Saturday, April 3, 2010

When Families Step Up

When Rene Talavera's father, Jesus Talavera, 69, was hospitalized for kidney and heart failure last fall, the 45-year-old Chicago resident and his four siblings were catapulted into an uncomfortable new phase of life: caregiving.

At first, Rene Talavera says, the family descended into "disarray and dysfunction." The hospital staff didn't know who was in charge. And soon after Jesus Talavera was discharged, the only family member available to stay with him was Kristopher, a 20-year-old grandson. "It was very haphazard," Rene Talavera recalls.

[Art by Chris Silas Neal]

But even as the Talavera siblings absorbed the shock of their father's illness, they set aside old conflicts and concerns to work together. "The common thread is that you all love your parent," says Rene Talavera. "It's not about you or an argument you had 20 years ago. It's about Dad and what you can do for him."

Full Article and Source:
When Siblings Step Up

Woman Accused of Bilking Mother's Life Savings

Milwaukie police have arrested a La Pine woman on charges of bilking her elderly mother out of more than $224,000 over a five-month period.

Janet Gay Durkee, 61, was arrested Thursday after an extensive criminal investigation that began in September, police said in a news release. She was held at the Clackamas County Jail on first-degree charges of aggravated theft and criminal mistreatment. Bail was set at $40,000.

Durkee was arrested for systematically taking more than $224,000 over a five-month period from the bank accounts of her 85-year-old mother, Geneva E. Smith of Milwaukie, leaving the elderly woman destitute, police said.

Full Article and Source:
LaPine Woman Accused of Bilking Mother's Life Savings

Election Hot Spot: Broward County FL

With 12 sitting judges currently facing challengers, 2010 is shaping up to be a judicial election year like no other in Broward County.

In a county where it was long considered toxic for a lawyer's future to run against an incumbent judge, seven circuit and five county judges, as of now, have challengers.

And there are still five weeks left for more would-be candidates to file to run.

The change of tide, the legal community says, can be attributed to a number of factors: Questionable conduct by some Broward judges that may make judges as a whole seem vulnerable at the polls; a courthouse gossip blog that encourages attorneys to run for judge; and a poor economy making a government salary, benefits and pension more tempting for struggling lawyers.

"The existing judiciary has gotten into all kinds of trouble and scandals, and it's because they've been so insulated from elections," said criminal defense attorney Kevin Kulik, who has been actively encouraging fellow lawyers to run for judge. "They assumed that they were appointed for life."

Full Article and Source:
A Dozen Judges Face Challengers in Election

Friday, April 2, 2010

Women Not Allowed to Help a Friend

Mary Bonk and Shirley Gersh have a lot more questions than answers right now.

They want to know why their 82-year-old friend Margaret only got to spend a few hours in her home before it was put on the market and sold. They want to know if the reason she's been moved from one care facility to another is due to finances or medical condition. They'd also like to know where her belongings have been placed.

But it's hard to get answers when your friend is a ward of the state -- even harder when you're demanding answers no one seems willing to provide.

The situation has become so adversarial that the current court-appointed guardian, Christine Adelman, stopped returning phone calls and has limited both women's relationship with Margaret. A week ago Bonk was told she could not take her elderly friend off the premises of Jennings Terrace to attend Mass. And on Monday, Gersh was informed she was forbidden from visiting Margaret at all.

Bonk said she called the guardian multiple times this week, simply asking if she can take Margaret to dinner or to church this weekend. "And I've gotten no response from her at all." (Adelman did not return my repeated calls, as well.)

Full Article and Source:
Women Say They're Not Allowed to Help a Friend

Manhattan: Feature Documentary on Healthcare Seeks Stories

Critically acclaimed by the New York Times, this indie production house whose films have been exhibited nation-wide.

Seeks documentary subjects, anyone, or someone you know who has a health care story gone wrong.....a death, or permanent injury, anything that may have gone wrong caused by doctors, hospitals, nursing homes etc.

Source and More Information and Contact:
Craig's List Post 1652068501

Women's Group File Complaint Against Judge

Two organizations that foster women's legal rights filed a complaint Thursday with a panel that disciplines the judiciary, asking it to investigate a Baltimore County judge who performed a wedding ceremony between a woman and the man accused of beating her, and then acquitted him.

The House Of Ruth Maryland and the Women's Law Center of Maryland called the behavior of District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. "grossly inappropriate."

On March 10, when a 29-year-old Middle River man, Frederick D. Wood, appeared in an Essex courtroom on a charge that he had beaten his fiancee, Russell acquiesced to Wood's lawyer's suggestion that his client leave to obtain a marriage license. The judge volunteered to perform the wedding ceremony himself, and did so later that day in his chambers.

