Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ginger Franklin Fights for Control of Her Life

Franklin’s story illustrates what can happen to anyone who falls under the control of a conservator, which is a guardian appointed by the court to oversee the affairs of someone unable to take care of themselves.

Franklin fell down the stairs in her condo in 2008 and suffered a brain injury. She spent two months in rehab hospitals. Now that she's recovered, she's finding it very difficult to dissolve the conservatorship. She's been trying for more than a year.

She said people have no idea how many rights you lose when your life is controlled by a conservator.

"They strip all your rights when you're conserved," Franklin said.

As she discovered, people in conservatorships can't pick their own doctors, see their medical records or refuse mind-altering medicine. They can't write checks, handle their own money, sell or give away their possessions or enter into contracts, not even cell phone or cable contracts. They can't get married and can't hire a lawyer.

"People who are in prison have more rights than people who are conserved," Franklin said.

Randy Kennedy is the judge of Probate Court in Nashville. He oversees about 1,800 conservatorship cases. The Channel 4 I-Team asked why it’s so hard for someone to dissolve a conservatorship.

Judicial ethics prohibit him from speaking about Franklin’s particular case, but Kennedy agreed to comment in general.

"Often times, people think they can just walk in and say, 'Despite my debilitating stroke, or despite my traumatic head injury, or despite my Alzheimer's or senile dementia, I'm OK now and you need to take my word for it,’" Kennedy said. "The courts are not supposed to be making those kinds of judgments without clear and convincing evidence."

Franklin said she believes she's provided enough proof that she's well.

Franklin said she wants her life back. Her car is gone -- she doesn't know where -- as are almost all of her household items. Her stocks are gone; her checking and savings are accounts nearly empty. She said the conservator filed bankruptcy without her knowledge.

"I'm 52 years old, and everything that I have has been liquidated," Franklin said. “I wasn’t a rich woman, but I had nice things.

Franklin said she hasn't had an accounting of how her money was spent. Her house is now in foreclosure.

The public guardian appointed to her case did not return the I-Team's phone calls. Franklin said the conservatorship was the worst thing that ever happened to her.

"I understand it was entered into it with good intentions, and I'm sure there are people who are conserved who need to be conserved. But it has not done me any good. It has ruined my life," Franklin said.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Fights For Control of Her Life

See Also:
Ginger's Story

Friday, November 19, 2010

October 23, 2007 “Emergency” Ex Parte Hearing vs. Danny Tate

Here’s the cast of characters:

Judge Randy Kennedy: sitting judge for the 7th Circuit Court, Davidson County, Nashville, TN., appointed to the bench by Governor Phil Bredesen to an elected bench.

David Tate: Petitioner and brother to Danny Tate (the alleged “disabled” Respondent) who was not present and who had no idea this secret proceeding was taking place.

Paul Housch: attorney for the Petitioner, David Tate. Also, close friend, business associate, fellow alumni and other questionable alliances with Judge Kennedy. Campaign contributor to Judge Randy Kennedy’s unopposed re-election to a bench he was never elected to in the first place. Had never met or laid eyes on Danny Tate.

Robert Stratton: proposed Guardian Ad Litem for Danny Tate. Also, campaign contributor to Judge Randy Kennedy’s unopposed re-election. He has never met Danny Tate. As GAL, his responsibility is to investigate the allegations made by the Petitioner, David Tate, and to represent the interests of the Respondent, Danny Tate.

[The video transcript of this proceeding has just come to light, over three years after it took place. Judge Kennedy's office denied that this video transcript existed]

Read the transcript of the 10/23/2007 "Emergency" Ex-Parte Hearing

View the Ex-Parte Hearing

See Also:
Impeachment Is Not Good Enough

Denver Man Accused of Swindling 19 Elderly Persons

A 47-year-old Denver man has been charged with swindling 19 elderly individuals out of more than $1 million over a three-year period, according to the Denver district attorney's office.

Michael Mendenhall was charged Monday with multiple counts of theft from an at-risk adult by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

The charges allege that Mendenhall took money from the elderly victims, some of whom had known Mendenhall for years, and signed promissory notes saying the money would be used for real estate acquisitions.

Investigators allege that instead of investing in real estate, Mendenhall used the funds for his personal residence, for his person use, to repay other investors, or to convert into cash.

The 22 promissory notes signed by Mendenhall and issued to 19 individuals were dated between Sept. 28, 2007, and Aug. 24, 2010. The promissory notes total $1,044,644, according to the arrest affidavit.

