Saturday, April 23, 2011

Actor Sir Patrick Stewart Supports Assisted Suicide

Star Trek actor says euthanasia should be everyone's human right. Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart reveals support for organisation seeking to legalise assisted death.

Sir Patrick Stewart says a health scare influenced his support for assisted death. The actor Sir Patrick Stewart has spoken out about his decision to join an organisation campaigning for the legalisation of euthanasia, declaring that the choice to have an assisted death should be a right.

"I have a strong feeling that, should the time come for me, having had no role in my birth, I would like there to be a choice I might make about how I die," he said in an interview with the Sunday Times.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his membership of Dignity in Dying, Stewart referred to a recent tragedy involving a friend, as well as his own diagnosis of having coronary heart disease five years ago. "I am reluctant to go into details. Enough to say this person was driven to an extreme situation of ending their own life in the most ghastly way," he said of the friend. "There's got to be an alternative when someone is suffering so badly and is ready to go."

Asked if he believed that the choice of ending one's life should be a human right, he replied: "yes", adding: "Everything that medicine can do to keep somebody alive doesn't automatically follow as the best option."

Full Article and Source:
Star Trek Actor Backs Euthanasia

Denver's Probate Judge Stepping Down After 16 Years

C. Jean Stewart, the judge who presided over Denver's probate court for 16 years, will step down in June to offer private services in probate cases and family estate matters.

"Public service in our courts has been my immense honor and privilege," she wrote in a resignation letter to the Colorado Supreme Court last week.

But she also described herself as eager to return to private endeavors, which include serving as a mediator, offering herself as an appointed judge and working with a task force on national probate court standards.

"I'm excited," she said in an interview. "I'm going to just offer neutral services (in probate cases)," rather than serve as an advocate or expert.

Probate courts appoint guardians and conservators for incapacitated people who need help making personal and financial decisions. They also handle mental health and family estate cases. In Colorado, Denver has the only court established solely to administer probate cases.

In a series of stories last year, The Denver Post highlighted problems at the court. The Post reported that many guardians failed to report anything about their wards for as long as five years, including one ward who was HIV-positive and sexually active. The Post also reported that a court-appointed public administrator had sold 25 estate homes to the same investor and that former employees complained that Stewart was not requiring key staffers to work a full week.

But a judicial retention commission unanimously recommended Stewart, commending her professionalism and commitment. The commission also cited a survey that showed overwhelming support from lawyers and nonlawyers who had appeared before Stewart. In November, Denver voters gave her another six-year term on the bench.

Stewart's resignation creates a vacancy in a court with one full-time judge and about 2,500 yearly cases. A seven-member committee will meet next month to interview and select nominees to succeed her. That committee will recommend two or three applicants to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who will appoint the next judge.

Denver's Probate Judge Stepping Down After 16 Years

Ethics Hearing Spurs Motions

It was supposed to be an initial case-management conference to set a trial date and other deadlines for the ethics case against former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and two of his former deputies.

But the only thing that was established during Thursday's hearing was that this will be a long and contentious process.

Attorneys for Thomas and the deputies, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander, asked that the judge step down, that the special prosecutor be disqualified and that the entire method of trying the case be returned to the state Supreme Court's old rules for lawyer discipline.

Attorneys for the three former prosecutors also asked that TV and still cameras be banned from the courtroom and requested the proceedings be closed to the public altogether.

Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil denied all of their motions except the question about cameras, which he took under advisement, meaning he will issue a ruling at a later date.

Wilson and Moriarty also complained because the method of trying attorney-discipline cases changed on Jan. 1. The three attorneys, therefore, were charged under one system and are being tried under another.

Among the differences is that the number of "probable-cause panelists," who determine whether there's sufficient evidence to continue, increased to three from one.

The initial findings by Sudler and his boss, John Gleason, were filed in November and approved by a probable-cause panelist in December, under the old system.

The three were formally charged Feb. 3 with ethics violations that include conflicts of interest and filing criminal and civil cases without probable cause or sufficient evidence.

Full Article and Source:
Ethics Hearing Spurs Motions

Friday, April 22, 2011

'She is not in any pain. I am.'

Noni was having difficulty breathing earlier but is better now. She is sleeping. They are giving her morphine every two to three hours. She is not in any pain. I am.

