Saturday, October 9, 2010

139 Charges Pending in Exploitation Case

Frederick Police Chief Rick Guill says 47-year-old Polly Bennett was posing as a licensed nurse when she was hired to provide 24-hour care for a 65-year-old disabled woman.

Chief Guill says since June, Bennett is accused of stealing items from the woman's home and giving them to her boyfriend, 42-year-old John Muzac, who would then sell them at a pawn shop.

Guill says the pair was detained for outstanding warrants on Monday, and then arrested in this case yesterday.

He says charges in this case include 139 counts of concealing stolen property, grand larceny, and criminal conspiracy.

Source and Video:
Charges Pending in Tillman Co. Exploitation of the Elderly Case

Court Overturns US Tycoon's Will That Left Fortune to Panama's Poor

It was going to be the largest single charitable donation in Panama's history: more than $50m (£32m) for poor children.

Wilson Lucom, a U.S. tycoon, left most of his estate to a foundation to help the neediest people in the country where he lived until his death in 2006, aged 88.

Now, four years later, after a bitter legal battle, the fortune is going to one of Panama's most powerful dynasties – including the ambassador to Britain – and the children have been left without a cent.

Panama's supreme court declared Lucom's will void in August, it has emerged, giving the entire estate to his widow, Hilda, the ailing, octogenarian matriarch of the Arias family, which has extensive media, property and financial interests.

Her five children from a previous marriage – scions of a family which boasts former presidents as well as ministers and diplomats – are expected to inherit the money after she dies.

Critics have accused the tycoon's widow of greed and questioned the integrity of Panama's judicial system.

Full Article and Source:
Court Overturns U.S. Tycoon's Will That Left Fortune to Panama's Poor

Suspects Surprised!

The five men all accused of swindling an elderly couple in July walked into their preliminary hearings Wednesday expecting to waive their hearings, be assigned a court date and leave Magisterial District Judge Chester Darlington's office about an hour later.

Instead, three of them found themselves in handcuffs, with two defendants — Michael Truman Smith and Albert Ricky Stanley — in custody in lieu of $225,000 cash bail after being accused of committing crimes not only in Chester County, but in Montgomery, Delaware and Berks counties as well.

Police withdrew the original charges against Smith and Stanley and submitted more serious charges while they were still in the courtroom sitting next to their attorney, Joseph Marrone. If convicted of all of the new charges, the two are facing a maximum sentence of 380 years in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Suspects Surprised by 26 Felony Charges

WI: Workman's Comp Agency Cannot Decide Where Incapacitated Individual Lives

In a case presenting a "novel issue," the Wisconsin Appeals Court upheld a circuit court ruling that limits the authority of the Department of Workforce Development in making decisions about where an incapacitated individual can live and receive treatment and care.

In 1979, Paul LaBeree sustained severe brain injuries, causing quadriplegia, while working as an employee of Bowman Plumbing Co. Bowman conceded liability and paid and continues to pay medical treatment expenses under the workers compensation statutes.

Because of the injuries, LaBeree requires protective placement under Wis. Stat. ch. 55, which is designed to place individuals with “mental illness, degenerative brain disorder, developmental disabilities, or other like incapacities” under protective care.

In placing an individual, chapter 55 is designed “to place the least possible restriction on personal liberty and exercise of constitutional rights consistent with due process and protection from abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and self-neglect.” Wis. Stat. section 55.001.

Through 2004, LaBeree received institutional care at the Dunn County Health Care Center, costing Bowman $174 per day. In 2005, LaBeree’s guardian ad litem proposed a “community integration plan,” costing $549 per day, so LaBeree could live in a specially equipped duplex next to his father. The circuit court approved the plan as “the least restrictive.”

In 2006, LaBeree filed a worker’s compensation claim, alleging Bowman refused to pay the additional expense associated with LaBeree’s home-based care.

An administrative law judge for the DWD denied LaBeree’s claim, finding that LaBeree failed to prove his “transfer from institutional to home care was reasonable and necessary” under Wis. Stat. section 102.42(1), which requires an employer to pay an injured worker’s reasonable and necessary medical treatment expenses.