Full Article and Source:
Denver Man Charged with Bilking Elderly Out of More Than $1 Million

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lawyer/Guardian Cleared in Negligence Case

An attorney who was accused of negligence in the guardianship of an 83-year-old woman by the woman's family has been cleared of all allegations by a jury.

A daughter of Nannie McIntosh, Isabella Bennington had filed the civil suit against Tresa Gossett, a Bethel, Ohio attorney who serves as solicitor for the village of Aberdeen, Ohio. The civil case was unrelated to any duties Gossett has with the village.

Bennington alleged in her civil case that Gossett was not only negligent, but had converted some of her mother's property. She filed the suit in August, 2009.

Gossett filed a counter-complaint that the family was abusing a judicial process.

The case went to trial Monday, with Bennington's attorney, James Banks, outlining several specific accusations in his opening statement. Among those accusations, that Gossett did not permit McIntosh's daughters to visit her in the nursing homes where she spent the last several months of her life, that she failed to set up a payment arrangement for McIntosh's supplemental insurance, resulting in its cancellation and that items went missing from the home for which Gossett, as guardian, would have been responsible.

Gossett's attorney, Rick Weil, countered those claims in his opening statements mostly through the use of a time line beginning with a police report of a theft of $36,000 in January, 2007, long before Gossett knew the family. He also played a 911 recording in which one sister accused another of abusing their mother and described other calls placed by McIntosh in which she said she needed assistance with her medication and asked the dispatchers if they would like to buy a quilt.

Those 911 calls prompted protective services to become involved. Weil said probate court recommended an attorney as guardian because the family couldn't agree on a guardian.

Weil said Gossett had more than two decades experience as an attorney and no prior complaints of anything unethical. He described her as the "go-to" person for the court when there is need of a guardian.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Cleared in Negligence Case

See Also:
OH: Family Files Suit Against Guardian

Guardians Gone Wild? State Sanctioned Thievery at its Sickest

Sometimes there are people who need the help of others; people whose lives, for whatever reason, get turned upside down by mental illness, age, health issues, or even life altering situations. For these people, those who are left without family, friends, or anyone willing to care for them responsibly, the state should get involved. Or, at least, that's how it should work according to our current system.

Oftentimes these days the state involves itself much earlier under the auspices of caring for people, even those who still have a responsible support network.

Oregon is not untouched by this rampant pilfering of incapacitated peoples' assets.

A case that has the potential of becoming such a story is that of Carolyn Rousseau, from Grants Pass, Oregon. Rousseau was deemed mentally ill by Jackson County, Oregon, Circuit Judge Daniel Harris on November 5, 2008. According to court documents, Harris placed her on a 180-day commitment hold, and Ms. Rousseau effectively became a ward of the state. Soon thereafter the court appointed Nancy Doty, a professional guardian with a reported case-load of over 100 clients, as Carolyn's guardian and conservator. Not only could Doty make decisions on Carolyn's well being, but she could make financial decisions regarding Carolyn's personal property. Doty was given complete control and the 180-day hold has turned into 731 days as of this writing and most of this time has been spent away from the city that Carolyn calls home. Her friends, who believe Carolyn to be much improved, while still needing some sort of care, have been denied access to her. The foster home in Portland, Oregon, where Carolyn now resides won't even allow Carolyn to receive phone calls from most of them, reportedly on the orders of Nancy Doty.

Full Article and Source:
Guardians Gone Wild? State Sanctioned Thievery at its Sickest

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laurie Roberts: Six Months Later

Six months ago today [11/13/10], we learned that the probate judge who approved the draining of an elderly widow's life savings quietly sent an advance copy of her ruling to select attorneys – the ones who wound up with much of the old lady's money.

The revelation called into question whether Marie Long got a fair hearing in probate court. It even seemed to startle the legal community, which so often likes to wax on about high-minded concepts, things like fairness and impartiality. So much so, in fact, they are the first words you'll read in the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct. “An independent, fair and impartial judiciary,” it says, “is indispensable to our system of justice.”

Given that, you can imagine what has happened over the last six months. But first, some background, lest you've been living in a cave. Marie Long was worth $1.3 million when she suffered a stroke and came under the protection of Maricopa County's probate court in 2005. Now, the 89 year old is flat broke, relying on taxpayers for support.

In March, Commissioner Lindsay Ellis ruled that attorneys and fiduciaries were justified in helping themselves to $800,000 from Marie's trust. In her 21-page ruling, Ellis railed against Marie's sisters and her lawyers, saying their “hateful and unsubstantiated” attacks challenging the six-figure bills forced the fiduciaries and lawyers to defend themselves.

With Marie's money, naturally.

