Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fmr. Probate Court Judge Edward E. Casey Case Postponed

A trial to determine who should supervise the financial affairs of a well-known retired judge was postponed to Nov. 8 to allow a lawyer to complete an independent evaluation of the case.

A hearing had been scheduled Monday to settle the issue of whether current state Rep. and former City Councilor Bill Bowles will remain conservator of the estate of former Probate Court Judge Edward F. Casey.

Bowles, with the support of Casey's family, was appointed temporary conservator earlier this year.

But the 85-year-old former judge, who suffers from short-term memory loss, is now opposing Bowles's involvement.

Overshadowing the case is the involvement of City Councilor Kimberly Allard, the judge's paid caretaker, who Bowles charges in a separate lawsuit used undue influence and accepted ownership of a $328,000 house paid for by the jurist. Allard, who is not involved directly in the current litigation, said she has done nothing wrong and has faithfully executed the judge's wishes.

Both Bowles and Allard say they are longtime friends of the judge and have his interests at heart.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of the charges, Judge Frances McIntyre appointed attorney Neal Winston last month as a guardian ad litem to conduct an independent review.

However, the lawyer informed the court late last week that he needs more time to review documents and interview witnesses.

Full Article and Source:
Trial Over Judge's Financial Affairs Postponed

See Also:
Conservatorship Battle Over Former Probate Court Judge
Edward F. Casey

CT: Accountant Involks 5th Amendment

F. Robert LaSaracina, a Norwich accountant accused of defrauding a family trust fund of $2.2 million and whose office was recently targeted by federal investigators, declined to testify today in the ongoing trial of former Mashantucket Pequot chairman Michael Thomas.

LaSaracina appeared in a New London Superior courtroom with high-profile attorney Hubert Santos and promptly asserted his 5th Amendment privileges against self incrimination.

Santos said the federal investigation, and search warrant served at LaSaracina’s West Town Street office, had changed the circumstances.

LaSaracina had previously testified to his role in dealing with some of Thomas’ finances. Thomas is being sued by Sovereign Bank which claims he defaulted on a multi-million dollar line of credit.

Considering LaSaracina’s new position, Thomas’ attorney Lawrence Rosenthal, asked Judge Joseph Koletsky to strike LaSaracina’s previous testimony. The motion was denied.

Full Article and Source:
Norwich Accountant Invokes 5th Amendment in Thomas Trial

Friday, September 24, 2010

Is Probate Court Injustice So Rare?

Hurrah. The leaders of Connecticut's probate court system are suddenly concerned about Bryan Meccariello's behavior now that an oversight panel has censured the Southington judge for "egregious" mistakes and "evasive and disingenous" testimony.

"While the mishandling of a case is rare, even a single instance is unacceptable," Probate Court Administrator Paul J. Knierim said.

This is more than ironic. Over the last few years I have uncovered a stream of these rare mishandled cases in the murky world of probate court.

From Waterbury to Greenwich to North Haven to East Hartford to Southington, these single instances are piling up. If most of our probate judges are doing a good job - and I don't necessarily disagree -- how is it that a newspaper columnist who spends a few days a month paying attention to probate finds so much injustice?

The problem is that probate operates out of the public eye with too-little scrutiny over the qualifications of judges, who are elected, and the lawyers who work for and appear before the court. This allows for a handful of bad apples to sour the entire reputation of probate court.

As with the latest case in Meccariello's court, the issue again involves a judge who allows a court-appointed conservator to plunder the civil rights of an elderly, sick person. When nobody pays attention, this is what you get.

Full Article and Source:
Is Probate Court Injustice so Rare? I Wonder....

CT: Probate Judge Bryan T. Meccariello Censured

The Council on Probate Judicial Conduct unanimously agreed to publicly censure Probate Judge Bryan T. Meccariello for judicial misconduct in his handling of Josephine Smoron's estate.

The five-member council was asked to investigate the matter after Smoron's heir Samuel Manzo complained that her conservator John T. Nugent had disinherited him by creating and funding two trusts giving all her land to three local churches. Meccariello approved the trusts at meeting only he attended on May 12, 2009.

"I'm not shrugging it off and unfortunately the underlying issues have to get resolved," Meccariello said, adding that he is working to mediate a settlement over the land.

Manzo's initial complaint implied a possible conspiracy between Meccariello, Nugent and the town to funnel Smoron's land to local developer Carl Verderame who needs it to build an $18 million sports arena. A purchase agreement between Nugent and Verderame would enrich the churches.

Meccariello said Tuesday's council finding, although harsh, vindicated him on the corruption charges.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Council Censures Meccariello

See Also:
Read the Report From the Council on Probate Conduct

Judge Bryan Meccariello Faces Misconduct Charges

Whatever Happened to the Kidds?

