The Arizona Supreme Court has appointed 17 members to a task force to examine the conduct of the state Probate Court in its mission to protect the lives and savings of incapacitated adults, and recommend improvements.
The probe comes after Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts told the stories of several people who lost much of their estates to attorneys and fiduciaries appointed to protect them by the Maricopa County Superior Court Probate and Mental Health Department.
In an administrative order, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch said about one in four Arizona residents are age 55 or older. The expected increase in Probate Court cases means the process to protect incapacitated adults and their estates must be simplified, and people placed in charge of helping these people "held accountable for the services they provide to their vulnerable clients."
Berch is asking the task force to review key operations of the Probate Court and make initial recommendations, particularly changes to state law, by October, and to submit a final report by June 2011.
Members of the Committee on Improving Judicial Oversight and Processing of Probate Matters appointed by the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court include:
• Chair: Judge Ann A. Scott Timmer, chief judge, Court of Appeals, Division One.
• Judge Rosa Mroz, presiding probate judge, Maricopa County Superior Court.
• Judge Gary Donahoe, Maricopa County Superior Court.
• Jay Polk, State Bar representative, Phoenix.
• Julia Connors, commissioner, Pima County Superior Court.
• Diana Clark, Probate Court counsel, Maricopa County Superior Court.
• Catherine Robbins, Mohave County Public Fiduciary.
• Sherry Reed, Navajo County Public Fiduciary.
• Pam Johnston, licensed fiduciary, Phoenix.
• John Evans, Arizona Attorney General's Office.
• Robert Myers, attorney/public member.
• Beverly Frame, Yuma County Clerk of the Court's representative.
• Sylvia Stevens, AARP, Phoenix.
• Jacob Schmitt, Child Welfare Program administrator, Department of Economic Security.
• Judge Charles Harrington, Pima County Superior Court.
• Judge William J. O'Neil, Pinal County Superior Court.
• Judge David L. Mackey, Yavapai County Superior Court.
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Task Force to Probe Arizona Probate Court