Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rights Lost to Conservator, Songwriter Fights Back

A court stripped away songwriter Danny Tate's control of his life-—removing his right to make his own legal, financial and medical decisions-—at a last-minute hearing he didn't know about and didn't attend.

With the drop of a gavel, the Nashville musician who'd written a top 10 hit and was making around $125,000 a year writing music for TV shows was declared mentally disabled and in need of someone to manage his affairs.

The decision was made at an "emergency hearing" with no medical testimony and no lawyer to represent Tate's interests.

When Tate finally got his day in court three weeks later to challenge allegations that he was in the grip of a life-threatening drug addiction, the judge refused his request for a lawyer and he had to represent himself.

Advocates for people declared legally unfit to manage their own affairs say the songwriter's case is a troubling example of abuses found in the courts nationwide.

Among the problems they see: people stripped of their rights on questionable evidence, deprived of a lawyer, subjected to emergency hearings when there is no true emergency and losing their life savings.

Such complaints prompted the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging to order an investigation into the concerns. That investigation is currently being conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

In Tennessee, a person who manages the affairs of a disabled adult is called a conservator. Other states call these people guardians.

Tate, 54, says what was done to him at the emergency hearing Oct. 23, 2007, crippled his ability to mount a defense in a yearslong legal battle to restore his rights.

Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy named the songwriter's older brother, David Tate, 60, as his conservator. That gave the older brother access to the younger brother's savings—more than half a million dollars-—to pay for the lawyers to keep the conservatorship in place. In effect, Danny Tate has been forced to pay for the legal fight to oppose his own legal claim.

Danny Tate was one of the writers of "Affair of the Heart," a top 10 hit for Rick Springfield in the '80s. He made most of his money writing music that appears during segments on popular TV shows, including "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and "Entertainment Tonight."

The son of an Arkansas minister, Danny Tate had wrestled for much of his life with alcohol and cocaine. He had made repeated but failed attempts to get a grip on his addiction when court proceedings began against him in October 2007.

That was when David Tate filed a court petition claiming his brother was spending between $500 and $800 dollars a day on crack.

David Tate asked the judge to appoint him as Danny's conservator, to help him get treatment and preserve the songwriter's assets. The brother filed a statement from one of the songwriter's financial accounts showing large withdrawals of funds.

An attorney who now represents Danny Tate said the petition that led to the emergency hearing was based entirely on unsubstantiated allegations by the brother.

"It's scary," Michael Hoskins said. "All you've got to do is make the allegation" to force someone into a conservatorship.

Being a drug addict or alcoholic alone is not grounds enough to be declared mentally incompetent, legal experts say. The question is whether the addiction was so disabling that he could no longer manage his own affairs.

His case, Danny Tate says, should serve as a stark warning about how easy it is to have someone declared disabled and should be chilling to anyone in Nashville's music industry with an addiction and some money.

"If this could happen to me, they'd have to bust 75 percent of Music Row and go down before Randy Kennedy for a mass conservatorship hearing," the songwriter said.

He is gearing up for a May 24 hearing to determine whether he is competent to take charge of his life again.

This time he'll have a lawyer.

The upcoming hearing was ordered by the Tennessee Court of Appeals in December after the songwriter argued he was entitled to a chance to get out of the legal arrangement or appeal it.

David Tate won't say whether he will ask the judge to keep him in charge of his brother's affairs. He maintains that he stepped in to save his brother's life.

More than $200,000 has been spent on legal fees so far, court records show. The upcoming hearing is expected to eat up thousands more.

Court records show that Tate had more than $600,000 in a money market account and was receiving about $125,000 a year in music royalty payments when the court proceedings began.

He will likely be in debt after the hearing, Hoskins said.

Unlike other court battles where each side pays its own legal fees, in a conservatorship proceeding a disabled person who has money pays for both sides. Every time Danny Tate's brother files a motion it comes out of Danny Tate's life savings.

"That's the worst part of it. They're paying these people to harm them," said Elaine Renoire, president of the Indiana-based National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse. The organization is supporting the songwriter in his legal battle.

David Tate, who runs a corporate logo and merchandising company in Memphis, is not accused of trying to enrich himself at his brother's expense.

However, the outright theft of assets or questionable billing practices by lawyers and guardians has long been a concern of advocates and is part of the GAO study.

Renoire says she has no idea how prevalent guardian abuse is because the records simply don't exist. Many courts don't keep records on how many of these cases they have.

A December 2007 report by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging found numerous problems with conservatorship cases nationwide despite reforms specifically pointed to emergency hearings. "Emergency appointments, by their nature, immediately deny prospective wards their due process," the report said.

