Saturday, December 18, 2010

TX Disability Rights Advocates to File Class-Action Lawsuit

Disability rights advocates will file a class-action lawsuit on Monday, alleging that Texas leaders have violated the Americans with Disabiltiies Act by confining some 4,500 Texans with disabilities in nursing homes.

The suit, which will be filed in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, will argue that the individuals have been segregated and not provided with treatment and services they need, according to a press release sent out this afternoon.

Among the advocates filing the suit are Garth Corbett, senior attorney at Advocacy Inc.; Rob Velevis, litigation associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Mike Bright, executive director of The Arc of Texas; and Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities.

Advocates Filing Suit Over Disabled in Nursing Homes

Senior Care Placement Companies Scramble to Cash In

For the elderly, it happens unexpectedly and all too often: They suffer a stroke or break a hip and find themselves unable to live safely in their home. Suddenly, their family must scramble to find them care and a new place to stay.

Dozens of private agencies in Washington state promise to guide families through the labyrinth of options to an adult family home or assisted-living facility that best fits their needs — all for free.

But behind these free offers can lurk a hidden cost.

Placement companies, which rely on commission-only sales people, funnel the aged only to facilities that have agreed to pay thousands of dollars in finders' fees.

In addition, most placement companies do not screen homes for past violations. As a result, many have referred seniors to facilities with documented histories of substandard care, including fatal neglect.

In 143 cases over the past three years, seniors were victimized after companies placed them in adult family homes, or other long-term- care facilities, that had a record of serious violations, a Times analysis of Department of Social and Health Services documents reveals. The documents did not identify placement companies by name.

Full Article and Source:
Senior Care Placement Companies Scramble to Cash In

See Also:
About the Seniors for Sale Series

Looking for Eldercare? Use These Checklists

Disbarred Lawyer Under House Arrest

A disbarred lawyer — who has found himself on the other side of the law in both federal and state court — was ordered to remain under house arrest until Jan. 10 when he is scheduled for sentencing in a scam involving deceased clients.

The latest condition levied on George Guyer Young III, 49, stemmed from another arrest last October for causing a three-car crash in Upper Providence while he was operating a silver Jaguar under the influence.

Judge Charles C. Keller imposed the house arrest after a motion was made by Assistant District Attorney Robert Manzi to revoke bail for Guyer. Defense attorney Mary Beth Welsh, who represents Young, opposed the motion.

The ruddy-faced defendant is awaiting sentencing on charges he pocketed money from deceased clients in an unclaimed property scam, and that some of the estimated $50,000 was used to pay off restitution in a federal case in which he ripped off veterans, said Manzi.

The county charges carry a maximum of 14 years in jail.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-lawyer Gets House Arrest Until Sentencing

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bobby Schindler Interview On Behalf of Gary and Sara Harvey

Bobby Schindler (brother of the late Terri Schiavo) is interviewed on the Amy McManus radio show in support of Sara and Gary Harvey:

YouTube: Amy McManus' Channel

Smoron Farm Probate Mess Slowly Cleaning Up

Gradually, the mess surrounding the Smoron Farm in Southington - where a probate judge and court-appointed conservator attempted to subvert the will of an elderly woman - is getting cleaned up.

A state grievance panel has found probable cause in a complaint filed by Sam Manzo, the caretaker who was supposed to inherit Josphine Smoron's farm until John Nugent, the conservator, and Bryan Meccariello, the judge, engineered a deal that funneled the lucrative parcel of land to a local developer.

This sordid case is the latest example of why we need to keep a closer watch on both our probate judges and the lawyers they appoint as conservators.

This poor woman's will was effectively nullified without her ever being consulted by her lawyer. Meccariello, when he approved the changes, held a court hearing where he was the only one present. Smoron died shortly after Meccariello's decision in the case.

In a decision released Wednesday, the grievance panel found that Nugent failed to ever meet with Josephine Smoron, even though he was her court-appointed conservator in charge of all her finances. He changed the will to make three local churches the beneficiaries of Smoron's estate and then made a deal with a developer to acquire the land.

According to the grievance committee's finding, there is probable cause that Nugent violated a number of rules of professional conduct for lawyers, including "failure to abide by a client's decisions" and a failure to "attempt to ascertain information necessary for proper representation" and failure "to protect the client."

Full Article and Source:
Smoron Farm Probate Mess Slowly Cleaning Up

See Also:
Editorial: Impeachment Clearly Called for in Probate Case

IN Supreme Court Suspends Attorney for at Least 3 Years

A former Highland-based attorney who bilked a non-English speaking client out of $24,000 has been suspended from practicing law for at least three years.

