Saturday, November 1, 2008

Voting Rights

All but 11 states have some type of law limiting voting rights for individuals based on competence. Laws in some states still bar voting by people referred to using outdated terms such as "idiots" or the "insane."

More than a dozen states prohibit individuals deemed incompetent or under a guardian's care from voting. Another 20 states ban voting only if a court has determined that the individual specifically lacks the capacity to vote.

State laws on voting:

* Eleven states place no disability-related restrictions on the right to vote: Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

* Twenty states bar voting only if a court has determined that an individual specifically lacks the capacity to vote: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

* Fifteen states and the District of Columbia bar voting by individuals who are under guardianship or who have been adjudged mentally incompetent or mentally incapacitated: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

* Nine states have laws that use outdated and stigmatizing terms such as "idiots" and "insane persons" to describe who is barred from voting based on competence concerns, but those laws are rarely enforced because they are impossible to apply: Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Minnesota, New Jersey and Nevada.

State laws on voting among the mentally ill

See also:
Advocates push for voting rights for mentally ill

The Right to Vote
of Persons Under Guardianship –Limited and Otherwise

What Everyone Should Know About Voting and Guardianship

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Law: No Need for Court

Effective July 1, the Care of a Grandchild Act allows a parent, without a court’s approval, to delegate the care of a child to a grandparent or great-grandparent in the event of hardship such as illness, active military duty, natural disaster or incarceration.

The new law is designed to assist families to transfer custody when necessary without the expense or involvement of the court system.

However, the new law has created potential problems for Dougherty County’s school attendance policy. With the notarized form, the “agent grandparent” consequently may enroll the child in a public school serving the area where the grandparent resides.

Board Attorney Tommy Coleman: "The law runs counter to what the Dougherty County School Board has been trying to do."

Changes in the system’s student assignment policy made in 2006 require students to remain at a single school through the school year, with a few exceptions, even if a family moves to a new address.

The new law requires parents to certify that the transfer of care to a grandparent is not solely for the purpose of sending the child to another school, but Coleman said some parents have been known to “take advantage” of the system.

Dougherty Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson: "Thought the new law might impact the number of temporary guardianship papers issued by her office", but it hasn’t.

Requests for temporary guardianships have declined since the school board’s 2006 policy revision made them invalid for the purpose of determining student residency.

Full Article and Source:
School law creates kinks

More on the Care of a Grandchild Act:
SB 88 - Care of a Grandchild Act; provide subsidy to certain grandparents raising grandchildren under certain circumstances

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA: the "Care of a Grandchild Act"

Others Feel Victimized

Attorney General Troy King said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on any further investigation his office may or may not be conducting into the estate in which former Covington County Probate Judge Sherrie Phillips was convicted of two counts of theft, or into any other estates she might have handled.

But he did acknowledge that his office has heard from a number of people who felt they or their families were wronged by Phillips’ actions as judge.

Troy King: "We’ve heard from a number of them already, If there is anybody else who feels they need to make a complaint, they can call our office." "I’ve talked to three or four myself, They aren’t vindicated by this. Other people also feel they were victimized."

King said the attorney general’s office would ultimately request of anyone with a complaint to put that complaint in writing and provide whatever documents there are.

Full Article and Source:
Attorney General: Others report probate problems

See also:
Probate Judge Convicted

"My commitment to the people of Covington County and citizens throughout Alabama is that, as their Attorney General, I will prosecute those who break the law and betray the public trust, and that I will take action to preserve the integrity of our government. Today, we make good on that pledge”
Former Covington County Judge Convicted on Ethics and Theft Charges

State of Alabama Attorney General's Office
500 Dexter Avenue · Montgomery, AL 36130

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Public Guardian in Control

The two sons and wife of prominent local businessman Larry Shehadey have agreed to let Fresno County's Public Guardian be his permanent conservator, a decision that "avoids a potentially ugly court battle" over his care.

101 year old Shehadey built Producers Dairy into one of Fresno's most successful businesses. Family members have said he suffers from dementia.

Last year, the Public Guardian began an investigation of June Lattanzio, who is Shehadey's wife. The county agency alleged that Lattanzio isolated Shehadey from friends and family and even threatened to move him out of the country. The Public Guardian sought successfully to become his temporary conservator. He was moved out of the home he shared with Lattanzio, and the agency took responsibility for his daily care.

Not long afterward, Lattanzio and Shehadey's two sons filed competing court briefs seeking to gain control of Shehadey's life by becoming his permanent conservator.