In this edition of "Whatever Happened To," Heather Hays updates one of the most asked about stories FOX 4 has ever aired -- an elderly Dallas couple, Michael and Jean Kidd, and their emotional homecoming, after battling the state for their freedom.

Source and Video:
Whatever Happened to the Kidds?

See Also:
Scrutinizing the Guardian

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Advocate Addresses Her Local Free Holder's Meeting


Former Atty Pieter J. DeJong Charged With Stealing From Client's Estate

A disbarred attorney who lives in Long Valley was arraigned Tuesday on charges of stealing $265,552 between 2005 and 2008 from a deceased woman's estate.

Pieter J. DeJong, 62, was indicted by a Morris County grand jury on Sept. 3 on three theft-related charges that allege he stole between February 2005 and June 2008 money that belonged to the estate of Jane Davis.

DeJong did not speak during the brief arraignment in state Superior Court, Morristown, but defense lawyer Thomas Fischer entered a not guilty plea on DeJong's behalf.

DeJong, who was licensed to practice law in 1972, was disbarred by the state Supreme Court in September 2009 after he failed to respond to allegations of misappropriation of monies. His practice consisted mainly of real estate law.

He previously was reprimanded in 1985 for gross neglect and lack of diligence, and five times between 1992 and 2008 was on the state Supreme Court's list of attorneys ineligible to practice law because he didn't pay an annual attorney fee to the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, according to state records.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Attorney Pieter DeJong Who Ran Flanders, NJ, Practice Charged with Stealing Over $265,000 From Client's Estate

NY: Two Charged With Felony Elder Abuse

Two Cappahosic residents are facing felony charges in connection with the life-threatening wounds of an 87-year-old woman who was in their care and later died.

Erick Wilson, 48, and Gigi Garner, 44, have been charged with abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult.

An investigation is continuing into the circumstances surrounding Regina Wynn's care at the hands of Wilson, her nephew, and Garner, a friend of Wilson's, said Gloucester Sheriff's Lt. Scott Little. He declined further comment.

Wilson and Garner will next appear in Gloucester General District Court on Oct. 28.

Full Article and Source:
Care of Elderly Woman Leads to Charges in Gloucester

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Website: Probate

Our mission is to expose and remedy corruption in the Probate Court of Cook County, Illinois. We assist, educate and enlighten families of the dead, the dying, the disabled and the aged to better understand their rights in order to protect themselves from the excesses of the Probate Court of Cook County. is dedicated to networking the human element of people to people. We join together in reforming the corrupt Cook County Probate Court system.


Potential Breakthrough in Understanding Alzheimer's

Researchers with the University of South Florida have made a potential breakthrough in the battle against Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers realized years ago that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) had less of a chance of Alzheimer's than those without, but no one knew why until recently.

Scientists at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute at USF have found people with RA have a protein released in their bloodstream that might protect against the disease.

According to Bay News 9's partner paper, the St. Petersburg Times, the USF team conducted the studies on mice, and human testing could be next. The study has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Full Article, Video and Source:
USF Researchers Make Advances in Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

Britney Spears Seeks Her Regain Control of Her Estate

After being hospitalized in January 2008 for a very public meltdown in 2007, pop star Britney Spears has had her personal and professional affairs controlled by her father Jamie Spears. A judge at the time ruled that he and lawyer Andrew Wallet should be made co-conservators of her business affairs. But lawyers involved in her case now believe that the singer is "more than ready" to take control of her own estate again.

Speaking with E! News, an insider revealed:

"Everyone involved believes she has the necessary proof that she is competent to be in charge of her affairs. She's more than ready."

Full Article and Source:
Britney Spears Seeks to Control Her Own Life and Finances

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Caught on Camera

A shocking case of elder abuse in Jersey City is caught on camera. The woman in the video is 91 years old. It's a case that has even seasoned cops shaking their heads. Mike Gilliam reports.

Source and Video:
Elder Abuse Case Caught on Camera

CT: Judge Bryan Meccariello Faces Judicial Misconduct Charges

Rare is the chutzpa so shamefully displayed by Southington Probate Court Judge Bryan F. Meccariello.

The judge who presided over a court process that expunged Sam Manzo, a humble farmhand, from Josephine Smoron's will, now wants to be the hero.

Meccariello told the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct this week that it was but a small mistake that he ignored Smoron's will in May 2009 when he gave the OK to the creation of two trusts that allowed the Smoron Farm to be acquired by a local developer.

The judge said he was merely trying to bring Smoron home before she died in June 2009at age 92.