Full Article and Source:
Six Months Later: The (Non-Existing) Fallout From Ethics Lapse in Probate Court

GA: Court Employee Keeps Job Despite Arrest Record

Channel 2 Action News has learned that a DeKalb County Probate Court employee has been arrested at least four times, but she remains on the job.

According to DeKalb County policy, an employee could be terminated for that, but probate employees are exempt from the policy.

Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer went through records and learned that Jewel Margene Hendrix has been arrested twice for stealing and twice for drugs -- yet she continues to work inside the DeKalb County courthouse.

Fleischer also tracked down the judge who oversees that division to ask her why Hendrix is still on the job as a probate technician.

The probate office handles things like wills, execution of estates and guardianships.

Fleischer found that Hendrix has been arrested at least four times. The first was in Gwinnett County in 2008 when she was picked up at a Target store for shoplifting. Court records show the solicitor dropped the charges in March of 2009 after Hendrix completed a pre-trial diversion program.

The solicitor told Channel 2 that she never knew Hendrix was re-arrested just five days earlier in DeKalb County. Hendrix pleaded guilty to shoplifting from a Macy’s store. She entered DeKalb County drug court.

Then earlier this year, she was arrested twice for violating the drug court contract by using drugs.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the judge's office issued a statement, which read in part: "We are aware that she (Hendrix) was involved in a legal situation. As such, she was put on administrative leave without pay. Subsequently, the matter was diverted to a rehabilitation program, she is being monitored closely, and her performance thus far is satisfactory."

Full Article and Source:
Court Employee Keeps Job Despite Arrest Record

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Facility Kept Dying Judge Phillips Hostage, Lawsuit Claims

A Park Slope nursing home has been slapped with new charges that it held a frail Brooklyn judge prisoner by blocking his mail and visitors.

The allegations are the latest twist in a case launched this year by the family of Judge John Phillips against Prospect Park Residence - where Phillips lived for eight months until he died at age 83 in 2008.

"The whole thing was surreal," said John O'Hara, a lawyer for Phillips' family and also a longtime friend. "It looked like a nice place, but it was a death house."

Court papers filed Wednesday said nursing home officials misled Phillips' family and attorneys about the services they could provide for the diabetic ex-judge.

O'Hara "recently discovered that [Prospect Park Residence] was not in fact an assisted-living facility as they claimed to be," the lawsuit charged.

Phillips allegedly didn't get diabetic meals and regular insulin shots, which caused his health to plummet.

"Judge Phillips was confined against his will for approximately eight months by the defendants at their facility ... denying [him] proper medical care," the suit charged.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Kept Dying Judge John Phillips Hostage in 'Death House,' Lawsuit Claims

See Also:
Judge John L. Phillips - Justice Has Not Been Served

Family of 'Kung Fu Judge' John Phillips Sues Nursing Home Over Death, Allege Missed Insulin Shots

FL: Lawyer Who Billed State for More Than 24 Hour Days Won't be Disciplined

A Florida Bar grievance committee has dismissed a complaint against a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer accused of billing the state for more than 24 hours on 41 different days.

The committee noted that Jacksonville lawyer David Taylor had the support of several judges who had approved his bills over the state’s objection, the Florida Times-Union reports. Taylor told the Times-Union that 35 of the days for which he billed more than 24 hours included work done on other days. On six days, he said, his bills included work done by other lawyers he had hired.

The committee concluded it had no probable cause to discipline Taylor, but said his conduct was “not consistent with the high standards of our profession.”

Lawyer Who Filled Florida for More Than 24 House in a Day Won't be Disciplined

Monday, November 15, 2010

NASGA Press Release

For Immediate Release

September 2010 Report on Guardianships:
Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect, and Abuse of Seniors __________________________________________________

In December of 2009, NASGA submitted our white paper “Protecting Our Citizens from Unlawful and Abusive Guardianships and Conservatorships” to several Congressional committees and the White House. Despite numerous studies over the years pointing to the lack of monitoring and oversight of cases, many states continue to permit due process and civil and human rights violations and fail to protect their citizenry from financial exploitation, neglect, and abuse during “protective” proceedings. NASGA provided illustrations of these problems, and specifically requested federal intervention.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging requested the GAO to do a forensic study, instructing them to: (1) verify whether allegations of abuse by guardians are widespread; (2) examine the facts in selected closed cases; and (3) proactively test state guardian certification processes. Numerous NASGA member cases were submitted to the GAO for their review.

The investigators found that within their control study group, guardians stole or otherwise improperly obtained $5.4 million in assets from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were seniors. In some instances, guardians also physically neglected and abused their victims.