Full Article and Source:
In Worker’s Compansation Case, Agency Cannot Decide Where Incapacitated Individual Lives

Friday, October 8, 2010

TN Lawyers Fear Retaliation From Judicial System

State lawmakers learned Tuesday that attorneys are afraid to complain about some Tennessee judges, fearing retaliation from the judicial system. They also heard stories about judges refusing to step down from cases even though those judges had conflicts of interest.

The revelations stunned state Sen. Dewayne Bunch, R-Cleveland, who is chairman of a committee that is studying Tennessee's system for investigating complaints against judges and disciplining judges.

The Court of the Judiciary is a 16-member panel of judges appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court that hears complaints and decides the proper punishment — if any — for judges. Critics have called for more transparency in how judicial complaints are resolved. Most of its records and deliberations are kept secret unless formal charges are pursued.

Middle Tennessee attorneys Connie Reguli and Jim Roberts said they had been retaliated against for asking a judge to step down on different cases.

"We know who the honest judges are. We know who the dishonest judges are. We're deathly afraid of being retaliated against," Roberts said. "This is a persistent problem. Lawyers don't want to file motions to recuse."

Roberts and Reguli said retaliation took the form of their cases being dismissed, accusations of civil contempt and complaints filed against them with the Board of Professional Responsibility — the body that disciplines lawyers in Tennessee.
Court of the Judiciary Presiding Judge Don Ash said most of the issues raised Tuesday were unproven allegations, and he said he is confident most judges behave. He also expressed confidence in the Court of the Judiciary to correct those who don't.

Full Article and Source:
TN Attorneys Say They Fear Retribution if They File Complaints Against Judges

See Also:
TN: Lawyers Talk About Judicial Mistreatment

Nebraska: State Panel Suggest 55 Ways to Improve Guardian and Conservator System

In all, a state panel suggested 55 ways to shore up the Nebraska courts' guardian and conservator system to protect the health and wealth of the vulnerable.

All were issued in the wake of The World-Herald series that revealed shoddy oversight of those who are supposed to watch over the elderly and incapacitated.

But hovering over a state committee's far-ranging proposals was what Friday's report didn't recommend:

How to pay for the changes. How much they would cost. And where that funding would come from.

After an intense five months of studying the issue, the 14-member committee left those heavy questions for a later date.

For now, members say, they wanted the courts and the Legislature to look at swift, low-cost measures.

In fact, many of the recommendations were simply reinforcements of practices that judges, attorneys and volunteer guardians and conservators were supposed to be doing all along.

“It's not a sprint, it's a marathon,” said Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican, who appointed the committee in April after reading The World-Herald series detailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in thefts from wards.

Statewide, more than 12,400 incapacitated Nebraskans currently have a guardian to oversee their health, a conservator to oversee their wealth or a guardian-conservator to do both.

Douglas County has the most wards (3,582), followed by Lancaster County (1,625) and Sarpy County (626). Twelve other county courts each oversee more than 100 wards.

Heavican praised what he called the committee's “sensible” short-term recommendations.

Among them, the committee called on the courts to:

Ÿ Perform background checks on anyone who wants to serve as a guardian or conservator, paying particular attention to any financial judgments against them.

Ÿ Create a statewide database of guardians and conservators.

Ÿ Require each conservator to post bond insurance on estates over $10,000.

Ÿ Ban the use of debit/ATM cards and have police alert court clerks to bank reports detailing “suspicious” account activities.

Ÿ Require quicker filing of inventories of wards' assets — and require that such inventories be sent to wards' family members.

“Those kinds of things are very practical and involve a lot of common sense,” Heavican said, “and are things that we can implement very quickly.”

[T]he report called on the Legislature to establish a committee and spend 2011 looking at the potential cost of setting up a public guardian system.

State Sen. John Wightman of Lexington, chairman of the review committee, estimated that such a statewide office eventually could cost $500,000 to $1 million a year.

But without a public office, Wightman said, the burden will only increase on the volunteers who serve as guardians, even as auditors.

“Nebraska has the opportunity to learn from ... the other states as to how to design an office that could best leverage public/private resources to meet this increasing need,” the report said.

The committee made no recommendations on a few issues exposed in The World-Herald series:

Ÿ Appointing two people to a case, one to oversee the ward's physical welfare and another to oversee his financial welfare.

