Saturday, July 31, 2010

Former Court-Appointed Receiver Gets 10 Years

Choking back tears, Lewis Freeman faced his wife and children in federal court and apologized for committing a $2.6 million theft that would send him to prison.

"Parents try to teach their kids how to live their lives," he said Friday. "Abigail and Jeremy, I know you're smart enough to see the example I've set and not to follow it. The example I've set for you shows that money means nothing and honor is everything. I know you both will do great. I love you."

With his family weeping behind him, the prolific court-appointed receiver and trustee turned to the judge to accept his fate.

"My life is in your hands, your honor," he said. "I hope you will allow me to return to my family when it's not too late."

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck sentenced Freeman, 61, to 10 years, including 21 months of house arrest after prison. Freeman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in March after admitting he took $2.6 million from court-supervised accounts and misappropriated at least $6 million by shifting money among accounts he was appointed to oversee.

After pronouncing sentence, Huck allowed Freeman 15 minutes for a tearful goodbye to his family before he went into custody to begin serving his term.

Full Article and Source:
Former Court-Appointed Receiver Gets 10-Year Sentence

Judge Campbell Suspended, Then Resigns

Van Wert Municipal Court is looking for a new judge after Phil W. Campbell resigned his position on Thursday after the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline handed down his punishment stemming from judicial misconduct charges in 2009.

Campbell had his law license suspended for 12 months, with six months of the sentence stayed provided no other violations occurred during that period, after he was already seated at the bench for the morning session on Thursday. The sanction was essentially the same as was worked out at the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline last year.

Rumors soon after the decision that Campbell had submitted his resignation to Governor Ted Strickland were confirmed by the Court late Thursday afternoon. According to Chris Davey of the Ohio Supreme Court Public Information Office, the letter was received late in the day.

"I am choosing to retire from my position as Van Wert County Municipal Court Judge, effective this date," started the letter.

In the slip opinion, the Court listed, "Judicial misconduct - Discipline - Improper investigation of a criminal manner - Failure to act in courteous, dignified manner - Improper use of judicial office to pressure persons into action - Improper handling of indigency determinations..."

The Court determined that Campbell had committed 14 violations of the former Code of Judicial Conduct and the Code of Professional Responsibility, including one violation of Canon 1 (A judge shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary), nine violations of Canon 2 (A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary), one violation of Canon 3(B)(2) (A judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it), and three violations of Canon3(B)(4) (A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, and of staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge's direction and control).

Full Article and Source:
Judge Campbell Suspended, Then Resigns

Carel Bainum Under Fire Again

A Warwick woman who is facing a civil-fraud suit for what the Rhode Island Supreme Court has termed “a troubling scenario of money, deceit and financial abuse” of a man who died at age 98 has now become the focus of two more court cases involving a 94-year-old man who is in a locked dementia ward of a Coventry nursing home.

One of the court cases charges the woman, Carel Callahan Bainum, with criminal trespass at the Coventry Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center where Michael Koczan, an Air Force veteran who suffers from severe cognitive impairment and a host of physical problems, has resided for the past several months. Warwick’s onetime animal control supervisor, Bainum, 62, has pleaded not guilty and is demanding a jury trial.

The other case is a guardianship that last week, after a testy hearing, culminated with a judge giving Koczan’s daughter control over every aspect of her father’s life — financial and health-care decisions as well as decisions over whom he has relationships with. The court made this ruling after it heard testimony about the disruptive and allegedly dangerous influence Bainum has had over Koczan.

The guardianship petition was originally filed by the state’s mental-health advocate, H. Reed Cosper, who says in court papers that Koczan “is being exploited” by Bainum, a person “who has a history of financial and emotional exploitation of elderly men, particularly veterans.”

Full Article and Source:
Warwick Woman Under Fire in Court, Again, Regarding 94-Year-Old Nursing Home Patient

See Also:
Supreme Court Upholds

Friday, July 30, 2010

Former Wisconsin Probate Lawyer Leonard Brady Target of FBI Investigation

Former Probate Lawyer Leonard Brady Target of FBI Investigation

WI Supreme Court Strips Leonard Brady of His Law License and Orders Him to Pay Over $1mil Restitution

Fox 6 Investigators: Leonard Brady Surrenders Law License, Ordered to Pay More Than $1 Million in Restitution

See Also:
Full Supreme Court Decision

See Also:
Thousands of Dollars From Dead Woman's Estate May be Lost

Queener Guardianship Decided

A judge awarded guardianship of 79-year-old Bob Queener of Des Moines to his niece and a state senator, ending a seven-month battle with the Iowa Department of Human Services over who should oversee his health, housing and general well-being.

