Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seeking Whereabouts of Son

Enne Currie is praying for a just result at a mental health court hearing. A paralegal, Currie has filed numerous legal documents trying to force the system to abide by its own principles. Among these are a demand for information on the whereabouts of her son, Dirul Lewis, a Writ of Habeas Corpus, and various objections to the outrageous abuses being committed for profit or retaliation.

Lewis has been a mental patient for many years. Enne says that Dirul's doctors experimented on him with drugs known to cause lethal interactions, including Zyprexa and Loxapine. A recent combination of drugs given in the hospital drove Dirul into a temporary coma. This combination was one that Enne, as Dirul's conservator, had expressly objected to, but which the doctors administered anyway.

Despite over 17 years of attempts to get her son the best care possible, the mental health community continually failed Dirul. Currie even filed a lawsuit seeking to protect her son's rights and health, but the case was dismissed because she was representing Dirul on her own.

Dirul Lewis was moved by his captors in the mental institution to an undisclosed location, and Currie's conservatorship was cancelled. No hearing or reason was given. When Currie objected, she says she was ignored or dismissed with comments like "He's been in this system for a long time."

Full Article and Source:
Prayer for Relief: California Mother Seeks Whereabouts of Mental Patient Son

DA Relinquished Control

The district attorney's office officially relinquished control of the conservators office to the social services department at a board of supervisors meeting. It had run the agency since 2001, in the aftermath of dealing with the Mary Gray Marr scandal of the 1990s. Marr, a conservator hired in 1991, was found to have embezzled nearly $800,000 from clients who could no longer care for themselves, according to District Attorney Todd Riebe.

Riebe: "The sheriff's office investigated for dozens of victims. Some $1.2 million was missing."

The DA's office has managed the once-floundering conservatorship back to stability, but has itself been hamstrung in some of its prosecutions by the nature of its dual role.

County Administrative Officer Terry Daly: "The DA's office has a conflict of interest when a client of the conservatorship becomes a (defendant) for the district attorney."

Transferring the conservatorship to social services eliminates the conflict of interest and the resulting costs, officials agreed.

Full Article and Source:
County transfers conservator's office from auspices of the DA to social services

The Brando Wills

A fraud suit filed by the ex-wife of Marlon Brando's son Christian is the third attempt in the past 18 months to prove that the executors of Brando's $22 million estate illegally obtained their power through a forged codicil to his will.

Deborah Brando is following in the footsteps of the actor's former caregiver Angela Borlaza, who alleged the codicil is a forgery in suits filed in June 2006 and August 2007, but has so far failed to get a judge to address the merits of her allegations.

The original will appointed longtime Brando retainers JoAn Corrales and Alice Marchak to administer his estate. The codicil –- dated less than two weeks before his death in July 2004 -- replaced them with former Hollywood studio chief Mike Medavoy, accountant Larry Dressler, and Avra Douglas (a friend of Brando's daughter Rebecca).

Christian Brando, who died Jan. 26, never challenged the authenticity of the codicil himself. But Deborah Brando claims she has standing to sue the executors because he assigned his inheritance rights to her in February 2007 as part of the settlement of a domestic violence case she filed against him.

Full Article and Source:
Third Fraud Suit Alleges Brando Will A Fake

The girlfriend of Marlon Brando's oldest son filed a lawsuit asking that all assets of his estate be held in trust for her.

Leah Donna Geon filed her suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Anna Kashfi, an actress who was married to Christian Brando's father Marlon for several years in the 1950s.

Geon, who was Christian's companion over a four-year period and also goes by the name Donna Brando, alleges breach of a contract by Christian because he did not leave a will or trust in her favor.

Kashfi is the named defendant in the suit because she is the administrator of Christian Brando's estate.

She maintains Christian, who died last year of pneumonia at the age of 49, promised her that she would be provided for and receive all of his assets in the event of his death.

According to Geon's court papers, Christian did not have a relationship with his mother and had not seen or spoken to her for at least 25 years.

Geon's court papers also state that Kashfi, now 74, is believed to suffer from Alzheimer's disease.

Full Article and Source:
Girlfriend of Marlon Brando's deceased son files suit asking for son's assets

Guardian and Realtors Sued

A lawsuit claims that three adults placed under county guardianship were taken advantage of in questionable real estate deals.

