Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fate of Astor Fortune is Uncertain

The spectacle of the Brooke Astor trial owed much of its public fascination to celebrity and circumstance — a son accused of greedily exploiting his aging mother, a beloved philanthropist who had dedicated much of her life to charity.

Yet the conviction of Mrs. Astor’s son, Anthony D. Marshall, on charges that he stole from her has done little to resolve the uncertain fate of the $180 million estate at the heart of the discord. So even as Mr. Marshall awaits sentencing and a possible appeal, another legal showdown looms.

As the public watched the criminal trial unfold over the last five months, a small army of lawyers, including those for a dozen charities, read the tea leaves for some sense of how they could alter the jockeying over the Astor fortune. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library, the two main beneficiaries of Mrs. Astor’s largess, even sent observers to the trial.

The expected contest — which could be sidestepped by a settlement — is in Westchester County Surrogate’s Court, and centers on whether Mrs. Astor’s assets should be distributed according to her most recent will, from 2002, or an earlier version, which directed more money to charity.

Full Article and Source:
Despite Verdict, Fate of Astor Fortune is Uncertain

See Also:
Astor's Son Found Guilty

Clients Reimbursed

Victims of two Worcester County lawyers have benefited from a fund that reimburses people whose lawyers have stolen money from them.

During fiscal 2009, the Massachusetts Clients’ Security Board fund awarded $1.3 million to 83 clients whose lawyers had stolen from them, according to Karen D. O’Toole, board assistant counsel.

The largest award, $243,498, went to a trust established by the now-deceased mother of disbarred Southbridge lawyer Adrian Gaucher Jr. After borrowing from the trust for personal needs, he tried to discharge those loans in a personal bankruptcy. The court refused to discharge more than $300,000 of debt and said, “In short, he fleeced his mother out of almost everything she had.”

Also, nine former clients of disbarred Oxford lawyer Raymond A. Desautels received a total of $11,084 in reimbursements.

Disbarred lawyer John D. Roberts Jr. of Dennis misappropriated $137,900 from a trust he served as trustee. He was indicted and convicted of the theft. The board also paid $124,593 to seven clients of disbarred Springfield lawyer David Ryan O’Desky, who was convicted of felony-larceny, and clients of Ronald Gary Pinson of Dorchester received $29,056.

Full Article and Source:
Clients Reimbursed

Public Perception of the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission

Count Raul Saavedra among the courthouse regulars who say Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad got off easy in connection with the unlawful detention of a Las Vegas woman in the judge’s courtroom six years ago.

Saavedra was the Municipal Court marshal who took Anne Chrzanowski into custody that day under what he insists were orders from the judge. Chrzanowski was basically held hostage for a couple of hours until her boyfriend showed up to take care of some unpaid traffic tickets.

The light sanctions levied against Assad years later — a written apology to Chrzanowski (who had since moved out of town) and enrollment in an ethics course — have focused attention once more on the state’s secretive and often slow-moving disciplinary process for judges.

The Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission is considered part of the judicial branch of state government, but the Nevada Supreme Court does not have any authority to oversee its daily operations. The governor, the Supreme Court and the Nevada State Bar appoint the commission’s seven part-time board members, who in turn appoint their own executive director.

When the Legislature hands out money to state agencies every two years, the commission usually is near the bottom of the list. With its small $600,000 budget, it is not unusual for the panel to run out of money to hire investigators or gather its members for a hearing on a disciplinary action.

All of this leads to the public perception that the commission has failed to consistently protect the integrity of the judiciary in a timely manner.

Full Article and Source:
For Judges Who Err, Justice Far From Swift

DHS Employee Awaiting Sentencing

A former Department of Human Services employee pleaded guilty Monday to two Tulsa County felony charges of financially exploiting vulnerable adults.

Debra Roberts, 51, is to be sentenced Dec. 21.

She waived her right to a trial, and she has no agreement with prosecutors to govern her punishment. Associate District Judge Dana Kuehn withheld any finding of guilt.

Roberts remains free on bail while she awaits sentencing in two cases filed in 2008.

