Saturday, July 19, 2008

Probate Judge or Not

Attorney Earl Johnson filed a motion asking the County judge assigned to hear the lawsuit filed by the Covington County Commission against Sherrie Phillips in her capacity as probate judge to continue the case.

Johnson said he asked Circuit Judge Bert Rice to continue the case until it can be determined if Phillips is the probate judge or not.

In June, Phillips was indicted by a Covington County grand jury on six charges, including the theft of $1.8 million and felony ethics charges for using her official position for personal gain. Alabama law does not allow an indicted judge to serve on the bench, so a temporary special judge has been appointed to the probate office.

Johnson said: "My client is not sued personally, but in her capacity as probate judge, I don't see how any action she could take would be binding because she is not at this point the judge."

Rice was assigned to hear the case after local judges recused themselves from the suit.

Johnson said if the motion is denied, he is withdrawing from the case.

Full Article and Source:
Attorney asks Phillips' lawsuit be continued

See also:
Petition to Reopen Estate

Judge Arrested on Ethics Charges

Life for Lauren - Update

Thanks to all of you for your prayers. Lauren’s case is still ongoing and no decision has been made yet by the trial judge. Lauren herself has had some minor ups and downs but is doing pretty well. We are visiting her, interacting with her, and enjoying her life every day. Some of the items on schedule in the court case in May and June occurred while others did not. We do not know what the upcoming schedule will be exactly, but at least some court-related activities will occur in July.

All of this means that Lauren’s case is still hanging in the balance for a decision about whether she will be allowed to receive care and assistance from her loving family or whether she will starve and dehydrate simply because she has a disability. Please continue to pray for Lauren and everyone involved in this case.

**Please read the attached resolution approved by the Delaware House of Representatives.

Click on the following link to read the article: Delaware House of Representatives Approves Resolution for Lauren Richardson

As always, thank you for your continued prayers and support.

The Richardson family

See Also:
Life For Lauren

Helpless Agencies

Rick Sarver waved a gun, bringing police and, his death. Police first tried to use a taser to subdue him, but Sarver aimed a rifle, causing police to shoot. In situations like Sarver's, police, friends, families and mental health officials are often exasperated. Unless the mentally ill person is an immediate danger to themselves or the public, they can't be forced to get help -- even if their judgement is obviously clouded.

Ohio law allows any person to be committed to a short stay in a hospital psychiatric ward if a probate judge believes that the person is an immediate threat. Probate Court Administrator John Polito said short-term involuntary commitment is usually granted, and in some cases -- where an ongoing danger is investigated and documented by a court social worker -- a longer-term guardianship is approved.

And the involuntary commitments are often a "revolving door" because as soon as the mentally ill person is stabilized, the law says they have to be released from the hospital.

The issue is how the court interprets what constitutes a danger. Judge Marilyn Cassidy said Guys like Rick Sarver often slip through the cracks. If he was a minor or if he was elderly there would be much stronger systems -- the Juvenile Court and adult protective services -- in place to investigate his condition.

Full Article and Source:
Agencies, courts often powerless in helping mentally ill

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Broken Stewardship"

Son contends law firms representation of 99-year-old East Lyme woman poses a conflict

A family doctor from Savannah, Ga., has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute involving a powerful Connecticut law firm and the management of his 99-year-old mother's affairs.

Other family members are satisfied that Mrs. Hubby's affairs - including an estate worth an estimated $5.5 million - are in good order. But Dr. Frank B. “Ben” Hubby says he needs to repair his mother's “broken stewardship.”

He has taken on Day Pitney, one of the state's largest law firms, claiming the firm represents two members of his family whose interests are in direct conflict with each other: his mother and his older brother, Nicholas.

Hubby's claim has been dismissed by the East Lyme probate court and the state Superior, Appellate and Supreme courts. Earlier this month, Hubby petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take on the case.

Hubby wrote in his petition to the court that the case presents an issue of national importance “because overly trusting elders are easily persuaded to take actions injurious to their own interests.”

Full Article and Source:
Doctor Hopes Supreme Court Weighs In On Family Dispute

Fishy Smell in Connecticut

Judge James Lawlor, the probate court administrator, gets the boot — or rather, "made a decision to retire," according to Chief Court Administrator Barbara M. Quinn. What message does that send to our 117 different probate courts that have been excoriated for trampling the civil rights of the old, frail and impoverished?

Lawlor has been the man pushing for change from inside, dragging renegade probate court judges kicking and screaming into the modern age, leading the charge to force them to conduct proceedings on the record, to stop them from rewarding cronies, to open for business at convenient hours and to remind all involved that probate is a court, not a feeding trough for lawyers.