Hoskins said he believes Danny Tate's case never would have gotten this far if Tate could have gotten a good lawyer from the start.

Unlike the right to counsel in criminal cases, the right to a lawyer in civil cases like conservatorship proceedings is not constitutionally guaranteed.

But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be, said Chris Slobogin a Vanderbilt niversity Law School professor who is an expert in mental-health law.

"I think there's a good argument to be made that when a person's property and possibly his liberty is going to be deprived by the government, there should be a right to counsel even if the proceeding is not criminal in nature," Slobogin said.

Full Article and Source:
Rights Lost to Conservator, Songwriter Fights Back

See Also:
Facebook: Friends for Danny Tate's Defense

Free Danny Tate!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sara Harvey Continues Battle With County to Get Her Husband Home

In a complex case that has drawn the attention of the family of Terri Schiavo, a Vietnam veteran's wife claims a Catholic hospital has tried to end her husband's life by starving him to death, placing him under a "do-not-resuscitate" order and refusing to allow him to return home.

Gary Harvey, 60, a Vietnam veteran, fell down a flight of stairs on Jan. 21, 2006 and suffered a traumatic brain injury that put him in a vegetative state. Gary, an only child who is estranged from his two adult children, did not have a living will.

His wife, Sara, had him placed in a nursing home so he would receive care while she returned to her full-time job.

When county authorities took guardianship, Sara was separated from any decision making process for her husband's health and medical welfare. Gary's father is deceased, and his elderly mother has not attempted to obtain guardianship. Sara has been trying to get the judge's guardianship decision overturned.

In a recent interview with WLEA's Kevin Doran, Sara said, "I simply want to bring my husband home so I can care for him for the remainder of his life."

The family of Terri Schiavo has announced its support for Sara. Mary Schindler and Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, visited Gary at St. Joseph's Hospital in December and said they would offer Sara any support they could, the Elmira Star-Gazette reported.

"We're looking out for the best interest of Sara. She wants to bring her husband home," Bobby Schindler said. "She wants guardianship of her husband, and it doesn't make sense to us or her why she's being denied that right, and why they've taken away her visitation rights and won't allow her to visit her husband."

He added, "It's horrible how they're treating this woman when she simply wants to care for her husband."

Full Article and Source:
Woman Battles County for Husband's Life - Another Terri Schiavo? Hospital Refuses to Release Vietnam Veteran

Danny Tate Awareness Concert Pays it Forward

Danny lost pretty much everything in the flood. He just found out as well that his insurance that he maintained for 12 years that covered his studio, and musical instruments…….including 25 guitars…..was cancelled while he has been in this “conservatorship;” He is upset, and I’m upset for him.

That being said, Danny wants to give the proceeds from the Awareness Concert to another victim of the Nashville flood. That is the kind of guy he is. So, we found one via his attorney Michael G. Hoskins.

Last week Danny forwarded this letter written by a friend of Mr. Hoskins. In the letter Betty and Steve Walker ask for help for their friend Stephanie Farmer. Stephanie lost everything in the flood. She takes care of her 67 year old mother that is on oxygen 24/7, her daughter who has cerebral palsy, works full-time, and goes to night school to become a paralegal.

She lost her car as well. She needs our help, and Danny wants to give it. I spoke to Mrs, Walker for about half an hour today, and last night talked to Mr. Hoskins for a half an hour in order to make sure it was fully vetted. I feel good about it.

I also heard that she made the news in Nashville, so i googled her. I found this on
Another story I just found.

I believe in serendipity. This woman came to our attention for a reason. We found that person in need of the money we raise at the Awareness Concert. Get your tickets now!

Danny Tate Pays it Forward to Another Nashville Flood Victim

See Also:
The Stephanie Farmer Story

Former Miss Wheelchair Rescued From Flooding

Facebook: Friends for Danny Tate's Defense

Free Danny Tate!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Danny Tate Radio Interview Part Two Tonight!

Nicole Sandler from The Nicole Sandler show did an amazing interview with Danny this past monday. She became so passionate about his cause that she has asked Danny back on her show on May 20th for a follow-up interview!

You can hear the first interview here: Danny Tate on the Nicole Sandler Show

Her show can be found at

Nicole rose to fame at KLOS in LA, later moving to KSCA, and ultimately had a great run at now defunct Air America.

She now has her own show. Listen and get inspired.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 @ 5:30-6:00 p.m.

Free Danny Tate!!!

