Saturday, February 5, 2011

Al Barnes' Care Taken Away from Wife

A court ruling Friday has taken medical decision-making authority away from the wife of 85-year-old Al Barnes, calling her "deceiving" and rebutting her claims that his severe dementia and other conditions are reversible.

While noting that Lana Barnes is "adamant and sincere" in her belief that her husband can recover, the ruling found no evidence to support her claim that he suffers from a reversible Lyme disease infection.

"He is dying, slowly and painfully," the ruling stated. "The evidence before the court establishes that no amount of medical care and treatment is going to change that."

Alternate Decision Makers, a private Minneapolis firm, will remain as emergency guardian for Barnes, at least until a March 3 hearing when a permanent guardian is elected.

Full Article and Source:
Ill Man's Care Taken Away From Wife

Read the Court Order

Shocking Surprise in Al Barnes Case

Lana Barnes entered Hennepin County Probate Court Wednesday morning determined to win aggressive care for her frail husband and remain his medical decision-maker.

Instead, Barnes possibly could face lawsuits and criminal charges after making a startling admission on the witness stand: She altered a legal document governing her ailing husband's care.

Lana Barnes testified that as guardian for her husband, Al, she felt justified in eliminating two pages of his 1993 health care directive, including passages in which he said he didn't want to be kept alive by machines.

When she admitted her 85-year-old husband to Methodist Hospital in December she provided only a page identifying her as guardian.

In several hearings over the past 10 days, Methodist has sought to remove her from that role, contending that Al is too sick to recover and that her insistence on aggressive care is incorrect and reckless.

Her admission brought a sudden halt to the proceedings, as Referee Dean Maus, Lana Barnes and the attorneys went into a closed-door meeting.

Maus later advised her to hire a lawyer. "This is a very serious matter," Maus said. "You should be careful about what you should say."

The missing two pages of Al Barnes' directive contradicted his wife's insistence that he wanted life-sustaining care. Instead, it indicated that Barnes didn't want to be sustained by respirators or feeding tubes -- devices to which he is currently connected.

"If ... there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from extensive physical and mental disability, I direct that I be allowed to die and not be kept alive by medications, artificial means or 'heroic measures,' " the directive stated.
Lana Barnes later said her husband had changed his views.

"Al did tell me he wants to live," she said. "He said, 'If there's any chance at all, I want it.' "

No legal action was immediately taken against Lana Barnes or on the petition to replace her as guardian. Maus said he would review evidence and select an emergency guardian soon. A March 3 hearing will name a permanent guardian.

Full Article and Source:
Wife's Surprise Shakes Barnes Case

See Also:
Doctor Vs. Patient's Wife

Assisted Living Facility Worker Accused of Exploitation

A woman accused of unlawfully obtaining nearly $16,000 from a 91-year-old woman for whom she cared at a local assisted living facility was arrested and charged with exploitation of an elderly/disabled adult, according to Ocala police.

Regina Ann Weitlauf, 43, was taken into custody at her Southeast Ocala home. She was booked into the Marion County Jail and released Monday night after posting a $5,000 bond.

Weitlauf told the Star-Banner that she looked after the woman and would cash checks on her behalf, with the money always going to the woman.

When asked about the $15,698 officials say she did not turn over to the woman, Weitlauf declined to comment other than to say “I’m innocent” and to note that she has an attorney.

Full Article and Source:
ALF Worker Accused of Exploiting 91-Year-Old

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wisconsin: Convicted Attorneys Are Still Practicing

Some even have kept their licenses while serving time for their crimes

At least 135 attorneys with criminal convictions are practicing law today in Wisconsin - including some who kept their licenses while serving time and others who got them back before they were off probation, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.

The roster includes lawyers with felony or misdemeanor convictions for fraud, theft, battery and repeat drunken driving, as well as offenses involving political corruption, drugs and sex. A child-sex offender got probation for his crime but never lost his law license. A politician convicted in a check-kiting scheme was reprimanded but also kept his license.

Another 70 lawyers were charged with crimes but succeeded in having the charges reduced or avoided conviction by completing a deferred prosecution plan. All were given the green light to practice law.

The newspaper's review, which ran nearly 24,000 Wisconsin lawyers against state and federal court records, found that lawyers who are convicted of crimes are then subjected to a slow-moving disciplinary system that operates largely behind closed doors.