Roberts, of Chelsea, was a DHS Adult Protective Services specialist.

She was charged in one case with taking nearly $4,500 that belonged to an 84-year-old man.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-DHS Worker Faces December Sentencing

See also:
Former DHS Employee Pleads Guilty in Tulsa

Supervisor at agency has felony past

DHS Worker Charged Again

DHS Worker Arrested

Sentenced to Jail for Exploiting Patients

A former caregiver to seniors with Alzheimer's disease is going to jail for financially exploiting patients.

Heather Whitehouse, 23, of Colchester was sentenced by Judge Linda Levitt to two to four years in jail, six months to serve, followed by four years of probation.

The charges stemmed from Whitestone's employment as a caregiver at The Arbors in Shelburne, a residential care community dedicated to serving seniors with Alzheimer's disease and related memory impairments.

Whitehouse was arrested Dec. 11 and charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, false pretense, unlawful taking of tangible personal property and fraudulent use of a credit card, for allegedly stealing the card and making 22 unauthorized purchases totaling more than $4,000.

Full Article and Source:
Cochester Caregiver Sentenced for Stealing

Friday, October 9, 2009

Astor's Son Found Guilty

The son of Brooke Astor, the legendary New York society matriarch, was convicted on Thursday of stealing from her as she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in the twilight of her life.

Barring an appeal, the jury’s verdict means that Mrs. Astor’s son, Anthony D. Marshall, an 85-year-old war veteran who fought at Iwo Jima, can be sentenced to anywhere from 1 to 25 years behind bars.

Mr. Marshall was found guilty of 14 of the 16 counts against him, including one of two first-degree grand larceny charges, the most serious he faced. Jurors convicted him of giving himself an unauthorized raise of about $1 million for managing his mother’s finances. Prosecutors contended that Mrs. Astor’s Alzheimer’s had advanced so far that there was no way she could have consented to this raise and other financial decisions that benefited Mr. Marshall.

A second defendant in the case, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., a lawyer who did estate planning for Mrs. Astor, was convicted of forgery charges.

Full Article and Source:
Brooke Astor's Son Found Guilty in Scheme to Defraud Her

IL AG Madigan Demands Reform

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called on state public health officials Wednesday to overhaul their approach to protecting seniors and disabled adults who live in nursing homes alongside mentally ill felons.

In a blistering letter to the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Madigan demanded beefed-up inspections and better data-keeping of criminal activity inside the homes. And she said the department must enlist the help of state police to immediately review the criminal history of every felon living in Illinois nursing homes.

Last week's Tribune series, Compromised Care, found government, law enforcement and the nursing home industry have failed to adequately manage the influx of younger, mentally ill offenders. The state's background checks, designed to identify dangerous residents so they can be properly monitored, often fell short by missing ex-convicts' violent crimes and downplaying their risks to others.

The Tribune series "exposed shocking and unconscionable gaps in (the public health department's) implementation of the law and a disregard for its role as chief regulator of Illinois' nursing homes," Madigan wrote in the letter to department director Damon T. Arnold.

Madigan's office has no direct authority to mandate changes in other state agencies. But her voice is crucial because as the state's top law enforcement official, she has investigated substandard nursing homes and pressed for the 2006 state law requiring criminal background screenings for all new admissions.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Dangers: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan Demands Reform to Protect Seniors and Disabled From Mentally Ill Felons

Additional Information:
Nursing Home Safety Reports

Attorney Says Pawloski is "Contrite"

The metro-east attorney accused by state regulators of using at least $25,000 from a disabled adult ward and two estates on himself has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to revoke his attorney's license.

John F. Pawloski's request for disbarment was included in documents filed Tuesday with the Supreme Court, which could issue a decision on the matter in November.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission listed civil charges of unauthorized use of the money in the documents. The charges also include accepting payment from some other clients and not delivering services, plus unauthorized practice of law during the two months last year he wasn't registered with the ARDC.

Attorneys can be disbarred in two ways, according to Jim Grogan, an ARDC spokesman: they can request it themselves, or the Supreme Court can force them out of practice.

