Saturday, July 4, 2009

NASGA Celebrates Independence Day

National Association to STOP Guardian Abuse

For immediate release

July 4, 2009
For more information contact:
Annie McKenna
NASGA Media Liaison
NASGA Celebrates Independence Day

On this traditional day when we celebrate our Independence, NASGA brings to public attention the plight of many of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens - the elderly and disabled (including disabled or elderly Veterans) - who have lost their Independence through a legal process known as guardianship or conservatorship.

"Wards of the State" are stripped of all their civil rights and liberties in the name of “protection.” Many are forced into nursing homes, drugged, and isolated from family and friends. Everything they have worked a lifetime to attain is taken from them to pay administrative and legal fees for their court-ordered “protectors.” Some die premature deaths. Others spend what should be their golden years in misery and suffering. Families struggling in vain to save their loved ones from this nightmare are broken, emotionally and financially.

If America is truly the land of the free, it must protect its vulnerable citizens from incarceration against their will for the monetary benefit of those who prey on the weak and defenseless, as well as those who enable this type of plunder.

Guardianship Hearing Postponed

A judge delayed a hearing over guardianship of Michael Jackson’s three children at the request of attorneys for the singer’s mother and ex-wife.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff postponed the hearing, originally scheduled for Monday, until July 13. Court spokeswoman Vania Stuelp said that a hearing on Jackson’s estate, which was also scheduled for Monday, will go on as scheduled.

Attorneys for Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson’s mother, and for Debbie Rowe, the mother of the singer’s two older children, jointly filed the request asking for the delay, but did not specify why they wanted more time.

Full Article and Source:
Hearing in Michael Jackson child guardianship case postponed

See also:
Custody Battle Begins

Campaign Against AGTA

Canada - A group of seniors are campaigning against the recently passed Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act (AGTA), while the province is chasing its tail to refute “misinformation” about the legislation.

The Elder Advocates of Alberta Society recently came to the tri-area to “warn” people about the act that they say will essentially take away senior citizens’ right to make decisions, and for others to assume control over their hard-earned savings and assets.

Ruth Maria Adria, an elder advocate, who spoke to a group of tri-area seniors at the Stony Plain Seniors’ Centre on June 20: “When you get frail this legislation declares seniors incompetent. They have no right to anything – no right to their money, to their home, even to their mail or their Christmas cards. The (new) act allows someone to take control of your estate or your money and you have absolutely no access to your safe. A part of the act says that only the court will be allowed to look at your financial statements and books. You won’t be allowed to look at them.”

Full Article and Source:
Seniors say no to new guardianship act

Friday, July 3, 2009

Custody Battle Begins

More information:
Debbie Rowe told a Los Angeles TV station that she will undergo DNA testing to prove she is the biological mother of Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11. She wants a restraining order to keep Jacko's dad Joe away from the kids.

Debbie spoke out after it emerged she was "intentionally omitted" from the star's £500 million will.

It revealed Jacko wanted his mum Katherine to be the children's guardian.

A judge has delayed a guardianship hearing at the request of lawyers for Katherine and Debbie.

Jacko's alternative choice was singer Diana Ross.

A source close to Debbie said: "Katherine is elderly. And the idea the kids would go to Diana Ross ahead of their biological mother is just stupid."

MICHAEL Jackson's former wife Debbie Rowe last night declared: "I want my children."

See also:
Jackson's Mom Gets Temp. Guardianship

Checkbook-Swiping Woman

ILL - A woman who police have a surveillance photo of is suspected of stealing check books from elderly women as they shopped at stores in two western suburbs, then cashing several of the checks.

The suspect, who appears to be about 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds, is suspected of lifting the checkbook out of the purse of a 68-year-old North Aurora woman who was shopping at a grocery store in the 1200 block of North Lake Street in Aurora on May 13, the release said. The victim told detectives that the suspect first asked the woman if she would hand her an item from an upper shelf, apparently to distract her. The victim then found out that the woman cashed one of her checks about 45 minutes after she discovered her check book missing.