Kenosha Human Development Services (KHDS) and employee guardian Jessica Cortez are named in the suit, along with Century 21 Savaglio & Cape Realty owner Frederick “Fritz” Cape, and real estate agents Charity Chiappetta and Sean Rosenmarkel. Two insurance companies also are named.

The alleged impropriety came to light after six lawyers, serving as legal guardians and advocate counsel, got notice of home sales involving their wards.

The suit alleges that Cortez conspired with Savaglio & Cape agents to fraudulently sell the homes of Rachel Anderson, Evelyn Crump and Steven Weston.

The homes reportedly were sold for between $20,000 and $32,000 under their assessed values, in one case within 24 hours of being listed for sale. At least one of the wards was in assisted living and set to return home when her house was sold.

The KHDS lawsuit also claims Cortez was negligent for disposing of the wards’ possessions without trying to sell them.

Negligence also is claimed against Chiappetta and her employer, and against KHDS for improperly training and supervising Cortez.

The suit seeks punitive damages, as well as double the value of the three properties, which is the state limit for real estate fraud liability.

Full Article and Source:
Trial date set in real estate fraud case

"Inherent Flaws" in the System

The former Brooklyn judge who appointed Steven T. Rondos to oversee at least seven of the guardianship accounts Rondos is charged with fleecing expressed dismay at the news in a phone interview.

Former Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Leonard Scholnick: "I must say I am disappointed -- I just thought he was really one of the good guys. Nothing shocks me anymore."

A spokesman for the Office of Court Administration acknowledged that there had been some "inherent flaws" in the system for overseeing the work of guardians but said those flaws had now been corrected.

Rondos and the Brooklyn-based law firm Raia & Rondos have been indicted on charges of money laundering, grand larceny, a scheme to defraud and offering a false instrument for filing.

Rondos is accused of stealing from 23 victims, including mentally and physically impaired elderly people as well as children suffering from cerebral palsy due to medical malpractice at birth. On at least three occasions, when Rondos was confronted with the thefts, he stole funds from other victims to pay back his prior victim.

Full Article and Source:
Oversight Tightened After Guardian Thefts

See also:
Big-Shot Guardianship Attorney

Friday, January 30, 2009

Blagojevich Impeached

Gov. Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office without a single lawmaker coming to his defense, brought down by a government-for-sale scandal that stretched from Chicago to Capitol Hill.

Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.

After a four-day trial, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict him of abuse of power, automatically ousting the second-term Democrat. In a second, identical vote, lawmakers further barred Blagojevich from ever holding public office in the state again.

Full Article and Source:
Rod Blagojevich is unanimously convicted, tossed from office

More information:
Rod Blagojevich Removed from Office

Blagojevich Removed From Power

Impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office

See also:
Break The Silence Campaign

HB305 Adult Guardianship

HB 305 - Adult Guardianship
GENERAL BILL by Schwartz

Adult Guardianship: Creates "Uniform Adult Guardianship & Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act"; provides for applicability; provides for interstate communication & cooperation; provides duties of courts regarding appointing guardians or issuing protective orders; authorizes court to assess specified fees, costs, & expenses; provides requirements for proceedings conducted in more than one state; provides conditions for transfer of or acceptance of guardianship or conservatorship to or from another state; provides time limit on modification of guardianship or conservatorship; requires court to recognize guardianship & conservatorship orders from other states; provides for applicability of federal Electronic Signatures in Global & National Commerce Act.

Effective Date: July 1, 2009

Florida House of Representatives

Reforming Judicial Discipline Commission

After a tumultuous year in which the alleged misdeeds of two judges attracted national attention, the Nevada Supreme Court is entertaining suggestions for changes to the rules, regulations and practices of the Judicial Discipline Commission.

A special committee set up to review all aspects of the state’s court system, known as the Article 6 Commission, held a public hearing Jan. 15 on the system for filing complaints against judges and heard comments on changes recommended by a subcommittee established to study reforms.

No action was taken on the report or other Article 6 Commission business because not enough members showed up to reach a quorum.

Among the most pressing recommendations from the subcommittee were calls for increased transparency in the process and quicker disposition of cases handled by the commission.

Full Article and Source:
Changes to judicial discipline process studied

Sheriff and Lieutenant Sued

Sheriff David Grice and Lt. Ronnie Bowles in the sheriff’s office and the county’s insurer have been sued by a Linwood man who alleges he was wrongfully arrested in 2007.