See Also:
Facebook: Friends for Danny Tate's Defense

Victimized Twice: Abuse of Nursing Home Residents

If you saw someone punch a disabled person with a closed fist on a street corner, most people would call the police. But when it happens behind the closed door of a nursing home, the response tends to be less clear-cut.

At least that’s what staff attorneys from Disability Rights California found in a report that explores 12 cases of abuse against elderly or disabled people in California nursing homes. The nonprofit advocacy group's report is called "Victimized Twice: Abuse of nursing home residents, No criminal accountability for perpatrators."

Full Article and Source:
Elder Abuse Often Treated as Personal Issue Instead of a Crime

Victimized Twice: Abuse of Nursing Home Residents, No Criminal Accountability for Perpetrators

Fmr. Bank Manager Pleads No Contest

An ex-San Jose bank manager is expected to go to jail following an elaborate scam in which he stole at least $18,000 from elderly customers by issuing them ATM cards they never asked for.

Maurizio Contarino, 47, who worked as a branch manager at Bank of America in Willow Glen, pleaded no contest in April to elder fraud and grand theft, according to Santa Clara County prosecutors. He posted bail and is out of custody.

Contarino, who is scheduled for sentencing May 27, faces a maximum of four years and eight months in prison. Neither he nor his lawyer was available for immediate comment.

"I'm seeing an alarming trend of bank employees committing theft against elderly customers," said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard. "You can't really trust the bank tellers like you once did. That's what is so sad about this. I'm really just trying to protect our elders."

Full Article and Source:
San Jose: Former Willow Glen Bank Manager Pleads No Contest to Fraud, Grand Theft

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Probate Judge Violates Ethics Code

Hours before releasing a combative order that approved the draining of an 88-year-old widow's life savings, a Maricopa County probate judge sent a draft copy of her ruling to the attorneys who stood to benefit – a violation of the judges' ethics code.

One of those attorneys responded to the March e-mail and even suggested several changes that were incorporated into Pro-Tem Judge Lindsay Ellis' 21-page ruling.

“I could not be happier,” attorney Brenda Church replied, upon getting the proposed order.

I guess not. Church's bill for $333,000 was among nearly $800,000 worth about to be approved by Ellis.

Three other attorneys – Lauren Garner and Jerome Elwell who were working for the Sun Valley Group, and Brian Theut, the old lady's guardian ad litem – also received Ellis' draft ruling. None of them reported Ellis to the Commission on Judicial Conduct or notified the attorneys representing Marie Long and her sisters of the improper “ex-parte” communication. Such contacts are a violation of the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct.

Presiding Probate Judge Karen O'Connor, who last year twice rejected requests to disqualify Ellis from the case due to bias, has ordered a hearing into the matter, which came to light late last week.

Ellis and the lawyers in on the tête-à-tête couldn't be reached for comment Monday. The attorneys excluded from Ellis' sneak peek -- the ones advocating for the old lady -- were stunned that Ellis would be so blatant in her favoritism.

“The whole justice system is based on making sure there is no appearance of impropriety and it's a fair tribunal and a fair system,” said attorney Pat Gitre, who represents Marie's sisters. “Marie Long never had a fair tribunal and Marie Long never had a chance.”

What Marie Long did have, once upon a time before she entered probate court, was $1.3 million in assets. After a stroke in 2005, she fell under the protective eye of probate, a place where a cozy group of fiduciaries and attorneys are appointed to help vulnerable people but also manage to help themselves to a sizable pile of cash unless a judge stops it.

In Marie's case, no judge stopped it. Over the next four years, Sun Valley, which served as Marie's guardian, and the various probate attorneys collected $900,000 in guardian, care and legal fees until last year, when Marie was tapped out.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Judge Violates Ethics Code

See Also:
Guardian Balked at Aiding Marie Long

Lawyer Busted

Agents from the attorney general's office arrested a Montgomery County attorney for stealing nearly $555,000 from an elderly woman and, after her death, from her estate. He allegedly used the money to refinance his North Carolina beach house and to pay his credit card debt, authorities said.

Attorney General Tom Corbett identified the defendant as Frank H. Morgan, Jr., 63, of 1704 Clocktower Drive, West Chester, a partner in the Norristown law firm of McTighe, Weiss, O’Rourke, Troncelliti and Morgan.

Evidence and testimony regarding Morgan’s alleged illegal activity was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges being filed .

The grand jury found that in February 2006, Rita Trish, a 90-year women living in a Gladwyne assisted living facility, gave Morgan power of attorney, which authorized him to act on her behalf in legal and business matters. Trish gave Morgan her power of attorney three weeks after her husband died.

Full Article and Source:
West Chester Lawyer Busted For Bilking Elderly Client Out of $550,000

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Advocating for Persons With Disabilities

Cathy Ludlum says she has a great life, but since childhood she's been aware not everyone thinks so.

She remembers being 5, sitting in her wheelchair as people in the supermarket looked at her and shook their heads. She wondered how she could tell them she was not to be pitied.

Years later, in the hospital, Ludlum overheard the staff talking about her, assuming she led a tragic life in an institution, even though the medical chart said otherwise — she lived on her own and ran a consulting business despite a neuromuscular disease that took away her ability to move.

"People like me are at enormous risk when we're in the hospital or otherwise disempowered," Ludlum said.

Ludlum, 47, of Manchester, believes misconceptions about people with severe disabilities can lead medical workers to give them less aggressive lifesaving options. Doctors might think they would not want to live if they were in the patient's condition and assume the patient feels the same, she said. Or medical workers might see a disability as a fatal condition, even if it is not.

That makes her wary of an effort in Connecticut to let terminally ill patients end their lives through medication prescribed by doctors.

Two Fairfield County doctors, backed by a national group, have asked a Superior Court judge to declare that state law does not prohibit doctors from prescribing lethal doses of medication to mentally competent, terminally ill patients who request it. They say doing so is not assisted suicide because the patient is already dying, making the question not if he or she will die, but when.

Ludlum and other advocates for people with disabilities are seeking to intervene in the case.

The concept — giving people in pain control over their dying processes — may sound sympathetic, Ludlum said. But she and other advocates fear the reality will be more complex, and could leave people who have severe disabilities vulnerable. They worry about the law being misapplied — for example, if a person with a disability asks for help dying but is not terminally ill — and about the ideas such a policy would foster about the worthiness of a life lived with diminished capacity.

Full Article, Online Poll, and Source:
Doctors' 'Right-To-Die' Efforts For Terminally Ill Patients Worry Advocates For People With Disabilities

'Tara's Law' Will Protect Disabled From Abuse

Alocal family’s quest for justice after the death of their young relative has resulted in landmark legislation signed into law that will protect developmentally disabled people who are in the care of the state.

“This is a great first step,” said Sen. JenniferBeck (R-12th District), a primary sponsor of the bill, in an interview on May 7. “It’s hard to believe that there was no formal system in place to prevent abusers from continuing to be part of the provider system until now.”

On April 30, Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill that creates an internal registry within the Department of Human Services (DHS) of caregivers who have been found to have abused people with developmental disabilities under their care.

“Abuse at the hands of a caregiver is a reprehensible action,” Christie said in a statement. “The legislation that I am signing today is an important tool to help safeguard those with developmental disabilities from harmful caregivers taking advantage of their position. Equally important, this new law will prevent these custodians from gaining re-employment or continuing participation in human services-funded programs.”

Senate Bill S-825, known locally as Tara’s Law, requires the DHS to maintain a confidential registry of paid caregivers and volunteers who have been determined to have abused, neglected or exploited any service recipient of the DHS Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). This includes those employed as caregivers in facilities licensed, contracted or regulated by the DHS.

Full Article and Source:
Tara's Law Will Protect Disabled From Abuse

See Also:
Two Indicted for Neglect of Tara O'Leary

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bishop Clark: No Attempt to Shorten Patient's Life

Several advocacy organizations, such as the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA), ultimately became involved in the [Gary Harvey] case.

According to a report (my emphasis),

In a January, 2010 letter to Bishop Matthew Clark in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, NASGA president, Elaine Renoire, cited: "The guardian attempted to terminate his life and would have been successful had Mrs. Harvey not taken it to the media. St. Joseph's Hospital's Ethics Committee chose to participate in what would have been Gary Harvey's execution rather than prevent it. NASGA is asking you to find out why."

Bishop Matthew Clark responded nearly one month later saying, "I am convinced that St. Joseph Hospital complies with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, that the Hospital is complying with the Order of the Court, and that there has been no attempt to shorten Mr. Harvey's life."

It would seem that our bishop does not equate the recommendation to remove a feeding tube with an attempt to shorten a patient's life.

Full Article and Source:
Bishop Clark: No Attempt to Shorten Patient's Life

Sara Harvey Continues Fight to Bring Her Husband Home

Horseheads, New York, resident, Sara Harvey is in year four of her fight to bring husband, Gary Harvey , home despite direct opposition from his appointed guardian, Chemung County. Harvey has been detained at the Elmira based St. Joseph Hospital as a patient since May, 2009, even though his care can be administered safely at home by his wife. In a recent interview with WLEA's Kevin Doran, Mrs. Harvey described the events and circumstance which have left her powerless to help her husband and provided her only six hours each week of guarded visitation. "I simply want to bring my husband home so I can care for him for the remainder of his life," said Harvey.