Wisconsin appears to be comparatively lenient in dealing with lawbreaking lawyers.

Full Article and Source:
Convicted Attorneys Are Still Practicing

See Also:
A Dozen Lawyers Who Broke the Law

Woman Gets Probation After Stealing Over $330K

Reno artist Peggy Viola Six, 64, befriended a woman 18 years ago while they were neighbors at a local trailer park.

Six, who described 88-year-old Gayle Savage as a mother figure, helped her buy a home and a vehicle after Savage received a large inheritance in 2004. But once Savage developed dementia in July 2008, Six’s greed “reared it’s ugly head and she took advantage of Gayle Savage,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Karl Hall. As a result, Savage is in a state-run nursing home in Carson City instead of being able to afford home health-care and own pets, he said.

In less than one year, Six and Reno real estate broker Robin Benjamin, 65, stole more than $330,000 from Savage’s bank accounts and unlawfully sold her Southeast Reno home. Six gambled more than $500 a day with Savage’s money, purchased a motor home for her personal travel, and used the rest to invest in her artistry business and other ventures suggested by Benjamin.

Washoe District Judge Janet Berry sentenced Six to probation for her guilty plea of elderly exploitation. Six was facing a term of four to 10 years, which the state parole and probation division recommended. But Berry said prison would not help Six pay back $337,166.58 in restitution for the money she stole. The exploitation increased after Six obtained power of attorney over Savage while she was hospitalized, Hall said.

Washoe County Public Guardian Case manager Pamela Johnston told Berry that the exploitation caused Savage to become a ward of the state, and the money recouped for her will run out next year. That’s when taxpayers begin footing the $8,000 monthly fee for her care through Medicaid.

Full Article and Source:
Reno Woman Gets Probtion in Elderly Exploitation Case After Stealing More Than $330,000

Thursday, February 3, 2011

NY Life Insurance Agents Sued for Elderly Financial Abuse

What would you do with 20 life insurance policies? Would you even buy 20 life insurance polices? Probably not, that is, if you knew what you were doing. Mary Mullen, an institutionalized senior—in her 80s—with Alzheimer’s disease, did not know what she was doing and so relied on salesmen from New York Life Insurance to take care of her. Instead, they took care of themselves. Those 20 life insurance policies– by the way—cost $600,000—and involved a number of elaborate schemes including an arranged marriage. New York Life, for their part, apparently refuses to investigate the suspicious policies, for which “the primary motivation” was “commissions and premiums.”

The whole sorry saga, which is now the subject of a lawsuit, began in 1994, when, according to Rebecca McFarland, trustee of the Mary Mullen Revocable Trust, one John Palmateer approached Mullen representing himself as an expert in insurance and financial matters. McFarland claims he gained Mary Mullen’s trust by visiting her occasionally, sometimes at the hospital. Of course, most people at this point would ask—’what about her family?’ Well, Mary Mullen had family, but they all lived out of state. Palmateer is accused of keeping the truth about Mullen’s deteriorating health from her family.

Full Article and Source:
NY Life Insurance Agents Sued for Elder Financial Abuse

"T.S. Radio" Begins Weekly Series on Guardian Abuse

Join us Tuesday evenings at 8:CST to discuss the growing issue of Guardianship Abuse.

People across the country have had to face the unethical and immoral appointment of total strangers as guardians over their family members life, assets and medical treatment. These individuals have no connection to the patient and in most cases, no concern for their ongoing health and treatment. Guardianship amounts to giving another person ownership of another. The law is used to steal money, assets and anything else of value from the vulnerable client. Once the assets are depleted...the patient no longer has any value to the guardian. What happens then?

In the debut show, Sara Harvey updated Marti and Barb on her battle to save her husband.

The Truth Squad: Episode Notes

Note: The Truth Squad series on guardian abuse will air every Tuesday night at:

6:00 pm PST
8:00 pm CST
9:00 pm EST

Canons Uphold Dignity of the Bench

One was accused of going after a kid with a baseball bat. Another solicited young prostitutes. One directed business to a mediator in exchange for a discount on his own divorce.