According to the civil suit filed in Davidson County Superior Court earlier this month, Robert G. Maynard gained legal guardianship of his daughter, Tiffany Maynard Speaks, “on account of her mental incompetence” on March 7, 2007.

Later that year, on Aug. 14, the lawsuit alleges Bowles “wrongfully arrested … Maynard, solely on account of (Maynard’s) explanation to (Bowles) that (Maynard) and his wife had guardianship of … Speaks and that nobody else had any right to have … Speaks in his company or subject to his control without the authorization of (Maynard) or his wife.”

Bowles arrested Maynard for “resisting and interfering with an officer,” according to the suit. His case was dismissed after being tried in Davidson County District Court in 2008. Maynard is suing for injuries and damages in excess of $10,000 and to recover punitive damages.

Full Article and Source:
Sheriff, lieutenant named defendants in lawsuit

Addressing Budget Cuts

As Governor Pawlenty released his budget recommendations, AARP urged state leaders to find a balanced approach to protecting vulnerable Minnesotans of all ages from severe budget cuts.

State Director Michele Kimball: "Older Minnesotans have been among the hardest hit by the economic crisis, and we need to ensure that we maintain important health and long-term care safety nets at this crucial time. This crisis requires that we all work together -- at the state and federal level -- to ensure that our most vulnerable can be assured of basic needs."

AARP will be studying the Governor's budget proposal to determine the impact of the budget on consumers.

The bill includes important provisions for Minnesota, including:

* Much-needed funding for state health and long-term care programs
* Affordable health insurance options for those who have lost their coverage along with jobs
* A plan to improve health care for the 21st century, including better use of technology; enhanced funding for research on treatment effectiveness; and greater funding for nurse and primary care training
* More funding for unemployment benefits and job creation to put people back to work
* More funding for the Social Security Administration to meet its growing needs.

Full Article and Source:
AARP to State Leaders: Protect Vulnerable Minnesotans from Severe Budget Cuts

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Big-Shot Guardianship Attorney

Big-shot guardianship attorney Steven Rondos was indicted on charges he stole more than $4 million from nearly two dozen incapacitated clients - including babies who were horribly crippled.

Rondos is accused of chiseling away at the loot so he could fancy up his $1.4 million home in Ridgewood, N.J. - landscaping, renovating his kitchen, and even installing his own home theater.

The scheme was so nefarious, it made Manhattan's gentlemanly district attorney, Robert Morgenthau swear - twice.

Rondos, 44, was the court-appointed guardian for 23 injured clients who'd received big payouts in medical malpractice lawsuits, clients who included cerebral palsy sufferers, frail seniors, and children injured at birth.

He should have been safeguarding their total $30 million in payouts, prosecutors said. After all, the money was supposed to provide for them and their medical needs for life.

In some instances, Rondos continued to steal money even after the victims had died.

Full Article and Source:

More information:
Lawyer accused of ripping off elderly, kids

Lawyer and his firm indicted for allegedly stealing millions

Attorney Charged With Stealing Millions From Guardian Accounts

Baker Guardianship Ends

Norman Baker is no longer under a court appointed guardianship. The case has been settled amicably and Mr. Baker is now living on his own.

A retired firefighter, Baker now 82, found himself under guardianship in 2005. The Free Press did an article on the case: "How An Unwanted Guardianship Cost a Firefighter his Freedom & His Fortune"

The Fairfield County Probate Court has now terminated the guardianship, restoring Mr. Baker to competency and allowing him to regain his freedom and independence after nearly four years.

Mr Baker had unsuccessfully challenged the validity of the guardianship in both the Fairfield County Probate Court and then in the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals. He had also filed with the Ohio Supreme Court an accusation that the Probate Judge assigned to his case was biased against him. That challenge was summarily dismissed by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship of Norman Baker Ends

See also:
Guardian - Conservator

Unwanted Guardianship

Interview with Norman

Contempt Filed Against City

Dan Harkins, court-appointed administrator of the estate of Donald Staccia Sr., filed a contempt request against the city with the Clark County Probate Court.

Staccia died in 2003. The estate case revolves around whether his son, Donald Staccia Jr., legally had full control over his father's assets, including the right to sell some properties in the downtown hospital area to the city.

The contempt motion says the city hasn't complied with court orders, including to secure the buildings and maintain access to the properties.

