Saturday, January 3, 2009

Grandparents and Guardianship

4-year-old Leah Ashley Johnson's father, Eric Johnson, died Oct. 31 in a car crash near Wyndmere, N.D. Her mother, Heather Johnson, died in a car crash in Rhode Island in November 2005.

At the time of her mother’s death, Leah Johnson’s parents were in the process of getting a divorce.

Now, the little girl is caught in the middle of another family rift.

On the day of her father’s funeral, Leah Johnson’s maternal grandmother, Dale Campbell arrived at the funeral home with a lawyer and court papers.

The papers granted Campbell temporary guardianship of Leah.

Campbell filed papers in Cass County District Court on Nov. 6 seeking temporary guardianship of Leah pending a hearing to determine permanent guardianship.

The papers included a copy of Heather Johnson’s will, which stated that if anything happened to her she wanted her mother to care for Leah.

According to court papers, Eric Johnson did not have a will.

Campbell's attorney, Jason Loos: "the case is an example of why it’s a good idea for parents to have a will that spells out their wishes for child guardianship."

Eric Johnson's mother, Alice Mayer: "You lose your son, but to tell you the truth, losing Leah the way this lady did it is way harder. We raised Leah since the time she was 16 months old."

Full Article and Source:
Grandparents at odds over custody of 4-year-old orphan

Topic: Special Needs Planning

An informational program for students with developmental disabilities, educators, school district administrators, case managers, parents, professionals and other interested parties on the topic of special-needs planning will be from 7-9 p.m. Jan. 15 at Mount Saint Mary College in Hudson Hall Room 102, 330 Powell Ave., Newburgh.

It is free and open to the public.

The guest speaker is attorney Adrienne Arkontaky. Her presentation will focus on special-needs planning, including trusts and guardianship.

Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions afterward.

RSVP to Linnette Boykins at 565-1162, ext. 240, by Jan. 13.

Full Article and Source:
Program to discuss trusts for special-needs families

Famous Producer Sues Lawyer

Producer Jon Peters has sued his former lawyer of "fraudulent, deceitful and criminal acts." The "Rain Man" filmmaker claims Ronald Grigg also stole from him.

As per the lawsuit Peters filed, he hired Grigg in 2006 at a salary of $225,000 a year, at the same time he became seriously ill and was under heavy medication and "vulnerable."

Around that time, the lawyer then went on to appoint himself president of his production company and hired a $60,000-a-year assistant from Peters' own money, doing unrelated legal work for Grigg.

The producer also claims that Grigg stole his computers, which contained confidential information about his film business, and that he was exposed to a lot of "fabricated legal actions that arose from a conspiracy of disgruntled individuals".

Full Article and Source:
Producer Jon Peters Sues Former Lawyer Of Theft And Fraud

See also:
Famous Producer Alleges Fraud, Theft, Date Rape

New Code for Judges

The new year will bring a new code of ethical conduct for Montana judges, mandated by the Montana Supreme Court and updating judicial conduct rules that hadn't been revised for 45 years.

The Code of Judicial Conduct takes effect Jan. 1.

Justice Karla Gray: "while the old canons were couched as permissive guidelines, the new code is a set of specific, enforceable rules. It will give the Judicial Standards Commission much better tools to work with when they receive complaints about judicial misconduct."

Full Article and Source:
Court adopts new code for judges

Doctor-Assisted Suicide

A state district judge has ruled Montana residents have the right to doctor-assisted suicide.

The ruling was issued Judge Dorothy McCarter and makes Montana the third state in which doctor-assisted suicide is legal.

McCarter: "Treating physicians are frequently called upon to determine the competency of their patients for the purposes of guardianship and other legal proceedings. Whether a patient is terminally ill can also be determined by the physician as an integral component of the physician-patient relationship."

Attorney General Mike McGrath said that attorneys in his office will meet to discuss the ruling and expects the state will appeal the ruling. The attorney general's office argued that intentionally taking a life is illegal, and that the issue of assisted suicide falls under the responsibility of the Legislature, not the court.

Oregon passed its Death with Dignity Act in 1997 and Washington voters approved a similar law.

Full Article and Source:
Montana judge rules in favor of assisted suicide

See also:
Montana judge: Man has right to assisted suicide

Montana Becomes Third State to Allow Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Montana Judge Appears to Ignore State Law, Authorizes Assisted Suicide

Americans United For Life Denounces Montana Court's Assisted Suicide Decision, Urges Appeal

Friday, January 2, 2009

Trial Lawyers: Study is Malarkey

The West Virginia Association for Justice president says the "Judicial Hellholes" study is propaganda supported by nothing.