The Indiana Supreme Court voted 5-0 to suspend Jerry I. Shapiro for violating eight separate rules of professional conduct, including "engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

According to the court's order, Shapiro was hired in 2006 by the daughter of a deceased Lake County woman to handle the probate of her mother's estate, consisting of a home and two bank accounts. The daughter, the sole beneficiary, lives in Poland and has limited ability to communicate in English, according to the court.

Shapiro had the home sold but failed to close the estate, pay state inheritance taxes, file an inventory, respond to the daughter's requests for information and made unauthorized payments of $24,000 to himself from the estate's assets, the order said. After the daughter hired a new attorney, Shapiro ignored a court order requiring him to give the records of the estate to the new attorney, resulting in a warrant being issued for Shapiro's arrest, the order said.

Full Article and Source:
Ind. Supreme Court Suspends Highland-Based Attorney for at Least 3 Years

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Enough With the Doping!

Caring for dementia patients can be difficult, but that's no excuse for pumping them full of antipsychotic drugs, said panelists at a recent Senate Aging Committee forum.

Over-medication occurs far too often in those with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, panelists said, and as baby boomers get older, the problem will only worsen.

Take, for example, the case of a demented Wisconsin woman who put up a fight whenever anyone tried to move her. The woman was prescribed an antipsychotic medication. A month later an x-ray showed that she had been suffering from a broken hip, according to panelist Dr. Christine Kovach, professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

The woman had been unable to communicate that she was in pain. "Antipsychotic medications should only be used for psychosis," Kovach tells CBS News, "not to calm behaviors."

There are ways to deal with difficult dementia patients that don't involve drugs, says the executive director of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Patricia McGinnis. Examples include counseling and better training for caregivers. "Don't immediately think a behavior problem is psychological," says Kovach. The problem could be physical, or even being caused by some inadvertent behavior of the caregiver, she says.

Dementia Patients: Enough with the Doping

See Also:
Mass. Aims to Cut Drug Overuse

Mental Health Cuts Are Life-Threatening for Some

A 32-year-old entertainment lawyer, incapacitated by bipolar disorder, loses her case manager and less than two months later tries to take her own life.

A 57-year-old registered nurse, also bipolar, is forced to switch to generic drugs. She, too, begins a downward spiral as the drugs don't affect her well.

A 47-year-old laundry attendant with two diagnoses of serious mental illness fears she'll have to quit her job to get the mental-health coverage she needs.

The three Southern Arizonans are among 28,000 state residents affected by drastic cuts to behavioral health this year.

The cuts, which amount to a $65 million drop since 2008, affect Arizonans who need behavioral-health services but do not qualify for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), which is the state's version of Medicaid and is for Arizona's poorest residents. The cuts represent a 52 percent reduction over two fiscal years.

In addition to providing mental-health coverage for Arizonans on Medicaid, the state has historically offered mental-health services patients often can't get through their regular insurance. That included prescription-drug coverage, case managers, bus passes, cab fare and other therapeutic support. The latest cuts took away coverage for most name-brand drugs and slashed all other support services for non-Medicaid behavioral-health patients.

The cuts are unprecedented in Arizona and in the long term could impact taxpayers and health-care providers by putting more pressure on jails and emergency rooms.

Full Article and Source:
Mental Health Cuts Are Life-Threatening for Some

Shelter for Elderly

Shelters have existed locally to help abused children, unwed mothers and even abandoned puppies, but until recently, no such place existed for Mississippi's abused, displaced or abandoned seniors.

The doors are now open on the Elder Justice Center Emergency Shelter, a project of the Mississippi Center for Police and Sheriffs, aimed at making a safe haven for older people who have been the victims of financial fraud, abuse, neglect or are homeless because of a fire, natural disaster or foreclosure. Men and women 60 and older referred by the courts, law enforcement or the state Department of Human Services can stay there up to two months.

This is the first shelter of its kind in Mississippi, said Steve Pickett, chief deputy with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department. It's seen as a pilot program, that organizers hope will be replicated in other parts of the state.

Full Article and Source:
Shelter for Elderly Provides Home for Abused, Lost

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bishop Matthew Clark: 'there has been no attempt to shorten Mr. Harvey's life.'

Some of you might recall that last spring I wrote about the sad case of brain-damaged Gary Harvey, his wife’s efforts to prevent St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira from withdrawing his feeding and hydration tube, and Bishop Matthew Clark’s determination that the Catholic hospital had, in effect, done nothing wrong.