Also on May 13, Oswego Police said a woman noticed her wallet missing after she shopped at a grocery/department store at Route 30 and Orchard Road. Later in the day, the woman cashed a check from the victim's account at a bank in the 6600 block of Route 34, which is the picture police are releasing from the surveillance system.

The suspect struck again on June 23, after a 79-year-old woman noticed her checkbook missing after shopping at a home improvement store in Oswego. Later the same day, the suspect cashed two checks from the woman's account at an Aurora bank in the 1300 block of North Farnsworth Avenue.

The total loss in the three incidents is about $3,500. In all three cases, the suspect apparently used an out of state identification card that turned out to be stolen last year.

Anyone with information on the identity of the woman is asked to call Aurora Police, (630) 801-6655, Oswego Police (630) 551-7349; or Aurora Area Crime Stoppers, (630) 892-1000. Callers to Crime Stoppers are anonymous and qualify for a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest.

Woman Suspected Of Lifting Checkbooks From Elderly

Federal Government Intervention

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fewer Kids in Foster Care

Slightly more than a decade ago, 52,000 children were in the custody of the State of Illinois.

Over the years that number dropped considerably -- to nearly 16,000 -- due to relatives stepping up to keep families together. However, African-Americans still dominate the group, said a spokesman for the Department of Children and Family Services.

As of April 30, there were 15,912 children statewide in foster care. In Cook County, there were 6,816. Of that county total, 79 percent are African-American, according to DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe.

Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside their homes due to abuse, neglect or dependency. Wards of the state are either in non-relative foster homes, homes with a relative, or in group homes or centers.

Marlowe: "The ultimate goal is to return the child home once issues are resolved. When that’s not an option, the department advocates for subsidized guardianship or seeks adoption for the child."

Full Article and Source:
Fewer kids in foster care than a decade ago

Michael Jackson's Will Filed

Michael Jackson's 7-year-old will was filed in a Los Angeles court, giving his entire estate to a family trust but cutting out his former wife Debbie Rowe.

The will, dated July 7, 2002, estimated his estate at that time at more than $500 million.

It gives the entire estate to the Michael Jackson Family Trust.

The documents said Jackson's estate consisted almost entirely of "non-cash, non-liquid assets, including primarily an interest in a catalogue of music royalty rights which is currently being administered by Sony ATV, and the interests of various entities."

His mother, Katherine Jackson, is named as a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of Jackson's three young children, who are named in the will.

The will names Diana Ross as a successor trustee to Jackson's mother if necessary.

Full Article and Source:
Jackson’s will cuts out ex-wife Debbie Rowe

See also:
Jackson's Mom Gets Temp. Guardianship

A Storm Brewing

Ed Asner on Elder Abuse

See also:
Are Your Parents Safe?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Criteria for Appointing Guardians

Gov. John Baldacci this week is expected to sign a bill that raises the legal bar for appointing a guardian, such as for someone with developmental disabilities or an elderly person.

"I'm really, really happy. It's about time the government takes it seriously," says Christina Mailhot of Portland, a member of Speaking Up for Us, an advocacy group for people with disabilities. Mailhot, who has Down's Syndrome, doesn't have a guardian making personal decisions for her, but says some of her friends do, even though they are capable of directing their own lives.

Mailhot: "It really makes me mad because I know they're independent and I know they can do things on their own, but whoever their guardian is is making it harder for them to be on their own and I don't think that's fair."

Several thousand Mainers have a guardian or a conservator - someone who makes financial decisions for them. The legislation may spur more of these so-called "protected persons" to terminate these legal arrangements, says Staci Converse, an attorney with the Disability Rights Center.

"I think it may encourage people to try to get out of guardianships because the guardian will have to continue to prove now by clear and convincing evidence that the guardianship continues to be necessary."

Full Article and Source:
Disabled and Elderly Advocates Hail New Criteria for Appointing Guardians

Jackson's Mom Gets Temp. Guardianship

The children of Michael Jackson, ages 7, 11 and 12, were placed under the temporary guardianship of their paternal grandmother, Katherine Jackson, by a Los Angeles judge.