Pawloski's request, if granted, means that the case with the ARDC will end and the charges won't be explored in court.

The documents filed Tuesday include an affidavit from Pawloski, in which he admits that, if the case were to proceed, the ARDC's evidence "would clearly and convincingly establish the facts and conclusions of misconduct" listed in the ARDC's charges.

Jim Williams, Pawloski's attorney, said Wednesday, "He's contrite about what happened, and he has agreed to repay. He has entered into repayment programs, he has volunteered to give up his license."

Williams said Pawloski plans to "do what needs to be done to make things right." He also said Pawloski likely will reapply for his license later.

Grogan said Pawloski will be eligible to try to get his license back after three years, but that it's difficult for attorneys to do so after discipline.

The ARDC's findings are separate from any other discipline Pawloski may face. The St. Clair County State's Attorney's Office is investigating, though Pawloski hasn't been charged criminally.

"Our investigation is still open," St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida said Wednesday. "We're still reviewing it. There's no specific time frame on when a decision would be made."

Pawloski, when guardian and administrator for the cases in which he is accused, was acting as St. Clair County's public guardian and administrator, and he has refused to account for his use of more than $50,000 of wards' and deceased people's estate money. He has appealed a judge's demand that he do so, and that appeal is pending in the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon. No one knows how he was named public guardian. The governor makes the appointment, and a former Gov. Rod Blagojevich spokesman said that office never did appoint Pawloski. Illinois Secretary of State records also don't list Pawloski as a guardian and indicate the position was vacant at the time.

But local clerks and judges thought Pawloski was the appointee. Also, Pawloski's name was part of an online list of public guardians, put together by the Office of the State Guardian. That office doesn't appoint or oversee the county public guardians, and a representative of that office has declined to comment about how Pawloski ended up on the list, citing ongoing litigation in St. Clair County.

The position is still vacant.

Full Article and Source:
'He's Contrite About What Happened': Attorney Who Used Client's Money Will Give Up License

See also:
Will Justice be Served

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

Accused of Exploiting His Mother

A Madison County man has been charged with wrongfully obtaining control of his 90-year-old mother’s bank accounts.

Prosecutors on Tuesday charged 62-year-old Gary E. Schnapp with unlawful exploitation of an elderly person. He allegedly used deception to gain control of bank accounts containing $5,000 or more that belonged to Mary Schnapp.

Madison County Man Accused of Exploiting Mother

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Elder Law Firms Suffering From Recession

To the surprise of some, elder law firms have been hit hard by the recession, according to the results of a new survey by ElderLawAnswers, the Web's leading source of consumer and professional information on elder law.

Most surveyed elder law firms (71 percent) have experienced a decline in business due to the economic downturn. Firms have seen an average 25 percent decline in business, although about 20 percent have had to cope with a precipitous 40 to 50 percent drop-off. "Anything (clients) can put off they will put off -- including their estate plans," commented one respondent.

The survey found that to make up for revenue shortfalls, firms have had to trim bonuses, cut staff, reduce salaries and even delay paying bills. Pruning bonuses has been the most common cost-cutting move among surveyed firms, followed by laying off support staff and reducing salaries.

Firms have also been forced to shift the focus of their practices. More than three-quarters of respondents (77 percent) say that as a result of the slump, they are concentrating more on practice areas that clients are less likely to defer. Topping the list of new areas of focus is estate administration, followed by crisis Medicaid planning and special needs planning.

Firms ranked estate administration, guardianship and conservatorship and crisis Medicaid planning as the best-performing practice areas compared to last year. Advance long-term care planning and fiduciary litigation were ranked lowest.

Full Press Release and Source:
Recession Has Hurt Most Elder Law Firms, Survey Says

Ex-Attorney Gets Probation

A disbarred attorney was sentenced today to three years probation, 250 hours of community service, and a suspended, 180-day stint in the county jail for misapplying $47,000 in settlement funds belonging to three clients.

''As I said, I was wrong but throughout my career I have tried to act diligently and honestly for my clients,'' said former Morristown attorney Paul J. Hirsh, 61, who has relocated from Mendham to Washington, D.C.