The newly married Shelly Pearl Say, 27, then invoked marital privilege so that she would not have to testify against Wood about allegations that he beat her on Nov. 29. Russell found Wood not guilty.

Full Article and Source:
Women's Groups File Complaint Against Judge

Thursday, April 1, 2010

WI Attorney Publically Reprimanded by State Supreme Court

An Edgerton attorney was publicly reprimanded and ordered to pay the costs of his disciplinary hearing after the Wisconsin Supreme Court found he improperly handled two estates in 1999 and 2000.

However, a referee for the Supreme Court said he was sympathetic to Jeffrey Roethe, whom he said had an "insufferable, unreasonable" client, who was involved with both cases. Referee Timothy Vocke said Roethe's "biggest mistake was not getting rid of (the client) quickly," and he noted she waited six years to file the complaint.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation had alleged five ethical violations by Roethe. However, Vocke recommended dismissal of two, saying the lawyer-regulation agency had failed to prove the allegations.

Roethe agreed to be disciplined for twice instructing his assistant to notarize signatures of people who had not signed documents while in her presence and for improperly charging his clients for his services by taking a percentage of an estate sale rather than an hourly fee.

The court said that aside from a 2000 reprimand, Roethe had a "long and honorable career" and was acting in what he believed was the best interest of the estates. He was ordered to pay $24,680.

Edgerton Attorney is Reprimanded by State Supreme Court

See Also:
State's Supreme Court Reprimands Edgerton Lawyer

Sentence: Two Years Probation

An Arma woman has been sentenced to two years of probation for financially exploiting an elderly woman in her care.

Ernestine Anselmi pleaded guilty in October to one count of mistreatment of a dependent adult. The 73-year-old Anselmi admitted that she took unauthorized payments from 97-year-old Lena Zanichelli totalling nearly $1 million.

Anselmi was sentenced to a suspended 19-month prison term. She was then put on probation, which included 60 days in jail.

She also was required to transfer several properties, including homes, land and vehicles, to Zanichelli’s estate.

Full Article and Source:
Caregiver Sentenced for Exploitation

See Also:
Guilty Plea

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Son Pleads for Help for Veteran Father

Dear Americans! Help!

My Father, a Vietnam Vet with a Purple Heart, is having his estate stolen by New Jersey’s Government Courts.

I am begging for your help on behalf of a Vietnam Vet who did three tours of duty and earned a purple heart. He is currently being robbed by the Office for the Public Guardian in Ocean County NJ

His name is Vincent Stanley Blasco and he is my Dad. He has Alzheimer’s and is in their care where they refuse to give any of his 3 children here in Georgia custody of him. Instead they continue to sell off dozens of plots of my Dad’s property and continue hiding thousands and thousands of dollars in false expenses. Now they are trying to sale his 19 acre farm off East Veterans Hwy.

The courts have allowed OPG to already sale 7 properties of his in Berkley NJ and they claimed it was for medical bills. We received accounting after 4 years of requests only to find out my dad by himself racked up $800 per month in Grocery bills, $2,000 a month in landscaping bills. $500 per day about 3 days a week in Home Depot bills, etc… I have a stack of accounting 2 inches thick of frivolous spending.

I am contacting News Agencies or whatever it takes to get this to quit. We deserve to have our father in Georgia where all 3 of his children live. Not tucked away in a nursing home in NJ to have his Army Pension and Social Security bilked as his farm goes on the market to cover thousands of bogus expenses and invented expenses.

Full Article and Source:
Vietnam Vet's Estate Stolen by New Jersey Gov Courts, Son Says

See Also:
NASGA: Veterans in Peril

AG Charges Woman With Theft

The state Attorney General's Office said Karen Gagne, 55, of Sanbornton, was arrested for allegedly stealing more than $23,000 from an elderly resident of the Pleasant View Retirement home in Concord. Gagne, a friend of the victim, allegedly took the money in March 2009 from a Citizens Bank account belonging to the victim and used the money for her own purposes, the Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday.

Gagne has been released on personal recognizance bail and has been ordered not to have no contact with the victim. She is scheduled to be arraigned in Concord District Court on May 4.

The case is being prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud and Resident Abuse Unit of the Attorney General's Office, which investigates allegations of health care provider fraud and the financial exploitation and physical abuse of long-term care residents.