A court trial on the matter was set for earlier this month, but papers filed in Fresno County Superior Court showed the matter was resolved before the trial started.

Full Article and Source:
Shehadey conservatorship resolved

More on Fresno County Public Guardian:

Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation is the organization that helped Janet Rivera's family find legal counsel after the Fresno County Public Guardian's office refused to give her food and water. Rivera went about eleven days off life support and it wasn't until the family asked CBS47 for help and they began an investigation, that the county put back her feeding tube.
Schiavo Foundation: “It’s a Wake-up Call”

Rivera's husband was recently replaced as her public guardian, after he experienced medical problems. The appointed Fresno County Public Guardian decided that because she is unlikely to recover, Rivera's fluids and food would be removed. This decision was against the wishes of the Rivera family and Janet's husband.
California Public Guardian Attempts to Dehydrate Woman to Death over Wishes of Family

After a hearing in the Fresno County Superior Court, the family of patient Janet Rivera was reinstated as her conservator. The Court ruled that Ms. Rivera's cousin temporarily replaces the public guardian who made the decision to deprive Ms. Rivera of food and water.
Court protects California woman from Schiavo-like death by dehydration...

See also:
Saved from Government Sanctioned Starvation

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Probate Judge Convicted

A jury has convicted former Covington County Probate Judge Sherrie Phillips on ethics and theft charges. The jury issued the verdict after a 3-day trial.

Phillips was accused of taking a $1.8 million check from an estate and putting the money into a personal account while she was probate judge.

Attorney General Troy King: "The conviction sends a strong message that no one is above the law."

Jury convicts former Covington Co. probate judge

More information:
Former Covington County Judge Convicted on Ethics and Theft Charges

Verdict reached in Phillips theft, ethics violations case

See also:
Judge on Trial

Guardianship Battle Begins

Heather Lavers suffered a cardiac arrest. Doctors say she has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since and likely will never come out of it.

That medical prognosis has begun a chain of events that, like the infamous Terri Schiavo case, will pit a husband against his wife's family and potentially reignite the national debate over who decides whether a seemingly hopeless patient lives or dies.

Heather was at Tampa General Hospital for about a week before her sister, Heidi Kaczala, persuaded Robert to move his wife to The Toledo Hospital in Ohio. She would get better care at the Level 1 trauma facility, Robert recalled his sister-in-law, a nurse there, saying. He was desperate and agreed Kaczala could serve as her sister's temporary health surrogate.

Soon after, Robert learned Kaczala planned to seek full guardianship of her sister, which would include the right to decide whether to continue medical treatment. He contacted a lawyer and was told that even though he was Heather's spouse and had natural guardianship, to be safe he needed to make a similar request in Florida. He also needed to be present at a separate hearing in Ohio, where his sister-in-law had filed her request.

Patricia Kaczala said her son-in-law isn't capable of caring for Heather – not the kind of long-term care Heather will need. Robert is disabled and unemployed.

A Toledo judge is expected to appoint a legal guardian to speak on Heather Lavers' behalf. Her sister in Ohio is asking the court to grant her decision-making power over all medical care for Heather. Robert Lavers says his sister-in-law considers his wife brain-dead and would eventually "pull the plug."

Robert and his wife previously discussed the issue and agreed on one thing: "Only God can stop your heart."

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship Battle Begins In Schiavo-Like Case

See also:
Ill woman at Toledo Hospital is subject of custody hearing -
Man fighting to keep wife on life support

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Permanent Conservatorship

Britney Spears conservatorship arrangement with father Jamie Spears was made permanent with no objection coming from Britney. If the terms of the deal remain the same, her dad will continue to oversee her estate, finances, legal affairs and medical care along with attorney Andrew Wallet.

The conservatorship seems to have been made permanent because the condition that apparently caused temporary conservatorship did not change.

Britney lost control of her affairs following her hospitalization Jan. 31 on a 5150 hold, meaning she was considered a danger to herself or others.

Family law specialist Alexandra Leichter: "It certainly makes it more difficult to gain custody of the children because if one court found that she is not capable of taking care of herself and affairs then how is the other court going to find her able to take care of the affairs of two babies. The burden now shifts to Britney Spears or her conservator [Spears' father] to prove that she is perfectly capable, rather than the conservator having to prove that she is not capable."

