Saturday, March 14, 2009

$1.1 Million Diverted

The Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed a criminal complaint in Rice County District Court charging a Dakota County woman, Connie Ruth Rott, with nine felony counts of theft by swindle and five felony counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult for diverting over $1.1 million held in trust for the benefit of Rott’s elderly mother, D.S.

In 2000, D.S. placed real estate she owned in Northfield, Minnesota that she originally farmed with her late husband into a revocable trust to be used for her care, comfort, support, and maintenance, naming her daughter Rott as Trustee. D.S. also signed a durable power of attorney naming Rott as her attorney-in-fact, and in 2003, Rott was named D.S.’s legal guardian. In 2004, D.S. was admitted to the dementia unit of the Three Links Care Center, a Northfield nursing home. D.S. requires total assistance with activities of daily living. Rott agreed to make timely payments to Three Links using D.S.’s income and assets.

The complaint alleges that, between 2004 and 2007, Rott sold three pieces of the real estate D.S. placed into trust, for a net amount of over $1.3 million, and then diverted over $1.1 million in proceeds from the sale of the real estate to her own benefit or for the benefit of persons other than D.S. For example, the complaint alleges that disbursements from the trust included, among other things:
· $59,056 for Rott’s mortgage and property taxes
· $754 on alcohol
· $47,936 in ATM withdrawals/cash
· $157,887 payable to third persons, including Rott’s children
· Thousands of dollars in travel costs
· Thousands of dollars in court fees, criminal defense attorney costs, and other related legal expenses for Rott’s son, who was convicted of first degree manufacture of methamphetamine
· $8,685 in expenses for Rott’s family snow plowing and yard service

In October, 2007, Rott stopped issuing payments on D.S.’s behalf for the care provided to her at the Three Links Care Center nursing home. By June, 2008 D.S.’s account at Three Links was eight months past due and, because of the non-payment, the nursing home issued a notice of intent to discharge D.S. in June, 2008. That same month, Rott told the nursing home she planned to remove her mother from the facility.

An emergency guardianship and conservator proceeding was then filed by Rice County Adult Protective Services, and on June 27, 2008 the court granted an emergency guardianship and conservatorship.

D.S.’s court-appointed emergency guardian applied for a “hardship waiver” so as to obtain Medical Assistance benefits to pay for D.S.’s health care at Three Links. As a result, the taxpayer-financed medical assistance program is now paying approximately $4,200 per month for D.S.’s care.

The case is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Division.

Full Article and Source:
Attorney General charges woman with felony theft

More information:
Dakota Co. woman accused of stealing $1.1M from mom

Daughter accused of stealing more than $1.1M from ailing mother

Lakeville woman charged with swindling her mother

Document: Connie Ruth Rott criminal complaint

"Everything But Marriage" Bill

Same-sex domestic partners would have all of the rights and benefits that Washington offers married couples under a measure passed by the Senate.

Supporters of the bill said it offers same-sex couples fairness that has been denied them under the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to unions between a man and woman.

The bill expands on previous domestic partnership laws by adding reference to partnerships alongside all remaining areas of state law where currently only married couples are mentioned, statutes ranging from labor and employment to pensions and other public employee benefits.

The underlying domestic partnership law provided hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will.

Last year, lawmakers expanded that law to give domestic partners standing under laws covering probate and trusts, community property and guardianship.

Full Article and Source:
Wash. Senate passes "everything but marriage" bill

More information:
Lawmakers announce 'everything but marriage' bill

Petition by Dee King

We the undersigned want our legislators to say "NO" to the proposed Bill # SB 576 called the 'Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act'.

This bill, if approved, would create broader jurisdiction for the probate courts and would deprive us, the elderly, the disabled and others the right to a defense of "deprivation of liberty" and our due process rights would be altered or negated.

We, by signing, state emphatically, that we want to put an end to the proposal and/or acceptance of this bill that would rob us, the citizens, of our rights.

Therefore, we hereby pronounce our vehement opposition to SB 576 and entreat our legislators to defeat this legislation.

Sign the petition:

Dee King is the daughter of guardian abuse victim Daniel Gross

Newly-Released Documentary

The story of Terri Schiavo caused a nationwide uproar that garnered the attention of the worldwide media, the U.S. Congress, and even the office of the President of the United States. As the fourth anniversary of her death approaches, the ethical and cultural implications of her case are still being felt throughout society and continue to spark debate. In the newly-released documentary, The Terri Schiavo Story (Franklin Springs Family Media), previously unexplored facts of the case are revealed through in-depth interviews with participants on both sides of the issue.

