Saturday, August 28, 2010

Danny's Diary

History will judge my case as barbaric and antiquated, even for its time.

I write this knowing that my former fiduciary has nothing better to do than read this site, so I use this forum to call him, and his partners in crime, out and educate them to certain Constitutional safeguards and rights such as Freedom of Speech. This court loathes our Constitution. It stands squarely in the way of its wayward purpose. Our Constitution trumps any law, be it written by legislators or made up “willy-nilly” in this court, which happens more often than not. And, by the way, I’ve just paraphrased the Judicial Code. Another little document that seems to be easily ignored in this court.

Yes, history will not judge this court kindly. It will judge it with the same measure of unmeasured mercilessness that it judges. And I hope the citizens of Nashville will wake up and give history a helping hand.

Full Article and Source:

See Also:

Facebook: Justice for Danny Tate

Ex-Lawyer Charged With Embezzling $1 Mil From Clients, Firm

When former attorney Jeffrey Abramowitz was indicted on charges of embezzling more than $1 million from his own clients, the news almost seemed to provide a sense of relief to his former law partner, Mitchell H. Klevan, who told The Legal that he has spent the past 20 months working to undo the damage of Abramowitz's alleged crimes.

Abramowitz, 47, is accused in the indictment of stealing money from clients by lying to them about the settlements of their cases. He allegedly spent some of the funds himself and diverted the rest to a "favored client" and her family.

According to Klevan, the alleged improprieties in Abramowitz's cases were exposed in late 2008 when some of the clients filed lawsuits against the two-lawyer firm and others filed complaints against Abramowitz with the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Klevan said that he changed the locks on the office doors at Klevan & Abramowitz in December 2008 when he first learned of his former partner's alleged thefts.

As he pored over the files, Klevan said that he was "shocked and dismayed" to find irregularities in numerous cases. Klevan said he quickly decided to turn the matter over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and that he has been cooperating with both the federal and the disciplinary investigations ever since.

"I'm very sorry that Mr. Abramowitz has brought this on himself, but I hope that justice will now be served for all the victims he has harmed," Klevan said.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Attorney Charged With Embezzling $1 Mil From Clients, Firm

Nursing Home Staffer Arrested

A discrepancy in several patients' trust funds was reported to the Dade City Police by the Heritage Park Nursing Home administrator. Detectives found nearly $4000 missing from four female residents.

Their investigation led to the arrest of Janice Lynn Smith on charges she stole from the residents whose ages are 85,86, 90 and 101.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Staffer Arrested for Draining Funds From Elderly Residents

Friday, August 27, 2010

Huguette Clark (104-Year-Old Heiress) Finances Under Probe

A 104-year-old heiress to a Montana copper mining fortune -- now living in a New York hospital room -- is at the center of a criminal investigation into her fortune and welfare, two people familiar with the probe told The Associated Press.

The Manhattan district attorney's office is looking into how Huguette Clark is being cared for and how her finances are being handled, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the probe.

Clark has been living in hospitals since leaving her luxury co-op overlooking Central Park more than 20 years ago, according to building staff who saw her leave in an ambulance.

Full Article and Source:
Finances of 104-Year-Old Heiress at Center of Probe

Appeal Filed in Smoron Case

The attorney for Samuel Manzo, an heir to the Smoron farm property, has filed an appeal against a New Britain probate judge's ruling that essentially gave Smoron's land and cash assets to three local churches.

Manzo's attorney Barry Pontolillo, filed the appeal this week in New Britain Superior Court.

The complaint states that Probate Judge Walter Clebowicz's July 20 decision was inconsistent with Southington Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello's order to reconsider and rehear the trust application.

Meccariello recused himself from the Smoron case in February after Manzo filed a complaint with the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct.

Full Article and Source:
Manzo Files Appeal Over Farm Decision

See Also:
Smoron Caretaker Sues Developer Over Eviction

Tasered Elderly, Disabled Woman Sues

An elderly, disabled woman who was incapacitated and burned by a police officer’s stun gun has filed a lawsuit against the city of El Reno, Oklahoma, as well as against several of its police officers.

Lona M. Varner, now 87, and her grandson, Lonnie D. Tinsley, filed the federal lawsuit in Oklahoma City. In it, they allege that their civil rights were violated, and that the city has failed to adequately train and discipline its officers.

The incident occurred on December 22, 2009. Tinsley had called 911, requesting a paramedic to check on his grandmother, whom he believed may have tried to commit suicide. When police arrived, Varner was brandishing a kitchen knife from her hospital-style bed. According to the police report filed by Officer Thomas Duran, he “tried talking to Varner and calm her down but nothing would work.”

