Saturday, January 8, 2011

Judge Suspended Following Indictments

Upshur County Judge Dean Fowler has been suspended with pay after recent indictments by a grand jury.

Judge Fowler and County Commissioner Lloyd Crabtree were both charged with official oppression and abuse of capacity. Sheriff Anthony Betterton was also indicted on official oppression.

The charges stem from the court's ban on public comment, and for removing a man who placed duct tape over his mouth in protest.

Upshur Judge Suspended Following Indictments

Third Judge Recusal in Lawyer Theft Case

A Stoddard County judge's motion filed Wednesday recusing himself from presiding over Joe T. Buerkle's felony stealing case has postponed the former lawyer's sentencing, which was set for Monday in Bloomfield, Mo.

Buerkle, 67, who pleaded guilty to the felony charges in August, stole $325,000 from a trust fund account he was managing. The trust was opened for Donald Thomasson, who died in 2002.

Associate Circuit Court Judge Stephen R. Mitchell -- appointed to the case in January 2010 -- said he announced his decision in court and filed a written disqualification recusing himself in the case.

Since charges were filed against Buerkle in December 2009 by Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, Mitchell is the third judge to recuse himself from the case. He declined to comment on his action.

"It just would be inappropriate for me to make any remarks on it," Mitchell said.

Buerkle's attorney, Stephen Wilson, whose law office is in Cape Girardeau, also declined to comment on Mitchell's recusal. The case has been sent to the Missouri Supreme Court for the assignment of a new judge.

Full Article and Source:
Stoddard County Judge Recuses Self in Lawyer's Felony Theft Case

Ohio Lawyer Gets Six Years

David R. Rhodehamel is a trustworthy friend and a good family man, his supporters wrote in letters to a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge.

But after hearing portions of the letters read Monday at the sentencing hearing for the 45-year-old lawyer and former Columbus property manager, Richard Mattlin stood and offered an opposing viewpoint.

"He plots and he plans and he schemes," said Mattlin, whose 92-year-old mother was a victim in the theft and forgery case in which Rhodehamel was convicted. "He's evil."

Judge Beverly Y. Pfeiffer weighed comments from both sides before sentencing Rhodehamel to six years in prison and ordering him to repay $796,774.

"I don't know, and may never know, what type of person Mr. Rhodehamel really is," Pfeiffer said. But she was struck by a letter from Betty Mattlin, who wrote that she considered Rhodehamel "a good person with personal warmth until he defrauded me."

"That sums it up," the judge said. "A position of trust was used to take advantage of someone."

Rhodehamel, who expects to lose his law and real-estate licenses as a result of the convictions, apologized before sentencing.

"I never intended to do harm to Betty Mattlin," he said. He blamed his actions on a lack of attention to detail.

In November, a jury convicted the Upper Arlington resident of two counts of theft, one count of forgery and six counts of money-laundering. He could have been sentenced to as much as 54 years in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Gets 6 Years in Prison for Defrauding Elderly Client

Friday, January 7, 2011

Probate Sharks: Medicaid Reform

(From the Northwest Herald:) "Medicaid reform took a “bold” step Wednesday as the Illinois Senate approved a measure projected to save $800 million during the next five years. Lawmakers were assigned the task of tightening the $14 billion state-federal health care system in December and still were hashing out the details Wednesday morning.

The legislation makes an attempt to crack down on fraud by setting up administrative hearings that can collect and fine individuals who have been scamming the system, and even refer the cases to local prosecutors."

We at probate sharks would like to urge both our State Senate and our State House to examine the use of OBRA accounts by guardians of elderly disabled wards in the Cook County Court system. Court-appointed guardians are placing the estates of the elderly disabled worth hundreds of thousands of dollars into OBRA accounts, thereby making the ward appear destitute, and eligible for Medicaid. Once the estate is placed into an OBRA account, that money can no longer, by law, be used for housing for the ward, and they can no longer use their own funds in their OBRA account to pay for their private pay nursing homes. Thus, the ward is moved into public aid housing, at the cost of the taxpayer, and to the burden of our Medicaid system.

