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

State Probe of Guardianship Firm

Allegations under scrutiny that owner misused wards' assets, sold sick man's estate without permission

The Michigan Attorney General's Office is close to wrapping up an investigation into the owner of a guardianship agency who is accused of improperly handling wards' estates, including selling a sick man's possessions without his permission.

The probe of Alan Polack, owner of Shelby Township-based ADDMS Guardianship Services, has been ongoing since June and is nearing completion, according to officials with the State Court Administrator's Office, which oversees Michigan courts.

Polack's agency came under fire in January, when an audit by Auburn Hills accounting firm The Whall Group found ADDMS had engaged in "outrageous conduct committed against the individuals that need protection the most" in cases where the agency was appointed by the Macomb County Probate Court to handle people's estates.

ADDMS has since been removed as one of the agencies used by the court.

Carl Gromek, chief of staff for the State Court Administrator's Office, asked the Attorney General to investigate ADDMS.

Polack said he was not aware of the probe.

Full Article and Source:
State probes guardian firm

See also:
Attorney Contests Removal

Judicial Investigation

Guardianship Firm Resigning

Shake Up in Probate

Hearing For New Guardians

Guardianship Agency Removed

Macomb County Probate

Probate Judge Removed

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Attorney May Seek Guardianship Against Own Client

A Manhattan surrogate ruled that an attorney can seek a guardian for an allegedly incapacitated client she wants to stop representing. The attorney can also use confidential information acquired in the course of her representation to make the application.

Approximately three months after being retained, Stephanie E. Kupferman of Kupferman & Kupferman became the latest of several attorneys to conclude that she could not ethically defend Diane Wells against a lawsuit.

Noting that Ms. Wells was not only "incapable of managing the instant litigation" but "unable to appreciate the consequences of that incapacity," Manhattan Surrogate Kristin Booth Glen ruled that Ms. Kupferman could withdraw but only if she commenced a guardianship proceeding under Article 81 of the Surrogate's Court Act within 30 days.

Surrogate Glen wrote in Cheney v. Wells, 1573-07: "Here, where it can be reasonably determined that Diane is unable to act in her own interest, and no other practical method is available to protect her interest, these authorities would permit Kupferman to commence an Article 81 proceeding to appoint a limited property guardian to litigate and defend the instant action."

Full Article and Source:

ABA Seeking Stories About Multi-State Guardianships

The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging (ABA Commission) is looking for stories about how multi-state guardianship problems affect the lives of vulnerable individuals and their families, especially stories involving elder or adult abuse.

Adult guardianships often involve more than one state, raising complex jurisdictional issues. For example, many older people own property in different states. Family members may be scattered across the country. Frail, at-risk individuals may need to be moved for medical or financial reasons. Thus, judges, guardians, and lawyers frequently are faced with questions about which state should have initial jurisdiction, how to transfer a guardianship to another state, and whether a guardianship in one state will be recognized in another.

Such jurisdictional issues can take up vast amounts of time for courts and lawyers and can cause cumbersome delays and financial burdens for family members. Jurisdictional tangles can bar timely medical treatment for incapacitated individuals and can exacerbate family conflict. Moreover, lack of clear jurisdictional guideposts can facilitate “granny snatching” and other abusive actions.

To address these challenging problems, the Uniform Law Commission in 2007 approved the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA). The UAGPPJA seeks to clarify jurisdiction and provide a procedural road map for addressing dilemmas where more than one state is involved. The UAGPPJA cannot work as intended -- providing jurisdictional uniformity and reducing conflict -- unless all or most states adopt it.

Your stories about how multi-state guardianship problems affect the lives of vulnerable individuals and their families can make a real difference!

(1) Send your stories to the ABA Commission at:

(2) Indicate whether the ABA Commission staff may share your name and contact information with the Uniform Law Commission staff. They may contact you regarding legislative advocacy within your state. ABA staff will not share this information without permission; we don’t want to discourage anyone from sending stories.