Many of my personal belongings are still at my Grandmother's house. Clothes, furniture, personal items, home decor, linens, paperwork, dishes, china, glasses, STUFF! These are all items that I brought with me when I moved to San Francisco to care for my Grandmother at the request of my brother and uncle.

I can EVEN prove that these are my property. I have receipts and other documentation proving that the items were purchased by me with my money before I moved to my Grandmother's house.

YOU WILL NEVER guess what is happening. Lawrence "Larry" Siracusa, the one that just flat out lies to the Judge, will not allow me to pick-up my property!!

I don't know why I am surprised!

He is responsible for over $600,000 in expenses over a 12 month period that are being charged to my Grandmother's Trust!

He is responsible for the fact that my Grandmother is being forced to die in a nursing home. Years ago she made me promise I would never let this happen. I dispise him for what he has done to my Grandmother.

He is responsible for filing dozens of documents with the court that are full of lies and exaggerations...pure fiction. He then has his client sign the pack of lies and perjure herself.

He is the reason that my Uncle Paul and I have been excluded from my Grandmother's life for the past 18 months.

He is the reason my children have had only limited access to their Great Grandmother.


Former Probate Judge Denied Early Release From Prison

Former Covington County Probate Judge Sherrie Phillips has been denied an early release from prison.

Circuit Judge Charles Price turned down her request in a one-paragraph order.

Price sentenced her to three years in prison after she was convicted of the theft of $1.8 million from an estate and using her position for unlawful personal gain. She's due to get out in October 2012.

Her attorney, David Harrison, sought an early release on grounds she had reformed and her release would save money.

The Department of Corrections says she's serving her sentence at a community-based work facility in Montgomery.

Former Covington County Probate Judge Denied Early Release From Prison

See Also:
Former Probate Judge Going to Prison

Ex-Lawyer Admits Bilking Clients

A former lawyer pleaded guilty in Allen County Superior Court to charges of corrupt business influence and theft, admitting to stealing money from his clients.

Daniel E. Serban, 53, will be sentenced in mid-May. He pleaded guilty to two of the four charges against him – Class C felony corrupt business influence and Class D felony theft.

Arrested and charged last September, Serban admitted Monday to failing to distribute money paid into Serban Law Office’s Trust Account to the appropriate clients or to those entitled by court order to receive it.

During the course of the investigation, Serban told officers some of the money he used to pay off the original client, after he was confronted, had been taken from money put into the trust account for an estate. He told investigators he forged the name of the estate’s personal representative on the check.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Lawyer Admits Bilking Clients

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Arizona Probate Reforms Pass!

Arizona lawmakers passed bills Tuesday to overhaul state Probate Court and better protect people whose life savings can be drained paying the fees of lawyers and for-profit fiduciaries.

But the bills are minus a key budget provision that reformers say was necessary to ensure fees won't overwhelm incapacitated adults placed under the court's supervision.

"The way the process is set up now, the first time a judge ever sees the fees is 12 months out . . . after the money is spent," said Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Ann Timmer, who chairs a committee of judges, lawyers and fiduciaries appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court last year to recommend Probate Court reforms.

"We went forward with the idea of a budget . . . asking: How do we get a handle on fees that can quickly spiral up?" she said.

The budget provision, which was opposed by some professional fiduciaries and lawyers, likely will be adopted as a future state Supreme Court rule, Timmer said. That means the court would require it in cases even though it was not written into state law. Timmer said introducing budgets was a key focal point of the probate committee and is supported by judges.

Despite the loss of a budget requirement, reformers call the passage of the bills a victory for individuals and their families whose cases are decided in Probate Court.

The legislation follows an ongoing investigation by The Arizona Republic that found Maricopa County Probate Court for years allowed the assets of some vulnerable adults to become cash machines for attorneys and fiduciaries. Judges charged with overseeing these cases rarely stepped in to limit or reduce fees, even when incapacitated adults ended up on state assistance programs.

Senate Bill 1499, known as the Probate Omnibus, combines elements from two competing reform proposals - one supported by judges, fiduciaries and their lawyers and the other by citizen activists - hammered together over the past month.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, would:

- Require for-profit fiduciaries to preserve the assets of their clients and to avoid charges where the cost outweighs the benefits. Some have complained that fiduciaries would run up excessive bills pursuing legal actions or other goals that did nothing to benefit their clients.