Ÿ Appointing two independent conservators so that both have to sign off on bill payments, a practice accountants recommend.

Ÿ Requiring conservators to file accountings more often than once a year.

Ÿ Allowing urban judges to specialize in guardian law.

The chief justice said he hopes to implement many of the committee's recommended practices by 2011. Those that require a law change will be forwarded to the Legislature for consideration in the 2011 session, he said.

Heavican said he also will consider the committee's final recommendation to him: formation of an ongoing commission to monitor courts' performance and national trends.

Nationwide, the issue will become even more pressing as the elderly population is expected to exceed 71 million by 2030 — more than double the number in 2000.

“These issues are going to become more and more important with the huge number of retiring baby boomers,” Heavican said. “That alone is enough to remind us that we have to keep focused and not give up the fight.”

Full Article and Source:
Guardian-Improvement Ideas Offered

How the Probate System Trumps 'Unalienable Rights'

Guardianships (also called conservatorships) are legal instruments once largely associated with caring for minor children or perhaps the elderly, but as adult Americans of all ages are increasingly targeted for this status - sometimes under quite questionable circumstances - a closer look is needed at both this freedom-diverting tool and the probate courts in which these actions occur.

Probate courts are often seen as quiet, low-profile venues that perform administrative oversight when people die. The power of these courts is underestimated as they routinely control assets worth millions, even billions, of dollars. The Declaration of Independence proclaims individual's endowment by our Creator "with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" yet with the stroke of a pen, probate judges routinely strip adult Americans of these very rights.

Guardianships can be executed over a person, over their estate or both. Legal declarations of incapacitation or disability are a powerful tool of probate courts and appointed personnel. Anyone seeking to dispute such actions faces expensive, time-consuming court battles in an often biased system that values legal gamesmanship and cronyism, not right and wrong.

Full Article and Source:
Adult Guardianships - How the Probate System Trumps 'Unalienable Rights'

Schwarzenegger Pushes to Keep Violent Felons Out of Home Care

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called on state lawmakers to enact legislation that would prevent violent felons from caring for ailing residents in California home health care programs.

Schwarzenegger said in his letter to Senate and Assembly leaders that current rules that keep the department from rejecting caregiver candidates with criminal records represent a grave threat to the safety of home care recipients.

"Choosing to protect these felons over the vulnerable beneficiaries in this program is akin to releasing violent felons from prison and sending them straight into a nursing home on a work-release program," the governor wrote.

"We are allowing these people into the homes of vulnerable individuals without supervision," said John Wagner, director of the state Department of Social Services. "It is dangerous. These are serious convictions."

State and county investigators have not reported violent crime backgrounds because program rules allow felons to work as home care aides. They can only be disqualified if there's a history of specific types of child abuse, elder abuse or defrauding of public assistance programs.

Privacy laws prevent warning elderly, infirm and disabled residents that caregivers are felons.

Some 996 convicted felons have been identified as working or seeking jobs in the program since background checks started last year. Some 786 of them were removed or declared ineligible, but the rest are expected to be employed in the program, state Social Services said.

Full Article and Source:
Calif. Gov Wants New Home Health Hiring Laws

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Father: "I Do Call it Gestapo Justice."

[A]fter three decades of raising their daughter, Frank and Chila Covington have been cut out of Ceci's world. They are allowed to see their 39-year old daughter, who lives in a nursing home, just a few hours a week.


Article and Source:
Arlington Couple Seeks Return of Disabled Daughter, After "Secret Hearing"

See Also:
Families Lose Guardianship in Secret Hearings

Arizona Supreme Court Committee Makes Suggestions to Rein in Fees

Arizona's Probate Courts need better-trained judges and a better way to monitor the costs and care of people who can't manage their own money or affairs because of advanced age or illness.

These are among the dozen initial recommendations by an Arizona Supreme Court committee assigned to help improve the way Probate Courts in each county care for stricken adults and children.

But the committee's toughest assignment still lies ahead: Find specific ways to stop fees charged by attorneys and for-profit fiduciaries, who manage their financial affairs and health care, from draining much or all of the life savings of an incapacitated person, or ward.