The ABA Commission’s Joint Campaign for Uniform Guardianship Jurisdiction is funded by the ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law; the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Foundation; and the Uniform Law Foundation. For more information about the UAGPPJA and the Joint Campaign,


Guardian Blocks Sibling Visitation

A family says that the Department of Children and Families made a mistake that could force a brother and sister to grow up in different homes even though there's a family who wants to take them both in.

4-year-old Ashley Hernandez, and 15-month-old Terrance Miller are brother and sister. They live in two separate homes and, just recently, Ashley's adopted mother, Darelys Hernandez found out DCF placed the brother in a foster home and never told her.

The family says DCF needs to fix the problem and place the child with them, but the adoption agency who works for DCF isn't sure what happened. Siblings are supposed to stay together, but workers didn't know the little boy had a sister so he was placed in foster care.

Hernandez: "They made a mistake. They screwed up."

Family Services of Metro Orlando subcontracts for DCF and, according to state law and DCF policy, the agency tries to keep siblings together.

CEO Greg Kurth: "If the agency had known Ashley existed, they most likely would have placed Terrance with his sister. We don't know why or what happened going back over a year. We don't know the answer."

Once DCF found out about Ashley they tried to coordinate visitation, but that's when Terrance's court-appointed guardian stepped in and stopped the meeting.

Kurth: "The guardian ad litem (a party appointed by a court to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party) did make an emergency hearing to stop visitation, It was unprecedented to have a court order block sibling visitation."

Full Article and Source:
Family Says DCF Mistake Keeping Siblings Apart

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fourth Suspect Arrested in Torture Case

Police are holding a fourth suspect in the case of a 16-year-old boy who showed up emaciated and shackled at a gym.

Anthony Waiters was arrested at his place of work. He was booked at San Joaquin County Jail on charges of torture, conspiracy, child endangerment, corporal injury to a child and false imprisonment, according to police.

Police did not release any additional information about the arrest, citing a judge's gag order on parties to the case.

Three other people face torture, kidnapping and multiple child abuse charges in connection with the case.

Michael Schumacher, his wife, Kelly Layne Lau, and the teen's one-time guardian, Caren Ramirez, are each being held in lieu of more than $2.2 million bail at San Joaquin County Jail.

They have yet to enter pleas and are due back in court Jan. 5.

Full Article and Source:
Fourth suspect in custody in alleged Tracy abuse

More information:
Neighbor jailed as fourth suspect in brutal Tracy teen abuse case

See also:

OFA Names National Spokesperson

The Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) is pleased to announce that Jett Williams, daughter of country music legend Hank Williams and a renowned singer-songwriter in her own right, will be its official national spokesperson. OFA is the nation's oldest organization solely focusing on education, mentoring and workforce development for youth who have aged out of the foster care system.

Born in Alabama just five days after her father's death, Jett was legally adopted by Hank Williams' mother, Lillian Stone. When her grandmother died within weeks of completing the adoption, Jett was no longer wanted by the family and was made a ward of the state. After a series of foster care placements, she was adopted and raised by Wayne and Louise Deupree, and grew up not knowing who her real father was until she was over 30 years old.

Jett Williams' autobiography, Ain't Nothin' as Sweet as My Baby - The Story of Hank Williams' Lost Daughter, chronicles her riveting story of legal sleuthing, court battles, self-discovery and ultimate triumph. Today she is a successful performer based in Nashville and shares guardianship over her father's estate and legacy.

Country Music Star Jett Williams Speaks Out for Foster Youth

See also:
Jett Williams Website

Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) Website

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Report From the New York Court

After a two year investigation of judicial patronage by a Commission established by Chief Judge Judith Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals - the highest state court in New York - the Commission issued its Report in December, 2001.

What is rather unusual about the Report is that it officially acknowledged, admitted and published, that many court appointments were based on cronyism, politics and nepotism; that judges were awarding lucrative fees to lawyers appointed as guardians and receivers from other peoples' money put under control of the court and entrusted to the lawyers and that judges and lawyers were flaunting existing rules governing guardians and receivers.