NASGA welcomes the GAO’s in-depth report as a positive step forward. The report corroborates some of the problems set forth in our white paper. Although the GAO was unable to determine whether “allegations of abuse” by guardians are widespread, NASGA’s continued growth is due specifically to the growing number of complaints of abuse from victim members across the country.

While the GAO was conducting its forensic investigation of closed cases, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing on May 25, 2010 on Fraud Against Senior Citizens. At that hearing, Rep. Louie Gohmert requested a model law. In response, retired Wauwatosa, WI police officer John Caravella, author of “Marked for Destruction” (a true story of a guardianship), drafted a proposed model law entitled "The Adele Chris Act." He submitted copies of the Act to Rep. Gohmert and Sen. Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, for review by their respective committees. NASGA applauds the work of John Caravella and supports his proposed law.

Although this issue should be of interest to other committees, NASGA feels the Senate Special Committee on Aging should spearhead the effort to meaningful reform, as it has been addressing the guardianship problem for many years and clearly recognizes the need for reform.

NASGA continues to reiterate the need for federal intervention. We have requested that the Senate Special Committee on Aging hold a series of hearings on this problem – both at the Senate and in the field (for the benefit of victims who are unable to make the trip to Washington D.C.) and look forward to the Senate’s response.

See Also:
GAO Releases Guardianship Study Report

NASGA's White Paper: "An Open Letter to Congress and the White House"

The Adele Chris Act

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Terri Schiavo's Brother, Bobby Schindler Speaks

There was not a dry eye in McGivney Hall's Keane auditorium as more than 150 students watched a short video of photos and footage from the life of Terri Schiavo-a Florida woman whose tragic medical condition riveted the nation and Congress five years ago.

The video presentation followed a talk given by Bobby Schindler, the late Terri Schiavo's brother and advocate from the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network, sponsored by the CUA student organization Students for Life.

Schindler's talk addressed the misconceptions surrounding Schiavo's death, its treatment by the media, and its ongoing impact in today's culture, in a presentation both emotionally moving, and factually startling.

For many, Schiavo's controversial 2005 death after suffering a traumatic brain injury in 1990 that left her severely disabled, was a vague memory. Current CUA students were between grades 7 and 10 when Schiavo died and for many the details of the case were unclear.

According to Schindler, this confusion exists for most of America because of the misleading coverage the case received in the mainstream media, the many rumors that circulated about its details, and a common atmosphere of both ridicule and acceptance surrounding the event that has developed in pop and media culture.

But Schindler's primary message was a call for awareness in the present day. "The reason why we're still talking about this case, why it's so important, is because this issue did not end with Terri," he said.

"This case is often talked about as an end-of life issue; it's not. She wasn't dying. She didn't have a terminal disease. Doctors said that Terri quite possibly could have lived a normal life span," Schindler argued. Many doctors have argued, however, that Terri's condition was irreversible.

Feeding tubes by law are considered extraordinary means of keeping a person alive. "The health care profession now recognizes food and water as artificial life support," Schindler said. "Food and water have been defined as medical treatment." While debate continues within the medical community, Schindler firmly expressed his belief that food and water should not be denied to patients in Terri's position.

After two weeks without food and water, Schiavo died of dehydration on March 31, 2005 at the age of 41. Schindler called it a "brutal death."

Full Article and Source:
Terri Schiavo Revisited - Brother, Bobby Schindler Speaks

Hospital Seeks Guardianship to Discharge Elderly Patient

In a rare legal move, Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Tuesday plans to ask a judge to revoke a Chicago woman's power of attorney over her hospitalized mother in order to discharge the elderly woman.

The hospital says in court documents that 86-year-old Dolores Bedin, who has inoperable pancreatic cancer, has been medically ready for release since Sept. 18. Her daughter, Janet, strongly disagrees.

"My mother wasn't strong enough to go home, and they wanted to force it," said Bedin's daughter, a businesswoman who is in charge of merchandising for a national retail developer. "She did not want to go home."

In its petition, the hospital is asking that a public guardian be appointed for Dolores Bedin, arguing that her daughter is not cooperating with the hospital's efforts to discharge her mother to a lower level of care and therefore not acting in her mother's best interests.

"Having to advocate on behalf of our patients in the courts is rare, and it is only done after careful thought and team consultations," said Kris Lathan, director of media and public relations. "In the case of Mrs. Bedin, we have filed a petition to seek guardianship for the management of her immediate and long-term care needs. Until the court responds, we are unable to comment any further."

Full Article and Source:
Hospital Says Elderly Woman Ready for Discharge; Daughter Says No