At the time, Smoron lay dying in a nursing home. Her wish was to give the family farm, worth at least $1.5 million, to Manzo, her long-time caretaker. Meccariello hadn't seen her in more than a year. The man he appointed as her conservator — local lawyer John Nugent — never bothered to meet her. ("I don't speak dementia," Nugent artfully explained to the council this week.)

A Democrat who channels both Richard Nixon and Eddie Haskell, Meccariello told the council that he was merely adhering to a plan — a secret one unbeknownst to anyone but the judge — that would have brought dear old Josephine Smoron back to her beloved farm.

"The game plan," Meccariello declared, "was to create the vehicle that would allow her to get back to her house … My intentions were to get her back to that farm … I was blinded by the fact that this woman wanted to go home."

Manzo, who mortgaged (and lost to foreclosure) his home to help pay for some of Josephine Smoron's bills and who was removed by Meccariello as her conservator in 2008, could only shake his head. After Meccariello appointed Nugent, "there was no plan,'' Manzo told me.

Meccariello is the man who allowed the entire mess to unfold, who never would have been caught were it not for Manzo's complaint about a railroad job unfolding in the Southington Probate Court. This is the judge who, as Smoron's sad fate unfolded before his court over her last year, never bothered to find out how she was doing in the hospital or nursing home.

Yet he had a plan to save her.

Wednesday was the third time that Meccariello testified under oath before the council, but the first time he mentioned "the plan." He is before the council because he failed to notify Manzo about the hearing at which Meccariello changed the will. "A mistake," Meccariello said.

This mistake created two trusts that handed the farm to three local Catholic churches after Smoron's death. The churches, under an agreement arranged by Nugent, were then to sell the farm to a local developer. The developer, Carl Verderame, has already submitted plans for an indoor sports arena for the property, which is just off I-84.

All of this occurred despite the fact that in a 1996 will, Smoron stated that she was "intentionally" omitting any churches.

Full Article and Source:
Southington Probate Court Judge Bryan Meccariello Faces Judicial Misconduct Charges

See Also:
Appeal Filed in Smoron Case

IA: Legisltors Will Review State Laws on Elder Care

Jennifer Berg was no longer allowed to push her 76-year-old mother's wheelchair into the sunshine outside the nursing home, take photographs of her, or be alone behind a closed door.

Those were among the changes that occurred after the state took authority over the elderly woman's care.

Berg told two state lawmakers Thursday how her life and her mother's life had changed for the worse after officials of Iowa's Department of Human Services decided the elderly woman was not being supervised well enough at home. The department obtained a court order that prevents relatives from making any decisions regarding her housing, health care or finances.

"There was no allegation of abuse against me, and yet I was not allowed to do anything," Berg said during a meeting at the Iowa Capitol. "We were treated as if we were abusers."

After getting complaints from 13 families about how their elderly loved ones' care had spiraled out of their control once the DHS stepped in, two lawmakers said Thursday that they would press for changes in Iowa law.

"You have a problem. I think the department is broken. It needs to be fixed," Sen. Dennis Black, D-Grinnell, told top DHS officials Thursday.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, tempered those comments by saying he believed DHS employees had made thousands of good decisions for thousands of elderly Iowans.

But Hatch agreed that more needed to be done to ensure families get the best possible services and to reduce conflict with authorities. "I'm taking this as an opportunity for us to learn and to strengthen the system," he said.

Full Article and Source:
Iowa Legislators Will Review State Laws on Elder Care

Monday, September 20, 2010

Daughter Happy to Care for 101 Year-Old Mom

They sit side-by-side on a sofa in a Wauwatosa home, the daughter who is 60, the mother who is 101.

"God's grace," the daughter says. "I do believe he's sustaining her. We're learning a lot of lessons about kindness and patience."

For nearly nine years, Dorothy "Dotty" Williams has been the principal caregiver for her mom, Margaret "Margie" Hunt Dunn.

It's a story of love and faith. And it's not all that unusual - family members and friends provide the bulk of care for older adults in America.

Last week, at Wilson Park Senior Center, Williams testified during a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. She spoke movingly about her mom and caregiving, about the benefits of caring for someone you love so much, but also, about the emotional toll it can take.

Many in the crowd applauded. They knew, from firsthand experience, what Williams was going through.

Dunn has dementia. Two years ago, carrying her plate from the patio to the kitchen, she fell and broke her hip. Emergency surgery saved her life. She celebrated her 99th birthday in a hospital bed.

