Saturday, May 28, 2011

Court Wants Proof of Jeffrey Schend's Inability to Afford Lawyer

A former guardian accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly and disabled clients said a boat, car and about $1,000 he can no longer access are his only assets.

A court commissioner, however, said Thursday she needed more proof before determining whether Outagamie County would pay up front for an attorney to represent Jeffrey M. Schend on seven theft charges.

"I guess I'm not convinced this is a full accounting," Court Commissioner Maureen Roberts Budiac told Schend, 44, during a hearing to determine whether the county should pay for his attorney.

Schend was charged this month with six felony counts of theft and a misdemeanor after he was unable to account for about $500,000 in transactions from his clients' accounts. He didn't qualify for a free public defender, but says he can't afford to hire a lawyer.

Investigators have said they continue to pore over the records of Schend's clients.

He remains in jail on a $100,000 cash bond. He'll appear in court June 15 for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors will have to show evidence is sufficient to maintain the felony charges.

Full Article and Source:
Court Asks Jeffrey Schend for More Information Before Deciding Whether to Appoint Attorney

See Also:
Jeffrey Schend Says He Can't Afford Attorney

Judge Speaks Out Against Record Sealing

A Dauphin County trial judge has come down hard against the practice of sealing judicial records, calling it "unconstitutional" and an "invitation to secrecy and, potentially, abuse."

In a strongly worded four-page opinion filed April 19 in Gebhardt v. Woods , Judge Lawrence F. Clark denied plaintiff Stephen Gebhardt's motion to seal all pleadings, motions and replies, saying a litigant's desire to preserve his or her privacy in a case is no excuse for a court to deprive the public access to judicial records.

"In the past, the courts have summarily sealed records," Clark said. "It was unconstitutional then and it is unconstitutional today."

Robert C. Clothier, co-chair of Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild's media, defamation and privacy law practice, said Clark's opinion is, on the one hand, unremarkable since it's been well-established that a party's desire to keep information private is not enough to warrant the sealing of a judicial record.

What is noteworthy, Clothier said, is "the heartfelt way in which he articulated the policies underlying openness."

"That's what's remarkable and heartening to see: how strongly the judge here conveys the importance of openness in the courts," he said.

Clark said the public has an "extremely broad" right of access to court records.

"Obviously, in modern times there has been a grand impetus toward the accessibility of public information," Clark said. "Furthermore, it is not a sufficient basis to seal a record just because the parties agree amongst themselves that it would be in their best interests to seal part or all of the record."

Clark said doing so would rob Pennsylvania citizens of "their fundamental constitutional right to access such information."

According to Clark, judges have a duty to uphold this right and to maintain transparency, even if it means doing so at the expense of the parties involved in the case.

"Every judicial officer from the newest magisterial district judge to the chief justice of the Supreme Court takes the same oath of office before commencing their duties, which oath binds them to 'support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity,'" he said, citing Article VI, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Full Article and Source:
Dauphin Co. Judge Speaks Out Against Document Sealing

'Open Court'

It is a fundamental principle of the United States legal system that courts should be open to the public. This principle is widely regarded as more aspirational than factual, because of numerous practical barriers to courtroom access -- not the least of which is that most of us do not have the time or ability to travel to the court to witness proceedings in person. While the news media report on judicial proceedings, their resources are limited; as a result, coverage is normally focused on specific cases of particular interest. Moreover, audiovisual recording of judicial activity is sporadic due to a complicated patchwork of largely discretionary rules about allowing cameras in the courtroom.

OpenCourt, an experimental project launched on May 2, 2011, by WBUR, Boston's NPR news station, seeks to change all of that. With the cooperation of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the highest court in the Commonwealth) and the Massachusetts District Court (a department of the Massachusetts Trial Court), the OpenCourt project has started streaming live video and audio of the proceedings in the First Session of Quincy District Court. OpenCourt also provides WiFi access to journalists and bloggers so that they can report live from the courtroom.

The goal of the OpenCourt project is to develop a set of standards and best practices for live access to the courts that can be replicated in courtrooms around the country.