The case remains a touchstone of controversy. Just last year during the Democratic debates, President Obama said one of his "regrets" as a Senator was voting for Congress to intervene to save Terri's life. Hosted by author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, who became personally involved in the case in 2005, The Terri Schiavo Story sheds new light on the controversial decision that led to the death of a 41-year-old disabled woman.

So what did the mainstream media overlook? Several things, according to the film's producer and director Ken Carpenter.

Carpenter: "I think most people thought Terri was in a vegetative state with no prospects of improving. The truth is, the doctors believed Terri was a candidate for rehabilitation, but her husband withheld that treatment."

Additionally, we uncovered that only one judge ruled on the facts of the case. All the other judges looked at procedure issues and not the original facts. Working on this project made clear to me that we need to keep Terri's story alive. Our children need to know where the lines were drawn when our government and court system "let Terri die."

Full Article and Source:
New Terri Schiavo Documentary Reveals Facts Overlooked by Mainstream Media

Friday, March 13, 2009

Children Taken Away From Mother

Protest by Suffolk County New York residents against order issued by Judge Bivona who ordered that two girls be taken from their home against their will to live with their father.

The protesters fear that the children will be subjected to drugging and indoctrination by a company called the Rachel Foundation in Texas.

During the proceedings, Judge Bivona had issued a gag order which prevented anyone from telling the girls anything about what was going to happen to them. When the final order was issued, two detectives went to their home and took them away without prior warning. The girls are 9 and 10 years old.

Protesters believe that there is corruption in the courts and that the father of the children is a wealthy attorney who has familiar relationships with attorneys and judges in the courthouse. Protesters state that children need to be heard and that cameras need to be in the court rooms in New York and that behind door conferences lead to deals made by attorneys that benefit themselves and that are not in the best interest of the children.

They also believe that all court proceedings must be open to the public to prevent corruption. and cases should not be sealed.

"No Conservator is Needed"

Closing arguments in the Crean conservator trial took an hour and forty-five minutes. Judge Mary Fingal Shulte will render her opinion on April 20.

What she must decide in this first phase is if Donna Crean, suffering from advanced Alzheimer's and diabetes, needs a conservator.

Before closing arguments, Johnnie Crean instructed his attorneys to withdraw his application to be named his mom's conservator, but continued to argue no conservator is needed.

There have been six lawyers sitting across from Judge Shulte. Ernest Hayward and Patina Madison are court-appointed attorneys representing Donna Crean. By law they must advocate for her wishes. Hayward made it clear throughout the trial, his client doesn't want a conservator, but if one is appointed, her choice would be son Andy.

In his closing argument, Hayward stated that travel, visitation and Donna's social structure decisions fall under the Health Care Directive already in place in which Andy Crean is in charge. He believes there are overlaps in this directive and thus no conservator should be named. Though he recognizes there are issues within the family dynamic; Donna's being well cared for even suggesting she wear gloves on outings to protect her from illness when in contact with the public.

Johnnie Crean's attorneys are Bruce Gary and John Wong. Gary read his closing arguments verbatim from a prepared statement stating "the current system is doing enough providing food, clothing and shelter for Donna Crean," thus meeting the criteria not to appoint a conservator. He acknowledged his client's "inability to communicate without throwing gasoline on a fire" and stated "the children want protection from each other, not a criteria for the court to appoint a conservator."

Full Article and Source:
Judge will rule April 20 on Crean conservatorship - Six attorneys involved in closing arguments

See also:
Family Dynasty Battle

New Guidelines for Appointing GAL's

Starting in May, courts across the state will have new guidelines for appointing guardians ad litem.

The provisional rules adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court call for fewer appointments of GALs to represent the interests of children or adults with diminished mental capacity in court proceedings.

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Janice Holder of Memphis also said the rules will better define what their role is in the court proceedings, such as divorce or child custody matters.

Holder, in a written statement, said the new rule, 40A, “should result in a reduction in the frequency of appointments of guardians ad litem.”

Holder: “They also give those appointed as GALs clearer direction about the duties a GAL must perform as well as limitations on a GAL’s involvement in a case. The proper role of the GAL is to represent the best interests of children involved in divorce and other custody proceedings, and this rule gives clear guidance about how to properly carry out that duty and should reduce the overall costs to the parties.”