Hirsh pleaded guilty in August in state Superior Court, Morristown, to forgery and misapplication of entrusted property -- $47,000 in settlement funds that he should have immediately turned over to clients.

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Weber asked Judge Thomas V. Manahan to impose 364 days in the county jail, in addition to probation. The judge instead set a 180-day jail term but suspended it and said it could be set aside after two years if Hirsh is successfully progressing through probation at that point. As part of his plea, Hirsh agreed to disbarment.

Hirsh didn't outright steal the money but used client funds for his own benefit and delayed turning them over to clients that Weber said needed the funds.

Weber said that Hirsh ''played fast and loose with his clients' funds,'' and used the money ''as his personal piggybank.''

Of the sentencing, Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi said: “The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Investigation commenced as a result of a referral from the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics following a financial audit. This resolution sends a clear message that those entrusted with the legal care of the citizens will be made to answer when they commit a crime. Mr. Hirsh will now have a criminal record and he will lose his privilege of practicing law, as he has proven himself unworthy of the trust needed to fulfill his duties as an attorney. As a result of this conviction, Mr. Hirsh was disbarred by Order of the New Jersey Supreme Court on September 9, 2009.”

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Morris Attorney Gets Probation

Kansas Proposing Double Fines

Three state lawmakers are proposing to double the fines for defrauding veterans, their surviving spouses, or families of deployed service members.

The proposal would amend the Kansas Consumer Protection Act to increase the fines from $10,000 to $20,000.

It is being proposed by Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, and Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie.

Double penalties already apply to fraud against the elderly and the disabled.

Full Article and Source:
Kansas Lawmakers Propose Double Fines For Bilking Veterans, Service Families

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Woman on a Mission

Wanda Scroggins has a mission to change two Arkansas laws.

Her mission was formed when she questioned some of the medical treatment of her 90-year-old mother in a nursing home and wanted to take care of her mother at home.

Scroggins had no say in the treatment of her mother, Lois Kennedy Axton, because she had unknowingly lost the guardianship and power of attorney.

“She was dying and needed the help I could give her on a daily basis. That was what I was trying to do,” Scroggins said.

Full Article and Source:
Woman on a Mission to Change Guardianship Laws for Elderly

Two Plead Guilty to Abuse

Two of three former Kane employees, certified nursing assistants have pled guilty to physically abusing a woman in their care a year ago.

They were looking after Thelma Bryant, 94, a Kane resident who used a wheelchair and suffered from dementia.

Charges were dropped against a third employee, but all three women will sign an agreement that they will never work in caring for the elderly in any capacity again.

The accusations against them included stepping on Ms. Bryant's feet, hitting her and bruising her forehead and throwing an orange at her.

Shelly Keene, 35, of West Mifflin pled guilty to simple assault.

Karen Perry, 46, of Homestead, pled guilty to harassment.

Charges were dropped against 30-year-old Shalayla Hatten of the Hill District.

Full Article and Source:
Former Kane Workers Plead Guilty to Abuse

Former DHS Employee Pleads Guilty

A former Department of Human Services employee pleaded guilty Monday to two Tulsa County felony charges of financially exploiting vulnerable adults.

Debra Roberts, 51, is set to be sentenced Dec. 21.

She waived her right to a jury trial, and has no agreement with prosecutors to govern punishment.

Associate District Judge Dana Kuehn withheld any finding of guilt, and allowed Roberts to remain free on bond while she awaits sentencing in cases that were filed in 2008.

Roberts, who was a DHS Adult Protective Services specialist, was charged in one case with taking nearly $4,500 that belonged to an 84-year-old man.

She had been a temporary guardian for the man, after a court decided that he lacked the mental capacity to consent to necessary protective services.

In her capacity as guardian, Roberts had the authority to use his money to pay for residential care and daily living expenses, according to an investigator’s affidavit.

Prosecutors maintain that nursing home bills went unpaid and that checks signed by Roberts on the man’s guardian account were written for cash.