Full Article and Source:
Announcing OpenCourt

Friday, May 27, 2011

Arizona Attorney Grant Goodman Sanctioned

Grant Goodman, a local attorney who became a private version of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas by filing a series of failed so-called racketeering lawsuits against court-appointed guardians, conservators, lawyers and judges, is in very hot water.

Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill (from Gila County) issued the latest in a series of hefty financial sanctions against Goodman in a stinging 15-page ruling in an action against the sole practitioner by a large group of litigants, including a now-closed private fiduciary firm, Superior Court judges and several attorneys.

At one point, Goodman claimed that the shuttered fiduciary firm, the Sun Valley Group, in cahoots with Superior Court Judges and a cabal of greedy attorneys, was ripping off adults deemed "incapacitated" by the court for everything they had.

Judges often appoint private fiduciaries to help with all aspects of a clients's life, and Goodman's representation of those vulnerable people was marked by half-baked legal assaults and inane in-court verbal exchanges with judges and opposing counsel.

"Claims that the [clients] did not receive what they deserved--that, instead, scoundrels (`Racketeers,' as Mr. Goodman calls them) took advantage of them and stole all their property are serious," Judge Cahill wrote in his ruling, which was issued yesterday afternoon.

But the judge noted that Goodman never did file any paperwork to show his clients were entitled to legal relief, writing that "Alfred Dreyfus surely would have died on Devil's Island if Goodman had been his `[Emile] Zola.'" (Great literary reference there--check it out by linking to Zola.)

Cahill added about another $200,000 in legal sanctions against Goodman to the $24 million that the litigious little guy already is on the hook for. However, he suggested that, based on past behavior, "the court believes it is quite likely that these financial sanctions will mean nothing to Mr. Goodman."

The out-of-town judge, who was asked to sit on the Goodman case because of conflicts-of-interest in Maricopa County, wrote that "it is reasonably likely--actually it is a certainty--that Mr. Goodman will victimize others.

Cahill recommended that Maricopa County's presiding judge Norm Davis hold a hearing, after which Davis deem Goodman a "vexatious litigant," (vexatious denoting "an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant").

If Judge Davis does so, Goodman would have to file any and all complaints with Davis himself for review and possibly immediate dismissal. Any defendants of a Goodman lawsuit wouldn't have to respond until the judge gave the go-ahead.

Cahill wrote that "Mr. Goodman's conduct--the manner in which he has handled these important matters--has brought discredit to the profession and the courts. In addition, his conduct caused significant harm to the litigants."

Full Article and Source:
Grant Goodman, Gadfly Phoenix Attorney, Sanctioned Heavily in Probate Cases

'Trial & Heirs' - Famous Fortune Fights

What do Princess Di, Marlon Brando, Heath Ledger, Jimi Hendrix and former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger have in common? They all flubbed their estate planning, costing intended heirs money and/or grief, according to a readable (really) estate planning how-to book, Trial & Heirs. The new book uses these celebrity cliffhanger cases to dish out real-life advice.

The mistakes these folks made run the gamut. Jimi Hendrix died without a will, leaving his close brother Leon with nothing. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote his own will, which at 176 words left out basic tax clauses that could have saved $450,000 in estate taxes. Princess Di relied on a "letter of wishes" to give away belongings, and her godchildren got shortchanged.

"Everyday people can learn from these celebrity stories," says Andrew W. Mayoras, a probate litigator who wrote the book with his wife, Danielle B. Mayoras, an estate lawyer. "The cases are different only in terms of dollars and notoriety from the issues I see in my practice," he adds.

Amazon: Trial & Heirs

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jeffrey Schend Says He Can't Afford an Attorney

A former guardian accused of living lavishly while stealing hundreds of thousands from his elderly and disabled clients will ask the court to appoint an attorney to defend him because he can’t afford a lawyer.

Jeffrey M. Schend, 44, was charged this month in Outagamie County Court with six felony counts of theft and one misdemeanor count after he was unable to account for about $500,000 in transactions from clients’ accounts.

Schend’s company, JMS Guardianship Services, was hired by Outagamie County in 2004 to serve as a guardian for clients who were unable to handle their affairs.

Schend will appear in court Thursday for an indigency hearing. Gene Bartman, a state public defender, said indigency hearings are scheduled when defendants aren’t eligible for a public defender, but argue they can’t afford to hire an attorney. If an attorney is appointed to represent Schend, Outagamie County would bear the initial cost, but Schend would have to repay the county.