The biological mother of Jackson's two oldest children, Debbie Rowe, will be invited to a hearing next Monday in which the judge will consider who should have custody of them. She has, so far, not publicly indicated whether she will challenge the Jacksons for custody.

The Jackson family said it has not found a will for the singer, which would leave the division of his estate to the court.

The judge also gave Katherine Jackson temporary control of her son's "tangible personal property."

Full Article and Source:
Michael Jackson's mom gets kids, estate control for now

See also:
When Guardianship Nominations Go Bad

Blue Ribbon Committee

It's about protecting those who can't protect themselves

Hells Canyon Circuit Superior Court Judge William Acey has set up a blue ribbon committee of over a dozen lawyers to review and oversee guardianship cases.

Acey: "For a person who is disabled either through illness or infirmity or Alzheimer's or maybe a young person, underage, that has received some money in a car wreck or something like that, the law requires that guardianship be appointed for them either over their property or their person to help them with lifestyle decisions and financial decisions."

The review process is meant to ensure that these people are not getting ripped off by whomever is overseeing their accounts.

Full Article and Source:
Blue ribbon committee set up to examine guardianship issues

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Senior Financial Empowerment Act of 2009

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Howard Coble today introduced the Senior Financial Empowerment Act of 2009 (H.R. 3040). The legislation will help stop abusive mail, telemarketing and Internet fraud targeting seniors.

Congresswoman Baldwin: "I became aware of the seriousness and scope of fraud targeting seniors when I helped my own grandmother in her later years. These crimes can have severe financial and emotional consequences for older Americans and their families. Our bill will educate the public, seniors, their families, and their caregivers on how to identify and combat fraudulent activity."

Full Article and Source:
Baldwin Targets Senior Financial Fraud

When Guardianship Nominations Go Bad

Mina Sirkin a nationally recognized attorney reporting on inheritance matters, expects that the disputes around Jackson's children, estate and life insurance may have unexpected results.

Sirkin, who was the CBS2/KCAL9 expert on the death of Anna Nicole Smith and the guardianship of her child, and a media expert regarding the Conservatorship of Britney Spears, says it is likely that the nomination of guardian by Michael Jackson relating to the two children he had with his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe may fail because the court did not make the special findings necessary to terminate her paternal rights.

Therefore, under California law, Rowe as the mother of those two children will have priority over any nominated "guardian of the person" by Michael Jackson. However, Debbie can't expect the same results when it comes to guardianship of the estate of the minors.

The Jackson case is a perfect example of when guardianship nominations can go bad. Parents who name guardians of the person who were married to the parent of the minors can't expect their intended results, unless the other parent has actually consented to the nomination in writing in California.

Surrogate parents also have special rights in California which if not terminated by the court will remain in tact for the surrogate parent. At this point, it is unclear whether or not any court has terminated the surrogate's rights.

Any and all of Jackson's life insurances are at risk at this point, even if he created irrevocable life insurance trusts for his minor kids naming those children as beneficiaries. Sirkin continues to say that large policies are subject to many exclusions and the facts of death of Jackson, along with the coroner's findings, will greatly impact whether those insurance will be paid.

Full Article and Source:
TV Legal Expert says Michael Jackson's Children are not Protected

Gloria Allred, who requested the court appoint a guardian for the children of OctoMom, had this to say:

The court still has jurisdiction to decide what's in the best interest of the children.You cannot will a child like a piece of property, or piece of jewelry -- a child is a human being. The court will give great weight to the preference of the parent, but will not be bound by that preference.

Whoever obtains guardianship of the kids is going to need funds to take care of these children. But there are lots of debts and creditors who will want to get their money, too. I anticipate there will soon be a probate battle going on.

I do anticipate that there may soon be guardianship battles, custody battles, and probate battles. This is the beginning of a whole new chapter.

Gloria Allred's Thoughts on Michael Jackson

See also:
A Storm Brewing

Public Guardian Speaks Out

A child whose mother set her on fire and 100 other foster kids in state custody will lose "all counseling services" if Illinois is allowed to cut its Children and Family Services budget by 50 percent on July 1 as planned, a Cook County Public Guardian says. Robert Harris claims the budget cuts will eliminate "all counseling services to children who are in state care due to physical or sexual abuse, neglect or dependency."