The names of these judges and lawyers with the exception of the Brooklyn lawyers, whose brazen letter prompted the investigation, have not been published and are kept "confidential" by the Commission.

Although, the Report was compiled and published in the State of New York, the wrongful practices described in the Report are very much prevalent in the courts of numerous other states of the nation.

The Report offers a rare inside view of how the judges return favors and interact with well connected lawyers by rewarding them with coveted appointments of what is known in legal jargon as "fiduciaries".

The Report covers fiduciaries appointed by the court, as guardians for incapacitated persons, the elderly, the feeble who are the most vulnerable and the least able to help themselves; as guardians ad litem for children involved in litigation; and as receivers for properties such as in foreclosures or where it is alleged that the property maybe materially injured or destroyed.

The fiduciary appointees are usually private attorneys. Unless the incapacitated person is an indigent, the fiduciaries are usually paid from the assets of the incompetent or of the litigant in the action. The fiduciary generally takes full control over someone’s assets and/or property.

The Report describes numerous instances of how these assets were turned into a lucrative source of funds for lawyers, with the least amount of work and effort.

Full Article and Source:
Patronage - A Feast For Lawyers

Citizens For Judicial Accountability - Seeking Reform in the Legal System

Probate Judge Gets Corrective Action

But does not receive formal discipline.

An agency that oversees Michigan judges took "corrective action" against local Probate Judge David Stowe in response to a misconduct complaint.

But the state's Judicial Tenure Commission stopped short of filing a formal complaint against Stowe that could have resulted in significant discipline.

Stowe had a personal relationship with Cynthia Curry, who worked for him in the family court while he administered child custody matters in her divorce case. Stowe subsequently fired, then paid a $69,000 settlement to the county's family court administrator for reporting the relationship.

Curry's ex-husband, Ronald Curry, lodged a complaint with the Judicial Tenure Commission over Stowe's actions. Paul Fischer, executive director of the JTC, responded to Ronald Curry's complaint in a Nov. 12 letter.

Fischer wrote: "Occasionally, a judge's conduct falls short of the ideal judicial officer, yet does not warrant commencement of formal discipline proceedings." "In this matter, the Commission has taken an appropriate corrective action."

Curry: "They say he didn't do anything illegal, but if you take taxpayer money, basically mine and yours, and pay off somebody to be quiet, how can that not be illegal, I just think they are really just screwing the system. They think that they are above the law and everything else."

Michael Stein Stein threatened a Whistleblower lawsuit and Stowe paid Stein $69,000 from court coffers to prevent a suit, an agreement that prohibited him from making negative comments about Stowe's actions. Stowe fired Stein in early 2007 after Stein reported Stowe's alleged actions to Grand Traverse County officials, who forwarded the allegations to the state.

No formal complaint for family court judge

See also:
Probate judge pays to settle lawsuit - Stowe spends court funds to head off whistleblower suit

Monday, December 8, 2008

Seeking Maximum Against Guardian

Kizza Lopez and Melonea Feagin, accused of torturing a little girl in the name of discipline, will be sentenced Jan. 12 for aggravated child abuse.

Prosecutor Christine Bosau, working for the state attorney's office through the Okaloosa County Children's Advocacy Center, said she will seek a maximum sentence of 40 to 45 years in prison for Lopez.

Lopez was the child victim's guardian and Feagin was her long-time babysitter.

The police began investigating the case after the state Department of Children and Families received an anonymous tip.

The 11-year-old victim investigators for the Children's Advocacy Center said that Lopez and Feagin had poured hot water on her and beaten her with a coat hanger.

Case advocate for the Children's Advocacy Center: "This is one of the most severe cases of child abuse that I've seen."

Full Article and Source:
Guardian, babysitter to be sentenced for scalding abuse

The Appeal

The Appeal overtly suggests that elected judges can be bought. If the novel is meant as a cautionary tale, what's next--the Presidential primaries?

Why not? Over one billion dollars will be spent next year in the Presidential primaries and general election. With that kind of money floating around, anything can be bought.

The Appeal - Editorial Reviews

In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town’s water supply, causing the worst “cancer cluster” in history. The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict or reverse it.