Jerry Strozdas, city law director: "We responded to them promptly, so there is no basis for the contempt citation."

The next hearing on the case is scheduled for Feb. 5.

Full Article and Source:
Estate administrator seeks contempt against city

Alleged Public Corruption

News of President Judge Mark Ciavarella's resignation comes hours before federal prosecutors hold a news conference to discuss the results of an investigation of alleged public corruption at the Luzerne County Courthouse.

Agents with the FBI and IRS will join Acting U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson at the news conference in Scranton.

The investigation has been public knowledge for several months as federal agents have served search warrants and subpoenas on several courthouse offices.

Full Article and Source:
Judge steps down ahead of federal probe findings

More information:

Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are accused of using their position on the bench to steer kids to a juvenile detention facility.
No Shortage of Reaction to Charges Against Judges

A youth advocacy group said it is contemplating a federal class-action lawsuit against a judge accused of taking millions of dollars in exchange for placing juvenile offenders into privately owned detention facilities.
Civil suit threatened against implicated Pa. judge

Timeline traces corruption charges

Granny Snatching Bill

North Dakota could become one of several states enacting a uniform law that’s designed to decrease legal battles across state lines among families of elderly or incapacitated persons — cases that often involve control of large estates or fortunes.

Senate Bill 2074 involves how courts will determine which state can appoint a guardian or conservator if there is a conflict and how such guardianships or conservatorships can be transferred from one state to another.

The AARP was among those testifying Monday in favor of the bill.

N.D. POLITICS: Legislative appointments... Granny-snatching bill:..Human trafficking ban....Withholding limit OK’d

More information:
Senat Bill No. 2074 (pdf)

See also:
Granny Snatching

Granny Snatching - Another Side

ABA Seeking Stories About Multi-State Guardianships

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Embezzled Grandparents

James and Anne Morgan had always been frugal.

He managed the parts department at an auto dealership. She ran the household. As the couple eased into their 90s, they had saved almost $500,000 to cushion their old age.

Connie Gay Cole, in her mid-40s, never worked much. But that didn't stop her from frittering away money on fancy pickup trucks, speedboats and gambling junkets.

Unfortunately for the Morgans, their nest egg bankrolled Cole's spending spree.

It wasn't hard for Cole to gain the couple's confidence.

They knew Cole so well and trusted her so much. And why not?

She was their favorite granddaughter.

Today, the Morgans and Cole are penniless. The Morgans live in nursing homes and the state pays for most of their care. Cole is in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Woman embezzles life savings from grandparents

More information:
Clackamas County Sheriff's Office investigates elder-abuse case

Mac woman gets 6 years for elder abuse

Lawyers Indicted in Ponzi Scheme

Two Fort Lauderdale attorneys have been indicted in a nearly $1 billion Ponzi scheme known as Mutual Benefits.

Mutual Benefits dealt in viaticals, buying life insurance policies from the terminally ill, elderly and people with AIDS. It made money if the policyholder died ahead of actuarial schedules or on time. The company described the investment as safe enough for investors saving for college or retirement.

Michael McNerney handled almost all of Mutual Benefits' legal matters, and his firm Brinkley Morgan Solomon & Tatum served as closing agent on investment transactions, according to the 25-count indictment filed Dec. 23. McNerney left the firm in early 2006. The law firm is not charged in the indictment.

Prosecutors say Anthony Livoti Jr. was "purportedly responsible for safeguarding investor monies set aside to pay policy premiums and for actually making premium payments."

Both lawyers are charged with money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy. Also charged are executives of the defunct Mutual Benefits: brothers Joel Steinger and Steven Steiner. Another brother linked to the company, Leslie Steiner, died of pancreatic cancer.

Nine other officials connected with Mutual Benefits have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison, including company president Peter Lombardi, who is serving a 20-year term.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyers' Indictment in Huge Ponzi Scheme Shocks Legal Circles

Attorney Honored

Attorney Elise White was awarded the Citizen Meritorious Conduct Award by Tom Cassidy, Lincoln police chief.

White: “It began when I was contacted by Adult Protective Services. They had received a complaint from a woman’s extended family regarding abuse and neglect. They were worried because she was missing and they believed she was in Mexico."

With this type of case, White serves as both attorney and guardian for the person. White was on the case immediately. First she got herself appointed as conservator so she could freeze her client’s assets.