OBRA accounts are quite a lucrative thing for the guardians and lawyers, however. You see, OBRA accounts may not be used for housing, but they may be used for "administrative fees". Administrative fees include guardians' fees and attorneys fees.


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.

Medicare to Fund End-of-Life Planning Consultations With Physicians

Medicare will now fund end-of-life health care planning consultations. Pre-planning, family discussions of these (end-of-life) issues, won’t ease the pain of dealing with medical crisis; what is does do is lay the groundwork for making informed decisions based on what the patient really wants, what the patient’s priorities and beliefs require. It is a road map through both crisis and longterm care.

Full Article and Source:
Medicare to Fund End-of-Life Planning Consultations With Physicians

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Danny Tate's Issues on Appeal


If you read what is required by the TN statutes on guardianship (conservatorship) and then compare what Judge Randy Kennedy did to Danny Tate, it reads like a CSI story of an evidence trail so long and so strong, that it is impossible to come to any conclusion other than that every order in the case must be reversed on appeal.

Danny Tate has been freed from his captivity in this unlawful case, but the Conservator still remains in control of his assets, and Danny is now being sued by his wife for nonpayment of child support, which the Conservator - his Dear Brother, by the way - stopped paying on his behalf.

Where do we go from here?

Here is the filed document stating the issues on appeal, in the clearest of terms.

Tate Issues on Appeal

Watching Judges

Laws that target speeders are worthless when cops aren't around to enforce them.

The same thing goes for laws that target Georgia judges who break the law or act unethically. When these rules aren't enforced, it undermines the state's judicial system.

That's why a published report, which said the state's judicial watchdog agency is running so low on funds that it can't investigate charges against several judges, is disturbing. An emergency infusion of cash from the state is in order.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission, a low-profile agency that investigates judges accused of misdeeds, has just $1,600 left in its budget for investigations and prosecutions through fiscal year 2011, which ends June 30. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that several unidentified judges are under the commission's microscope. But because there's almost no money in the till right now, the agency essentially has to hit the brakes until mid-summer when its funds should be replenished.

That's unacceptable. Given the latest numbers, this agency should be hitting the gas pedal instead.

Full Article and Source:
Watching Judges

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Costs Often Shock the Elderly, Their Families

The mission of Arizona Adult Protective Services is to help adults who are victims of physical abuse and neglect, or schemes to steal their money. A call to that agency can save a life.

But intervention by the agency can also lead to ailing adults being referred to private, for-profit fiduciaries they can't afford and whose fees can wipe out their life savings.

Agency officials acknowledge the potential but say they often have no other choice when there are no friends or family available to take over an incapacitated person's health and finances. Last year, Adult Protective Services investigated 4,325 requests for help in Maricopa County.

When help is needed, the agency "then will refer to those services based on need and acceptance," said agency administrator Faustina Dannenfelser. "The client has to be willing to accept the services."

If a client is indigent or has only Social Security income and a small pension, the social-service group will call a public fiduciary to manage the finances and care. Otherwise, it contacts a private fiduciary. There is no fixed level of wealth that the agency uses to make that decision; case workers and supervisors make the call.

"That is the last resort," Dannenfelser said.

Dannenfelser estimated the number of cases referred to private fiduciaries at fewer than 50 a year. The agency keeps no record of how often such referrals are made or which private fiduciaries get the business.

In March 2007, an agency investigator monitoring Lester and Elizabeth Drake decided the Glendale couple's self-neglect was endangering their health, according to court records . The investigator called a private, for-profit fiduciary to assist. The couple's assets were estimated at about $900,000, according to Maricopa County Probate Court records.

Over the next month, the private fiduciary, Managed Protective Services of Youngtown, made routine visits trying to clean the house, bring the couple groceries and medication, and take them to doctor's appointments.

According to court records, the Drakes would offer to pay for groceries, but Jane Anne Geisler, owner of the fiduciary firm, told them they'd be billed later. Geisler told them not to worry about the cost of her services.

Geisler said she feared they would stop the care they desperately needed if she told them about the fees.