Sara Harvey has now informed me that Bobby Schindler (Terri Schiavo’s brother) has become interested in Gary’s case and has recently published “The Truth About Death Panels” in Celebrate Life Magazine.

A large part of that article details Gary’s story (my emphasis)…

The Gary Harvey case

We have been involved in hundreds of cases, many of which concerned decisions made by these ethics committees. Nothing underscores how they threaten innocent lives more than the case of Gary and Sara Harvey of Horseheads, New York.

In January 2006, Gary fell down his basement steps and was left with profound cognitive disabilities. He had no advance directive and had only his wife, Sara, to protect him. Gary was admitted to the Che-mung County Nursing Facility in May 2006. Sara soon found herself in conflict with the facility over his care, which she describes as seriously negligent.

In February 2007, Chemung County stripped Sara of her rights as guardian of her husband, and Gary has remained a ward of the County ever since. In May 2009, he was transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira, where he remains. About two weeks later, the hospital’s ethics committee recommended the removal of Gary’s nutrition and hydration tube, and the issuance of a do-not-resuscitate order. This was done without the direction of Gary’s family and would have ensured his death.

In June 2009, Chemung County asked the state supreme court to authorize the removal of Gary’s feeding tube, but fortunately, Justice Judith O’Shea denied the request. Inexplicably, however, the DNR is still in effect and he remains under the control of Chemung County, despite the fact that it tried to end his life.

What is even worse is that these events have occurred at a Catholic health care facility. And Bishop Matthew Clark, of the Rochester diocese, has basically turned his back on the situation. Sara told me, “No bishop would help or the Catholic Church.” Sadly, this occurs more often than one would think.

According to WorldNetDaily (May 17), the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse wrote to Bishop Clark in January, asking him to find out why “St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Ethics Committee chose to participate in what would have been Gary Harvey’s execution rather than prevent it.” His response, sent about a month later, according to NASGA: “I am convinced that St. Joseph Hospital complies with the Ethical Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, that the hospital is complying with the order of the court, and that there has been no attempt to shorten Mr. Harvey’s life.
Pernicious scenarios similar to the Harveys’ ordeal take place often, but usually so silently that most people are simply unaware of the dangers.

Sara’s fight goes on.
Prayers would be appreciated.

Bishop Clark...'there has been no attempt to shorten Mr. Harvey's life.'

See Also:

Probable Cause Attorney Engaged in Unprofessional Conduct

An investigative panel for the Statewide Grievance Commmittee found probable cause that local attorney John T. Nugent engaged in unprofessional conduct while handling the estate of Josephine Smoron.

Nugent was Smoron's conservator when she died in June 2009. Shortly before he death, Nugent created two trusts that effectively disinherited Sam Manzo, an heir named in a 2004 will. Manzo filed the grievance complaint.

The panel, which is part of the state Judicial Branch, found that Nugent broke five conduct rules; never meeting Smoron, not reviewing the probate court files, and failure to consider her wishes.

A hearing on the matter before the full panel will be scheduled.

Judicial Panel Rules Against Nugent in Smoron Case

See Also:
CT: Judge Bryan Meccariello Faces Judicial Misconduct Charges

Grievance Panel Finding of Probable Cause in Complaint # 10-0744

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AZ: Court of Appeals Strikes Down Probate Fee Ruling

Score one for the old, the sick and the vulnerable – which, in Arizona, is saying something.

The Arizona Court of Appeals on Thursday tossed out a probate judge's ruling that R.B. Sleeth must pay $265,000 to a lawyer who spent most of his time fighting the old guy's wishes.

Sleeth, as you may recall, is the 81-year-old Paradise Valley man who spent 10 weeks imprisoned in a lock-down unit for advanced Alzheimer's patients in Scottsdale, never mind that he didn't have Alzheimer's. It took him nearly two years to extricate himself from Maricopa County's probate court. Unfortunately, by then his $1.4 million estate had been reduced to “virtually zero”, according to court records.

Now, however, both he and the others “protected” by probate may be able to fight back against the cozy club of fiduciaries and attorneys who so often seem to wind up with much of the money of the people they are paid to protect.

“Although the statutes require the protected person to pay for the services of those appointed or hired to assist him, this case illustrates an underlying flaw in the scheme that makes all the more compelling the superior court's close scrutiny of fee requests…,” the judges wrote.

“When a guardian or conservator has no personal financial obligation for attorney fees and no concern over whether his expenditures will be fully approved, he may lack incentive to avoid financial improvidence. In a case in which the protected person's estate suffers significant and harmful losses, the superior court must exercise its independent judgment to determine what portion of the attorney's fees were reasonably incurred.”