White flew to Mexico. White made contact with the American Embassy in Mexico City. A representative of the U.S. government flew to Mexico to go with them the next day.

They spent the night at a hotel using the time to arrange for travel back to the United States.

White got her client home. She placed her in a hotel for a week as the women’s house had not been lived in for three months and was not fit for occupancy. White was able to get her into an assisted living facility.

White said her client was exploited for approximately $70,000.

White’s practice specializes in the areas of family law and elder law. “There are people out there who will take advantage of the elderly. Watch out for elderly relatives.”

Full Article and Source:
Attorney honored for work in helping an elderly woman who had been taken out of the country

Inheritance Case Could Break Legal Ground

Patricia J. English is very much alive, but that hasn't stopped her kids from squabbling over who gets the 78-year-old Scottsdale woman's house when she passes away.

In a Maricopa County Superior Court complaint that could break legal ground in Arizona, Robert Jaeger says his brothers and sisters persuaded their mom to revise her will to cut him out. He is seeking more than $1 million in punitive and compensatory damages, far more than English's home is worth.

Legal experts and advocates for the elderly say the case could further erode the rights of older Americans, who face increasing challenges to their independence.

Arizona law is silent on the issue of whether a person can be sued for interfering with an expected inheritance. A few states provide for such a tort, but only Maine and Florida allow claims while the estate owner is alive.

Full Article and Source:
Valley inheritance case imperils rights of elderly

End of Life Decisions

In the absence of a living will, Judge Edward Reibman can decide whether someone lives on a respirator in a hospital room or dies at home with friends.

He wrestles with his decisions, wondering if his rulings reflect his own end-of-life preferences or the little he knows about the wishes of the person he's charged with deciding for.

Reibman: "I'm sitting there on the bench, I'm supposed to make this decision based on the law, a sound rational decision. How do I make sure that my own biases don't dictate that decision?"

His search for answers led him to convene a panel, a talk that those who attended said probably will be the first of many. Reibman called together doctors, lawyers, religious leaders and court-appointed guardians, all charged with helping make decisions for others. They all agreed on one thing -- the right choices are seldom clear.

The number of guardianship cases in Lehigh County increased from about 100 in 2005 to 123 two years later. But Reibman and other court observers say the cases are becoming more complex in a time of advancing medical technology and shifting social realities.

The number of petitions filed by family members in guardianship cases is decreasing.

Janet Woffindin, director of operations for Orphans Court: "The the vast majority are initiated by hospitals, nursing homes, or agencies on aging and mental health, with officials searching for someone to make decisions on behalf of an elderly resident."

Full Article and Source:
Lehigh County judge's panel wrestles with end-of-life decisions

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Conflict of Interest

The Supreme Court has found that attorney James Kawachika — a past president of the Hawai'i Bar Association — was in a conflict of interest when he acted as court-appointed "master" reviewing liquidation of the Damon Estate's $1 billion in assets.

The high court also faulted state Probate Court Judge Colleen Hirai for allowing Kawachika to continue serving as master in 2004 despite objections from Damon heir Christopher Damon Haig.

Kawachika's law firm, Reinwald O'Connor & Playdon, was representing the estate in two civil lawsuits when Hirai appointed Kawachika in May 2004 to review the estate's business activities during the years 1999 through 2003. That was a critical period for the Damon Estate, when trustees sold some $500 million in local bank stock and another $400 million in real estate holdings and prepared to distribute the cash to heirs of the family fortune.

The law firm's representation of the estate at the same time Kawachika worked as master created a situation in which his "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Full Article and Source:
Damon Estate 'master' faulted

Legal Help at Clinic

Doctors don't generally want lawyers practicing in their offices, but a new program at the Kentucky Clinic is bringing the two professions together.

The idea is to improve children's health by making sure they have access to a lawyer when they need it.

Called Child Advocacy Today, the program is one of a growing number of programs bringing doctors and lawyers together and the first to open in Kentucky. The idea started in Boston and has spread to medical centers across the United States.

Attorney Jan Clark opened the office at Kentucky Clinic in November. So far the program has handled 29 cases, most of which involved applications for Medicaid or the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance to children whose families make too much for Medicaid.

Clark: "Sometimes the help is as simple as guiding parents through the bureaucrat-ese of Medicaid forms. Other times it is more complicated."