An Arizona Republic investigation, which began with a series of columns, found that Probate Court judges can fail to step in and stop the hemorrhaging of a ward's assets through fees. The cases often involve court-appointed private fiduciaries and various attorneys whose charges soar because of legal fights spurred by family disputes.

Full Article and Source:
Maricopa County Probate Court - Panel Makes Suggestions to Rein in Fees

Legislation Aimed to Help Seniors Remain in Their Homes Moves Forward

A program of Housing and Urban Development, Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, is headed for expansion and improvement, according to an announcement from the office of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging.

The Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development last week approved Kohl’s legislation, S.118.

The Section 202 program provides capital grants to non-profit community organizations for the development of supportive housing and provision of rental assistance exclusively for low-income seniors.

“Through such housing and supportive services, the program allows low-income seniors to remain safely in their homes,” according to the news release.

Full Article and Source:
Legislation Moves Forward to Increase Low-Cost Housing Options for Senior Citizens

Fraud Suspects Appear in Federal Court

Two former Modesto men accused of bilking $10 million from elderly homeowners pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court in Fresno.

Jim Lankford, who owned Century 21 Apollo, and his roommate, Jon McDade, were released Friday in San Francisco after posting unsecured property bonds of $1 million each. They surrendered passports and were ordered not to sell assets or take out lines of credit, a Department of Justice spokeswoman said.

According to an indictment, the men gained the trust of elderly property owners, lied to obtain lending, forged documents and moved property among them to secure multiple loans. Lankford is charged with 49 counts of mail fraud. McDade faces 10 counts of mail fraud and one of bank fraud.

Full Article and Source:
2 Modesto Fraud Suspects Appear in Federal Court

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TN: Lawyers Talk About Judicial Mistreatment

Lawyers and citizens were on the witness stand to talk about not only how they were mistreated by judges but what happened after they complained in a special hearing Tuesday, which was part of an official examination into how judges are disciplined in Tennessee.

John Jay Kooker, a constitutional lawyer who ran for governor three times, sued former Gov. Don Sundquist for hosting fundraisers in the governor's mansion. His suit was called frivolous, he was fined $5,000 and his license was revoked.

He wanted his judge investigated, but it didn't happen.

The story held weight with state Sen. Doug Jackson.

"If we are looking for specific examples for a potential problem, this might very well be one of those examples," Jackson said.

The special judiciary committee is studying how judges are reprimanded and what needs to change.

Their recommendations could lead to new laws. Many in state government said they think judges are given too much special treatment, such as private reprimands and being allowed to stay on cases where they have been found to have acted inappropriately.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyers Talk About Judicial Mistreatment

See Also:
Tennessee Lawmakers Consider Making Judicial Discipline Public

Former Court-Appointed Guardian Pleads Guilty

A former court-appointed guardian and conservator pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to two theft counts and two counts of abuse of vulnerable adults in connection with the theft of more than $240,000 from three wards.

Dinah Turrentine-Sims, 59, faces up to 50 years in prison when she is sentenced in December.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said his office was prepared to file more charges against Turrentine-Sims if she didn’t enter the pleas. Turrentine-Sims was suspected of stealing more than $400,000 from at least eight wards over a two-year period.

With her attorney, Martin Cannon, by her side, she entered the pleas to the four original charges she faced in the case – charges that stemmed from her oversight of three wards.

A World-Herald series exposed several shortcomings in the system that allowed Turrentine-Sims to bleed the estates of the people she was assigned to protect.

Those shortcomings, among others, prompted Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican, to assign a committee to look at ways to shore up the state’s guardian and conservator system.

Under the system, judges appoint volunteers to oversee the physical and financial welfare of incapacitated people.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian Pleads Guilty to Theft

See Also:
Guardian Overcharged for Handyman's Work

Insurer of Juvenile Detention Facility Has No Duty to Defend in Luzerne County Suits

Gregory Zappala, the owner of the juvenile detention facility at the heart of the "kids-for-cash" judicial corruption scandal in Luzerne County, suffered a setback this week when a federal judge ruled that his insurer has no duty to defend him in a spate of civil suits.

Prosecutors have never charged Zappala with any wrongdoing, but the civil suits allege that he was part of a RICO conspiracy and was aware that kickbacks were being paid by his former partner to judges in order to guarantee that a steady stream of youths would be sent to a juvenile detention facility owned by Zappala's company.