In another case, Roberts was charged with financially exploiting a 74-year-old mentally disabled man by converting about $5,900 of his money to her own use. She previously was his temporary guardian.

Full Article and Source:
Former DHS Employee Pleads Guilty in Tulsa

Caregiver Charged with Grand Theft and Battery

Intimidation, threats and violence against a woman with health problems has her 33-year-old caregiver facing a variety of charges, sheriff's officials said today.

Darren Sanders, Daytona Beach, was arrested Thursday after alert employees of the Wachovia Bank on White Street realized someone was draining the unidentified 67-year-old victim’s bank account over the past few months.

Sheriff’s spokesman Brandon Haught said the New Smyrna Beach victim had hired Sanders to care for her, but instead investigators learned he had threatened to harm her and her pets.

Sanders has been charged with false imprisonment, battery of a person 65 years or older, and grand theft, Haught said.

Full Article and Source:
Man Charged with Bilking New Smyrna Beach Woman

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Farash Daughter Fighting for Her Inheritance

Decades ago, local real estate mogul Max M. Farash put a few of his not-inconsiderable assets into a trust fund to benefit his wife, Marian M. Farash.

Under their arrangement, assets that remained in the trust when Marian died would go to their only child, daughter Lynn.

Yet more than two years after Marian Farash passed away, Lynn Farash hasn't seen a penny of the $2.2 million that remained in her mother's trust fund — and now a local judge is being asked to decide whether she should receive the money at all.

The alternative view is the funds should go into a separate trust that ultimately would disburse a part of the funds to the family charitable foundation, which could eventually become the largest such foundation in the Rochester area's history.

Arguments in the case, expected later this fall before state Supreme Court Justice John Ark, are the latest link in a long chain of legal skirmishes growing out of the costly and sometimes-contentious guardianship of Max and Marian Farash. On Friday came news that Farash's grandnephew, to whom he had entrusted the presidency of his property management company, has been arrested on charges that he stole thousands of dollars from the firm.

Max. M. Farash, now 96 and living in a Webster nursing home, was declared mentally incapacitated in April 2007 by a different Supreme Court judge.

Farash's fortune, estimated to be as large as $500 million, is now guided by a court-appointed property guardian, James C. Gocker. The Rochester lawyer also was property guardian to Marian Farash until her death at age 89 in July 2007.

Gocker has near-total control over Farash assets, which include about 5,000 apartment and townhouse units in the Rochester area and Florida. Since his appointment, Gocker has cataloged and reorganized Farash's holdings, revamped the family foundation and the Farash Corp. and investigated unspecified financial irregularities alleged to have occurred before his appointment.

For that work, Gocker and several lawyers, accountants and others who have advised him had been paid more than $3.1 million from Farash's funds through May of this year, according to court records.

Full Article and Source:
Farash Daughter Fighting for Her Inheritance

See also:
Farash daughter wins case

Guardian Versus Family

Guardianship Cost $1 Million

Outrageous Guardianship Fees

Ex-Farash CEO Accused of Stealing Funds

Former Farash Corp. chief executive Matthew S. Aroesty has been arrested on charges of stealing thousands of dollars from the property management company he once ran.

Aroesty, the grand-nephew of company founder Max M. Farash, was arraigned on a grand larceny charge in Brighton Town Court on Sept. 17.

A felony complaint alleged that Aroesty used Farash Corp. money to pay personal expenses "without authorization or permission." The amount he is accused of misusing was not specified but was greater than $50,000, according to the one-page complaint filed by a Brighton police investigator.

The 43-year-old Pittsford resident, who left Farash Corp. at the end of 2007, pleaded not guilty and the case was sent to a Monroe County grand jury. His lawyer, John Speranza, said Friday that he had limited information about the case but vowed to "forcefully fight" the allegations.

Assistant District Attorney William Gargan said Friday that the Brighton police had been investigating the case for several months.

Aroesty's arrest is a dramatic development in the saga of the wealthy, normally private Farash family, which has been under scrutiny since the 96-year-old family patriarch and his wife of more than 60 years, Marian M. Farash, both were declared mentally incapacitated in April 2007.