John Langbein, Sterling Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School:
"His ouster shows the arrogance of the probate judges"
"They don't want reform, they want to keep their cushy little empires, and they will fight off even modest reforms"
"The legislature has to stand up to these guys if there is to be real reform"

Full Article and Source:
Reformer's Exit Smells Fishy

Rick Green's column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Guardianship Services

In the case of Loren Stamm, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded due to the erroneous admission of guardian ad litem testimony. Mr. Stamm was released from guardianship a short time thereafter. He continues to live with his wife in Kenmore, Washington.
Margaret Dore - Briefs

It is undisputed that GSS submitted a false statement under oath to to obtain the discharge of Mr. Stamm’s attorney. In Kuvara, the attorney who engaged in similar conduct, was disbarred. GSS committed other breaches of duty, many of which are established as a matter of law. GSS’s fees should be disallowed in their entirety. Otherwise, the wrong message will be sent.
Stamm v. Guardianship Services of Seattle - Reply Brief

In order to send a proper message to GSS and other guardians, GSS’s fees should be disallowed in their entirety and remanded for trial.
Margaret Dore-Opening Brief

Guardianship Services of Seattle (GSS) has also been mentioned in a news article:
A millionaire's guardian: many hats, many questions

And on a website: Guardian Failure

Ed Gardner, its financial director, and Guardianship Services of Seattle (GSS) are registered with Center for Guardianship Certification and with National Guardianship Association

See also:
Regulating Guardians

Regulating Guardians

If family or friends are not available, state probate courts appoint guardians — also called conservators and fiduciaries in some states — to protect incapacitated seniors and dependant adults from self-neglect, predators and scam artists. But in some cases, society’s most vulnerable adults are left in the hands of unscrupulous or incompetent guardians, and until recently, states were not looking over their shoulders.

To address this growing potential for fraud, theft and abuse:

* California joined six other states — Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Texas and Washington — in regulating professional guardians appointed by courts to manage the finances and day-to-day needs of those who can no longer help themselves.

* All 50 states have adopted laws governing how and when courts appoint guardians and every state except Nebraska provides public guardians for those who cannot afford to pay.

* Some states also allow payment of guardianship fees through Medicaid, the federal and state health program for the poor.

* Idaho and North Carolina — have legislative committees that are considering industry regulation.

* Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah are revamping their guardianship laws and may include some form of certification and oversight.

In all, Arizona has licensed more than 300 fiduciaries, Florida has certified 137 guardians, Texas has certified 241, Nevada 86, Alaska has licensed 49 and California has tested 161 conservators for licensing, according to Sally Hurme of the Center for Guardianship Certification, who is working with states to develop training and certification programs.

Full Article and Source:
States move to regulate senior guardians

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Elder Abuse is a Crime

* Four to 6 percent of all senior citizens will become victims of some form of elder abuse, including neglect and exploitation, according to press reports.

* Fewer than 20 percent of elder abuse cases are reported to Adult Protective Services or law enforcement agencies.

* The federal government spends $6.7 billion on child abuse prevention efforts, $520 million on programs designed to combat violence against women and spends only $153.5 million on elder abuse prevention.

* Seniors who are abused or mistreated are three times more likely to die earlier than seniors who are not, according to the American Medical Association.

* The senior population is projected to nearly double in the next 20 years.

* In order to remain in their homes, quite often they need the services of a caregiver to help with the chores they can no longer do themselves. As a general rule, the caregiver comes in, does the chores that need doing and leaves. However, in some cases, the caregiver is anything but a caregiver.

If you have any ideas on some of the ways we can make a difference in the fight against elder abuse, please share them. Senior Corner appears every other Monday. Betty can be reached at

It’s a crime

Court Administrator Resignation

Probate court administrator James J. Lawlor submitted his resignation in a heavily detailed, five-page letter that outlined his attempts to reform the state's 117 probate courts, which have been targets of criticism for their cronyism and uneven performance.

Lawlor made numerous enemies among the elected judges because he tried to enact sweeping reforms that included more rigorous training for judges and staff, more financial auditing, additional oversight from the central office, and consolidation that could have cost some judges their jobs.

State officials who spoke on an agreement of anonymity said Lawlor had been forced out of his job. One state official who saw Lawlor over the weekend said, "He looked like he got punched in the gut."

Full Article and Source:
State's Probate Court Administrator Submits Resignation

Lawlor Leaving As Probate Court Administrator

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Irving Lincoln Fields (1919 – 1991)

Irving Fields family alleges that Irving was taken advantage of in a scene very much like this one depicted by Goya.