The guidelines are posted on the Web site of the state Administrative Office of Courts,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Secrets in America: The Crisis of Elder Abuse

A documentary produced by the Stanislaus County communications department tells how two scam artists were not able to cash an elders check and later were convicted. The documentary includes interviews with Emmy Award-winning actress and senior advocate Doris Roberts and national experts on elder abuse.

The half-hour film will be shown at the Gallo Center for the Arts on Thursday, March 12 at 6:00pm. to launch a public education project and introduce the nonprofit Stanislaus County Senior Foundation, a group formed to supplement dwindling resources for seniors.

One hundred DVDs were produced for showing "Secrets in America" at senior centers, retirement communities, churches and other venues. Community groups or nonprofit organizations can get a copy for free.

Full Article and Source:
Film shines light on elder abuse - Stories shared in hope of sparing others

Non-Lawyer Judges Fight Reform

Probate judges fighting reform of their courts oppose the most basic change of all.

Incredibly, they don't think probate judges — who often work part time in return for full-time benefits and hefty salaries — should even be lawyers.

The whole idea of non-lawyer judges seems odd, like a practicing doctor without an M.D. But this is Connecticut, where anyone with enough lawn signs or political connections can be elected judge and probate-sanctioned kidnappings remain frighteningly common.

Requiring judges to be lawyers was one of the many reforms that state legislators were wrestling with as the judiciary committee began considering far-reaching changes for probate, the only court system in Connecticut that has remained largely unaltered since Colonial times.

The probate judges turned out in force to say they don't want the bigger regional courts, let alone mandating a law degree or becoming part of the dreaded Superior Courts. Most opposed Gov. Rell's proposed — and long overdue — consolidation of the courts.

Full Article and Source:
Probate System Fights Reform. Nothing New

See also:

Rell's Surprise

Judges Will Take Pay Cuts

Probate System Going Bankrupt

Man Swindled Elderly Woman

A man is facing charges after police say he swindled an elderly woman out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Investigators say James Riley withdrew thousands of dollars each month from 64-year-old Maggie Garfield's account for more than a year. Police say Garfield is confined to a wheelchair, cannot communicate well, and has a medical history showing she's incapable of giving consent.

Authorities say Riley was first charged with financially exploiting Garfield in April 2008. Riley was arrested for taking $164,511 from the woman's account. That case is still pending before the courts.

In August 2008 the courts issued an emergency order of guardianship for Garfield. A few months thereafter, the guardian filed a police report against Riley, claiming he had used power of attorney to withdraw $10,911 from Garfield's account from January to October in 2008.

Full Article and Source:
Man Swindles Elderly Woman Out of Loads of Cash

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"He’s a ward of the state, so who cares?"

Police have arrested a former health care worker in connection with the 2007 homicide of a cerebral palsy patient, a case that almost ended with no investigation into the victim’s unexpected death and his burial just days later in a pauper’s grave.

Walter Small is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of Robert A. Young on Nov. 12, 2007. Authorities booked the defendant into the Hamilton County Jail after a grand jury indicted him. He was released on a $5,000 bond.

Mr. Young’s family members initially questioned the circumstances of his death, which took place while he was living at the Health Center at Standifer Place. Mr. Small worked in the center as a certified nursing assistant.

Authorities eventually exhumed Mr. Young’s body last summer, and the autopsy performed one year after his death indicated Mr. Young died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Court documents state: after Mr. Young’s death, “Standifer Place told each person, on each call, that (Mr. Young) was OK, and to come see him.”

Attorney Robin Flores, who is representing the family, said that Adult Protective Services, the Department of Human Services agency that had legal guardianship of Mr. Young, also did not respond to Erlanger hospital’s repeated attempts to find Mr. Young’s family. Instead, the agency simply made arrangements for Mr. Young to be buried at Ruth Cofer cemetery after he died at Erlanger hospital about a week after being sent there from Standifer Place with a fractured skull.

Mr. Flores said at the time he filed the $35 million wrongful death suit against Standifer Place on behalf of Mr. Young’s family: "It was like, Just bury the guy. He’s a ward of the state, so who cares?"

Full Article and Source:
Chattanooga: Man charged in death of nursing home patient

More information:
Arrest Made in Death of Nursing Home Patient

Nursing home aide surrenders on homicide charge

Lawyer Given More Time

Judge Stephen Rice gave metro-east attorney John Pawloski 35 days to account for his use of guardianship and estate funds before he'll send him to jail.