Rochester lawyer James C. Gocker was appointed guardian of their Farashes' real estate-based fortune, estimated to be as large as $500 million. Though much of his work has been done away from the public eye, occasional court hearings and filings have made clear the conflicts between Gocker and members of the family, including Matthew Aroesty and the Farash's daughter, Lynn Farash.

Among other things, Gocker oversaw removal of Aroesty as Farash Corp. CEO and Lynn Farash as the company's chairman. More recently, he unsuccessfully sought judicial permission to sell the family's Brighton estate and other property, which Max Farash had intended to leave to his daughter.

Aroesty became company president and CEO in late 2003 or early 2004.

He could not be reached for comment Friday, but Lynn Farash did speak out.

"Matthew is my cousin who I love and support. He worked closely with my father for 20 years," said Lynn Farash, Max and Marian Farash's only child. "I don't believe these allegations and I am appalled at what is being done to our family."

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Farash CEO Accused of Stealing Funds

See also:
Farash daughter wins case

Guardian Versus Family

Guardianship Cost $1 Million

Outrageous Guardianship Fees

CT Seminar for 'Sandwhich Generation'

A seminar on the “sandwich generation” will take place Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Ridgefield Library.

“Sandwich generation” describes a growing segment of the baby boomer generation: Adult children feeling squeezed between the needs of their aging parents and the demands of their own children, spouses and careers.

This seminar offers knowledge and practical tools to make sound decisions about aging parents.

Speakers are Judge Joe Egan, probate judge; Laura Switzer, senior care manager for Ridgefield VNA; Anne Fowler-Cruz, certified elder law attorney; Joyce Kuhn, assistance vice president of Ridgefield Bank; Linda Duff, admissions and finance director of Laurel Ridge; Terri Ramsey, senior harbor program director at Ridgefield Crossings; Kristi Vaughan and Deborah Durkee, Realtors of William Pitt Sotheby’s; and moderator Geri Hotard, Ridgefield VNA member and chair of Quality Living at Home.

Space is limited. Call 438-5555 ext. 1005 for information and a reservation.

Full Article and Source:
Seminal Will Help the 'Sandwhich Generation'

Jackson Kids 'Doing Wonderfully'

A judge says he's pleased with how Michael Jackson's children are adjusting to being in their grandmother's care.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff says he received a report and is "very pleased" with its contents. The judge says: "It looks like the children are really doing wonderfully with their grandmother guardian."

Michael Jackson chose Katherine Jackson in his 2002 will to care for his children, and a court has appointed her their permanent guardian.

Nearly three months after the pop superstar's death, his estate began paying a $60,000 per month stipend to care for and protect them.

Full Article and Source:
Judge: Jackson Kids 'Doing Wonderfully'

Monday, October 5, 2009

Indiana Family Challenging Father's Guardianship

An Indiana family is accusing a Bradenton elder advocate of gaining legal control of the care and assets of a relative without the family’s knowledge or consent.

Beverly and Lawrence Newman, of Indianapolis, are challenging the guardianship of Beverly’s father, Al Katz, which was granted to Aging Safely Inc., on Sept. 22 in Manatee County Circuit Court.

Katz, an 89-year-old who gained local recognition for speaking to schoolchildren about surviving the Holocaust, was taken to Blake Medical Center in early September due to “confusion, agitation and bronchitis,” according to court documents filed by Aging Safely.

That set in motion a series of events that led to Aging Safely applying for, and being granted, emergency temporary guardianship of Katz by Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan.

But Beverly Newman, Katz’s eldest child, claimed in court documents she and her husband were his “regular caretakers” from 2002 to 2008. The Newmans have filed a motion to vacate Aging Safely’s guardianship because they weren’t informed of the emergency hearing nor listed as next of kin in Aging Safely’s petition to the court.

Full Article and Source:
Couple Seeks Guardianship of Father

U.S. Supreme Court Looks at "Lawyering"

How lawyers do their jobs -- from the type of advice they give clients to the calculation of fees -- moves to the fore in the new U.S. Supreme Court term in six cases that could dramatically alter the day-to-day practice of law.