What's often lost in this society-wide tale of age and mortality is this: Caregivers need help, too; moments to shop, to take in a movie, to go for medical appointments, even to go out on a date with a spouse.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program has provided Williams with help, a small amount of money for what's known as respite care, to bring in someone else to watch a loved one for a few hours. In Milwaukee County, the program is administered through the Family Caregiver Support Network at Interfaith Older Adult Programs Inc.

Full Article and Source:
Daughter Happy to Care for Mom, 101, Despite Challenges for Both

CA: Class Action Against Skilled Healthcare Group Settles for $62.8 Mil

A class action involving violations of nursing home staffing regulations at Skilled Healthcare Group nursing facilities in California settled for $62.8 million on Sept. 8.

The parties came to an agreement after a jury in the Humboldt County Superior Court awarded the class plaintiffs $671 million for violations of state nursing home staffing requirements in July (Vinnie Lavender, et al. v. Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc., No. DR060264, Calif. Super., Humboldt Co.).

California Nursing Home Class Action Settles For $62.8 Million

See Also:
Motion for Mistrial or New Trial Denied to Skilled Healthcare Corp, Inc.

Couple Accused of Bilking Elderly Member

A Swansboro couple is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly family member.

Angela Carter and her husband William are charged with stealing more than one-hundred-fifty thousand dollars from a relative.

Angela Carter is being held on a 20-thousand dollar bond while her husband is in state prison on other unrelated charges.

Full Article and Source:
Swansboro Couple Bilk Elderly Family Member Out of Thousands

Sunday, September 19, 2010

DSHS Vows to Toughen Oversight of State's Adult Homes

In an attempt to overhaul Washington's adult family-home system, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is seeking new laws to boost the cost of opening new homes, raise training requirements and hike enforcement penalties for violators.

In addition, an adult-home-industry group asked DSHS to stop licensing new homes in three key counties — King, Snohomish and Clark. High vacancy rates are threatening to put dozens of owners out of business while reducing residents' quality of care.

The proposed changes are in response to a continuing investigation by The Seattle Times, Seniors for Sale, which found 236 deaths of vulnerable adults that indicate neglect or abuse but were not reported to the state or investigated.

Washington has licensed nearly 3,000 adult homes to provide board and care for up to six adults. Adult homes are less-regulated, less-expensive elder-care options than nursing homes, and are touted as providing personalized care in cozy, neighborhood settings.

But The Times found that hundreds of seniors have been injured or died prematurely from substandard care, often through neglect by scantly trained caregivers.

State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, chair of the Health and Long Term Care Committee, said: "We have work to do. We're going to have to push forward and take action. We cannot afford to have the kind of awful cases The Times uncovered to continue. We must put a stop to it."

Full Article and Source:
DSHS Vows to Toughen Oversight of State's Adult Homes

What's so Surprising About the Huguette Clark Inheritance Scandal?

It seems that almost every day now there’s a new story in the papers about Huguette Clark, the reclusive 104-year-old Manhattan heiress who is reported to have abandoned her luxurious homes for a simple hospital room, even as questions swirl about the conduct of her trusted financial advisors. The controversy has a number of complex layers, but at the core it has essentially become a public debate about whether or not an elderly rich person has been taken advantage of by the very individuals hired to protect her, namely her accountant, Irving Kamsler, and her attorney, Wallace Bock. Clark’s family members have filed suit, and New York City prosecutors are reportedly looking into allegations that these two advisers have fleeced their elderly client.

Whenever a vastly wealthy patriarch or matriarch reaches inheritance-splitting age, family disputes inevitably follow. Such disputes typically fall into one of two categories. First, there are the squabbles among the descendents themselves, each of whom generally wants to avoid getting less than any of the others, even if it means counting down to the very last penny. And second, there are battles between family members and wealth advisors, specifically the individual advisors who are closest to the aging (or recently deceased) holders of the family assets.

Full Article and Source:
What’s So Surprising About the Huguette Clark Inheritance Scandal?

Iowa Supreme Court Disciplinary Board Disciplines Stephen J. Lickiss

Charles L. Harrington and Wendell J. Harms, Des Moines, for complainant.Stephen J. Lickiss, Altoona, pro se.

This matter comes before us on the report of a division of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa. See Iowa Ct. R. 35.10. The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board alleged the respondent, Stephen J. Lickiss, violated ethical rules in four probate matters by neglecting these matters, failing to respond to clients' inquiries for information, taking probate fees without prior court approval, failing to notify his clients that he had ceased to represent them, and failing to respond to the board's inquiries. The grievance commission found Lickiss violated the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct and recommended a three-month suspension. Upon our respectful consideration of the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation of the commission, we find Lickiss committed several ethical violations and suspend his license to practice law indefinitely with no possibility of reinstatement for three months.

Full Document and Source:
No. 10-0363.