All were judges punished by the Minnesota Supreme Court based on recommendations from the state Board on Judicial Standards. The board, which on average takes action against one judge a year, lately appears to be ahead of that pace.

Two Hennepin County District judges recently rejected proposed punishments and took their cases to hearings before three-member fact-finding panels.

Judges Patricia Kerr Karasov and Jack Nordby are expected to wait weeks before learning of their punishments, if any. Karasov is accused of living outside her district and lying to cover it up. Nordby is accused of making intemperate remarks during a hearing. Both have denied the allegations.

When prosecuting lawyer Doug Kelley made opening comments in the Karasov hearing, he said judges need to be held to a higher standard than most people, including lawyers. He said Karasov deserved discipline in part for her defiance during the investigation.

Those who wear the black robes must adhere to a code requiring them to "maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives." They must "aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence."

The Supreme Court's former Chief Judge Eric Magnuson said in an interview, "You have to be a better citizen. If you want the title of judge, you have to shoulder the responsibility."

Canons and rules

The conduct code includes four canons that say judges shall:

• Uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

• Perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently.

• Conduct personal and extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office.

• Not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.

Each canon has a list of rules, sometimes dozens. Rule 2.8 reads: "A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct." Rule 3.6 reads: "A judge shall not knowingly hold membership in an organization that practices unlawful discrimination."

David Paull, executive secretary of the board, said most of the state's 500 judges and judicial officers have no trouble following the rules. But the board gets about 1,600 letters and calls a year alleging misconduct. Of those, about 120 are formally investigated, and action is proposed in about 20 cases. Action can range from private censure to public censure, suspension or removal.

Full Article and Source:
Canons Uphold Dignity of the Bench

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Charlie Sheen's Family Discusses Conservatorship

Charlie Sheen's family are considering applying for conservatorship of his estate after his most recent alcohol and cocaine binge landed him in hospital.

Although the 'Two and a Half Men' star has decided to put together a team of professionals to help him overcome his substance abuse problems, his father Martin Sheen and mother Janet Templeton are so worried about his behaviour they may apply for control of his personal affairs and vast estate.

A source told "Charlie looks awful ... he is very, very depressed and feels like the world is going against him. Charlie's parents are discussing getting a conservatorship order.

"Martin and Janet know that it's highly unlikely their petition would be granted, but they are trying to do whatever possible to save Charlie's life."

Full Article and Source:
Charlie Sheen's Family Discusses Conservatorship

Judge Asks for Charges Against Her to be Dismissed

A judge indicted in the Cuyahoga County corruption investigation was in an Akron federal courtroom, asking that charges against her be dismissed.

Judge Bridget McCafferty’s lawyers entered several motions. Two were to dismiss charges and two to suppress evidence. The judge will rule on those motions at a later date.

McCafferty is charged with allegedly lying to the FBI about conversations she had with former commissioner Jimmy Dimora and former auditor Frank Russo concerning cases in her court. In exchange, she is accused of receiving campaign contributions. McCafferty denies those allegations.

McCafferty was indicted at the same time as fellow judge Steven Terry, who has been charges with conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Cuhahoga County Judge Asks for Charges to be Dismissed

See Also:
Ohio: Two Corruption Defendents Ask for New Lawyers

Judge Accused of Fraud Goes on Paid Leave

An Oklahoma County judge accused of fraud has decided to take an extended leave of absence from the courthouse.

District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure, 43, was charged last week with 30 counts of making a fraudulent claim against the state and two counts of perjury.

Her husband, Karlos Antonio LeSure, 46, was charged with two counts of making a fraudulent claim against the state and two counts of perjury.

Bass-LeSure took off this week at the request of Oklahoma County’s presiding judge. She now has decided to stay away longer while she fights the felony charge against her, multiple sources told The Oklahoman.

The case could take as much as a year or two to come to trial, if it goes that far. The judge for now will continue to be paid. Her salary is more than $120,000 a year.

Her attorney, Richard Anderson, said Thursday the judge’s decision was made out of respect for and to show dignity to her judicial office.

Full Article and Source:
Oaklahoma County District Judge Accused of Fraud to Stay on Paid Leave

See Also:
District Judge Charged With Fraud, Perjury

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Al Katz, Part Four: The Final Legal Solution

This column will establish a pattern of elder abuse and give you an understanding of how a state like Florida and its guardianship system can keep a family at bay while making life-and-death decisions of questionable legal authority.

