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