The justices in recent terms typically have taken two or three cases -- and sometimes none -- involving the legal profession. The six cases this term have roots in the First Amendment, habeas corpus, bankruptcy law, civil procedure, privileged materials and the Sixth Amendment.

The cases raise issues about "the unique and various ways lawyers practice law and how the legal system protects lawyers, perhaps even from themselves," said Vladeck.

The unusual number thus far simply may be the result of an upsurge in petitions involving lawyering. But Renee Newman Knake, a professional responsibility scholar at Michigan State University College of Law, suggests another reason: The cases may reflect a larger movement toward greater scrutiny of the legal profession, particularly in the wake of corporate and government scandals involving lawyers.

"Is that why the justices have taken these six cases?" asked Knake, who recently published a paper on the high court's cases. "It's hard to say, but taken together, the cases reflect a significant shift in how the Court prioritizes concerns about the attorney-client relationship and issues of professional responsibility. And, individually, each case has potentially significantly consequences for lawyers and their clients."

Full Article and Source:
High Court Justices Take Up Lawyers, Ethics and Errors

Unlikely Companions?

They seemed the unlikeliest of companions, mismatched in every way except for their shared love for horse racing and University of Louisville sports.

Steve Lay was a middle-aged ticket scalper who hadn't held a regular job since the mid-1980s. His education stopped with high school, and he was once convicted of a felony, for lying on a loan application.

Dr. Edwin P. Scott, 31 years Lay's elder, practiced pediatric medicine for 54 years and earned a law degree at night at UofL.He was a licensed real-estate broker as well as a physician and an attorney, and he was a savvy investor to boot: By the time Scott closed his St. Matthews office in 2000, at age 85, he had amassed a fortune worth $21million, mostly in blue-chip stocks.

But after Scott's wife and only child died in the late 1990s, it was Lay who began treating him like family.

“We were buddies,” Lay said in an interview. “I took care of him night and day.”

But Scott's guardian and conservator contend that Lay's concern was a ruse to allow him to loot the retired pediatrician's fortune.

In a suit filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, they contend that from 2004 to 2007, Lay took advantage of an elderly man enfeebled by Alzheimer's disease to “loot” $15million from the doctor — and that a local office of Smith Barney, the brokerage firm, helped Lay get away with it.

The suit, filed in 2007 on behalf of Scott, who has been declared incompetent, outlines an epic spending spree in which Lay bought himself a $300,000 yacht, an $83,928 Dodge Viper and a $1.5million home near Glenview, and gave $1million to a friend in Chicago, $3 million to his son and a $37,000 Mercedes to his mother.

Full Article and Source:
Doctor, Later Diagnosed WIth Alzheimer's Let Friend Spend His Millions

Accused of Duping His Mom

Joel Berntsen persuaded his 95-year-old mother to give him $290,000 to buy a house in North Oaks, then made her pay his $2,000 monthly mortgage, according to charges filed against him in Ramsey County District Court.

Berntsen, 58, of Minneapolis, has been charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. According to the criminal complaint filed last week, his mother has dementia.

She told an adult protection worker in March that her son "sees her money as 'family money' instead of her money and that he cannot have any more money because she needs it."

Berntsen was charged by summons and ordered to appear in court Oct. 22.

Full Article and Source:
Son Accused of Duping His Mom, 95, Out of Thousands

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Former Public Administrator Charged with Felony Theft

A former New Madrid County official is charged with three counts of stealing from those under her care.

Nancy C. Pardon, who served as the New Madrid County Public Administrator until resigning in August 2008, is accused of a Class B felony of stealing for the theft of at least $25,000 in cash and checks from one of those under her care. Also she is charged with two Class C felonies of stealing for the theft of at least $500 from two others who she was responsible for as the public administrator.

Special prosecuting attorney Douglas S. Pribble with the Missouri Attorney General's office filed the charges in New Madrid County on Sept. 25. Following her appearance Sept. 28 before Judge W. Keith Currie, Pardon was released on her own recognizance and scheduled to return to court on Oct. 7. Currie is an associate circuit judge from Pemiscot County who was appointed after Judge Charles Spitler recused himself from the case because he handles the probate docket in New Madrid County.