- Require judicial officers to participate in training mandated by the Arizona Supreme Court. In some cases, judges assigned to Probate Court acknowledged that they didn't have a background in probate and asked for assistance from the lawyers in cases.

- Allow the ward or relatives to substitute a guardian without justification and without proof that the guardian acted inappropriately. Fiduciaries have run up costly legal bills fighting their removal from some cases, saying there was no proof they did anything wrong.

- Allow the appointment of a temporary guardian only if facts show there will be immediate and irreparable injury, damage or loss. Critics say that fiduciaries in some cases have claimed that emergencies exist in order to be appointed temporary guardian, leading to high costs.

- Require fiduciaries to provide copies of financial and other case records to their clients and families. In some cases, families have complained that records were kept from them.

A companion piece of legislation, House Bill 2424, also passed by the Legislature Tuesday, creates a legislative-review panel that takes citizen complaints about Probate Court and makes an annual report to the governor and other state officials.

The House bill was championed by self-described victims of Probate Court who said it would force more oversight of the court.

Laura Knaperek, a former state representative and co-author of the House bill, said the new bill incorporates many of the changes sought by those victims and their families.

She said "the biggest loss" is the failure of the bill to require clear and convincing evidence before someone can be appointed conservator to manage an incapacitated adult's finances.

"A lot of the victims were made victims because of that," Knaperek said, adding that judges appointed conservators in cases without a set standard.

"They are happy," she said. "They honestly believed nobody would do anything to help. They wanted to make sure reforms are put in place so what happened (to them) wouldn't happen to anyone else."

Full Article and Source:
Arizona Lawmakers OK Bills That Would Reform Probate Court

Probate Series Wins Reporting Award

Doug Pardue, The Post and Courier's watchdog and special-assignments editor, has won the 2010 Taylor/Tomlin Award for investigative reporting for a series he wrote last year on how the probate court system can victimize vulnerable adults.

The series, "The Price of Living," revealed how the probate court, which is supposed to protect the incapacitated elderly from abuse and financial exploitation, can turn against them. The stories, which ran on Nov. 28 and 29, detailed how the court can empty an elderly person's life savings through court-approved fees for lawyers, guardians and conservators.

A week after the newspaper's series ran, Jean Toal, the chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, which oversees the state's courts, characterized the reporting as "thoughtful and powerful."

She said the newspaper's "excellent research has given me much to ponder. I will be taking action to move this issue forward." Toal has not revealed what that action will be.

While the series was being reported, the Charleston County Probate Court also began limiting fees.

The Taylor/Tomlin judges called the series "a classic example of excellent investigative reporting by a reporter who used all of the tools of his trade -- energy, doggedness, documents and personal contacts -- to shed light on the plight of elderly citizens in the probate court system."

The judges said the series also accomplished two important criteria for the award -- it heightened public awareness and performed a public service by causing beneficial change.

The award was presented [4/13/11] during a ceremony at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which administers the news competition.

Series on Probate Court Wins Reporting Award

See Also:
The Price of Living

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bob Queener - 'Slowly Tossed Away'

As if 79-year-old Bob Queener hasn't been through enough in the past 16 months, now his nursing home is giving him the boot.

The trouble began in December 2009 when the state yanked him out of his tidy, mortgage-free home on Des Moines' east side, supposedly because he could no longer take care of himself and his family wasn't moving fast enough to find round-the-clock care.

Queener suffers from mild dementia and mild autism. He doesn't reason or remember the way he used to, and sometimes he gets agitated.

But he's conversational and alert enough to wonder where all his money went. Before the Department of Human Services came after him, he had about $160,000 in the bank.

Now there's a few hundred in a checking account, and he has until May 16 to find another place to live. Last week, the people who take care of Queener at Trinity Center at Luther Park gave notice: He owed $6,450, with another $6,655 due at the end of the month.

Full Article and Source:
Hansen: Des Moines Man's Life Slowly Tossed Away

See Also:
Protecting Iowa's Senior Citizens

MN Bill Adds Elder Abuse to Offender Registry

A bill that adds elder abuse to Minnesota's predatory offender registry has advanced to the Senate. Republican Senator Warren Limmer of Maple Grove is the sponsor of the legislation. Limmer says nursing home employees who abuse a vulnerable resident would be added to the registry.