In June, at the couple's request, a judge appointed the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary which limits fiduciary fees and attorney fees in its cases, to take charge of their health and finances.

Managed Protective Services had not been appointed by a judge, yet it went to court seeking $15,194 in fees and attorney costs for the three months work.

The judge reduced the fees to $4,052. Geisler threatened to appeal until the Drakes paid her business and her attorney $2,000 each.

Probate lawyer Jon Kitchel said government agencies should not be steering cases to private fiduciaries at all. If an individual needs help, the public fiduciary should be the first call, Kitchel said.

"I don't believe APS should be nominating private businesses," he said. "It is a shame."

Full Article and Source:
Costs Often Shock the Elderly, Their Families

'Life Without Lawyers'

“[Life Without Lawyers is] crammed with telling cases, anecdotes, and data. It brims with insights into how ‘rights’ that were created to prevent ‘unfairness by those in authority’ are now ‘guaranteeing unfairness to the common good.’

...[The book] makes a powerful case that unless leaders from outside the world of politics overpower the entrenched special interests that dominate both major political parties, even Barack Obama will have little chance of transforming Washington – and no chance at all of fixing our schools, health care, or stultifying legal culture.”
—Stuart Taylor, National Journal Magazine

“Philip Howard’s Life Without Lawyers hits the nail on the head – incoherent legalities stultify necessary change and frustrate attempts to use common sense in solving the problems that face our country. This is a real wake-up call from one of America’s finest public minds.”
—former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

Philip K. Howard

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

AZ: Hospitals Can Call Fiduciaries for Their Patients

Hospitals can call a preferred private fiduciary that will assess your situation and may petition the court to declare you legally incapacitated.

If appointed your guardian, the fiduciary can charge substantial fees to manage your finances and care.

In one Sun City case, neither the hospital nor the fiduciary contacted the son of an elderly couple with dementia before taking action. The couple had not wanted their son contacted, but experts agree that is typical for people with dementia.

Fiduciaries, along with probate law firms, often have relationships with hospitals that they have carefully cultivated as part of their marketing strategy, The Arizona Republic has found.

Court records and interviews show some hospital social workers and doctors often call favorite fiduciaries to manage care of their patients.

"The role of our case managers is going to be proactive in getting patients into long-term care," said Bill Byron, spokesman for Banner Health, which operates 13 hospitals in Arizona and 10 outside the state. "What they have done (in making referrals) is not . . . incorrect or inappropriate."

One case in 2007 involved Charles and Julia Gustafson of Sun City. A case manager at Boswell called Childers & Berg after Charles came to the hospital with leg ulcers. Doctors would not allow him to go home because of concerns that Julia could no longer care for her husband.

Court records show that Childers & Berg assigned its own care managers, who determined both Charles and Julia needed protection; each suffered from dementia. Childers & Berg's staff arranged for both to be moved from their home into an adult-care home and petitioned the court for guardianship.

But Julia's son, Ray Ireland, says all of this happened before he was even notified that his stepfather was in the hospital.

"I hadn't heard from my parents in almost a month. I didn't know what was going on. . . . Then I got a call from my mother's court-appointed counsel that my parents were in the custody of Childers & Berg," said Ireland, who is a retired firefighter in Clark County, Nev.

Court records show that from January to March, Childers & Berg and its attorney charged total fees of $27,015.

"The reason they didn't inform me was for their own monetary benefit, in my opinion," Ireland said. "And it is sanctioned by the state of Arizona."

Full Article and Source:
Maricopa County Probate Court - Hospitals Can Call Fiduciaries for Their Patients

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fiduciary Ties

If you become ill from old age and can no longer take care of yourself, the people you and your family turn to for help can hand over control of your life to an expensive for-profit business.

Hospitals, social-service agencies, financial planners and attorneys often act as pipelines to private fiduciary companies, which depend for their business on a steady stream of stricken adults unable to pay their own bills or manage their care.

Fiduciaries charge fees that in months or years can wipe out your assets. The organizations and firms that refer clients to fiduciaries often do not advise clients of the potential costs.