Zappala, the owner of Mid-Atlantic Youth Services, has argued in court papers that he never knew that former MAYS co-owner Robert Powell paid kickbacks to former Judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan.

Full Article and Source:
Judge: Facility Owner's Insurer has no Duty to Defend Luzerne Suits

Former Judge Mark Ciavarealla Facing New Indictment

A federal grand jury issued a new indictment against former Luzerne County judge Mark Ciavarella that drops nine of the original 48 counts that had been filed against him and former judge Michael Conahan relating to the county juvenile justice scandal.

The 39-count indictment is virtually identical to the previous charges that had been filed against the former judges, except it drops four counts of honest services fraud that were filed against Ciavarella relating to his mailing of false statements of financial interest to a state office.

The revised indictment also drops one count of money laundering conspiracy against Ciavarella and four counts of tax evasion that were filed against Conahan, who has entered a plea deal with prosecutors and is not named as a defendant in the new document.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two indictments relates to modified language that is included in the new document, which more directly ties charges of honest services wire fraud to a bribery and kickback scheme.

In a press release, U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith said his office sought the new indictment in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued in June that declared portions of the honest services fraud statute unconstitutional.

Full Article and Source:
Ciavarella Facing New Indictment

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tennessee Lawmakers Consider Making Judicial Discipline Public

If a Tennessee judge does something illegal, inappropriate or acts beneath the office, a special group of judges investigates the charges. Now those investigators are on the witness stand as lawmakers consider making judge investigations completely public for the first time.

The investigation of judges in the state of Tennessee is a largely private affair.

For example, an average of about one complaint per day was reported in 2009, and 95 percent of those complaints were dismissed without investigation. Of the handful of cases where the court of the judiciary found problems with judges, five were settled with private letters, five were settled with public letters and censure and seven were retired because the judge quit.

Sen. Mae Beavers, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that everyone should have the benefit of knowing both the allegation and the outcome.

"I just don't ever think it's a good idea to be so secretive," said Beavers. "There are judges that may have done something that's rather egregious, and yet it's kept private."

Full Article,Video, Online Poll and Source:
Lawmakers Consider Public Judge Investigations

CT: Accountant Ordered to Repay Tusts $4.2 Mil

Probate Judge James Kelley has ruled that Norwich accountant F. Robert LaSaracina "willfully mismanaged" nine family trusts known collectively as the Kauppinen Trusts and must repay them more than $4.2 million.

Kelley, in a decision filed in Norwich Probate Court, rejected LaSaracina's accounting of his handling of the estate as trustee, finding that LaSaracina engaged in self-dealing with regard to trust assets; commingled trust assets with personal business assets; and encumbered trust real estate with "ill-advised and excessively expensive loans … for no reasonable purpose discernable by this court."

LaSaracina, Kelley found, "has caused irreparable harm to the trusts by 'lending' money … to other clients … family-owned business interests and client-owned businesses in derogation of the fiduciary duties (as trustee)."

Full Article and Source:
LaSaracina Ordered to Repay $4.2 Million to Family Trusts

Indiana Appellate Court Upholds Ruling

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling by Bartholomew Superior Court Judge Chris Monroe that Will Miller and Sarla Kalsi acted properly in the handling of the estates of his Miller’s parents, J. Irwin and Xenia Miller.

In their ruling, members of the court dismissed many of the points of contention raised by appellant Hugh Miller, eldest son of J. Irwin and Xenia Miller and Will’s brother.

Hugh Miller had originally charged in a lawsuit that his brother and Kalsi, a long-time advisor to the Miller family, had breached their fiduciary duties and that Will Miller had personally benefited from actions he had taken while handling his mother’s business affairs.

Many of Hugh Miller’s complaints focused on repairs and improvements made on the family properties at 2760 Highland Way and the Irwin Home and Gardens on Fifth Street as well as an estate in Canada.

In that Xenia Miller had become incapacitated in the years following her husband’s death in 2005, the court agreed with Judge Monroe’s rulings that Will Miller and Kalsi as attorneys in fact were acting as they believed Mrs. Miller would have acted had she been able.