Translation: it's time for probate judges to pack away their well-worn rubber stamps and remember who it is they are there to protect.

There's lots of other good stuff in the 21-page ruling by Judges Sheldon Weisberg, Philip Hall and Donn Kessler. No more charging $100 an hour to make copies and send faxes and e-mails. No more block billing, making it impossible to determine whether the bills are reasonable. (In the eyes of probate judges, they always are.)

No more expecting to be paid for every hour worked. Henceforth, attorneys will have to prove their bills are actually reasonable and that their work benefited the person paying for it.

“To suggest that any action taken by counsel, however futile or unsound, warrants court approval is in insupportable,” the judges said.

Full Article and Source:
Court of Appeals Strikes Down Probate Fee Ruling

Read the Opinion

IL: Tryon to Work on Medicaid Reform

A successful election campaign geared toward reforming Medicaid has landed state Rep. Mike Tryon on the special state committee considering that issue.

Tryon, a Republican from Crystal Lake serving the 64th District, will join 14 other legislators on the bipartisan committee. The group aims to reduce the costs associated with Medicaid.

“In 2007, our Medicaid costs were approximately $9.9 billion, and today, just three years later, those costs have almost doubled to $16 billion,” Tryon said. “Our budget is being consumed by Medicaid costs and we must look at reforms to find efficiencies and eliminate fraud.”

Members of the committee will hold hearings around the state between now and when the General Assembly convenes in January for its next session. The findings and recommendations will be presented then to other lawmakers.

Tryon to Work on Medicaid Reform

IL Dept. on Aging Honors Advocates

The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) hosted its annual awards ceremony to recognize individuals and organizations whose contributions and accomplishments in assisting older adults merit recognition. Each year the awards ceremony serves as the final event during the Governor’s Conference on Aging where advocates and experts from across the state gather to focus on issues that affect the aging population. This year’s conference was December 8-10 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown.

“These individuals and organizations put a great deal of time and effort into addressing the needs of older adults,” said IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson. “And getting together for this conference, which is the largest statewide meeting of those who work in the aging network, provides the perfect setting to honor them.”

One of this year’s award winners was the Honorable Lisa Madigan, Attorney General for the State of Illinois. Ms. Madigan received the Sid Granet Aging Network Achievement Award on behalf of the Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging for her aggressive legal action against those taking advantage of older adults. She has been instrumental in drafting legislation and launched “Operation Guardian,” with brings together state and local law enforcement and health inspectors to conduct unannounced inspections of nursing homes to ensure compliance and to remove residents with outstanding warrants.

“I'm honored today to receive this award from the Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging,” said Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “These are very tough times for all of us, and seniors have been hit particularly hard. It is imperative we protect them from both physical and financial harm. I am proud to accept this award in recognition of the important work that my office does every day to ensure that older citizens are treated with the respect they deserve.”

Full Article and Source:
IL Dept. on Aging Honors Advocates Who Assist Older Adults

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Recycling of Gary Harvey's Holiday Restrictions

Last year, I wrote the following article.

Wife’s Visitation in Jeopardy: The Isolation of Gary Harvey
By Carrie K. Hutchens on November 7th, 2009

Gary Harvey is the brain injured man from New York, who seems to have his own private “death panel” determined to kill him off and to make his and his wife’s life as miserable as possible, until the sentence is carried out. One might think it could get no worse than it has been. One should never think such thoughts, lest one (or more) be shown that — for however bad — things can actually get worse!

Though it wasn’t Sara sitting on the so-called ethics committee that determined Gary should be starved and dehydrated to death — the Guardian and County (who actually were involved in the attempted death of an innocent person) — have suggested she is a danger to her husband.

Amazing! I can actually recycle my article as if it was current and remaining accurate. How often does that happen?

Here it is the holiday season of 2010 and Sara Harvey gets a letter from Bryan Maggs, Chemung County Attorney, stating that her visitations with Gary are suspended immediately. Isn’t that the same gift they offered last year? I’m so impressed with the repeat gift and the timing — NOT!

Shame on these people!

If there was a problem, beyond Sara filing various motions with the court, where are the records of the official meetings where the hospital, county, guardian and all the heavy-weight personnel discussed any issues that might bring her to no visitation at Christmas time once again?

The court system is a strategy thing. Attorneys do this and attorneys do that… and it is all a major game. But Sara is not allowed to play back, even when the county and guardian and hospital feel free to do whatever and force her into a courtroom to challenge their inappropriate behavior?