Pawloski's attorney, Van-Lear Eckert, said it would violate Pawloski's Fifth Amendment right to account for his use of the funds.

Rice held Pawloski in civil contempt of court for not producing the accounting and ordered him incarcerated, but he said he would hold off on that sanction until next month to allow Pawloski to account for his use of the funds in all three cases.

Full Article and Source:
Metro-east lawyer given more time to account for spending in guardianship, estate cases

See also:
Ten Days to Produce Documents

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guide to Avoiding Probate

Looking for ways to save money? Avoid probate.

Probate, the legal process for settling a deceased person's estate, can be a nightmare even for those acquainted with the law. The process takes eighteen months on average, and much longer if administrative mishaps occur or family members fight. It can also be expensive with attorney's fees and court costs eating up substantial shares of the estate.

For these reasons, many people prefer to avoid probate altogether. Here are the most popular estate-planning strategies for doing this:

Owning Property Jointly
Naming a Beneficiary on Retirement Funds
Naming a Beneficiary on a Life Insurance Policy
Opening "Payable on Death" Accounts
Creating "Transfer-on-Death" Registrations for Securities and Vehicles
Creating "Transfer-on-Death" Real Estate Deeds
Writing a Living Trust
Giving Outright Gifts
Using Simplified "Non-Probate" Alternatives

Full Article and Source:
Avoid Probate To Save Time and Money

HALT—An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform
1612 K St NW Suite 510
Washington, DC 20006
Visit HALT at

A Tortuous Death

The estate of Ruth Forsythe has accused a Clinton Township nursing home of abusing her, resulting in a long gash in her leg, and makes other allegations against it according to a Macomb County lawsuit.

The estate represented by her daughter, Pauline Holeton, says in the lawsuit employees at Lake Pointe Senior Care and Rehabilitation Center dropped Forsythe in May 2006 while moving her, causing nose and eye injuries.

In March 2007, while moving her, workers caused a small tear in her leg that four days later they somehow ripped open into a 13-centimeter long and deep tear that required hospitalization, claims the lawsuit.

The estate's attorney, Mark Wilk: "The leg gouge looks like it blew up; you can't tell me that didn't hurt. It looks like a shrapnel wound."

Forsythe died at 87 in April 2007 in William Beaumont Hospital. Holeton and her husband, John, had removed her from Lake Pointe and placed her in an Oakland County nursing home about one month before her death.

They said Forsythe died "a tortuous death," contrary to the peaceful demise she had set out in a planned method of death. They said she "choked to death."

Full Article and Source:
Nursing home accused of abuse

Marshall v. Marshall

More than 150 years ago, Charles Dickens mocked the delays and foot-dragging in England's chancery system of litigation in one of his finest works, Bleak House. Central to the story, delivered to readers at the time in 67 chapters in 20 installments over 18 months, was a lawsuit over an inheritance. The suit, Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, dragged on so long that the original parties had died, and legal costs consumed what was left of the estate, making clear Dickens's point that justice delayed cannot only be justice denied but can amount to more injustice. The book is credited with encouraging needed reforms in England's lackadaisical and cumbersome legal process.

Today, Americans, if they pay attention, may either enjoy or stand aghast at a modern rendition of Bleak House in another case about a wayward inheritance, Marshall v. Marshall. It is the case brought by actress and celebrity Anna Nicole Smith in 1995 to collect money from her deceased husband, J. Howard Marshall, II, after an unusually brief marriage. Fourteen years later, Anna Nicole Smith is dead.

So, too, is E. Pierce Marshall, whom a Texas probate court appointed as executor of J. Howard's estate, and who was Smith's primary target. The case has gone up and down, and in and out of state courts and federal courts. It's reached appellate levels in both, rising to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006, where it was returned for further proceedings to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thus, as in Bleak House, all the original participants are dead, but the case lives on.

Full Article and Source:
A Modern-Day Bleak House

More information:
How Marshall v. Marshall Affects the Baby Boomer Generation

Anna Nicole Smith Wins Supreme Court Case

Monday, March 9, 2009

Laird's Bill Clears Senate

Abusing or neglecting an incapacitated elderly person in West Virginia could turn into a more serious offense if a bill Sen. Bill Laird led to Senate passage becomes law.

Laird took the Senate floor to encourage support for the proposal that puts abuse or neglect resulting in serious injury or death on par with identical offenses perpetrated on children.

If the outcome of such abuse or neglect is death, the crime is akin to second-degree murder under the Laird bill, which cleared on a 34-0 vote.