Beverly Newman in late October 2009 had to hire an attorney, as required by Florida law, to represent her in her highly-contested court fight to obtain guardianship from the State of Florida of Al Katz, her father.

According to Beverly, who had court-ordered visitation rights, her father was begging daily to return home from the nursing facility, which he hated. He appeared broken-hearted, and Beverly noted signs that he was being neglected to the point that he developed pitting edema of the lower extremities and cellulitis, for which he was hospitalized. In December 2008, Beverly had filed a petition in Indiana to care for her Father as his guardian. Until September 2009, no one else ever filed a petition to care for Mr. Katz as his guardian.

However, Beverly’s request to be her father’s guardian was opposed by Ms. Jackie Steuerwald, Al’s nurse. It should be noted that on September 10, 2008, Jackie Steuerwald took Mr. Katz, suffering from dementia, to his attorney in Indianapolis to have Mr. Katz’s will and advance directives changed.

In September 2009, with the assistance of Jackie Steuerwald, the Florida public guardian put Al into the lockdown unit in the basement of a metropolitan hospital, under a no-contact order from family and friends, for three weeks. From this confinement and isolation from his family, Al had constant flashbacks to the Holocaust and wandered the halls night and day until he was released.

The Florida court on November 23, 2009, appointed Beverly Newman as Guardian of the Person of Al Katz, but not of his property. The court granted restricted health care powers to Jackie Steuerwald and gave guardianship of the property to a professional guardian. Beverly discontinued all narcotics and psychotropics administered to her Father, and he began to regain his strength.

After weeks in the hospital, being put into hospice against his advance directives, Al Katz was taken home by Beverly and Larry, the son-in-law, who cared for him around the clock. Al’s condition gradually began to improve, while he was surrounded by his loving family.

Full Article and Source:
Al Katz: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor - part 4

See Also:
Al Katz: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor

Al Katz: Part Two: Road to Perdition

Al Katz: Part Three: There's No Room for Common Sense in the Eyes of Government Regulation

NASGA - Al Katz: Indiana/Florida Victim

Judge Pleads Not Guilty in Fraud Case

An Oklahoma County judge who has sentenced hundreds of criminals saw the justice system from the other side [1/24/11].

District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure, 43, and husband Karlos Antonio LeSure, 46, surrendered at the Oklahoma County jail in a felony fraud case so they would not be arrested. There, they were fingerprinted and photographed.

The judge smiled broadly for her mug shot.

They then went to the courthouse for a quick arraignment. Special Judge Russell Hall entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. They remain free on personal recognizance bonds. A conference in the case was set for March 31.

Prosecutors allege the judge and her husband secretly gave away twins placed in their care. They allege the judge spent on herself some of the $22,000 in state funds paid to her for the children’s care.

Full Article and Source:
Oklahoma County Judge Pleads Not Guilty in Fraud Case

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nebraska: Oversight of Guardians Advances

A bill that would tighten oversight of guardians and conservators will be among the first debated in this year’s legislative session.

Members of the Judiciary Committee voted without dissent Thursday to advance Legislative Bill 157 to the full Legislature.

Among other things, the measure would require background checks for guardians and conservators and the furnishing of bonds for assets greater than $10,000.

It would require inventories of a ward’s assets before a guardian’s appointment becomes final and would allow for mediation to resolve disputes.

It also would allow third parties to ask for more court oversight when a ward’s safety, health or financial welfare appears in jeopardy.

State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, who introduced the bill, said it represents only the beginning of changes needed to better protect vulnerable Nebraskans.

“This puts some immediate, meaningful protections in place for wards,” he said. “There is much more to do.”

Full Article and Source:
Oversight of Guardians Advances

Trial Date Set for 'Road Rage' Judge

An Erie district judge faces trial before the state Court of Judicial Discipline for a road rage incident in which police say he brandished a gun, and for talking tough about juvenile crime and graffiti in news stories.

The trial of District Judge Thomas Carney is scheduled for April 6 in Harrisburg.

