Fees (pdf)

Visit HALT at

or write to HALT for a free copy at:
HALT—An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform
1612 K St NW Suite 510
Washington, DC 20006

Accused Abusers Not Charged

No criminal charges will be filed against several caregivers whose abuse of an elderly patient at the state-run Emily P. Bissell Hospital was captured on a surveillance camera.

Jason Miller, an attorney general spokesman: "The agency [Delaware Attorney General's Office] is declining to prosecute even though investigations by the hospital and the state's Division of Long Term Care Resident Protection substantiated the allegations."

Three employees were terminated and another two were suspended without pay. Four of the five employees also have been placed on the state's Adult Abuse Registry, a list of caregivers who have substantiated allegations of abuse.

The 75-year-old woman in question was in the Bissell Hospital with a fractured leg after a fall in January 2007. Disagreements between two different factions in her family regarding the level of care being given at Bissell led to a mandatory mediation in October resulting in the appointment of a public guardian.

The guardian requested she be moved to another facility.

Full Article and Source:
Bissell workers accused of abuse face no charges

See also:
Relatives Claim Retaliation

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Common Law Marriage Unrecognized

Joe John Sorce never thought it would end this way. In a hospital room with his longtime companion, Mary Clark, as she took her last breaths. He, holding her hand, unable to do anything about it.

The 63-year-old Sorce in recent weeks had fought to keep the woman he calls "my wife of 18 years" on life support at the hospital.

Before she died, a battle would wage over who would decide when Clark would be removed from life support and who would decide, Sorce or Clark's estranged children.

What ensued exemplifies the uneasy reality of end-of-life concerns: the legal, medical, ethical and moral issues that burst into the national consciousness during court battles.

Nevada doesn't honor what Sorce said was a common law marriage, doctors and nurses told Sorce he could play no role in medical decisions on her behalf. Instead, medical authorities twice consulted with the woman's estranged daughter on whether to take her off life support.

Marina Kolias was hired by Sorce in an attempt to get him named as Clark's guardian.

Judge Norheim granted a "temporary special limited guardianship" to Sorce following a hearing, allowing him access to Clark's medical providers. But he refused to give Sorce the authority to make any medical decisions on Clark's behalf.

Sorce said he received word in the late afternoon of Nov. 19 that hospital officials had again received permission from Clark's daughter to withdraw life support.

Clark died early on Nov. 20.

Full Article and Source:
Helpless as companion dies - State law allows estranged daughter to decide woman's fate

"My Dad Has Alzheimer's"

The daughter of Hollywood legend Peter Falk says her father is no longer competent to run his own life because he suffers from Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Catherine Falk filed legal papers in L.A. County Superior Court claiming her father "requires full-time custodial care for his health and safety."

In the docs, Catherine claims she is worried her father "can easily be deceived into transferring away property" and believes a conservatorship will protect Peter from "fraud or undue influence."

A hearing on the matter is set for next month.

Peter Falk's Daughter: My Dad Has Alzheimer's

Monday, December 15, 2008

Conservator Cheated Grandmother

Charges have been filed against a man accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his grandmother. Jervon Ware, the grandson, is her court-appointed conservator.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell says Ware cheated his grandmother out of nearly $37,000. The money was taken over a period of about three years, from social security checks and Catholic Social Service pension checks.

Ware is accused of using the cash buy drugs and alcohol, and to support his girlfriend and her daughter. Pickell says he even purchased two cars using his grandmother's funds.

According to investigators, Ware even remortgaged her home twice to replace the money he was spending, allegedly right before audits were done as part of his court-appointed conservatorship.

Pickell: "The courts placed him in a very trusting position and he violated that trust."

Man accused of stealing from grandmother

See also:
Grandson charged in warrant with embezzling nearly $37,000 from his grandmother

Judge Defends Probate Court

Protecting People In The Court Of Last Resort
Probate Judges Must Exercise Diligence In Appointing Conservators To Run Others' Affairs

Paul J. Knierim is probate court administrator and judge of the Simsbury probate court.
See: Probate Investigation

"Conservatorship and the ability of the Connecticut probate system to handle this important area of the law have become controversial. But the important fact is that some of our most vulnerable citizens would be at great risk of harm without the appointment of a conservator. Although reports about extraordinary cases can help us learn ways to improve, Connecticut's probate courts do an excellent job of handling thousands of these highly personal family matters every year."

Full Article and Source:
Protecting People In The Court Of Last Resort

Do you agree? Or disagree? Be heard with a Letter to the Editor:

See also:

Plank Returns Home

After a hard fought probate court battle that fractured a family, 85-year-old Marilyn Plank returned home to Michigan where her former conservator said she is happy to be.

Her return came after Greenwich Probate Judge David Hopper denied a last minute "ex parte" emergency order for a stay filed by one of the daughters who originally brought Plank to Greenwich in 2007, Linda Higgins.

Court records show that Plank had been the object of a family legal battle after two of her daughters moved her from Michigan to Greenwich, leading to a contentious dispute in which the family was split over where she should reside permanently.

Some of Plank's seven children said she was moved to the Greens of Greenwich against her will and forced to stay, while another faction maintained she was moved to receive better medical care.

After a year, Hopper eventually ruled in favor of Richard Margenot's request to return Plank to an assisted living facility in Michigan. Margenot was appointed as Plank's independent conservator to represent her interests in court proceedings.

Full Article and Source:
Court battle resolved as elderly woman returns home

See also:
Probate Judge Frees Woman

Probate Investigation

Probate-Sanctioned Kidnapping

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Probate Fees Increasing

Increased fees will take effect Jan. 1.