Laird told his Senate colleagues the intent is to plug “a serious hole” in state code.

“The need for this legislation has been validated by my prior experience in the law enforcement profession.”

He discovered state code was “wholesalely inadequate” to hold criminals responsible in the deaths of incapacitated elderly people while relying on custodians, caregivers or guardians for life’s basic needs.

Full Article and Source:
Laird’s elderly abuse, neglect bill clears Senate

See also:
Increasing Criminal Penalties for Guardian Misuse

Class Action Against Judges

An unprecedented case of judicial corruption is unfolding in Pennsylvania. Several hundred families have filed a class-action lawsuit against two former judges who have pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

More Information:
More than 70 juveniles and their families filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday against two former judges who pleaded guilty this month in a scheme that involved their taking kickbacks to put young offenders in privately run detention centers.
70 Youths Sue Former Judges in Detention Kickback Case

See also:
"When Judges Stain Our Kids"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Will Reform Finally Happen?

On Monday, the General Assembly's Judiciary committee begins considering of legislation that could finally reform a system that has dodged modernization for decades.

At stake are jobs for dozens of judges and the lawyers who appear before them and earn hefty fees. Look for the probate judges to try to limit the reforms called for by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The governor wants to eliminate seven out of 10 judges and require them to be lawyers.

Source and List of Bills to be discussed:
Probate court showdown at Capitol Monday

See also:

Massive Overhaul

Common Pattern - Guardian Abuse

Connecticut Probate Judges

Permanent Guardianship is "Permanent"

When Angie and Thomas Gruno convinced the Lake County courts to grant them permanent guardianship of 5-year-old Matthew Cole in May 2007, they thought they were making the right move.

The Mount Dora couple already had adopted Matthew's sister in an attempt to offer the girl better stability than she had received from her biological mother.

Angie: "It was a way for us to keep the children in good hands and together."

But when Matthew moved in, the Grunos discovered they were not equipped to handle the medical and mental conditions Matthew brought with him.

The couple knew beforehand he had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or ADD, a developmental disorder in which certain traits such as impulse control lag in development.

After taking in Matthew, who's now 7, they learned he also was bipolar and autistic. The couple said the child constantly threatens suicide, including pointing a pencil at his throat in class this past week, gets expelled from school, punches family members, goes through tantrums and generally disrupts the household.

So the Grunos went back to the court in an attempt to reopen the guardianship case. They want the Department of Children and Families to take Matthew as a medical foster child.

But the courts disagreed. The courts cited Matthew's special needs among its reasoning in refusing to reopen the case -- saying the child's condition would likely make it impossible to place him with another family.

Angie said she was told during the granting of guardianship that the couple could relinquish custody of Matthew if he became too much to handle.

But the Grunos, as well as the Guardian ad Litem assigned by the courts to monitor the family, said the judge's ruling is vague on the stipulations of being able to give the child back.

Bill D'Aiuto, an administrator with circuit No. 5 of DCF, said it is rare that a couple tries to return a child once adoption or permanent guardianship have been granted.

D'Aiuto: "Permanent guardianship is what it is... permanent."

Heidi Davis, the general magistrate who worked the case, said in light of the issue with the family, she couldn't comment in general on what is usually done in permanent guardianship cases in which the children have become too much trouble.

Davis: "I could only suggest anyone in such situation hire a lawyer."

Angie Gruno said she was told by the Guardian ad Litem that a sure-fire way to relinquish her guardianship rights was to call the abuse hotline on herself. But she added that would put the custody of her adopted daughter in jeopardy.

Full Article and Source:
Couple grapples with DCF, guardianship issue

"Call to Action" Event

Elder Financial Protection Network (EFPN) announces the 5th annual "Call to Action" event with keynote speaker, Bob Blancato, National Coordinator, Elder Justice Coalition on March 26, 2009 in San Francisco, California. "Call to Action" will address the current economic crisis and its effects on California's senior community. A morning conference program "Building Bridges~Sharing Best Practices" will bring key experts together with community advocates to step-up the effort to stop the growing crime of elder financial abuse. More than 300 representatives from financial institutions, law enforcement, adult social service agencies and the professional legal community are expected to attend.

Jenefer Duane, Founder and CEO of EFPN: "The exploding incidences of abuse and exploitation of elders affects more than two million victims annually in this country."

Full Article and Source:
Elder Financial Protection Network Presents 5th Annual 'Call to Action' Program to Examine the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Elderly March 26, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.