Full Article and Source:
Appeals Court Upholds Handling of Miller Estate

OH: Judge Raises Ethics Questions

New Probate Judge Alan S. Acker appointed his sons to a $20-an-hour job looking for valuables despite ethics rules against nepotism.

And during his four months on the Franklin County bench, Acker also has continued to run a family business that collects fees from probate lawyers. The Ohio Supreme Court’s rules tell judges to avoid any situation that “involves the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships” with lawyers who come before the judge’s court.

Acker, a lawyer for 33 years, said he’s done nothing improper since Gov. Ted Strickland appointed him to a vacancy in the spring.

“I believe the bar knows my integrity,” he said. “I’ll rule honestly and impartially based on what the law is without concern of who is standing before me.”

Others say he might have breached the judicial canons, or even state law.

Full Article and Source:
New Judge's Acts Raise Ethics Questions

Monday, October 4, 2010

Georgia Businesman Indicted for Bilking Elderly Out of Millions

A federal grand jury has indicted a Peachtree City businessman on charges that he bilked elderly investors out of $15.8 million.

U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks in Dallas said Eldon A. Gresham Jr. was indicted on 10 counts of mail fraud in connection with a foreign currency exchange trading company he operated.

Prosecutors say that Gresham recruited at least 90 people in Georgia, Texas and several other states to invest in his business.

Jacks said he targeted elderly Christians, telling them that their investments would "further God's work."

Indictment for Bilking Elderly of Millions

Judge Cuts Woman Out of Trust Fund

In addition to cutting her from her family’s fortune, Hillsborough County Probate Court Judge Gary Cassavecchia accuses Elizabeth Tamposi of several transgressions, including making false statements about her income and debts.

Cassavecchia’s 54-page order cuts Betty Tamposi out of the trust fund founded by her father, the late developer Sam Tamposi of Nashua, and also orders her to pay back any money she received over the past two years.

The judge’s order also suggests that Tamposi made misrepresentations on a mortgage loan application, a relatively common offense for which relatively few people are ever prosecuted.

Describing the former U.S. State Department official’s conduct regarding two loan applications on pages 23 and 24 of the order, Cassavecchia wrote that Tamposi applied for a loan from Sovereign Bank in 2007 to finance renovations to her home on Governor’s Island in Gilford.

In the application, he wrote, “Betty falsely reported that she had been self-employed at Citrus Hills Construction for 21 years and had a monthly income from employment of $98,876.66.”

In fact, Cassavecchia wrote elsewhere in his order, Betty Tamposi had “no employment income” at the time.

Betty Tamposi also failed to note in the application that she had just co-signed a loan for her daughter’s college tuition just a few weeks earlier, and claimed that she was not involved in any pending litigation, Cassavecchia wrote. She also misstated the value and her ownership of a property in Nashua, he wrote.

Tamposi offered an explanation, but the judge didn’t buy it, he wrote.

“Betty’s effort to attribute these falsehoods and the omission to the assistance rendered by others is not found credible, especially given her level of education, experience with legal matters, and general level of sophistication,” Cassavecchia wrote.

Knowing and willful false statements about employment, income, assets and debt... on a mortgage application would likely constitute a crime under federal law,” [Assistant US Attorney William]Morse said.

Just because someone gives false information doesn’t mean that they’ve done so knowingly and willingly, however, he noted. Also, the misinformation must be “material” in order for it to be criminal; it must be information that affects the decision to grant or deny the loan.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Writes of Falsehoods By Betty Tamposi

One Year, Restitution in Exploitation Case

A 36-year-old Wahpeton, N.D., woman will serve at least three months in jail after stealing $260,000 from an elderly man she befriended, a prosecutor said.

After pleading guilty in May to charges of exploiting a vulnerable adult, Rhonda Thiel was given a 10-year term with all but one year suspended in a sentencing hearing in Richland County District Court, said Ronald McBeth, Richland County State’s Attorney.

McBeth said Thiel must serve at least 90 days in jail, but she can do the rest of the one-year term while on house arrest.

She was also ordered to make restitution payments to the man’s estate – a lump sum of $10,000 by Sept. 30, $600 a month for 10 years, and mortgage payments on the man’s house.

Thiel will be on supervised probation for 10 years and could have her probation revoked if she doesn’t make the payments, McBeth said.