Full Article and Source:
Britney Agrees to Permanent Conservatorship, Puts Regaining Custody in Doubt

See also:
Big Money Conservatorship

Judge on Trial

An assistant attorney general told members of the jury in Sherrie Phillips’ trial that the former probate judge used portions of the $1.8 million she is accused of stealing “as if she had won the lottery.”

He said that the evidence will show that Phillips opened a personal account with a check for $1.8 million. He said the evidence also will show that between Jan. 22, 2008 and April 5, 2008, Phillips wrote 10 checks on the account “just like anybody who won the lottery.”

Those checks, which total $516,917.50, will be admitted into evidence, and include:

• checks to pay off loans

• a $25,000 check to her husband

• a $100,000 check to her brother

• a $100,000 check to herself written on the day after she purchased a Cadillac Escalade for more than $60,000

• a check to Andalusia Ford for $23,000; In the memo line of that check, Phillips wrote “Bud’s truck.” Buddy Phillips is Sherrie Phillips’ husband

Phillips later transferred money out of the personal account into a public funds account, and deposited four checks, including:

• a check from one of her brothers for $449,000

• a check from another of her brothers for $25,000

• a check from her husband for $12,000

• a check from herself for $32,000. Phillips apparently presented the $32,000 in cash

A 6-count indictment charges her with stealing from the estate of a man who died last year.

Phillips’ attorney encouraged the jurors to “keep an open mind.” “Every bit of the money was paid back before she was ever charged."

Full Article and Source:
Prosecutor: Phillips acted as if she had won lottery

More information:
Jury Selection Begins in Criminal Trial

Defense attorney: State must prove Phillips' intent

See also:
Petition to Reopen Estate

Judge Arrested on Ethics Charges

Probate Judge or Not

Monday, October 27, 2008

Banning Unmarried Couples

Voices for America’s Children joins Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, a member of Voices network, in opposing Arkansas Initiated Act 1 because it will endanger thousands of foster children awaiting a permanent home.

Bill Bentley, Voices President and CEO:

"With more than 3,700 children currently residing in foster care, and 500 who are waiting to be adopted on any given day, Arkansas’ children cannot afford to be denied the opportunity of finding a permanent home. Currently, over 200 foster youth in Arkansas leave foster care at age 18 without ever gaining a permanent home. This ballot initiative would increase this number dramatically and result in the state turning its back on its most vulnerable children. Voices strongly urges all voters to reject this measure."

Initiated Act 1 bans unmarried cohabiting couples from serving as foster or adoptive parents. This ballot initiative applies equally to heterosexual and homosexual unmarried couples as well as to all adoptions from public and private child-serving agencies.

Legislation signed by the President, The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act will allow Arkansas to use kinship and guardianship placements as well as provide additional supports for foster youth up to their 21st birthday. Initiated Act 1 threatens the ability of Arkansas to take full advantage of the positive improvements available in this law.

Full Article and Source:
Advocates Urge Arkansas Voters to Reject Initiated Act 1

See also:
Fight over act to limit adoptions heating up

Clergy: Vote 'No' on Initiated Act 1

For the kids: Vote 'No' on Initiated Act 1

Vote 'No' on Initiated Act 1

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surety Firms Stall Reform

Reforming the state’s antiquated probate laws could have a major impact on the region’s legal community, not to mention the thousands of residents who deal with estate, conservator or guardianship matters within the probate court system each year. But the initial proposal put the reforms at odds with the surety bond industry, which currently plays an important — and lucrative — role in the probate process.

Many thought it would be over after the 300-page reform bill — known as the Uniform Probate Code — was approved by the House in July. But the measure stalled in Senate, partly due to concerns expressed by the surety industry.

The reform measure as approved by the House would have created an “opt in” model for surety bonds in uncontested probate cases. As a result, a judge or a party to an estate probate matter would have to request that a surety bond be posted. Surety bonds are a type of insurance policy meant to cover parties if the executor of a will absconds with the estate’s assets. They are typically priced based on the size of the estate, say $10 per $1,000 in estate assets. The cost is usually absorbed by the estate.

The surety bond industry wasn’t pleased with the possibility of losing business through the opt-in reform and paid the Boston firm Johnson Haley LLP $10,000 to speak upon their behalf at the Capitol. The industry lobbied to have surety bonds required as the default, unless all the parties in the case agree to forgo it.

Bill Peterson, vice president and public affairs officer of Chicago-based CNA Surety: "his industry is supportive of the Uniform Probate Code, just not specific proposal as it relates to surety bonds."

Full Article and Source:
Lawyers Pine For Probate Improvement - Measure runs afoul of bond industry