On behalf of more than 100 foster children, Harris sued the Department of Children and Family Services and Gov. Pat Quinn, whose budget calls for DCFS funding to be cut by 50 percent.

Harris asked the Cook County Court to enjoin Quinn and the DCFS from terminating counseling services for children in custody without due process and "without individual consideration of each child's needs."

Harris says the children have "all suffered extraordinary trauma in their young lives," such as "physical and sexual abuse, witness(ing) domestic violence" and neglect.

Full Article and Source:
Foster Kids Endangered by Huge Budget Cuts in Illinois

See also:
Governor, Guardian and DCF Being Sued

Monday, June 29, 2009

Will Justice Be Served?

Prosecutors and the police should be paying attention to the John F. Pawloski saga.

The attorney and former St. Clair County public guardian on Tuesday agreed to repay $7,522 missing from the estate of a client. In April Pawloski agreed to repay $63,075 missing from another client's estate. In both cases, his attorney said Pawloski was "contrite."

Pawloski has refused a judge's order to provide financial accountings in those cases plus a third, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination. An appeal is pending.

In addition, the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has accused him of taking money without permission in the three cases.

What are the criminal authorities doing?

Maybe St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida is waiting for the appeal to be decided. But the longer this saga drags on without criminal charges, the more it appears Pawloski is getting kid glove treatment from the legal system.

If Pawloski as public guardian took money from some of the most vulnerable members of our community or their estates, he abused his position of public trust and deserves to be charged with a crime. Being sorry and repaying the money is great, but that doesn't let him off the hook.

Will justice be served

See also:
Attorney Will Repay Estates

Who watches the guardians?

Lawyer Agrees to Repay Estate

Lawyer Appeals Judge's Demand

Lawyer Given More Time

Ten Days to Produce Documents

John Pawloski Case

HB2788 Update

Laird's Bill Clears Senate discusses legislative action in West Virginia increasing criminal penalties for abuse, neglect, injury and misuse/misappropriation of funds or assets of elderly or adult incapacitated persons.

West Virginia House Bill 2788, introduced on 2/24/09, has concurred with the Senate version, passed earlier, and has been approved by the Governor on 5/7/09, to become effective 7/10/09.

The amended criminal code enhances penalties for abuse, bodily injury, neglect, and misappropriation or misuse of the funds or assets of an elder person or incapacitated adult by caregiver, guardian or custodian.

West Virginia Senior Services - Legislative Updates

Exploited by Neighbor

Virgil Huber's neighbor pleaded guilty to two felony elder exploitation charges after his niece pursued the case in Madison County Circuit Court.

Sharon Deabler, now of Oakland, Fla., was living in O'Fallon, Ill., when she noticed a change in her uncle, who then lived in East Alton.

Huber's neighbor, Gladys "Roberta" Fillingim, entered the picture after she took him to the hospital when he cut two fingers while woodworking in 1999.

Eventually, Fillingim was charged in Madison County Circuit Court with four felonies - two counts of criminal neglect of an elderly person and two counts of unlawful financial exploitation of an elderly person. Fillingim pleaded guilty in September 2005 to the two financial exploitation charges in exchange for a prosecution agreement to drop the criminal neglect counts.

The court sentenced Fillingim to four years of probation to be served concurrently on each charge and ordered her to repay an estimated $257,000 that prosecutors said she had stolen from Huber. The court ordered Fillingim to pay $200 a month to Huber's estate, which was reduced to $100 a month when her husband died.

Fillingim, who was 73 at the time of her plea, could have faced up to 30 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed not to seek prison time because of her age, poor health and the fact that she agreed to make restitution.

Deabler became Huber's legal guardian after the court determined that Huber was victimized by Fillingim. Huber then moved to Florida, where he turned 88 in April, to live with his niece and her husband.

Deabler went through eight attorneys before finding the appropriate one who helped arrange the successful prosecution of Fillingim.

Full Article and Source:
East Alton elder was exploited

Trust Fund Dipping

The Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of Edward Fagan, a lawyer who won millions of dollars in settlements for Holocaust victims but who also misappropriated some of their money to pay his debts.