Fee changes can be attributed to Senate Bill 1407 [Signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September] which gives permission for $5 billion in lease-revenue bonds aimed to finance upgrades to courthouses. The bill calls for financing construction, rehabilitation, renovation and replacement of court facilities.

Unlimited civil filing fees of more than $25,000 and probate and family law filing fees increase by $30 to $350. That $30 increase will be going to the State Court Facility Construction Fund's Immediate & Critical Needs account. In the case of some of the fees, all of the increased amount goes to the fund.

Fees regarding limited civil filings, appeal or petition for a writ, probate, and family law will see increases of $20 to $25.

According to county Superior Court documents, several non-first filing probate fees go up $170 and $160 to $350 and $200.

Court fees headed higher

See also:
Increased superior court fees

Courts to get $5 Billion for Repairs, Renovations

'Medieval' Yolo courthouse high on the list for replacement

California Courthouse Repairs

Community Outrage

About 50 angry residents turned out at a community meeting sharply criticizing the county attorney and the management of Good Samaritan nursing home for their handling of abuse cases that have rocked the community.

Criminal complaints filed last week say six teenage aides taunted and groped nursing home residents who had advanced dementia, hitting and poking their breasts and genitals, sticking fingers in their mouths or noses to keep them from screaming, and laughing about it.

One after another, people at the somber meeting voiced amazement that the abuse could continue for months and that the aides were charged with gross misdemeanors rather than felonies.

The two-hour meeting at an Albert Lea hotel was organized by Wes Bledsoe, an activist from Oklahoma. Bledsoe started the advocacy group A Perfect Cause after his grandmother died from maltreatment in a nursing home there.

Guilty or not, he said, "if the two young women had been men, they would have been charged with felonies'' instead of gross misdemeanors that might yield only suspended sentences and fines. They thought they could get away with it, because the residents had dementia, couldn't speak up for themselves".

Document: Complaint against Brianna Marie Broitzman
Document: Complaint against Ashton Michelle Larson

Full Article and Source:
Families sound off on abuse at Albert Lea nursing home

See also:
The Albert Lea abuse case

Town Hall Meeting Addresses Albert Lea Nursing Home Abuse

National Advocate in Albert

Albert Lea Community Outraged Over Allegations of Nursing Home Abuse

Six Former Workers Charged in Albert Lea Nursing Home Abuse

Video: Abuse Allegations Meeting

Video: Community Backlash

Conservator Convicted by Jury

A jury has convicted Shauna Michelle Brewster of one count of felony financial elder abuse and one felony count of elder abuse/neglect.

The crimes allegedly were committed over a year-and-a-half-long period against 75-year-old Glenhaven resident Lawrence Russell, for whom Brewster became private conservator in early 2003.

Russell had been previously conserved by a jury and found to be “unable to provide for his needs for physical health, food, clothing, shelter” and that he was “substantially unable to manage his financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence.” The public guardian served as his conservator for a brief period of time before Brewster agreed to be his conservator.

The financial abuse came to light when Russell's medical bills, mortgage and other bills went unpaid. Russell's home had gone into foreclosure after payments were not made for seven months, and almost no money was left in Russell's checking account.

The elder abuse/neglect charge resulted from a series of events in which Russell was placed in situations that left his health endangered, including a situation where he sustained second- to third-degree burns on portions of his upper body. The burns were not treated properly and became infected.

Shauna Brewster will be sentenced on the elder abuse and neglect charges on Jan. 12, 2009. Brewster faces five years in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Jury convicts woman of financial elder abuse, neglect

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Win For Free Speech

Diane Anderson, the woman who was jailed and ordered to take down a Web site she used to publicize her probate court case, can start posting again.

Wayne County Probate Judge David Szymanski today reversed his order that had shuttered Anderson’s online commentaries about the tangled and lengthy court fight with her brother David over their elderly mother’s care.

Szymanski: “She had complied with my order, But it was inappropriate, so I rescinded it.”

Anderson: “I’m going to get it up and running again. It’s not so much a win for me as it is for free speech. The Internet is the greatest tool in the world we have for free speech.”

Full Article and Source:
Judge rescinds order, allows woman to post

David Carl Anderson and Elder Abuse

See also:
On January 28, 2008 an interview was conducted by Lary Holland with Diane Anderson on the subject of elder abuse. The interview of Diane Anderson implicates and alleges that both the Oakland County Judicial Candidate David Carl Anderson and, his wife, sitting Oakland County Family Court Judge Martha Anderson are involved in a case of Elder Abuse against Jewell Ann Anderson, Mr. Anderson’s own mother. Diane Anderson is the sister of David Anderson and Daughter of Jewell Anderson.
Oakland County Judge and Candidate Implicated in Elder Abuse of Family Member

Petition to Designate Own Guardian

Petition for Individuals Power To Appoint One's Own Guardian/Conservator

Target: State Legislators

We the people of the United States of America who are citizens respectful of the law, do hereby petition the State Legislature to immediately adopt a code which specifies that each individual shall have the power to specify, designate, and appoint their own guardian/conservator through a Durable Power of Attorney; that each individuals appointed guardian/conservator shall take precedent over an appointment by a judge except in cases where a nominated and/or designated guardian/conservator has a prior felony conviction; and, that this law shall apply to all individuals currently who may be wards of the state who have previously nominated, appointed or specified a guardian/conservator via a Durable Power of Attorney.

signature goal: 1,000

Source and to sign the petition:
Grant me the right to appoint my own guardian / conservator