When other officers entered the room, Duran says, Varner took “a more aggressive posture on the bed,” raising the knife above her head and saying, “If you come any closer, you’re getting the knife.” Duran was afraid that she would injure someone, so he attempted to stun her using the Taser. Only one of the prongs made contact, however, so he told a fellow officer that his Taser was not functioning properly.

Officer Joseph Sandberg then deployed his Taser, rendering Varner incapacitated enough that the officers were able to remove the knife from her hand. Varner suffers from numerous health problems, according to her attorney, including using oxygen and an electric cart to get around, and being blind in one eye.

Full Article and Source:
Grandmother Sues Police Department,Officers Affer Being Tasered

Update on Britney Spears Conservatorship

Back in February of 2008, a conservatorship was created for Britney Spears. One was created for "her person" and one for "her finances." While there are no signs of the conservatorship ending, due to the conservators not filing a petition to end it, Britney herself can ask the judge to end the conservatorship. Before a judge could release her from the conservatorship, he or she would have to decide if Britney is capable of making decisions for herself and her kids.

By all indications, if Britney were to ask the judge to end the conservatorship, they would take it seriously and re-evaluate it.

Full Article and Source:
Update on Britney Spears Conservatorship

See Also:
Britney Spears Conservatorship Continues

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Observations of Danny Tate's 8/20/10 Hearing

A Friday hearing once again brought the conservatorship of Nashville musician Danny Tate to the docket of Judge Randy Kennedy's Davidson County probate court. The proceeding addressing Danny Tate's case was enlightening as ever, but prior to his case being called, observing the interaction of Judge Kennedy and the attorneys before him reaffirmed impressions from previous visits to this and other courts of the disjointed relationship between members of the legal industry and the industry outsiders they theoretically serve.

Despite courts being a taxpayer-funded entity supporting a theoretical pursuit of justice, Friday's court schedule illustrated how the court system is a workplace seemingly more attuned to the pursuit of income-generating employment endeavors. Within this environment, legal practitioners oversee the creation, advancement or termination of legal cases. Free markets and conditions that support healthy business enterprises are always a desirable goal. The legal industry's "closed shop" protectionist attitudes along with ever changing, unpredictable interpretations of the law, procedures or rules are why the general public views the legal system with skepticism and those with direct experience may come closer to views bordering on complete contempt.

Judge Kennedy's Friday sessions evidently provide a legal bureaucracy catch-up opportunity. They additionally appear to serve as a probate payday of sorts as attorneys line up to submit to the court legal fee approval requests for services rendered in estate cases. Administrative ease and casualness of process in executing major actions affecting people's property and long-term welfare is something to watch and fear. While distinguishing the good guys from the bad isn't something a court observer can necessarily determine, it's easy to see that process and/or positioning often appear to outweigh any discussions of right and/or wrong.

Entering the courtroom to a view of lawyers amassed and awaiting time with Judge Kennedy is reminiscent of The Godfather scene in which people lined up for an audience with Don Vito Corleone in hopes the Mafia boss would grant a favor or help fix a problem. A kiss to his ring signaled respect and all involved had a tacit understanding that favors received would ultimately prompt future favors being returned. A significant degree of metaphoric ring-kissing indeed seemed the practice at Friday's court session.

Full Article and Source:
Danny Tate's Latest Hearing Provides 'Inside Courts' Teachable Moment

See Also:

Danny Tate Hearing

Facebook: Justice for Danny Tate

At Least 16 Georgia Judges Under Suspicion for Misconduct Since 2008

Since early 2008, at least 16 Georgia judges have resigned or been removed from office either under a cloud of suspicion or after being publicly accused of misconduct. Among them are:

● Clinch County Superior Court Judge Brooks Blitch, who resigned after being accused of overseeing illegal payments to employees and ordering the early release of inmates.

● Woodstock and Marietta municipal Judge Diane Busch, who resigned after being charged with furnishing alcohol to teenagers, stemming from a Christmas party at her home.

● Fayette County Superior Court Judge Johnnie Caldwell, who resigned after being accused of making rude, sexually suggestive comments to an attorney.

● Twiggs County Probate Judge Kenneth Fowler, who was removed for requiring criminal defendants to prove their innocence and having defendants “buy out” of their community service by making deposits into a bank account he controlled.

Full Article and Source:
List of Judges

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Financial Abuse of the Elderly: A Detective's Case Files of Exploitation Crimes

I've recently finished reading this excellent book describing how the elderly become victims of financial abuse. The author, Joe Roubicek, was a detective in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for many years, and he investigated over 1000 cases of exploitation of the elderly during that period on the police force. The book describes some of the cases he investigated and discusses the shortcomings of state laws protecting the elderly from financial abuse.

Roubicek clarifies the differences between exploitation of the elderly and fraud. Exploitation occurs when someone takes advantage of a disabled elderly person to deprive that person of his or her assets. For example, an in-home caregiver might take advantage of her employer's memory deficits to ask for grocery money five times in a single day. Fraud occurs when a "false and deceptive statement of fact induces the victim to give up a valuable item that he or she owns." Fraud laws are written under the assumption that the victim has the mental capacity to weigh information and make decisions. For example, if a roofing contractor takes a deposit for work on a house with quality materials and workmanship and returns to do the job with defective materials, then fraud may have occurred.

Unfortunately, financial elder abuse often occurs in the gray area between the fraud and the exploitation statutes.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Champions

See Also:

Former Financial Advisor Sentenced to 3 Years

Federal authorities say a former North Carolina financial adviser has been sentenced to three years in prison for taking millions from an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease.

U.S. Attorney George Holding announced Wednesday that 66-year-old Harold Blondeau of Raleigh was also ordered to pay nearly $425,700 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, the victim, her trusts, and the charity founded with her money.

Blondeau pleaded guilty last year to investment adviser fraud and tax fraud, for not reporting or paying taxes on the illegal income. He admitted taking nearly $3 million from a then-83-year-old Raleigh woman.

Full Article and Source:
Raleigh Man Receives 3 Years for Bilking Elderly Woman

Elderly Couple Bilked Out of $1.5 Million by Son and Others

The son of an elderly Davis couple and two others have pleaded no contest to stealing $1.5 million from the couple, according to the Yolo County District Attorney's Office.

The son, whose name was not made public in order to protect the victims, the son's ex-wife Jennifer Haskell, and a second man, Marlo Compton, used several ploys to steal the victims' life savings, said chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven.

The defendants' pleas to multiple theft charges include prison terms and restitution to the victims. The son, Haskell, and Compton were scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 1 in Yolo County Superior Court.

Full Article and Source:
Davis Couple Bilked by Son, Others Out of $1.5 Million, Prosecutors Say

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Minnesota: Weak Rules Govern Guardians

Social workers in Aitkin County had a problem: They needed someone to make decisions for three mentally impaired people who could no longer manage their own affairs. So in 2003, the county made a public appeal in the local newspaper.

Paul and Frances Peterson, who had no experience as guardians or conservators, offered their services. What followed was a failure of the state's guardianship system that the county is still untangling seven years later.

Altogether, Aitkin County asked the Petersons to manage the affairs of five individuals, including three men with six-figure bank balances. After one of their wards died, the Petersons continued to write checks on his account, violating a court order and state law. The county had to give another wealthy ward $100 for food because the Petersons did not give him any of his money.

A district judge, who found numerous accounting problems, terminated their oversight in 2008 and subsequently ordered the Petersons to give back half of the $80,500 they paid themselves over five years. But the judge's order is on hold because an appeals court said there were no clear guidelines on how much the Petersons could charge for their work.

To family members and advocates, the inability of the courts to hold the Petersons accountable shows how the state needs new tools to crack down on poorly performing guardians and conservators, who are unlicensed and virtually unregulated in Minnesota.

"There has to be a form of professional standards, regulatory oversight or sanctioning ability," said Roberta Opheim, the state mental health ombudsman. "To me, it's about people abusing their power and authority granted to them for a humane purpose."

Opheim said there's no limit on how many wards a guardian can oversee. Some guardians have as many as 40 people under their control, she said.

Peterson blamed complaints on hostile social workers, difficult family members and the erratic behavior of one ward. He said he and his wife's big mistake was letting "ourselves get talked into doing it in the first place."

William Hohenauer, a former ward who spent four years trying to get his money back, accused the Petersons of raiding his accounts. "They went in and took what they wanted for themselves," he said. "The court let them get away with this."

On June 17, six days after his interview with the Star Tribune, Hohenauer died of cancer. He was still waiting for his money.

Full Article and Source:
Weak Rules Govern Guardians

MN: Tips for Guardians & Conservators Billing

Seems like a lot of negative press lately for guardians and conservators. This recent Star Tribune article on guardians in Aitkin county is the latest. One of the guardianships referred to in the article was recently addressed in a published Court of Appeals of Minnesota opinion, In the Matter of the Guardianship and Conservatorship of Harold F. Doyle. In Doyle, the Court of Appeals examined the issues of: 1) whether a district court can sua sponte (on its own initiative) examine and disallow fees and expenses of guardians/conservators in an annual account (the Court held that it could); 2) whether the court can rely on documents that are not part of the record (the Court held that the district court could rely on the County's Service Fee Policy in deciding the appropriateness of a guardian's fees, since that policy was referred to in the guardianship statute. However the Court held that the district court erred in relying on MAGIC Standards of Practice in it's decision, when those Standards had not been introduced by a party as evidence or authority, and the parties did not have an opportunity to review and/or comment on the Standards); 3) whether the district court properly rejected accounts and disallowed certain fees and expenses (the Court remanded, but gave guidance on what the district court should consider).

After reading the Doyle case, I've put together some tips for Guardians and/or Conservators billing for their services:

1) Determine whether there are Service Fee Policies or similar policies governing payment of guardians in the county in which you were appointed.

2) Review and be familiar with the MAGIC Standards of Practice. While they aren't guidelines that courts can take judicial notice of, they are instructive and are put out by a reputable non-profit organization that addresses guardianships and conservatorships in Minnesota.

3) Always bear in mind that your fees and expenses need to have been rendered for necessary services or necessary expenses for the benefit of the ward.

4) Always keep detailed, meticulous and organized records of your fees and expenses.

5) Save receipts for every expense.

6) Keep detailed time records. Not "worked on ward's case", but instead "Made telephone calls to social security to straighten out mix up with monthly social security check." Etc.

7) Your hourly fee should be in line with what other guardians with your experience are charging for similar cases.

Remember, in the end, it boils down to this: You are a fiduciary for the ward/protected person. It is the ward's money, not yours. At the end of the day you should feel comfortable explaining to the Court why you charged for every penny that you did, and you should have the documentation to support it.

Full Article and Source:
Tips for Guardians and Conservators Billing the Ward for Their Fees and Expenses

Monday, August 23, 2010

Danny Tate Hearing

Nashville songwriter Danny Tate lost his case and his temper Friday. After shouting and arguing with a judge, Tate was escorted out of the courthouse by a court officer.

[Tate's] lawyer said Danny's brother, David, exaggerated the severity of Danny’s cocaine habit and lied in court so he could be named his brother's guardian.

"The evidence is clear that these allegations were knowingly false," Danny Tate’s attorney, Michael Hoskins, told the court.

Kennedy had given David Tate control over Danny's bank accounts, after David claimed Danny was spending $400 a day on cocaine.

The judge ruled the dollar amount of the habit wasn’t that important; he said David Tate was just trying to save his brother's life.

He ruled against Danny Tate, and that’s when the shouting started. After raising his voice at the judge, Tate was told to leave the courtroom. He said later he felt frustrated the judge wasn’t listening to him.

Tate said his bank account has dwindled from $700,000 to nearly nothing after his brother spent money on legal fees and experts. He said he’s living in a horse trailer behind his house in Belle Meade. It was flooded in the May storms.

Earlier this year, Tate won his effort to have the guardianship dissolved. Now his attorney is in court trying to get some of his client’s money back.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Songwriter Shouts at Judge, Escorted From Court

See Also:
NashvilleCriminals website

Memorandum of Law in Support of Respondent's Motion for Relief From Judgment

NJ Disbarred Lawyers Reported for 2009

The number of formal complaints filed with the state Office of Attorney Ethics increased by 23 percent in 2009, with 233 complains compared to 189 in 2008, according to the office's annual report made public.

As a result, by the time the year was over, 29 of New Jersey's 86,807 attorneys were disbarred for unethical practices, 15 of them by consent.

Another 29 lawyers were suspended, 23 were censured, 26 received reprimands, 40 received admonitions, 25 had their licenses suspended and 2 received license suspensions.

The report shows an 11 percent decrease in the number of attorneys disciplined by the state Supreme Court. The figure was 148 in 2009 compared to 167 in 2008.

The 233 formal complaints stemmed from 1,476 grievances filed with the OAE in 2009, a nearly 6 percent increase over the 1,394 grievances filed in 2008.
The fee arbitration program resolved 1,130 fee matters involving $14.5 million in legal fees.

Here are the 14 lawyers who were disbarred by the Supreme Court in 2009:
Peter J. De Jong, Morris County
Marc F. Desiderio, Bergen
Edward D. Fagan, Florida
Jonathan Friedman, Monmouth
Horatius A. Greene II, Essex
Stanley J. Hausman, Essex
Thomas J. Izso, Middlesex
Russell T. Kivler, Mercer
Richard H. Kress, Union
Gary Lesser, Morris
Laura P. Scott, Bergen
Irwin B. Seligsohn, Essex
Loel H. Seitel, Bergen
Stephen W. Thompson, Cape May

Here are the 15 attorneys who agreed to be disbarred:
Kevin M. Bosworth, Burlington
William N. Chango, Union
Matthew G. Connolly, Hudson
John L. D'intino Jr., Pennsylvania
Jeffrey B. Feinman, Camden
Edward M. Fink, Somerset
Paul J. Hirsh, Morris.
Philip B. Hover, Bergen
Andrew M. Kimmel, Morris
Kurt G. Ligos, Morris
John G. Lynch Jr. Sussex
Sam S. Matthews, Bergen
John J. Montefusco, Morris
Steven T. Rondos, Bergen
Ward S. Taggart, Ward, Burlington
Stanley J. Hausman, Essex

Full Article and Source:
Disbarred Lawyers in NJ Reported for 2009

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nebraska: Wards' Assets Vulnerable

In December 2007, a motorist struck Wilbur Miller as the 78-year-old Omahan crossed the street.

A retired laborer with little money, Miller spent the next two weeks in Creighton University Medical Center, racking up $100,000 in medical bills.

Eventually, attorneys hired by Miller's guardian secured a $100,000 settlement from the motorist's insurance company.

Here's who was supposed to benefit: Wilbur Miller.

Here's who ended up with the money:

-- Miller's guardian, who a judge says improperly took $62,700. She is in the Douglas County Correctional Center, facing theft charges in three unrelated cases.

--Two attorneys, who were paid $33,333 in contingency fees.

The lawyers said they earned the fees. One was quick to note that he had worked on eight other guardianship cases for free.

A national expert said such an arrangement amounts to an informal “barter” system: using money from one case to compensate lawyers for work on other cases.

It's part and parcel of an old-school system in which judges scramble to reward the unsung work of attorneys and guardians, the expert said.

A committee of judges, lawmakers, attorneys and investigators is reviewing Nebraska's guardian-conservator system and is expected to make recommendations in October.

In such cases, judges appoint a guardian to oversee the health and a conservator to oversee the wealth of an incapacitated person, known as a ward. Attorneys shepherd cases through court, filing documents but having little day-to-day oversight of the ward.

Forty-eight states tap taxes and private grants to help pay for the work that attorneys and guardians do for indigent, incapacitated wards like Miller.

Nebraska is one of the two states that have no public guardian office — and no public funding for such work.

Instead, Nebraska judges allow lawyers to collect “reasonable” fees from those wards who do have assets.

“Across the nation, we're seeing the same crises, but we're not seeing the resources devoted to it,” [Brenda]Uekert [a researcher with the National Center for State Courts] said. “It's a tremendously important issue, but it's not an easy one to solve.

“Nebraska is just like a lot of other states: It's got a long ways to go.”

Full Article and Source:
Wards' Assets Vulnerable

'Fleecing Grandma & Grandpa'

Scams and cons can target anyone, but the elderly are particularly vulnerable; Alt and Wells review the various frauds, provide advice for avoiding the traps, and offer guidance for what to do if you or a loved one falls victim.


Aging Inmates Straining Prison System

Curtis Ballard rides a motorized wheelchair around his prison ward, which happens to be the new assisted living unit — a place of many windows and no visible steel bars — at Washington's Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

A stroke left Ballard unable to walk. He's also had a heart attack and he underwent a procedure to remove skin cancer from his neck. At 77, he's been in prison since 1993 for murder. He has 14 years left on his sentence.

Ballard is among the national surge in elderly inmates whose medical expenses are straining cash-strapped states and have officials looking for solutions, including early release, some possibly to nursing homes. Ballard says he's fine where he is.

"I'd be a burden on my kids," said the native Texan. "I'd rather be a burden to these people."

That burden is becoming greater as the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that elderly prisoners รข€” the fastest growing segment of the prison population, largely because of tough sentencing laws are three times more expensive to incarcerate than younger inmates.

The ACLU estimates that it costs about $72,000 to house an elderly inmate for a year, compared to $24,000 for a younger prisoner.

Full Article and Source:
Aging Inmates Straining Prison System