County, or public, fiduciaries largely limit their service to the poor.An ongoing Arizona Republic investigation has found that Maricopa County Probate Court judges rarely curtail fiduciary and legal fees, even when wards of the court end up broke and on state-paid care.

Incapacitated adults and their relatives say the relationships fiduciaries have forged with hospitals and other agencies, particularly in retirement communities, create conflicts of interest. They say the relationships give private businesses easy access to vulnerable potential customers.

Doctors and social workers working for Banner Health, the state's largest hospital system, often refer cases to favored fiduciaries, court records show.

In one Valley case, a man says that Banner called a fiduciary to take over his parents' care without trying to notify him and that the fiduciary petitioned for guardianship without contacting him. Banner officials cannot comment on individual cases but said staff members act in the best interests of patients.

However, Banner Health's review of procedures after inquiries by The Republic revealed inconsistent policies among Banner's 23 hospitals.

A Banner spokesman said the hospital is working to create uniform guidelines.

In addition to relations with hospitals, fiduciaries and law firms specializing in elder care have developed other marketing strategies.

Among them: Fiduciaries train personnel at senior centers, and law firms and fiduciaries send business to each other.

Advocates say that the system needs to change and that more options should be available for people with average incomes and savings.

Bill Dettelback, former financial manager for Maricopa County Public Fiduciary, favors eliminating private fiduciaries.

"You do away with the private fiduciaries altogether and you might have to double or triple the size of the public fiduciary," Dettelback said. "You just do away with the profit motivation and make it (county fiduciary offices) a state agency."

Mullan, of Beatitudes, favors the creation of a non-profit organization to handle the gap between rich and poor. Her agency plans to offer such a service within five years.

"Certainly, there will be a growing need as the Boomers age, and they're notorious because they've not prepared well for their future," she said.

Full Article and Source:
Maricopa County Probate Court - Caregivers Criticized for Ties to Fiduciaries

Despite No Finding of Guilt, Restitution and Fees Top $67K

David J. Venerose Jr. ran unsuccessfully for Youngstown City Council in 2003.

Today, he’s simply running into one legal problem after another — with a Valley court and two businessmen seeking thousands of dollars from the unemployed man.

In two of the most-serious instances, Venerose maintains he did nothing wrong.

But some maintain otherwise in a twisting tale within Mahoning County political circles.

The tale includes a juvenile-court job he was fired from after a few months, a sheriff’s background check that failed to find a 2003 conviction, and mismanaged finances for a Struthers business and an elderly Boardman woman with dementia.

For the latter episode, Venerose, 40, of Sheridan Road, Youngstown, must reimburse $67,560 to the guardianship estate of 89-year-old Geraldine Burke in a settlement completed Dec. 3.

Venerose and his mother, Edith, were, according to court records, Burke’s primary caregivers for several years and had gained control of her assets in October 2008. Neighbors of Burke’s, concerned about her well-being, got county officials to investigate her care and the Veneroses’ actions. That eventually led to formal complaints of improper care and missing funds, although Visiting Probate Judge Denny Clunk dismissed Edith from the complaint.

Full Article and Source:
Legal Troubles Spiral for Caregiver

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Quick & Legal Will Book

Start the new year off by writing your will!

The Quick & Legal Will Book is your essential guide to preparing the most important legal document any of us possess—your will. With easy-to-use forms and step-by-step instructions, this invaluable resource will help you to craft a will that meets all of your estate planning needs.

HALT Books

For Judges, Inconsistent Use of Ethics Rule is Evident

The nation's top federal judicial ethics panel told a judge in Maryland five years ago that his membership on the board of an anti-regulatory group violated two canons of ethics, provoking his immediate resignation from the board. But the authority's opinion was not published until this month and three other federal judges - including one of the nation's 13 circuit court chief justices - presently sit on the same group's board.

The episode, which involves judges' ties to a controversial Montana-based group that also sponsors judicial education seminars, has cast a spotlight on what critics say is the private and sometimes inconsistent application of ethics rules for the federal judiciary, which they say could open the door to abuses.

Full Article and Source:
For Judges, Inconsistent Use of Ethics Rule is Evident

See Also:
Porteous Removed