AG Charges Sanbornton Woman with Theft

Attorney Explains Amendments in MA Guardianship Laws

The new UPC [Universal Probate Code] laws have changed several facets of the guardianship and conservatorship laws in Massachusetts. Gary Zalkin, Counselor at law, shares the nine notable changes made to the guardianship and conservatorship laws:

1. Guardianship of the estate
2. Spendthrift guardianship
3. Authority to admit or commit to a mental health facility
4. Authority to admit to a skilled nursing facility
5. Appointment of counsel
6. “Ward”
7. Health care proxy
8. Reports
9. Accounting requirement

Full Press Release With Explanation of All Nine Changes, and Source:
Attorney Gary Zalkin Explains Amendments Made to Massachusettes Guardianship Law

See Also:
General Laws of Massachusetts - Chapter 201. Guardians and Conservators

NASGA's "An Open Letter to Congress and the White House"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Outrage: 'Family Guy' Mocks Terri Schiavo

Since the Sunday prime time airing of FOX's, 'Family Guy', and their mocking of Terri Schiavo and other disabled people in the opening scene of the program, Terri's Foundation has been inundated with emotionally charged emails and phone calls.

These supportive communications have been two-fold: sympathetic to the deep wounds that have been opened by this vulgar episode; and to express their anger and outrage at FOX Network for allowing this program to openly display prejudice towards people with cognitive disabilities. The intent of the people contacting us now is to cease their patronage of advertisers who support 'Family Guy'.

We are asking other disability rights groups and pro-family organizations to consider joining us in sending a message to Fox that programs which promote prejudice against disabled human beings will be boycotted along with their advertisers.

If you would like to contact FOX, here is their information:

Ms. Gail Berman, President
FOX Broadcasting Company
P.O. Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
(310) 369-1000

Gaude Lydia Paez, Vice President Communications
FOX Broadcasting Company
Phone: (310) 369-3276
Fax: (310) 369-1283

FOX Broadcasting Company
10201 West Pico Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-3553


Full Article and Source:
Outcry from Across the Country Continues Over Fox's 'Family Guy' Attack on Terri Schiavo

See Also
Watch the Family Guy Episode, Season 8, Episode 14

Terri Schiavo Foundation

Former DA Gives Talk on Ethics

Former Rockdale County District Attorney Cheryl Custer spoke about her work as director of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission to a local group Wednesday and of the challenges facing her office in enforcing judicial ethics across the state.

Custer was the guest speaker of the Rotary Club of Rockdale County as part of the club’s recognition of March as National Women’s History Month. Custer was the first woman to serve as a district attorney in Georgia when she was appointed by Gov. Zell Miller in 1991. She has served as director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission since 1999. Custer was among those considered for the Georgia Supreme Court to replace retiring Chief Justice Leah Sears Ward.

Custer explained the job of the commission is to enforce the cannons of conduct for all judges in Georgia. Anyone can file a complaint against a judge which can be challenging for her office. The commission is comprised of a seven-member volunteer board of judges, attorneys and non-lawyer residents charged with investigating judicial misconduct.

The commission has two employees — Custer and an assistant — to handle the case load that covers 1,800 sitting judges across the state. The most recent case of the commission removing a sitting judge involved Twiggs County Probate Judge Kenneth Fowler, who was accused of abusing his office on 16 counts, including establishing a higher set of fines for out-of-county residents and insinuating that a female defendant on traffic charges provided sexual favors to a Georgia state trooper.

Custer said those examples of bad behavior are rare on the bench but cause damage to the reputation of all who serve as a judge from traffic court to Superior Court.

Full Article and Source:
Former DA Gives Talk on Ethics

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

It took almost 100 years to reform the nation's health care system. But although the campaign for long-term care reforms also seemed endless at times, it took a relatively short three years to enact Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement, seven to pass the Elder Justice Act, and a dozen to create a national program of criminal background checks on long-term care workers. [T]hey all became law when President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Transparency, Elder Justice Act Swept into Law with Health Care Reform Bill

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ravenscroft Denied Freedom

The courtroom was ablaze in blue suits. Lawyers packed the place along with their bag handlers. A psychiatrist was there and his conservator and a forensic accountant put in an appearance.

There's no telling how much Wednesday's emergency hearing cost Edward Abbott Ravenscroft. I figure at least $3,000 an hour for a hearing that lasted six hours – not counting three or four hours the next day when Ravenscroft's various court-appointed protectors met yet again.

All this to determine how to prevent him from being exploited.

To date, Ravenscroft has no clue how much all this court-ordered protection has cost him. He asked several months ago and says he was told then that they'd already spent over $500,000. He figures the tab is now nearing a million dollars but there's no way to know. Court rules allow those billing Ravenscroft – a cast of thousands, it seems -- to put off disclosing just how much they've collected from him for more than a year.

The 49-year-old Scottsdale millionaire has been under the watchful eye of Maricopa County Probate Court since January 2009 after a series of drug arrests raised questions about his mental health and his vulnerability given the size of his bank account.

No doubt Ravenscoft needed help last year. Now, he's been clean for seven months and he wants to regain control over his life and his bankbook.

The operative word, being his.

Probate court's hold over Ravenscroft was set to expire on Friday which was the reason for Wednesday's emergency hearing.