Polk County Associate Probate Judge Ruth Klotz appointed guardianship of Queener, who has dementia, to Cheri Jensen of Altoona and Sen. Dennis Black, D-Lynnville, overruling DHS’s opposition.

“Now we’re able to work on filling his bucket list,” said Jensen, who celebrated today’s news with her uncle and several relatives. “Bob’s welfare is what this means to me. He’s still able to walk and talk, and why keep him locked away just because we have a short-term memory problem?”

Queener’s relatives spoke out publicly after a DHS worker removed him from his home Dec. 8 without notifying any family members, who panicked when they discovered he was missing.

The court-approved emergency removal led to a series of decisions that were outside the family’s control. Queener was isolated for months in locked psychiatric and nursing home units, unable to leave on family outings. A court-appointed conservator began to dispose of Queener’s possessions without his knowledge – including memorabilia from his military service – then put up for sale the mortgage-free house he’d kept tidy for four decades.

In her ruling Wednesday, Klotz made a point to say that despite criticism about what happened to Queener, she believes DHS officials followed the law “in all instances.” Klotz also defended the two volunteers the court appointed to serve as guardian and conservator.

Full Article and Source:
Court Awards Guardianship Over Bob Queener to His Niece, State Senator

View Judge Ruth Klotz' Ruling

See Also:
Update on Bob Queener Case

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Growing Concerns About IL Public Guardian

The last years of Edna's life had been difficult. After social workers noticed signs of dementia, a judge ordered she be placed under the care of Kane County's public guardian. Less than a year later, she was put in a nursing home. Her house and many cherished possessions were sold when officials decided she was running out of money.

Edna lived alone. She had never married and had no children. But she knew finances: At the time of her retirement in 1979, she was one of only two women in the country to be certified by Registered School Business Administrators.

"She was a woman before her time," Rollins Principal Karen Hart said. "She was very proud of the fact that she could play with the boys and was well-respected."

Dave Rollins insists his aunt had planned for her financial future, even a long one. Yet her home was sold, according to court documents, due to her "rapidly depleting" funds. That assessment was made by the county's public guardian and OK'd by a Kane County judge. However, when the public guardian's accounting of Edna's assets was turned in -- five months after the decision to put the house up for sale, according to court documents -- the report indicated the elderly woman held about $500,000 in investments and property, plus yearly pension benefits.

Dave Rollins, a bank regulator with the U.S. Department of the Treasury who lives in New Jersey, is among a growing list of critics of Kane County Public Guardian Christine Adelman and the loosely monitored system under which she operates.
That list includes wards of the county, friends, family and neighbors of those currently under the guardian's control and lawyers working in the system. While most wards agree they need some help attending to financial or medical needs, some have serious concerns about the person in charge of their lives.

"They claim they are protecting me, but they are costing me hundreds of dollars and I never asked them to do it," said C. Elvan "Doc" Olmstead of Elgin in an interview with The Courier-News before he died in March.

Longtime friends say they are kept from interacting with the wards.

"If you dare question anything they are doing, how they are spending (the ward's) money, you are immediately put in the role of bad person," said Lauren Knight of Elgin, who was recently threatened with jail time if she had contact with a former neighbor she was concerned about.

Full Article and Source:
Growing Concerns Over Public Guardian's Loosely Defined Roles in the End

Elderly Caught in the Middle of Debate Over Fate

It's people like Fay who make me glad I changed all those diapers or made all those peanut butter sandwiches over the years.

Or people like Edna. And Margaret. And Doc, who you'll also meet in the series of stories today about the public guardian system in Kane County

None of those elderly folks had children who could have stepped up to the plate as it became apparent they needed help maneuvering through the final chapters of their lives.

Not that raising a gaggle of kids is going to keep things from going south in our old age. There's plenty of examples where manipulative, apathetic or scrapping offspring abandon — or even worse — take advantage of Mom or Pop as aging brain cells turn to mush.