Who are the nine? How will they vote? Can one be replaced before the case is ultimately decided?

The chemical company is owned by a Wall Street predator named Carl Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau is convinced the Court is not friendly enough. With judicial elections looming, he decides to try to purchase himself a seat on the Court. The cost is a few million dollars, a drop in the bucket for a billionaire like Mr. Trudeau. Through an intricate web of conspiracy and deceit, his political operatives recruit a young, unsuspecting candidate. They finance him, manipulate him, market him, and mold him into a potential Supreme Court justice. Their Supreme Court justice.

The Appeal is a powerful, timely, and shocking story of political and legal intrigue, a story that will leave readers unable to think about our electoral process or judicial system in quite the same way ever again.

The Appeal By John Grisham

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Do You Know Mrs. Brown?

Mrs. Brown was only visiting Atlantic City for a short time when she ran out of blood pressure medication and apparently suffered a seizure. At least, that's how she remembers it.

But her memory is questionable.

It took more than three months for a guardian to be appointed to the woman. Then another four to find out she was JoAnn Brown, born Sept. 26, 1941, in Rocky Mountain, N.C.

Mrs. Brown:
"I'm asking constantly to leave, I'm just totally ignored, as if I have some type of medical disorder."

"I was told I would come over to this place for a short stay,It has been going on for at least five months now."

"I have a lifestyle, Now I just walk up and down the halls, then right back to my room again, sitting there and looking stupid."

Mrs. Brown is an example of what happens when patients with no identification wind up in hospitals.

Dr. Joby Kolsun: "We won't discharge a patient from the hospital until we have a safe plan for that person after they leave the hospital."

Without identification, the hospital cannot get paid. Without a next of kin, medical decisions cannot be made. That's where Edward Tetelman comes in. He is with the Department of Health and Senior Services' Office of the Public Guardian.

First, the hospital must petition for a guardian, making the case that the patient is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for herself. Two doctors make that determination, then the court appoints an attorney.

She doesn't think they would keep her in a nursing home.

Mrs. Brown: "I am still functioning on my own. When I can no longer do that, they have homes for people, and I will gladly go to one. In the meantime, I will continue to function on my own and do as I want to."

Except she insists she is not doing as she wants.

She would like to return to her home, which she says is a rooming house in Capitol Heights, Md. - however, Tetelman said, she also has named Washington, D.C., as a residence.

A return to either does not look likely until she is deemed fit for release or a family member comes forward.

by LYNDA COHEN Staff Writer, 609-272-7257

Full Article and Source:
Woman without I.D. spends year in New Jersey as care centers foot the bill

Nurse Speaks Out

The Milous Keith story ran a couple weeks ago. The article referenced Keith’s saga of being found incompetent by the courts and locked away in an Alzheimer’s ward, only later to be deemed competent and released.

During that time, he lost all his rights, most of his fortune and two years of his life.

The probate court said its actions of placing Keith with permanent guardianship were justified; others argued that a good ol‘ boy system saw Keith’s fortune and went for it. Everyone said a lack of oversight and an overwrought probate court were key problems in the case. And unfortunately, they all agreed it happens far more often than anyone really knows.

A nurse who actually cared for Keith during his “incarceration,” as she called it, said Keith’s stay was “false imprisonment.”

Nurse Carol Montgomery:
"It was horrible, Milous isn’t the only one who’s been treated this way. I’ve seen lots and lots of Milous’s."

"The nurses knew that Milous was having difficulties, but nothing that warranted him being in a locked-down unit."

"While the nurse aides may have been unaware that Keith was actually competent and able to make decisions, the R.N.’s could tell he was in the wrong place, but were powerless to act on it. And any complaints to administration fell on deaf ears."

"Once you’re in the social system, you’re done, because they just don’t care enough to find out what’s really going on."

A call to Adult Protective Services is what landed Keith in the probate court system in the first place. It was only a matter of days before he was signed over to an area law firm that served as the permanent guardian.

Milous Keith's nurse talks about overwrought social system

See also: