Saturday, September 4, 2010

Marie Long - Protected Into the Poorhouse?

A Phoenix law firm that collected more than $230,000 from an elderly widow last year quietly pushed for a former probate commissioner to come out of retirement and rule on its request for approval of those fees.

Two months later, retired Commissioner Lindsay Ellis rubber stamped the firm's 2009 bills to Marie Long's trust, calling them “reasonable, necessary and appropriate.” This, without even holding a hearing — or giving the elderly lady's attorneys a chance to lodge detailed objections to the bills that helped put her in the poorhouse.

An attorney for Brenda Church, the trustee's lawyer who sent two of the three e-mails, downplayed her private communications
to the court as a scheduling issue, adding that Ellis had already announced that she would keep the case after her retirement.

But lawyers for Marie dispute that and say the e-mails are further evidence that the elderly widow never had a shot at a fair hearing. Marie was worth $1.3 million when she entered probate in 2005 after suffering a stroke. By last year, she was dependant on taxpayers for support.

Full Article and Source:
Why Did a Retired Probate Commissioner Hang on to the Marie Long Case?

Federal Lawsuit Challenges How Kansas Selects Its Supreme Court Justices

A federal lawsuit has been filed that challenges the process Kansas uses to select its state Supreme Court justices.

The lawsuit asks for a restraining order to prevent the state from filling a vacancy on the court left by the retirement and death of Chief Justice Robert Davis. It also seeks to change the way the Kansas Constitution allows appointment of justices.

James Bopp Jr., a Terre Haute, Ind., lawyer, filed the lawsuit on behalf of four Kansans.

A nominating commission made up of five lawyers and four lay people recommends three candidates for the court, with the governor making the final selection.

Full Article and Source:
Federal Suit Challenges How Kansas Picks Justices

CT - Editorial: What Does Probate Reform Mean?

Last year, the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation that revamped our state’s probate court system. The changes will take effect on Jan. 5, 2011, which also begins a new term of office for probate judges. The most important change in the system involves the consolidation of probate court districts from the current level of 117 districts to 54 districts. District number 24 will be known as the Litchfield Hills Probate District and will be comprised of the Towns of Canaan, Cornwall, Harwinton, Kent, Litchfield (which includes Northfield), Morris, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, Thomaston and Warren. The court will be located in Litchfield with a satellite office in North Canaan.

Each district will have one probate judge who will be elected on Nov. 2, 2010. Any new candidate, or non-sitting judge, must be an attorney.

In 2009, 49 percent of probate services or matters involved decedent’ estates; 15 percent, conservators; 11 percent, children’s matters; 7 percent, trusts; 4 percent, issues involving people with developmental disabilities; 3 percent, commitments; 2 percent, adoptions and termination of parental rights; and 9 percent, other matters.

Currently, courts must be opened for at least 20 hours a week. The new legislation mandates that courts be open for at least 40 hours per week to accommodate the public and increase accessibility to these important services provided by the courts. Compensation for judges and staff will now be standardized and paid by the Probate Court Administration Fund. Judges will no longer be compensated based on the fees collected by the courts.

Full Article and Source:
PATRICK WALL: What Does Probate Reform Mean for Litchfield County?

Friday, September 3, 2010

IL: Madigan Vows to Clamp Down on Leaks of Surprise Raids on Nursing Homes

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she has taken steps to make sure nursing homes aren't tipped off to surprise raids aimed at increasing residents' safety.

Madigan told The Associated Press that said her office is clamping down on leaks that could give nursing homes time to bring in more staff and spruce up living conditions before investigators arrive.

"We're not going to let these leaks happen, and if they do happen we're going to show up at your nursing home again," Madigan said.

The attorney general's office is investigating whether someone tipped off a Chicago nursing home to an impending and supposedly unannounced visit, Madigan said. The Chicago Tribune first reported the investigation Thursday.

She said the investigation was prompted by a July visit to Grasmere Place, where a facility administrator met officials in the nursing home's lobby, looked at her watch and said: "What took you so long? I heard you were going to be here a lot earlier."

Full Article and Source:
State Investigates Alleged Tip-Off of Nursing Home

IL: Six People Indicted in Nursing Home Financial Abuse Scam

A troubling scheme was recently uncovered involving the swindling of elderly nursing home residents and their families out of tens of thousands of dollars reports the Clarion Ledger.

The plan involved an ex-nursing home social worker who told residents and their families at the Belhaven Senior Care Center that they needed to pay money to ensure that their Medicare benefits were maintained. Ponchie McCollough, one of the perpetrators, would demand checks ranging from $400 to $2,500 from the unsuspecting victims. Of course many families and residents trusted the word of the supposedly honest workers at these facilities to guide them through the process of receiving Medicare benefits. When McCollough demanded money to ensure that the aid was provided and care was continued, many of these families believed her and paid.

The families would make the checks out to McCollough’s co-conspirator, an administrator at the facility who would then cash the checks and the two would pocket the funds. Two other co-conspirators were also involved in parts of the scheme, helping McCollough funnel the money from the unsuspected elderly victims.

To make matters worse, nursing home staff members failed to report the abuse even after it was uncovered. In particular, two employees were indicted by authorities for assisting in the elder abuse by failing to report any of the criminal acts. An operations director and a billing director at the facility have been charged as “accessories” following the theft. They both attempted to help McCollough avoid getting caught and having to return the money. Both of those employees worked for the consulting firm which owned Belhaven.

Full Article and Source:
Six People Indicted Following Elder Financial Abuse

Motion for Mistrial or New Trial Denied to Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc.

[The] Superior Court of the State of California, County of Humboldt, denied the Motion for Mistrial or New Trial on Grounds of Juror Misconduct filed previously by Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc. (NYSE: SKH) in the case entitled VINNIE LAVENDER, by and through her Conservator, WANDA BAKER; WALTER SIMON; JACQUELYN VILCHINSKY vs. SKILLED HEALTHCARE GROUP, INC., et al (and 22 individually-named California nursing facilities receiving administrative services from Skilled Healthcare, LLC). The Court also granted an order for permanent injunction requiring the Defendants and those California skilled nursing facilities owned and operated by the Defendants to provide specified nurse staffing levels, comply with specified state and federal laws governing staffing levels and posting requirements, and provide reports and information to a monitor. The Company subsequently filed a notice of appeal on the injunction to the Court of Appeals, which defers enforcement of the injunction until resolution of the appeal.

Full Article and Source:
Humboldt County Court Denies Motion for Mistrial

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CA: State Can't Exclude Felons From Providing In-Home Care

An Alameda County judge blocked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from excluding convicted felons and shoplifters from providing in-home care in a program that serves 430,000 low-income elderly and disabled Californians.

Superior Court Judge David Hunter had ruled in February that Schwarzenegger's action was illegal because state law bars workers from the program for 10 years only if they have been convicted of child abuse, elder abuse or defrauding Medi-Cal or any patient.

In-home patients, who have access to their caregivers' criminal records, can otherwise employ anyone they want, the judge said.

Schwarzenegger, acting by executive order, is seeking to bar from the program anyone ever convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors, which include shoplifting. After appealing Hunter's ruling in May, the governor had planned to implement his restrictions.

The state's appeal automatically suspended Hunter's decision but allowed the judge to reinstate it if he concluded that the new limits on caregivers would cause irreparable harm. Hunter made that finding, saying both caregivers and their patients would suffer if the governor's rules took effect during his appeal.

Full Article and Source:
State Can't Exclude Felons From In-Home Care

Woman Accused of Kidnapping Elderly Woman, May be More Victims

A Salisbury woman is accused of kidnapping an elderly woman to commit fraud and sheriff's investigators say there may be other victims.

On August 17, the Rowan County Sheriff's Office was called to investigate a missing 82-year-old female suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The woman's family said she was seen leaving her home earlier that morning with a white female in a dark-colored car.

The elderly woman was returned to her home the next morning by Karen Staton, 42, of Salisbury.

Staton, however, told investigators she found the 82-year-old female at Wal-Mart and brought her home.

During the investigation, the sheriff's office learned that Staton had cashed one of the victim's checks in June.

The sheriff's office said Staton already had a charge of habitual felon, and exploitation of the elderly, pending in court.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Accused of Kidnapping Elderly Victim to Commit Fraud

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Attorneys Ordered to Repay Legal Costs

A state Superior Court judge has ordered lawyers for Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman to reimburse nearly $2 million in fees that his former father-in-law and brother-in-law paid to defend themselves against a lawsuit Perelman filed over his daughter's inheritance.

The lawsuit, which Superior Court Judge Ellen Koblitz dismissed last year, claimed that Perelman's daughter, Samantha, was entitled to half of the fortune amassed by her grandfather — Robert Cohen of Englewood, the 85-year-old founder of the Hudson News chain.

Perelman, who is appealing, was married to Cohen's only daughter, the socialite and gossip columnist Claudia Cohen, from 1985 until their divorce in 1994. Samantha was born in 1990. Claudia Cohen died in 2007 of ovarian cancer.

Perelman's suit, which he filed in his capacity as executor of his former wife's estate, claimed that Robert Cohen made an oral promise to his only daughter in the 1970s to leave half of the family fortune to her even though he had three children living at the time. Claudia's brother, James, also was named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Koblitz ruled Perelman's suit was frivolous because no documents were provided to back up that claim.

The lawsuit also alleged that Robert Cohen, who suffers from a Parkinson's-like condition called progressive supranuclear palsy, should be declared legally incapacitated and, therefore, not capable of deciding how to divide his fortune among his heirs. The suit further claimed that James Cohen had taken advantage of his condition, persuading his father to leave him a greater share of his estate.

Full Article and Source:
Attorneys for Ron Perelman Ordered to Repay Legal Costs

See Also:
Family Feud May Test Boundaries of Inheritance Law

Woman Charged With Elder Abuse, Surrenders

According to a report posted on, a Long Beach woman wanted by police for stealing over $4 million from an elderly stroke victim has turned herself into authorities. 54-year-old Li Ching Liu entered a plea of not guilty to Long Beach Superior Court on charges of elder abuse and robbery.

The report states police had been looking for Liu for 2 years before she turned herself in. Liu reportedly abused and robbed the 74-year-old victim and withheld food from her in order to make her comply with what she wanted her to do.

The victim reportedly suffered a stroke that left her debilitated. Prior to that, the victim lived independently and built a large monetary fortune through several investments including commercial real estate. Liu had created over 60 bank accounts at various banks and laundered the $4 million from the elderly victim’s account with the help of her boyfriend and son. If she is convicted, Liu faces jail time and liquidation of her assets in order to reimburse the victim of the crime.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Charged With Elder Abuse -Surrenders to Authorities

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Real-Life Judge Judy Gets Smacked Down

When a defendant showed up on a traffic charge, Judge Judy delivered a zinger: "If you drive like an idiot 'cause you're late for work, you're gonna have to pay for it." Then she piled on: "You can see your picture on the headlines of the Seattle Times, stupid young man who shouldn't be driving."

Another defendant recalled that the tart-tongue jurist humiliated and bullied her until she broke down in tears. "She frequently interrupted answers with insults," the woman recalled.

This bullying Judge Judy was not Judge Judith Sheindlin, the tough-talking former New York City Family Court judge who has the top-rated judge show on syndicated television. It was Judge Judith Raub Eiler, her real-life doppelgänger, who sits at a county court in Seattle. Instead of high ratings and rich syndication fees, this Judge Judy's aggressive demeanor earned her a five-day suspension without pay courtesy of the Washington State Supreme Court.

Full Article and Source:
A Real-Life Judge Judy Gets Smacked Down

More Education to be Required for Indiana Judges

The Indiana Supreme Court issued a new requirement for more education for judges in the state, based on the recommendation of a committee headed by a local judge.

It's one step in a long-range plan to reform the Indiana courts, which Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker said is "one of the most complex judicial systems in the nation."

Shewmaker and Marion Superior Court Judge Mark Stoner serve as co-chairs for the statewide strategic planning committee for court reform. They, along with Montgomery Superior Court Judge Peggy Lohorn, spoke with reporters in Indianapolis.

Shewmaker said the need for change is clear, because our courts are a "19th century agrarian-type system. Now is the time for change," he said.

Stoner agreed. "We're no longer in that culture. We're in an electronic culture ... Indiana is behind the times and the question is how we move ourselves forward."

The first step, issued Wednesday by the Indiana Supreme Court, is to require more ongoing education for judges. Until now, their requirements were the same as attorneys: 36 hours of education every three years, with at least six hours each year.

The new standard will require all full-time judges, magistrates, commissioners and referees to get 1.5 times that much, according to Kathryn Dolan, public information officer for the supreme court.

Chief Justice Randall Shepard said in a written announcement Wednesday, "Indiana judges hold themselves to a high standard. They asked the court to require additional continuing education hours and recommended specific changes to mandatory continuing education requirements. I was pleased to sign the order making the changes they proposed a requirement for Indiana judges."

Full Article and Source:
Plan Requires More Education for Judges

CA: Elder Cases Drop Under AG Jerry Brown

Attorney General Jerry Brown's office has dismissed an increasing number of criminal cases against defendants suspected of elder abuse, while cutting back on surprise inspections to investigate violence and neglect in nursing homes.

A California Watch review of elder abuse prosecutions found Brown's office in sharp contrast with his predecessor, Bill Lockyer, who made such cases a top priority in his two terms. In addition to dismissing abuse prosecutions already in motion, Brown's office has filed fewer new cases per year than Lockyer's office did.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Abuse Cases Drop Under Jerry Brown

Monday, August 30, 2010

PA: Legal Guardians Can't Pull Plug on Mentally Disabled

In a ruling involving a mentally disabled man whose legal guardians sought the power to end his medical care, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has determined that state law requires life-preserving treatment for people who are not near death and have not refused treatment.

The Alliance Defense Fund and allied attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 53-year-old David Hockenberry, who has had acute mental disabilities since birth, arguing that his legal guardians should not be allowed to deny him life-preserving treatment while he is not terminal or unconscious. Hockenberry’s guardians unsuccessfully attempted to deny him temporary life-preserving medical treatment for pneumonia.

“Having a disability shouldn’t be a death sentence when treatable medical complications arise,” said Independence Law Center Chief Counsel Randall L. Wenger, one of more than 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “The court made the right decision to protect Mr. Hockenberry’s right to live. He is not dying or unconscious, and his life isn’t worthless just because he has a disability that may lead others to view his life as less worthy to live.”

“A person’s value isn’t based on his or her physical or mental abilities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “No one should be allowed to decide that a person’s life is not worth saving just because he or she has a disability or medical condition.”

In December 2007, Hockenberry developed aspiration pneumonia. Hockenberry’s guardians--appointed as his legal guardians in 2002 by a trial court--tried to decline his required ventilator treatment to assist his breathing, but the hospital proceeded despite their objection. After three weeks on the mechanical ventilator, he recovered from pneumonia and no longer required the treatment.

Full Article and Source:
PA Supreme Court: Legal Guardians Can't Pull Plug on Mentally Disabled

MN Online Conservator Reporting System First in Nation

Conservators appointed by courts to make financial decisions for adults found unable to manage their financial affairs can now complete their reports online. The new reporting and monitoring system, which was developed and piloted by the Ramsey County Probate Court, is being rolled out statewide as part of a Judicial Branch effort to improve conservatorship oversight.

Conservator Reporting System First in Nation

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Senior Magazine: How to Avoid Guardianship

There are certain things that you want to avoid in your life—such as the plague, an IRS audit, and an earthquake measuring 7.5 or better. You need to add one more thing to the list; a Texas Guardianship.

There are few legal proceedings that are more invasive, embarrassing, costly, and secretive than a Guardianship. There are also few courts where the judge, county employees and attorneys are more cozy than the Probate Court, which has jurisdiction over Guardianships. The problems with the Texas system could fill a very large book. You do not want to get into one if you can avoid it.

Luckily, there are a few precautions that you can take now that will make a guardianship less likely.

Full Article and Source:
How to Avoid Guardianship

H.R. 3040 Passes

"Rep. Baldwin is one of the foremost champions of elder justice in Congress." -- Robert Blancato, Elder Justice Coalition

Blancato was responding to the news that the House recently passed U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin's bill to counter crimes against seniors. The Senior Financial Empowerment Act (H.R. 3040) aims to help stop abusive mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors.

The Democratic congresswoman from Madison has long been an advocate for older adults and cites her experiences with her own grandmother as providing the impetus for wanting to protect them from fraud.

Full Article and Source:
Baldwin Steps Up to Protect Elderly From Fraud