And so, right or wrong or somewhere in between, that role in the lives of Fay, Edna, Margaret and Doc fell to the public guardian.

It's not a place anyone wants to end up in their golden years. Suddenly, your fate is in the hands of perfect strangers — paid officials who include a judge and a battery of attorneys charging you up to $280 an hour.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Caught in the Middle of Debate Over Fate

More Information:
Age Old Question: Does Public Guardian Have Too Much Power in Kane County?

What is the Public Guardian's Office?

Friend or Foe - Well-Intended Loved Ones Can Complicate Guardian Role

Rights Vs. Needs - Guardian System Must Balance Ability, Individuality

From the Storytellers

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Probate Judge Rules Land Trusts Valid; Heirs to Appeal

New Britain Probate Judge Walter Clebowicz ruled that two trusts that gave a dead woman's land to three local churches can't be changed or revoked.

The 80 acre-parcel is valued at $2 million and is needed for plans to build a $118 million sports arena in the town's northeast corner.

Clebowicz had been asked to rule on the establishment of the trusts by Smoron's heirs who claim they were not notified of a May 12, 2009 hearing.

Then conservator John T. Nugent applied to Southington Probate Court Judge Bryan Meccariello for permission to create and fund the trusts and received it at the May hearing.

Meccariello has since said he approved the creation of the trusts but did not authorize their funding. He also said he erred by not notifying the potential heirs of the hearing and recused himself from the case in February 2010.

The Council on Probate Judicial Conduct has determined there is probable cause of judicial misconduct by Meccariello. A public hearing is set for September.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Judge Rules Land Trust Valid; Heirs' Attorneys to Appeal

See Also:
Judicial Council Finds Probable Cause Against Probate Judge

CT Confidential: Ethics Judge Faces Charges

A probate judge who provides training to other judges on ethics, Bryan F. Meccariello, now faces misconduct charges arising from his approval to change the will of a woman without bothering to tell the man who was due to inherit much of her estate.

This is the same probate system that tells you that all my complaints about probate misconduct are the rants of an extremist. One of their own ethics "experts" has been nabbed abusing the system. In this case, Meccariello approved the change in a will at a hearing nobody was informed of.

Full Article and Source:
CT Confidential: Probate "Reform" -- Ethical Judge Faces Charges

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Judge Sets New Tone for Guardianships

Problems found in the management of wards under the county's care are being addressed, according to District Judge Dave Gamble, who took responsibility for some of the issues in an interview.

“My first reaction when I saw some of the shortcomings was how I could have let certain things happen,” Gamble said about guardianships managed by Public Administrator Lynn EnEarl. “We tend to get into auto-pilot mode, and one of the things I made clear was that I myself have the ultimate duty with regard to these wards.”

EnEarl didn't file annual reports on her wards or inventories in cases where she was named guardian by the court. The reports and inventories are required by state law, but EnEarl's attorney, Mike Rowe, said that in some cases judges waived the requirement.

The issues with the public administrator were brought to light by Special Advocates For the Elderly, who were appointed by Gamble and District Judge Michael Gibbons.

Gamble said he felt that the court and the public administrator have a duty to the wards, and he laid down new rules for dealing with them.

“Certainly, there were shortcomings in the performance of Ms. EnEarl, but I believe those have been corrected and that all of us involved in guardianship cases have realized that we have not had the day-to-day needs of the ward foremost in our minds,” he said. “It was not just Ms. EnEarl's fault. It was just as much mine as the ultimate authority in these cases. When a practice over decades has gotten into a pattern, it's tough to break yourself out of that pattern. The SAFE advocates helped us break the pattern.”

Gamble said that he gave EnEarl direction for the care of the wards. He credited the Special Advocates For the Elderly for their help.

“It has been a boon for the system in Douglas County and led to a much better protective system for the wards,” he said. “My perception is that this has been really positive.”

Full Article and Source:
Judge Sets New Tone for Guardianships

See Also:
More Cases Against Public Administrator

Sonoma County Settles Lawsuit Involving Isolation

Sonoma County has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a lawsuit by an elderly gay man who said social workers kept him from seeing his dying partner in the hospital.

Clay Greene, 78, of Guerneville filed a lawsuit earlier this year, claiming the county's Public Guardian program discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation.