Full Article and Source:
Bill Adds Elder Abuse to Offender Registry

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

HB2424: There Is Not a Minute to Spare...

Your constitutional rights are under assault as for-profit forces try to preven due process from being applied in new probate law!

"CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE" must be a part of any court reform to protect th rights of the citizens as guaranted by the Fifth Amendment!

If you, or your parents, are over 50 years old and have savings, 401K, retirement, or pensions....this applies to you!


Call or email Senator Adam Driggs

Phone Number: (602) 926-3016
Fax Number: (602) 417-3007

Email Address:



Courthouse Steps

Facebook Brings Challenges For Judges, Attorneys

The Ohio Supreme Court wants state judges to exhibit caution before padding their Facebook friend lists with people – read attorneys – who might appear or are appearing before them in court.

Advisory guidelines issued in December by the court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline cautioned judges about their connections and what information they are sharing on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“You can be a friend with somebody, but you’ve got to do it carefully,” said Jon Marshall, the board’s secretary.

Full Article and Source:
Facebook Brings Challenges For Judges, Attorneys

Monday, April 18, 2011

APS Guardian Progam in Washington State Under Scrutiny

Q13 Fox: Thousands of seniors across the state rely on court-appointed guardians to make decisions, pay their bills and manage their health care. But some Washington families and even lawmakers said there are big problems with the state's guardian system.

YouTube: Adult Protective Service Guardian Program Corruption in Washington State.

YouTube: Adult Protective Service" APS "Guardian Program Corruption in Washington State 2.

See Also:
Elderly Guardian Bills

State Senator Jim Kastama
25th District, Puyallup

Olympia Office
235 Cherberg Building
Olympia, WA 98504-0446
(360) 786-7648
Fax: (360) 786-1446

District Office
107 W. Stewart Ave. Suite E-7
Puyallup, WA 98371
(253) 840-4701

Elder Financial Exploitation Conference April 21

Elder financial abuse is a crime, and the incidence is on the rise. Fraud experts say it will be the "Crime of the 21st Century" due to a growing older population.

According to a MetLife Mature Market Institute report in 2009, up to one million older adults may be targeted yearly. The related cost of exploiting older adults exceeds $2.6 billion annually. This includes health care, social services, legal fees, prosecution, and lost income or assets.

At a time when older adults should be enjoying the labors of a lifetime, they are being exploited by con artists, unscrupulous companies, caregivers, and even family members. The outcome can be devastating. Without financial resources, emotional and physical well-being also declines and they may even lose their independence.

"Elder Financial Exploitation: Investigation and Intervention Tools" is the theme for the 2011 Rocky Mountain Conference on Aging on Thursday, April 21 at The Ranch near Loveland. Conference attendees will explore the challenges and complexities of financial exploitation, learn to recognize warning signs, and acquire tools for investigation and prevention.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Financial Exploitation Subject of April 21 Conference

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Evelyn Schwartz, Gone Too Soon


See Also:
Evelyn Schwartz Passes

Guardian Accused of Stealing from Father

A Chippewa Falls man is accused of stealing, from his father.

Investigators say Dale Schick Jr. withdrew more than $14,000 from accounts belonging to his dad, who lived in a nursing home. Schick was his court-appointed guardian. Court officials reminded him repeatedly that he could not take money out of the accounts, but say the withdrawals continued.

Investigators say there are more than 130 questionable withdrawals. Schick has since repaid some of the money, but is now charged with felony theft.

Full Article and Source:
Chippewa Falls Man Accused of Stealing from His Father

Continuing Care Residential Communities Can Be Risky

A recent report by the U.S. Senate Special Committee On Aging found that the financial underpinning of the country's continuing-care residential communities -- which basically require residents to turn over a large chunk of their life savings as an entry fee -- "is particularly vulnerable during economic downturns." And nationwide, a number of retirement communities have filed for bankruptcy, putting residents' nest eggs in peril.

The report noted that three of the five companies it investigated -- none identified publicly -- "use entrance fee deposits to repay construction loans" and to "repay other residents or beneficiaries rather than keeping deposits in the bank."

Full Article and Source:
Continuing Care Residential Communities Can be Risky During Tough Economic Times