Full Article and Source:
Legal help now offered at Ky. Clinic

Stolen Social Security Benefits

Robert lived in a nursing home. His only source for something special — maybe a birthday gift, clothes, a different meal — was $30 a month in leftover Social Security benefits.

People like Robert were supposed to be able to get that money through then-Buchanan County Public Administrator Bonnie Sue Lawson. Instead, the FBI so far has confirmed that Ms. Lawson stole Social Security benefits from 140 clients totaling $133,987.

Bill McMurray, the current public administrator: “She took $1,030 from Robert. Robert is deceased. He’ll never get that money back. After a while, this just becomes very difficult.”

The public administrator’s office generally handles public benefits and other finances for people who are too incompetent or incapacitated to do it for themselves. The federal indictment only confirms what happened in one aspect of the office’s finances — Social Security benefits.

McMurray: "I have reason to believe from reliable sources that this $133,987 is the tip of the iceberg. My feeling is that Social Security should reimburse all of these people and work it out with Bonnie to pay it back."

Full Article and Source:
Task turns to getting back stolen benefits

More information:
Lawson agrees to plead guilty

Lawson admits taking $118,000

Still A Mess

Countersuit Denied

Joey Bishop's live-in companion, who was with him for his final eight years, won a round in her lawsuit against the comedian's former lawyers after a judge ruled that one of the attorneys cannot countersue her on allegations of financial elder abuse.

Reversing the tentative decision he issued Jan. 12 in favor of attorney Ed Gregory Hookstratten's motion, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau ruled instead in favor of Nora Garibotti, the plaintiff in the case who argued that any countersuit should have been filed earlier.

Court papers allege that handwritten notes were the direct result of undue influence exercised by the caregiver, Garibotti, on the severely demented and incompetent Joey and therefore constitute financial elder abuse.

The final ruling was handed down three days after Dau had taken the motion under submission. The judge did not give an explanation for the his change of heart or his overall reasoning.

Full Article and Source:
Late comic Bishop's companion wins court ruling

More information:
Suit against late comic Bishop's companion can proceed

The 'Hot Dog' Estate Battle

A bitter estate battle over the company that makes Johnston County's trademark fire-engine red hot dogs troubles the faithful leaving Cricket Grill with grease-stained paper bags stuffed with their lunchtime favorite.

The dispute over the estate of John "Buck" Jones, the majority shareholder and president of Carolina Packers, centers on who will control this home-grown culinary institution -- the widow Jones named as his sole heir just before he died or the three longtime employees who friends say in court documents Jones hoped would run the company.

At issue are his state of mind in his final days, his stormy relationship with his wife and the trail of wills he left behind.

Joe McLeod, the executor of a will that names the longtime employees as beneficiaries, claims in a lawsuit that Jones' wife of 47 years, Jean Lassiter Jones, coerced her husband into leaving her control of the company in a new will made a month before he died. At least one of the three employees is backing the suit filed by McLeod, who was the Joneses' accountant. McLeod is pursuing the case to uphold his client's wishes, his lawyer said.

Jean Jones is defending the final will, insisting that her husband's last-minute change of heart was sincere.

Full Article and Source:
What did the hot-dog man will?

More information:
Legal Battle Over Who Controls ‘Carolina Packers’ Hot Dogs

Monday, January 26, 2009

Proposed Law to Increase Transparency

A proposed new law in the state legislature is aimed at increasing the transparency of the juvenile courts in cases related to Child Protective Services. The law, the Christopher McIntyre law, will make the court documents for any CPS case involving a fatality or near fatality publicly accessible.

This issue first came to light in 2007, when the bodies of Ariana and Tyler Payne were discovered by investigators in a storage facility. Both children and their parents had been investigated by CPS, but their efforts failed to prevent the deaths of the two children. The question remained, did CPS do everything they could to prevent the deaths?

The answer would be located in the CPS records and the court documents, but both were kept secret until last year.

State Senator Jonathan Paton proposes this new bill to change that, and force the files open so that the public can see the real stories.

Full Article and Source:
New law opens CPS cases to public

The Boomer Burden

With the number of Depression-era parents dying at a rate of 4,500 a day, the issue is of growing importance, as pointed out in the book, "The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff."

Author Julie Hall, who also is known as "The Estate Lady," shares her own experiences and offers advice — including how to prevent scammers from capitalizing on a family's bereavement.