Greene accused social workers of denying him hospital visitation rights to see his partner, Harold Scull, despite signed wills, medical declarations and powers of attorney naming each other as spouses. The couple was not married nor registered as domestic partners.

The lawsuit also alleged that after Scull's death, social workers forced Greene into a nursing home and sold the couple's property, including art and heirlooms.

The county's lawyer, Gregory Spaulding, denied the discrimination claims but admitted mistakes in selling the couple's property.

"The county remains confident in its position that there was no discrimination in this case," Spaulding said, noting that the plaintiff removed the discrimination allegations from the lawsuit three weeks ago.

Under the law, officials can sell property worth $5,000 or less to cover medical expenses, but the couple's property sale brought in more than $25,000 at auction, Spaulding said. Errors in that case have led to revised policies at the Public Guardian's office, he said.

Spaulding said the county settled the case Thursday to avoid further expense.

"It just made economic sense to stop the bleeding," Spaulding said. "To end the case and avoid all expenses and costs."

Full Article and Source:
Sonoma Co. Settles Gay Discrimination Suit

See Also:
Victim Sues Sonoma County CA

Hospice Worker Accused of Stealing From Dying Patient

A New Jersey hospice worker has been accused of stealing money from a dying patient. Tristan Chang, 23, allegedly used the hospice patient's ATM card and PIN number to withdraw $700, the full amount the patient had in their account.

Tristan Chang, 23, has been charged with third-degree theft and third-degree hindering apprehension for this particularly heinous form of financial exploitation of the elderly. He faces up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Full Article and Source:
Hospice Worker Accused of Stealing From Dying Patient

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fox 6 Investigators: Who Are They Protecting?

Ruth Collins was declared incompetent by Judge Mel Flanagan before the county filed a guardianship case in probate court. Judge Flanagan appointed Collins' daughter, Sandra Wright, to serve as the legal guardian for personal and medical decisions.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Fox 6 Investigators: Who Are They Protecting?

Follow NASGA on Facebook!

National Association to STOP Guardian Abuse

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Former Judge Michael Conahan Pleads Guilty

A former judge in northeastern Pennsylvania pleaded guilty Friday to a racketeering conspiracy charge for his role in a kickback scheme that put juvenile defendants, many without lawyers, behind bars for sometimes minor offenses.

Michael Conahan, 58, faces up to 20 years in prison after his plea in Scranton federal court. No sentencing date was set.

Court documents do not indicate if Conahan will testify against the other former Luzerne County judge charged in the case, Mark Ciavarella Jr. Conahan's lawyer, Philip Gelso, declined to comment Friday.

Ciavarella has maintained his innocence and plans to go to trial.

Prosecutors accuse the pair of taking $2.8 million in kickbacks from two private detention facilities. Conahan, as president judge, shut down a county-owned juvenile center while Ciavarella, the juvenile court judge, filled beds at the for-profit facilities, they charged.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Pa. Judge Pleads Guilty in Kids-for-Cash Scheme

Judge: Daughter Had No Right to Mother's Money

A Wayne County judge says a Houston woman had no right to take $500,000 from the bank accounts of her now 95-year-old mother in 2008.

Wednesday's decision by Probate Judge David Szymanski means lawyers for M. Louise Stanton can file court papers to go after the assets of Janice Stanton Hines, 58, whom Szymanski jailed for contempt of court in December for refusing to repay the money. Stanton Hines is still in jail.

"The court finds that these assets belong to M. Louise Stanton," Szymanski said in an eight-page decision. He rejected Stanton Hines' claim that her mom gave her the money.

"I'm ecstatic," Charlene Glover-Hogan of Detroit, the mother's court-appointed lawyer, said Wednesday.

"I couldn't imagine doing anything like that to my parents," Glover-Hogan added.
The mother's court-appointed guardian, Steven Geller of Royal Oak, said he will take steps to have a judgment entered against Stanton Hines, enabling him to seize her assets.

Court papers say Stanton Hines, a disaster relief coordinator in Houston, withdrew nearly $800,000 from M. Louise Stanton's accounts after her mother added her and another daughter's names to them. When the other daughter confronted Stanton Hines, she returned $286,000, leaving a $500,000 shortfall.

Full Article and Source:
Judge: Woman Had No Right to Mother's Money