The group, formerly known as the West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, was founded about 50 years ago to educate members about legal issues statewide and to provide Continuing Legal Education credits.

Allan Karlin, president of the association: "The study is a bunch of malarkey. The truth is, what it says is not true nor supported by any methodology. It's propaganda to spread a particular point of view."

This is the seventh straight year of the national "Judicial Hellholes" study and the seventh straight year the group has branded West Virginia's legal climate as such. West Virginia has the distinction of being the only full state to receive the designation. Otherwise, the report cites regions or counties within states.

As other regions moved off the list, West Virginia has moved up.

Full Article and Source:
Trial Lawyers: 'Hellholes' Report Unreliable

More information:
For the second time in three years, West Virginia has been singled out as the nation's most unfair legal environment by the American Tort Reform Foundation.
W.Va. again the biggest judicial hellhole, tort reform group says

See also:
Judicial Hellholes

2008 Top Stories

Readers pick top stories - Captive teen in Tracy is number four.

A thin, barely clothed and dirty teenager with a shackle around his ankle rushes into a gym in Tracy seeking asylum from what he says is an abusive home.

Tracy Police Department said its investigation reveals a pattern of abuse heaped upon the teen by a woman who is his guardian, the couple in whose home they are living, and a neighbor.

Full Article and Source:
Record readers pick 2008's top stories: Captive teen in tracy is No. 4

See also:
Fourth Suspect Arrested in Torture Case

Arrests in Torture Case

Act One Under Fire

Just days before it's scheduled to take effect, the ACLU files a lawsuit to strike down initiated Act One. That act would ban unmarried couples who live together from adopting or fostering children.

The ACLU says it doesn't matter if you're single, married, gay, straight or co-habiting, every prospective foster or adoptive parent should be screened on a case by case basis.

But supporters of Act One say the people have already spoken and they're confident the ban will stay on the books.

The ACLU explained they currently have 29 plaintiffs in the suit, and more may follow.

The Family Council Action Committee, the group behind the ban, doesn't think this lawsuit will amount to much.

Full Article and Source:
ACLU Taking Act One to Court

More information:
ACLU files suit over Ark. adoption law

ACLU of Arkansas sues over adoption restrictions

ACLU Asks Court To Strike Down Arkansas Parenting Ban

See also:
Banning Unmarried Couples

Caregiver Stole Thousands

Ronald Polk was charged with burglary, financial exploitation of an elderly person, financial exploitation of a disabled person and 11 counts of forgery.

Polk is accused of stealing 11 blank checks, at a time when he was a caregiver for his neighbor. Polk allegedly wrote the checks to himself and cashed them.

Full Article and Source:
Elgin man accused of forging checks from elderly neighbor

See also:
Cops: Elgin man stole thousands from disabled neighbor

Lokuta's Motion Denied

A court has upheld its earlier ruling against a former Luzerne County judge it described as "a bully", removing her from the bench and prohibiting her from holding any judicial office.

The Court of Judicial Discipline denied Ann H. Lokuta's motion to reconsider the sanctions it handed down.

On Dec. 9, the court voted 6-1 to remove Lokuta from the bench. The court ruled Lokuta failed to perform her judicial duties, terrorized courthouse workers and had employees run personal errands.

Lokuta has until Jan. 8 to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Full Article and Source:
State court upholds decision against Pa. judge

See also:
Judge Wants New Hearing

Removing "Bully" Judge

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Where The Rumors Were Coming From

When Covington County residents, like most Americans, look back on 2008 they will likely recall a year of change.

It was the year that Americans elected their first African-American leader; the year that Covington County and Andalusia residents made sweeping political changes; the year that scandal changed the Covington County Courthouse.

Judge indicted, found guilty

But let us rewind to June, when then-Probate Judge Sherrie Phillips on June 4 proclaimed her innocence in the face of rampant rumors of her impending arrest.

Phillips told The Star-News: “What people are saying is that there’s an investigation going on about how I stole from estates. I can tell you there’s no money missing from the probate office or from any estate. It’s all intact and accounted for. We’re audited every year and (the audits) have always been good. What’s happening now is just rumors and speculation, I don’t know where they’re coming from.”