Advocacy organizations, the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation (TSSF), the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) and Veterans Today have become publicly involved in order to bring Gary Harvey home under his wife's care.

Full Press Release and Source:
New York Woman Continues Fight to Bring Veteran Husband Home From Local Catholic Hospital

See Also:
Sara Harvey and Stewart Resmar Radio Interview

Help Bring Gary Home!

Jury Awards $29.1 Mil in Nursing Home Death

Jurors have determined a Northern California-based nursing home chain should pay nearly $30 million in damages over the death of a 79-year-old former Stockton woman.

The award comes after the Sacramento County Superior Court jury on Wednesday found Colonial Healthcare of Auburn and its parent company, Rocklin-based Horizon West Healthcare Inc., guilty of elder abuse in the 2005 death of Frances Tanner.

After hearing testimony about the company's finances, jurors on Thursday determined the companies should pay $28 million in punitive damages to Tanner's estate and her daughter, Elizabeth Pao.

The punitive damages are in addition to the $1.1 million in compensatory damages the jury awarded.

Pao said Tanner was suffering from mild dementia, when she moved into the home in March 2005. After suffering a broken hip in a fall seven months later, Tanner died from an infected bedsore, Pao said.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony of chronic understaffing and poor medical documentation at the facility.

Full Article and Source:
Jury Awards $29.1 Million in Nursing Home Death

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Danny Tate Awareness Days Announced

We’re dumbstruck at how much work Kevin Montgomery and Friends For Danny Tate’s Defense have put into this three day extravaganza. It’s nothing short of amazing.

Check it out!!!

Schedule of Events

Free Danny Tate!!!

See Also:
Facebook: Friends for Danny Tate's Defense

TX Families Testify at State Senate

North Texas families testified at a State Senate committee hearing in Austin hoping to change the Texas guardianship system.

Sharon Richardson's mother, Earnestine Starks, is living at a nursing home. The Mesquite woman lost guardianship last year after having several disputes with the facility's staff over her mother's care.

A Tarrant County judge revoked the guardianship in an ex-parte hearing. The legal maneuver lets a judge issue an order or verdict without all parties being present.

Richardson wants to change that law.

Richardson and other families struggling with guardianship removal also want to improve procedures. They say the system works against families, forcing them to hire their own attorneys if they want to challenge a judge's decision.

Some have spent thousands trying to appeal their cases. The Richardson family told us they don't have the money to hire a lawyer.

Health and Human Services Committee member Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) told News 8 the testimony in Wednesday's hearing warrants additional inquiry, and he promised that the committee will look into it further.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Legislative Panel Heard Guardianship Pleas

Man Found Guilty in Bedsore Death of his Mother

A man was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree manslaughter in the death last year of his 88-year-old mother, which prosecutors called one of the most horrific cases of elder abuse they have ever seen.

Jurors in King County Superior Court had been deliberating for about a day before returning the verdict against Christopher Wise, 42. At the same time, the jury found Wise not guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced.

When King County sheriff's deputies found Rudy Wise's body in her bed June 16 she had withered away to 70 pounds and was covered in bedsores.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office attributed her death to complications from eight large bedsores.

Wise testified last week that he loved his mother, who insisted she wanted to die at home.

Full Article and Source:
Black Diamond Man Found Guilty in Bedsore Death of His Mother

TX Judge Lauded as Advocate for Elderly, Disabled

The Adult Protective Services presented honors to County Judge Mike Brown at a meeting of the Tom Green County Commissioners Court to recognize his leadership in programs that protect the elderly and the disabled.

“While serving clients, we often witness extraordinary care — professionals who go way beyond the job description — and demonstrate an impressive dedication and caring for the elderly and people with disabilities,” said Tommy Reed, a regional director for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “Today, we want to recognize an outstanding person — one that we know has gone above and beyond to show that he cares. APS honors Judge Mike Brown.”

Brown helped create Guardianship Alliance, which helps supply the elderly and disabled with volunteer guardians when no one else is available. Brown also served as president of the State Guardianship Advisory Board for two terms, and is also a member of the Texas Guardianship Association and the National Guardianship Association, Reed said.

“I’m honored, humbled, and I’ll keep doing it,” Brown said.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Lauded as Advocate for Elderly, Disabled