Irving Fields family alleges that, due to negligence and fraud within Boca Raton Community Hospital, Irving was taken advantage of on the day that he died there, while he was under a Do Not Resuscitate order and being administered morphine, both of which were started earlier that same day as a result of his cancer rupturing his stomach.

While in this condition, Irving was prompted to sign a Will which a doctor wrote in Irving's medical record and a deed which two lawyers subsequently brought to Irving's bedside.

The deed contradicted the Will, a fact to which the doctor testified. The deed, which contradicted numerous other expressions of Irving's wishes, including a Will which Irving kept in a local bank's vault, conveyed the deeded property to the family of one of the two lawyers.

As a result of their experience, Irving's family has created a website where they have reproduced the evidence in this case, including the complete transcripts of the testimony of the parties and witnesses involved. This material is easily accessed from the links provided at EVIDENCE of Fraud and Undue Influence in the Estate of Irving Fields

Irving's family also alleges that their efforts to seek a legal remedy have been undermined by legal authorities in Florida. Those allegations, and the evidence which proves those allegations, are summarized online at Evidence, Authorities & Proposed Legal Reforms

One lesson which Irving's family learned from their experience is that existing laws do not realistically protect the most vulnerable individuals and families against such negligence and fraud. With Alzheimer's Disease, stroke and cancer leaving so many millions vulnerable to such negligence and fraud, there need to be more realistic safeguards. With this in mind, Irving's family has sought to encourage numerous legal reforms, including that which is described online at Preventing Financial Fraud, Abuse and Exploitation

Knowing that our laws fail to operate as they should under such easily monitored circumstances, is it any wonder then that they don’t operate as they should under many other circumstances?

Irving's family can be reached by email at

See also:
Advocate For the Elderly

The Gambling Attorney

Richard C. Hannan, who pleaded no contest to stealing more than $150,000 from a 99-year-old client, one of more than a dozen embezzlements of which he is suspected, was an excellent customer at Mohegan Sun.

Casino officials told police that Hannan lost a total of $874,848 between June 2001 and June 2007 and, over the last year and a half, lost more than an average of $18,000 a month.

Over the 72-month period, he lost money every month except one.

Full Article and Source:
A Casino Losing Streak Leads To Jail

See also:
Voluntary Suspension

Monday, July 14, 2008

Attacks on Wills Barred

For the first time, a California appellate court has said that when a conservator seeks court approval of an estate plan, while the subject is living, any challenge to the will must be raised at that hearing -- not when the person dies.

According to attorney David Baer, the appellate decision is the first in the country to say attacks on wills would be barred after the estate owner dies, if there has been a court-approved substituted judgment.

According to Baer, the opinion essentially bulletproofs the will of a person found incompetent and placed under the protection of a conservator, if the court OKs a revised estate plan.

Full Article and Source:
In Appellate First, Attacks on Wills Barred After Estate Owner Dies

First Appellate District:
Murphy v. Murphy

Shake-Up in Probate

"Ousted chief judge Kathryn George will no longer hear any cases on wills and estates."

The chief judge of Macomb Probate Court signed an administrative order removing Judge Kathryn George from all cases involving wills and estates.

Kenneth Sanborn was called out of retirement by the state Supreme Court to replace George as chief judge. Sanborn said: "Hopefully this will clear up some of the issues in the court."

Sanborn said he is reviewing 82 questionable cases, most of which involve Shelby Township-based ADDMS Guardianship Services. A recent audit by the Whall Group, an Auburn Hills fraud investigation firm, found "flagrant violations" by ADDMS. The audit highlighted several cases in which the agency mishandled the estates of people it was charged to care for.

Full Article and Source:
Shake-up in Macomb Probate Court

See also:
Hearing for New Guardians

Guardianship Agency Removed

Macomb County Probate

Probate Judge Removed

Out of Conservatorship

This post has been deleted at the victims request.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

State Budget Stripped

A key legislative committee has stripped the state budget of $17.4 million earmarked for enhancing oversight of court-appointed conservators.

The decision, which was made in Sacramento, means that the state's probate courts will probably have to find money in their own budgets to implement laws passed in 2006 that require more court supervision of people under conservatorships.

The reforms were signed into law after a Times series exposed theft, abuse and negligence by some professional conservators appointed to look after senior citizens.

The laws require courts to increase the frequency of investigators' visits to people under conservatorship; to make their investigations more thorough; and to conduct more intensive checks of conservators' financial reports that show how they are managing clients' money.

But the courts have never received money to pay for the new requirements. Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed funding intended to help the courts meet the additional costs.

Budget Conference Committee votes to cut $17.4 million for oversight of conservators

See also:
Postponing Protection for Seniors

Court Work Overload