The author covers how surviving family members are finding the shear volume of family heirlooms, collections like stamps, trading cards and artwork as well as household goods overwhelming. The process of wading through those belongings only adds to the grief.

Sound estate planning can avoid those prized possessions from turning into touchstones for Carrington-esque family conflicts, legal experts advise.

Full Article and Source:
What boomers leave behind

Federal Suit Against CPS

Fresno County's Child Protective Services is facing a civil suit in federal court stemming from a case back in 2004. The suit claims a little girl was severely beaten by a woman that CPS helped establish as the girl's legal guardian, despite knowing the woman, Bertha Gonzales , had a history of abuse against her own children.

The little girl was beaten and suffered a broken leg, and then sustained another beating that left her with brain damage. Gonzales has since gone to prison for the beatings.

KSEE 24 News did not get a response from CPS when asked about the case.

Full Article and Source:
CPS faces lawsuit in another child abuse case

KSEE Video

Neglected to Death

A man is now charged with murder, accused of neglecting his 73-year-old mother and causing her death.

He was her sole caretaker. At the time of her death in June, investigators say she weighed just 63 pounds.

The details are disturbing. According to investigators, she had not been bathed in a year, and she had not been moved off the couch for the last eight months of her life. She was severely malnourished and her body was infected. Pictures show the conditions Catherine Mukdsi was living in. Investigators say there was a blanket she used. It appears to have kept the outline of her small body. The day she died, her son, Christopher Mukdsi placed her in a wheelchair and removed her clothing that was covered in feces and urine, and then attempted to clean her up with a garden hose.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton: "It's a case of severe neglect turned into horrific abuse that ended in murder.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell: "She was living in a death camp."

Full Article and Source:
As sole caretaker, man had abused, neglected 73 year old

More information:
Man faces felony murder charge in case of mom kept in 'death camp'

Prosecutor: Woman, 73, neglected to death by son

Mandatory Reporter Fired

Lora Washburn thought she was doing the right thing when she told state inspectors about the abuse of an elderly resident at the Iowa nursing home where she worked.

But Washburn was fired a few days after making the report. Her boss at Montrose Health Center accused her of trying to intimidate a co-worker into giving state inspectors information about the alleged abuse. The co-worker, who has admitted under oath that she downplayed her report to the state to protect the nursing home, has since been promoted.

Washburn says this isn't how it's supposed to work. Under Iowa law, all health care professionals are considered "mandatory reporters," meaning they must report cases of suspected dependent-adult abuse. Failure to do so is a crime — at least in theory.

But state officials say there is no record of anyone being convicted of violating Iowa's mandatory-reporter law during the past 10 years. The last known conviction was in 1997, and that resulted in a $50 fine.

Gerald Jogerst, a University of Iowa researcher who has studied elder abuse: "That doesn't surprise me. I don't think there are really any teeth in that law. It's just paper. I think we've proven that in Iowa."

Full Article and Source:
Health workers who ignore abuse rarely punished

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Torn Apart

The author of “Torn Apart” lost touch with his brother and sister in what’s known as a closed adoption. His siblings’ records were sealed and he wasn’t allowed to have any contact with them.

But more and more, child welfare experts say that siblings—in most cases—should be able to stay connected both during foster care and after they’re adopted. That means trying to have siblings adopted into the same family, and, if that’s not possible, setting up an open adoption so that they can remain in contact.

If you’re trying to stay connected with your siblings, it’s important to know what’s happening with your case and to speak up about your wants and needs. Here are a few tips:

• Stand up for yourself. Caseworkers, judges and lawyers must listen to you and consider what you want when it comes to placement and adoption. And a new federal law now requires agencies to make reasonable efforts to place siblings together in foster care.

• You always have the right to ask questions about your siblings, and you should. If it’s not possible for you to be placed with your siblings during foster care, your agency should set up sibling visits and cover transportation costs so that you can keep in touch. If that’s not happening, tell your lawyer (and the judge at your next permanency hearing).

• Your lawyer is your advocate. Stay in touch with him/her, keep repeating your wants and needs, and if you feel like you’re not getting what you need, speak up.

• If you find out that you or your siblings are being adopted, ask whether an open adoption is possible. If it’s not, try to make a plan with your siblings for staying in touch. (If you have access to a computer, e-mail or MySpace can be a good way to do this.)