In the probable cause statement, Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Dennis A. Overbey stated Pardon was appointed guardian of the estate of Evelyn Barnes, who had two bank accounts. The Probate Court was not advised of the existence of an account containing $35,725.99, Overbey stated.

According to Overbey, within six months the account was drained of all but $81.38, at which time the final amount was withdrawn by Pardon and the account closed. "In six months Nancy Pardon spent $35,725.99 of Ms. Barnes' money on herself. Ms. Barnes did not receive any money from this account once Pardon took control," he stated.

Full Article and Source:
Former Southeast Missouri Public Administrator Charged With Stealing From Those in Her Care

Florida Legislators Vow for Change

Florida legislators pledged to overhaul state law to require that caregivers for children and the elderly undergo background checks before they begin work and to close loopholes that have let thousands of felons get jobs in day care and nursing homes.

The proposed reforms come after a Sun Sentinel investigative series last week identified disturbing flaws in the background screening system that allow people to work with Florida's most vulnerable residents before the caregivers have been vetted.

Even people with criminal pasts can qualify for jobs as caregivers by obtaining an exemption. Thousands have sought and won official permission to work despite having records for crimes including rape, child abuse and murder, the newspaper found.

"What you have discovered is something the Legislature needs to get more serious about and get on top of immediately," state Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, told the Sun Sentinel. A state prosecutor, Porth is drafting legislation to require pre-employment checks and put restrictions on who can get exemptions.

Full Aritcle and Source:
Florida Lawmakers Vow Changes After Learning of Laxness, Loopholes, in Checking Child and Elder Care Workers

See also:
Databases: Search Criminal Records and Inspections

Trust Betrayed

Felons Working In Florida Nursing Homes

Convicted Felons as Caregivers

Preying on the Frail

MI Urged to Require Licensing for Health Aides

The need for greater consumer protection and quality service is prompting the Michigan Home Health Association to develop and promote state licensing requirements for all providers of home care. The legislation also would require staff qualifications, training and criminal background checks.

Home health care is an important key to independence for those who are ill, disabled or elderly. Home health aide employment is expected to grow 49% to more than 1.1 million workers nationally by 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These workers experience heavy turnover, do physically demanding work and usually earn meager wages.

Some of these aides will assist some of the approximately 1.9 million people with disabilities statewide or the nearly 1.2 million people in southeast Michigan projected to be 65 or older by 2035.

The number of home health agencies certified in Michigan has grown from 198 in fiscal year 2003 to 514 as of Sept. 1. There are an unknown number of agencies that are not certified. The federal government has guidelines for aides whose employers receive reimbursement for Medicare and some states require aides to be licensed.

Full Article and Source:
Safety Fears Grow With Demand for Home Care

Aide Takes $10,000 From Resident

A nursing aide at a northern Minnesota assisted-living facility persuaded an elderly resident with memory problems to write 12 checks totaling more than $10,000 last year, then cashed them and apparently made off with the money, state Health Department investigators said Thursday.

St. Louis County prosecutors said they likely will decide later this month whether to charge the unnamed aide with felony theft, as police in Virginia, Minn., recommended. The aide was fired after the allegations surfaced last fall.

The aide was caring for a resident of the Edgewood Vista Virginia assisted-living facility -- the same home where Health Department investigators a month ago reported that three aides physically and emotionally abused some residents. The resident lived at the home for about two years and died last December.

In the earlier case, investigators said the aides pinched and slapped several elderly residents, called them abusive names and taunted one patient with dementia by saying her husband had died. The aides were fired. Police are still investigating that case.

In the case announced Thursday, state investigators determined that the aide financially exploited the resident between late May and late September last year. The aide persuaded the woman to write checks made out to her or to cash for groceries or Mary Kay cosmetics, even though the resident did not use cosmetics and ate all meals at the home, the report said.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Resident Taken For $10,000

See also:
Virgina Police Investigating Elder Abuse