Full Article and Source:
One Year, Restitution in Exploitation Case

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Britney Spears Remains Conserved

Pop star Britney Spears still cannot enjoy complete independence. Her personal and business affairs will remain under the conservatorship of her father, a Los Angeles judge ruled on Thursday.

The 28-year-old ‘Toxic’ singer privately met up with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Reva Goetz, who ruled that the conservatorship that Britney has been placed under is not to be yet altered.

Britney’s father Jamie Spears also met the judge separately, behind closed doors.

Though in last few status meetings with Spears’ lawyers, the judge had discussed about freeing her from the legal control of her father and attorney, but after meeting with Britney and Jamie Spears, she decided on keeping the conservatorship in place.

After talking to Spears in court chambers, Judge Goetz thought that although the singer seemed to be in improved health, she remained “susceptible to undue influence.”

Full Article and Source:
Britney Spears Remains Under Conservatorship

See Also:
Britney Spears Seeks to Regain Control of Her Estate

Georga Probate Judge Kenneth E. Fowler De-Benched

The Georgia Supreme Court took action against Judge Kenneth E. Fowler of the Twiggs County Probate Court. The state's Judicial Qualifications Commission also found that Fowler told defendants they had to prove themselves to be innocent, placed money from the "buy out" of the community services into a bank account in which only he was authorized to release the money, failed to disclose an account to the county, and failed to turn over the money to the county, among other violations.

"Judge Fowler readily admits to much of the misconduct, as the evidence showing the misconduct is substantial ... he is simply unwilling to live up to his legal and ethical responsibilities as a judge," the justices wrote in a per-curiam decision.

Fowler is barred from ever holding an elected or appointed office in the state of Georgia.

Full Article and Source:
Georgia Probate Judge Removed from Bench

See Also:
Text of Supreme Court's Decision

PA Lawyer John Karoly Jr. Disbarred

A prominent eastern Pennsylvania attorney has been disbarred after being convicted of tax evasion and money laundering.

The state Supreme Court on Monday accepted the resignation of 60-year-old Allentown attorney John Karoly Jr. He pleaded guilty last year to charges stemming from a case in which he was accused of forging a will after his wealthy brother and sister-in-law died in a plane crash.

Karoly was later convicted in a charity fraud case for steering a $500,000 tax-free donation back to himself. He was sentenced to more than six years in prison in May.

Karoly was well-known in the Lehigh Valley after winning more than $10 million for clients in police-abuse lawsuits. He can reapply for his license in five years.

Attorney Disbarred Following Convictions

Appellate Court Upholds Lawyer's Suspension

The state Appellate Court has upheld a 15-month law license suspension for a New Britain lawyer accused of overcharging his clients in a contentious Plainville probate case.

A Superior Court judge in New Britain imposed the suspension last year against the lawyer, Jacek Smigelski, as part of a lawsuit brought by the Statewide Grievance Committee, which investigates complaints of misconduct by lawyers.
Smigelski appealed the decision to Appellate Court, which upheld the lower court's decision this week.

Smigelski could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the grievance committee said that the suspension has been stayed as Smigelski appeals to the state Supreme Court.

Smigelski had been hired by two brothers, Stanley and Kazimierz Kosiorek, to file a lawsuit against their late father's widow, Bronislawa Kosiorek.

She was 19 years younger than her husband, Stanislaw Kosiorek of Plainville, and the couple had married just a year before he died.

Six weeks before his death, Stanislaw Kosiorek transferred the title to his home to Bronislawa Kosiorek. The brothers believed that their father's signature on the deed had been forged, and they sued Bronislawa Kosiorek in an attempt to reclaim possession of the house.

Bronislaw Kosiorek eventually settled and gave back the house in return for $35,000 from the proceeds of its sale.

The house was sold, and after she took her share, $120,000 was left. According to court documents, Smigelski then took $65,833 of that amount and told the brothers that represented his fee. The brothers had already paid him a $5,000 retainer.

Plainville Probate Judge Heidi Famiglietti later ruled that Smigelski should only receive a fee of $16,000. He did not comply, and the brothers filed a complaint with the Statewide Grievance Committee.

Full Article and Source:
Appellate Court Upholds Lawyer's Suspension