Where the rumors were coming from was an attorney general’s investigation which led to Phillips’ indictment on six felony theft and ethics charges. She was indicted for the theft of $1.8 million from the estate of Cary Douglas Piper just a week after she said the money was “intact and accounted for.”

Full Article and Source:
2008: The year that was

See also:
Others Feel Victimized

Probate Judge Convicted

Judge on Trial

Attorney Fees Challenged

Some former wards of Rita Hunter, who until Wednesday was Jasper County’s public administrator, have filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of taking money from their estates to pay attorneys for the county office.

A lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court contends that there was no authority to take the fees because there was no written contract between the attorneys and the county office, a requirement of state law.

The lawsuit names John Podleski, who served as attorney for the administrator’s office until Hunter’s term ended Wednesday, and Gayle Crane, who held the post for the first two years after Hunter took office in 2004. Crane is now a circuit judge.

In the action, Springfield attorney R. Lynn Myers seeks damages for Emma France and other former wards of the county office from the two attorneys and their law firms.

Full Article and Source:
Former wards challenge attorneys’ fees

Copy of Lawsuit

See also:
Jasper County OPA

Probate Judge Cannot Hear Case

Class Action Filed

Former Ward Files Suit

Undrafted Medical Certificate

France is Released

Mother and Daughter File Suit

An Alleged Kidnapping

Rita Hunter is a registered with National Guardianship Association

Teen Allegedly Kills Guardian

John W. Wilfong, a 17-year-old accused of shooting and killing his guardian in her home was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

According to a probable cause statement, Wilfong planned the murder while his guardian, Pamela Ackman, was still at work.

When she returned, Wilfong had a 9-year-old who lived in the home watch from his bedroom window for Ackman's vehicle to pull into the driveway.

When she walked into the kitchen, Wilfong allegedly shot her twice, in the head and neck area, once after she'd already fallen.

Ackman and her husband Mickey were granted guardianship of Wilfong in November 2003. The Ackmans applied for guardianship of Wilfong in 2003, under protest by his natural mother.

Full Article and Source:
Detective: Patton teen confessed that murder of guardian was planned

See also:
Authorities charge 17-year-old in Patton shooting

Teen suspect in Patton shooting arrested, juvenile safe

Detective: Patton teen confessed that murder of guardian was planned

Child taken from Patton shooting scene found safe; Amber Alert canceled

Attorney Plundered $1Million Estate

A judge jailed a Jackson attorney after he admitted plundering a $1 million estate.

Court documents indicate Richard McQuillan wrote numerous checks to himself from the estate of Robert T. Howard ranging up to $200,000 each.

Probate Judge Diane Rappleye ordered McQuillan to account for the missing money in a show-cause hearing.

Sobbing and apologetic, McQuillan said he stole more than $900,000 and juggled money among a number of disgruntled clients in 2007.

McQuillan: "By May 2007 these funds had almost disintegrated because of my criminal conduct. I don't need an attorney appointed. I need to pay the piper."

Full Article and Source:
Jackson attorney admits to plundering $1 million estate

Sister Charged With Kidnapping

"If the woman was competent, she has the right to live however she wants to. This is sometimes difficult for families to accept."

Laura Stewart and Earl Cross were charged with kidnapping, conspiracy, assault, false imprisonment and unlawful restraint. Darnell Randall was arrested in Pittsburgh on charges of helping Stewart and Cross bind Evelyn Poynter and force her into a Cadillac Escalade.

Stewart's heart was in the right place when she and her boyfriend attempted to move her 86-year-old sister from a trash-filled apartment in the Hill District to Stewart's duplex in a Cleveland suburb, her family said.

A police affidavit filed to support the charges against Randall notes the "deplorable" condition of Poynter's apartment and says there were "extreme amounts of garbage and clutter throughout."

But police and legal experts said Stewart had plenty of law-abiding alternatives to binding Evelyn Poynter's wrists in duct tape, forcing her into a car wearing only her nightgown and a blanket, and driving her around for eight hours.

The alternatives:

* contact the Area Agency on Aging's protective services division, which deals with elderly victims of abuse, neglect and self-neglect

* a doctor's evaluation to determine if someone is physically and mentally capable of taking care of him or herself

* an Orphan's Court judge can appoint a guardian to make important decisions for the person

* get the person to sign over either full or partial power of attorney

Full Article and Source:
Elders' self-care puts family in tricky spot, experts say

See also:
State law protects elderly from being taken from home

Police: Ohio Woman Kidnaps Sister

Shaker couple accused of kidnapping relative from Pittsburgh

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