Full Article and Source:
PA Judge Faces Disciplinary Trial in Road Rage

See Also:
PA Judge Facing Disciplinary Trial for Road Rage Incident

Sunday, January 30, 2011

'Gloves are Off' in Estate Battle

When San Antonio businessman and philanthropist Leo Block, 94, died at home Aug. 31, 2009, he left behind a new wife, at least $15 million in assets and troubling questions about the last chapter of his life.

Among the uncertainties were why the confirmed bachelor had married suddenly late in life without telling his family and why he — or others — had quickly begun making radical changes in his will, estate plan and investments.

Also unclear was how he met Erma Holman, 71, a local bail bond company owner whom he married in July 2008, and Stephen Boyd, a lawyer who twice was disciplined for ethical lapses in the late 1990s.

Some answers are emerging in bitter litigation in Bexar County Probate Court No. 1, where in November 2009 Block family members filed suit, accusing Erma Holman Block, Boyd and others of fleecing a muddled old man.

“Sadly, by the time of his death, Leo Block had truly become the ‘poster child' for elder abuse and exploitation,” reads the lawsuit filed by Block's sister Betty Simmons and her two children, who until 2008 had stood to inherit almost all of Block's wealth.

Their suit seeks to overturn Leo Block's final will, created just months after his wedding, which gave the bulk of his assets to Erma Block and three charities.

It claims that soon after the marriage, Boyd and Erma Block began to “strip” Leo Block of his wealth while isolating him from his family.

Full Article and Source:
'Gloves are Off' in Estate Battle

Block Estate Battle Set for May

After learning that settlement talks had failed in a contentious suit involving San Antonio businessman Leo Block, Bexar County Probate Judge Polly Spencer ordered both sides to get ready for a May trial.

The judge on Thursday did not rule on a request by the defendants to lift a freeze she had imposed on eight valuable properties acquired with Block's money. They appear to be all that remains of Block's once considerable wealth.

“The assets of Leo Block have been wasted by Erma Block and Stephen Boyd. All we are trying to do is keep the few remaining assets from being wasted,” argued Linda McDonald, representing the plaintiffs, in asking Spencer to keep the freeze in place.

Block, 94, had made his fortune through Block Distributing, a San Antonio beer and wine wholesaler, now known as Republic Distributing.

But his last two years were tumultuous. In July 2008, Block, a lifelong bachelor, married Erma Holman, 71, owner of a local bail bond company. He also retained Stephen Boyd, a lawyer twice disciplined in the 1990s for ethical lapses.

And before Block died in August 2009, he or someone else made a series of radical changes in his will, estate plan and investments. His sister Betty Simmons and her two children were replaced as primary beneficiaries by his new wife and three charities.

In November 2009, Block's relatives sued, seeking to overturn that will, claiming Erma and Boyd had victimized a demented old man, by systematically “stripping” Block of his wealth.

Both Erma and Boyd have issued categorical denials. But the two are now at each other's throats.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Sets May Trial in Block Estate Battle

Allegations of Faked Will, Crumbling Finances Dog Prominent Lawyer

The death last year of colorful Mobile County lawyer Joseph Brunson touched off a legal fight that has included accusations that another prominent local attorney helped create a phony will.

In a little more than a month, Mobile lawyer Richard Horne has been repudiated by a jury reviewing the will; has been hit with a $159,000 civil judgment over a loan default; has filed for bankruptcy protection and, as of last week, faces an ethics complaint made to the state bar.

It is a shocking turn for a man who has been a respected member of the city's legal community for years, once serving on the bar's ethics committee. His high-profile clients over the years have included former Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo and former Prichard Mayor Jesse Norwood.

Horne, a longtime friend of Brunson who helped the attorney get his law license back after a federal drug conviction, said the state bar's confidentiality rules prohibit him from commenting.

The bar complaint, made by the stepfather of the women who contested the will in Mobile County Probate Court, accuses Horne of perjury and accessory to forgery. He has 14 days to respond.

The will listed Judy Harold - Brunson's "companion and life-long friend" - as administrator and sole beneficiary of his estate. Horne and Pauline Phillips, who worked for the company that owned the building that housed Horne's law practice, were listed as witnesses. Horne's secretary, Megan Graham, notarized the document.

Full Article and Source:
Allegations of Faked Will, Crumbling Finances
Dog Prominent Mobile lawyer