• If you’ve been separated from siblings through a closed adoption, you may still be able to reconnect with them. Laws vary state by state, but generally once your siblings have turned 18 (or in some states 21), you are legally entitled to search for them.

• Just make sure that you’re emotionally ready to start that journey. Joe Soll, director of Adoption Crossroads (a nonprofit organization for people dealing with family separation due to adoption or foster care), suggests reading up and joining a support group six months before beginning your search for family so that you are as prepared as possible for the strong emotions that can come up.

• For information on support groups in your state, visit the Adoption Crossroads website at click on “search support sites.” Some of these groups can also help you with your search.

Full Article and Source:
FCYU Represent Feature Story

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Companionship Program

Elderly and incapacitated residents who have become wards of Probate Court often spend days alone, except for the professional visits from nursing home staff members or doctors.

Probate Judge Yvonne Rodriguez said they are often lonely and want little more than someone willing to spend some time with them.

She's hoping to help make her court's wards' lives better through a new companionship program.

Rodriguez: "We're asking for volunteers from the community who are willing to make a commitment of at least an hour a week or every two weeks to visit with my wards who have nobody to celebrate with, or to give them a card on their birthday, give them a candy cane on Christmas."

Wards of the court currently receive one annual visit from court volunteers through its court visitor program.

Rodriguez said she wanted to start the companionship program to increase the emotional and social support they receive.

She said there are up to 300 people in her court who could immediately benefit from the program.

Full Article and Source:
Companion program started for court wards

Guardianships of the Elderly

By Brenda K. Uekert and Thomas Dibble


Guardianship is a relationship created by state law in which a court gives one person or entity (the guardian) the duty and power to make personal and/or property decisions for another (the ward). Guardianships were designed to protect the interest of incapacitated adults and elders in particular. Yet Congress, national advocacy organizations, and the media have increasingly highlighted the use of guardianships and conservatorships as a means to further exploit older persons. The ease at which guardianships are granted, the lack of court oversight, the questionable qualifications of guardians, the general lack of accountability, soaring caseloads, and poor data management make the guardianship system primed for further abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders. However, recent developments suggest a new era in court leadership, technology, and innovative practices that have the potential to vastly improve court assignment and monitoring of guardianships.

In the article:

Purpose of guardianships
Abusive guardianships that often exploit the elderly
Major issues with guardianships
Financial Costs
Training and Education
Court Monitoring
Recent Developments
Technological innovations
New Resources

Guardianships of the Elderly - Past Performance and Future Promises

"Ashland County Needs Heartland"

People gathered to protest the closing of Ashland County's Heartland Home.

The Ashland County Commissioners voted to close the home due to budget cuts in the county's general fund. But, some area residents aren't going down without a fight.

Trudy Bays is one protester who has guardianship over her cousin who is a resident of Heartland Home. Bays says many residents do not have family outside of Heartland Home.

People Protest For Heartland Home

More information:
Heartland Home closing / Struggling with finances, commissioners decide to shut down facility

County commissioners announce Heartland Home will close

Heartland employees question county / Workers ask commissioners about future of home

Heartland Home Braces For Possible Cuts

Crash Course in Police Work

NH - A crash course in police work will be offered at no charge during the second annual Citizens Police Academy, sponsored by Crime Stoppers and hosted by the city's police department.

"Everyone wants to know what police officers do," said detective Tom Grella, who serves as the department's juvenile prosecutor and Crime Stoppers police coordinator. "Often the public's only contact with police officers is when they need them."

Proof is found in the agenda which shows most classes offering a combination of classroom study, demonstrations of police gear and operations, and a tour of a law enforcement facility. Participants will tour the Portsmouth, Newington, Greenland, Rye and New Castle police departments, visit the Rockingham County House of Corrections, Coast Guard headquarters and meet with District Court Judge Sawako Gardner. They'll also see demonstrations of Breathalyzers, Tazers, radar and the city's police dogs, bicycles and motorcycles.

Grella said participants in last year's Citizen's Academy included college students, business people, a bartender, senior citizens and family members of city police employees.

Grella: "This can help make their own communities crime free. They can learn from us, and us from them."

The 8-week academy includes sessions on March 18, 25, April 1, 15, 22, 29 and May 6. Participants are expected to attend two hours in a court as observers and four hours of ride along with an officer.

A graduation ceremony is May 6 and certificates of completion are awarded.

For more information, call Grella at 610-7429