If Gary were at home, and someone reported that his care was inappropriate, Sara would have to answer this challenge. Why would the county, guardian and hospital think they should be beyond the same challenge? It is, after all, allegedly their actual job to be an “expert provider” and to provide excellent care in all ways.

If Gary were at home and Sara was starving & dehydrating him to death, the authorities would pull him from the home, put him in “protective custody” and most likely charge her with all kinds of things, including attempted murder. Why haven’t the county and guardian and hospital been likewise challenged and charged? Why hasn’t the court pulled them back in to answer why they tried to kill off someone not terminally ill?

If Gary was home with Sara, she could be challenged for this and for that and for anything someone wished to challenge her with, but she wouldn’t be able to simply write a letter and terminate visitation by all these people that thought she was not providing well. Why then, can all these people so simply terminate her visits with Gary when they have been challenged?

It’s wrong!

It would be wrong no matter what, but it is really wrong that these people decide to terminate visitation during the holiday season. It says a great deal about them. It proves, by their actions, that compassion is not something in their list of priorities, yet they claim to have Gary’s best interest in mind?

Full Article and Source:
Visitation in Jeopardy - The Recycling of Gary Harvey's Holiday Restrictions

See Also:

Assisted Suicide Group Wants Charges Dismissed

Georgia's high-profile case against four members of an assisted suicide group that helped a cancer-stricken man kill himself may hinge on what defense attorneys say is a fatal flaw in the state law used to prosecute them.

The attorneys for the four Final Exit Network members asked a judge to dismiss charges because Georgia law doesn't actually ban assisted suicide, but rather restricts the group from advertising its services. The attorneys contend the law violates state and federal free speech laws.

"We are being prosecuted for publicly advertising something that's perfectly legal," said Don Samuel, one of six defense attorneys at a court hearing on the case. "This couldn't possibly be a crime."

Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn said lawmakers drafted the statute to discourage assisted suicide, even if that wasn't spelled out in the law. She urged Superior Court Judge David Dickinson to dismiss the challenge so the case could move forward.

Full Article and Source:
Assisted Suicide Group Wants Charges Tossed in GA

Ohio Caregiver Ordered to Make Restitution

A former caregiver for an 89-year-old woman suffering from dementia has been ordered to make $67,560 in restitution to her guardianship estate in installments.

The judgment entry was filed by visiting Mahoning County Probate Judge Denny Clunk of Alliance against David Venerose of Youngstown, after Venerose and the woman’s guardianship estate reached a settlement.

“As a result, the complaint is dismissed, and there is no finding of guilt by this court,” Judge Clunk wrote.

The woman moved from her Boardman house to a Youngstown nursing home in February 2009.

Caregiver Ordered to Make Restitution

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Former Michigan Public Guardian Sentenced for Embezzlement

Former Arenac County Public Guardian Sherilyn Jones has been sentenced to three years and four months to 20 years in prison, and ordered to pay $300,649.16 in restitution for criminal enterprise and racketeering.

Jones was sentenced by 23rd Circuit Court Judge William Myles Wednesday, Dec. 8.

The Michigan State Police conducted an investigation last year that uncovered that $300,000 was misappropriated from approximately 50 clients, during the years 1999 to 2009.

District 3 County Commissioner Michael Snyder said that this case hurt the reputation of Arenac County.

“I was personally horrified by the situation,” Snyder said. “The amount of money that was taken was staggering. It is like the old saying goes, ‘death by a thousand cuts.’"

He said that the county has changed the way the public guardian’s office is run and added that more precautions are being taken to prevent this from happening again.

“We have taken some important steps,” Snyder said. “There are now a number of individual audits performed throughout the year.”

He added that people who had money stolen are currently being paid back.

Full Article and Source:
Former Public Guardian Sentenced for Embezzlement

See Also:
Arenac County Votes to Keep Public Guardian Office

Lawyer Charged With Stealing Money From Partners

Lawyers with Chenault, Hammond P.C. reported that $7,500 was stolen from the firm's trust account in September.

Officers arrested Garland C. Hall, III for the theft and charged him with first degree theft of property.

Lawyer Charged With Stealing Money From Partners

Porteous Removed

The Senate found U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. guilty on four articles of impeachment Wednesday, removing him from his lifetime appointment to the federal bench in Louisiana and denying him his federal pension. Porteous, 63, sat in the well of the Senate as members cast their votes against him. He is just the eighth judge in American history to be removed from office by the Senate.

Full Article and Source:
Senate Removes Judge Thomas Porteous Jr. Following Impeachment Trial