Fagan told the justices during a hearing on June 16 that disciplinary authorities' handling of the evidence may have deprived him of a chance to prove that the money he took was for legal work and he asked for a remand for further fact-finding.

But the justices declined and found him guilty of knowing misappropriation of client and escrow funds.

Fagan also took sums from client accounts without authority, using some of it to pay the rent on his New York office, according to a finding last year by a special master, retired Superior Court Judge Arthur Minuskin.

Minuskin said Fagan failed to hold $82,582 in escrow given to him by client Gizella Weisshaus, a Holocaust survivor, from the estate of Jack Oestreicher; that he improperly disbursed $303,582 of Holocaust settlement funds from client Estelle Sapir; and that he misappropriated $40,000 from clients' funds to pay his New York law office rent.

Full Article and Source:
Holocaust Victims' Lawyer Disbarred for Trust-Fund Dipping

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lawyer Guilty of Fraud

Beverly W. Hersh wanted most of her $12 million fortune to go to charities and other worthy causes after her death in 2005.

But prosecutors say her lawyer gave about $9 million to himself, friends and relatives.

Cincinnati lawyer Robert L. Schwartz pleaded guilty to federal charges of mail fraud and filing a false income tax return in connection with his handling of Hersh's estate.

Schwartz was supposed to move Hersh's money into trusts that would be used to benefit worthy causes, but federal prosecutors say he used most of the money for personal expenditures and gifts to friends and associates.

The fraud charge is tied to his failure to give $2.5 million to Hadassah Hospital in Israel, as Hersh had instructed him to do. Schwartz also gave away large sums of money from a $6.3 million "discretionary trust" that he controlled, prosecutors say.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer pleads guilty to mail fraud

Judge Accused of Violating Judicial Rules

A circuit judge testified that he intended no improper action when he remained involved in an estate case he first took on before he was elected to the bench.

Circuit Judge L.T. Simes of Helena, who has been sanctioned three times previously by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline Commission, is accused of violating judicial rules by acting as an attorney while he was on the bench. It came out in testimony that Simes has been the subject of 24 complaints since 2004.

Complaints before the commission are kept sealed until they reach the point of a formal charge. Most of the 24 accusations against Simes were dismissed but commission investigator Lance Womack said there are four open cases against Simes, including the estate matter. That's in addition to the three sanctions.

Full Article and Source:
Arkansas Judge Defends Himself in Impropriety Case

Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities

Pete Schoemann wants to build a bridge between the business and disabled communities.

The Orlando attorney is part of both worlds: A partner in the law firm Broad and Cassel, he has two sons with autism. He founded the Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities Inc. two years ago and is now looking to expand the organization's regional focus to a national one.

The Chamber hopes to be an umbrella organization for groups across the U.S. that promote the disability community and help disabled entrepreneurs get businesses off the ground.

Like more traditional chambers, the group wants to create a place to network. But it will also deal with issues that affect disabled entrepreneurs - such as changing federal contracting programs to include disability businesses.

Rogue Gallart, president of the Central Florida Disability Chamber: "The end result is to get off (Social Security) disability."

Full Article and Source:
Attorney building chamber for disabled

Attorney Ordered to Mental Health Evaluation

An attorney who repeatedly failed to submit to a court-ordered mental health evaluation has been suspended for three years by an appeals panel that upheld a professional misconduct charge against the lawyer.

Although attorney Cheryl K. Brodsky had no prior disciplinary history, the panel in Matter of Brodsky, 2006-09233, ruled that she was in "violation of an explicit directive ... that she be examined by a qualified medical expert, irrespective of whether or not she agrees with the underlying premise."

Brodsky's suspension arose from a grievance filed in 2006 by Paul J. Kenny, now chief clerk of the Appellate Term, who said that Brodsky, at an interview for a court attorney position, had claimed she was married to Queens Supreme Court Administrative Judge Jeremy S. Weinstein.

Full Article and Source:
Attorney's Failure to Pursue Mental Health Evaluation Leads to Suspension