Sun Valley Group requested the hearing, asking to continue as Ravenscroft's conservator. Attorney Alisa Gray explained that the millionaire's complex finances – and the possibility that he's been exploited by a bank and a real-estate firm -- warrants Sun Valley's continued oversight.

But the driving force behind Wednesday's hearing was the fact that Ravenscroft went out and hired himself an attorney who then filed a federal RICO suit against Sun Valley and several of his former probate protectors. (With the exception of Sun Valley, all of those being sued have withdrawn from his probate case.) The lawsuit was filed despite the fact that he was deemed “incapacitated” by a probate judge and thus shouldn't have been able to sue his protectors without the permission of his protectors.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Court Extends Its Hold Over Scottsdale Millionnaire

See Also:
Scottsdale Millionnaire to be Freed Friday, Maybe

See Also:

Review of Probate Court Ordered

The old lady can speak barely above a whisper but it seems her voice has been heard at the Arizona Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, in her State of the Judiciary speech last week, announced a plan to review how the state's Probate Court is operating and whether vulnerable people are being adequately protected.

In an interview this week, Berch told me the idea has been percolating for a year but that the stories of 88-year-old Marie Long and others have raised additional questions.

"I live in the real world," she said. "I've read your columns. They cause concern, and I just think that any system, it's a good idea to take a look at all of your processes and make sure things are working the way they're supposed to work."

Arizona was one of the first states to begin licensing fiduciaries in 1994 after a scandal involving an attorney and fiduciary who looted the estates of 24 elderly people they were appointed by the court to protect. It's been 16 years since those regulations were adopted and David Byers, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, says that some courts may have slipped in enforcing safeguards that were put into place.

"Exactly what you're describing was the culture then," he said.

That culture involves a cozy group of fiduciaries and attorneys who work together on case after case and depend upon each other for contracts, making them unlikely to challenge each other's legal bills. The result is that they who are appointed to help vulnerable people also manage to help themselves to a sizable pile of cash unless a judge stops it.

Full Article and Source:
Review of Probate Court Ordered

See Also:
Judge Rules $576K to Probate Attorneys Justified

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saving Our Parents: Nursing Home Scandals

Solutions to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe and Inspirations for Healthy Aging

Featuring real-life events, Saving our Parents is a startling demonstration of the potential pitfalls facing today's aging adults. Exposing scams and the devious crooks that may have us or our parents in their cross-hairs, this compelling documentary delivers a message that will both empower and motivate.

Professionals, experts and "victims" share life-saving knowledge and inspirational insights with candor, their heartfelt message guiding us, our parents and our loved ones safely into the golden years.

YouTube - Saving Our Parents - Nursing Home Scandals

Visit Saving Our Parents and purchase a DVD

Ohio Legal Rights Service Comments on Proposed Standards in Governing Attorney Guardians

Legal Rights Service (LRS) submitted comments on proposed standards governing attorney guardians in Franklin County. Probate Judge Eric Brown had asked for the public's opinion on these standards. LRS recommended that the court require a prospective ward be given the opportunity to participate in the written plan identifying his or her personal goals and needs, thus creating a more person-driven plan. LRS also made suggestions to protect the liberty and privacy interests of a prospective ward.

LRS has been closely involved with the development of statewide standards for non-family guardians as part of the Adult Guardianship Subcommittee of the Ohio Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Children, Families and Courts. Standards, both at the state level and through local standards are necessary to ensure that the rights of individuals are not compromised by professional guardians, many of whom are attorneys.

Read LRS's Comments

Full Article and Source:
LRS Comments on Proposed Attorney Guardian Standards to be Adopted in Franklin County

See Also:
OH Standards of Practice for Attorney Guardians

Victim Sues 2 Charged With Bilking Her

Gary Eisnaugle and Paula Sanders, both charged with bilking an 86-year-old woman out of thousands, are now being sued by the woman.

The Pasco Tribune is withholding the woman's name to protect her. [S}he filed suit against Eisnaugle, Sanders and Eisnaugle's former business, 1st Choice Car Service, in Pasco Circuit Court.

Suntrust Bank and Suntrust Investment Services, Inc. are also named as defendants. The woman is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

Attorneys for the woman couldn't be reached Friday.

The lawsuit comes two months after Pasco sheriff's investigators arrested Eisnaugle and accused him of taking more than $137,000 from the woman between April and December 2008. The woman suffers from dementia, according to court documents.

Eisnaugle, 38, is charged with exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult and scheme to defraud. The charges are pending. Authorities said Eisnaugle bought seven cars with the woman's money and charged more than $38,000 on her Walmart credit card.

Sanders, 31, of Port Richey, was arrested in October and now faces a charge of exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult. Authorities said she took more than $3,400 from the woman, some of which she used to pay her rent.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Pasco Woman Suing 2 Charged With Bilking Her Out of Money