The public defender’s office considers a person’s income, assets and family size, among other factors, when deciding whether a person is eligible for a court-appointed attorney, Bartman said.

Schend’s former employees told police Schend boasted about traveling first class, owning a boat and driving luxury vehicles including a Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac.

Schend is jailed on a $100,000 cash bond and will appear in court June 15 for a preliminary hearing, at which prosecutors will have to show sufficient evidence to maintain the felony charges. The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services suspended Schend on April 24 from its list of approved guardians.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian Jeffrey Schend Accused in Theft of Client's Money Says He Can't Afford Attorney

More on Jeffrey Schend

An Appleton man hired by Outagamie County to serve as a guardian for people ruled legally incompetent is unable to account for about $500,000 in transactions from clients' accounts, a search warrant affidavit says.

Jeffrey M. Schend's company, JMS Guardianship Services, was hired by Outagamie County in 2004 to serve as a guardian for clients who were unable to handle their affairs. Schend, 44, was charged this month in Outagamie County Court with six felony counts of theft and one misdemeanor theft charge.

It's not the first time Schend's financial record-keeping has been questioned.

In January 2010, Shawano County officials won a $4,700 judgment against Schend for mishandling a client's account.

State law requires corporate guardians turn over their accounting records for an annual review. The county's register in probate reviewed Schend's accounting and determined "there wasn't enough information provided to determine whether money in equaled the money out," said Tony Kordus, the attorney for Shawano County. A judge agreed.

Kordus said Schend failed to pay the judgment and officials were able to garnish one of his accounts, but have recovered only $1,000.

Schend remains in jail on a $100,000 cash bond and will return to court June 15 for a hearing to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to pursue the felony charge.

Full Article and Source:
Jailed Guardian Jeffrey Schend Lost Judgment in Shawano County

See Also:
Jeffrey Schend Revolked from Guardianship Practice

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Corruption in the Courts: What it Looks Like and Where it is Hidden

I remember when my conservatorship started I was told “You don’t want to @&%$ off a judge”. That always struck me as an odd statement. After reading the Judicial Code, nowhere did I find instructions for a judge to rule based on being “@#(^%ed off”. In fact, they are instructed to do quite the opposite. A judge must ignore their own personal feelings and rule according to the law.

Judge Kennedy’s lack of knowledge of the law is disturbing enough. His utter disregard for the Constitution and Bill of Rights is obvious. Kennedy rules based on who is listed on his campaign contribution file and his own political aspirations. Not to mention what appears to be obvious corruption.

Our judiciary in Tennessee needs a complete makeover. Tennessee, #1 Most Corrupt State in 2010. I’ve got a problem with that. Do you?


CA Bill Targeting Elder Abuse Passes

A state Assembly bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Marina del Rey) that would increase the fines for financial crimes committed against elderly and dependent adults was unanimously passed Thursday and will head to the state Senate for consideration.

AB332, which passed 78-0, would increase the fines from $1,000 to $2,500 for embezzlement, forgery, fraud or identity theft against an elder or dependent adult for a misdemeanor offense of more than $950. The bill also would enable felony charges for some theft crimes against the elderly with fines of up to $1,000. The increased penalties would be in addition to any jail or prison sentences.

Over the past 10 years there were 4,735 convictions in California for embezzlement, forgery, fraud and identity theft against elders and dependent adults, according to the California Department of Justice.

Full Article and Source:
Butler's Bill Targeting Elderly Abuse Passes Assembly

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jeffrey Schend Revoked From Guardianship Practice

State regulators revoked Jeffrey Schend's privilege to serve as a guardian for people ruled legally incompetent even before police began an investigation into whether he stole from his vulnerable clients.

County officials, meanwhile, say allegations that Schend took tens of thousands from those unable to handle their affairs will spur a review of whether there's enough oversight of guardians.

"Our main concern is to try to assure that our wards are safe, and whatever we can do to enhance our procedures, we're going to take a look at that," Joseph Guidote, the county's chief attorney said.

Schend, 44, of Appleton, was charged last week in Outagamie County Court with six felony counts of theft and one misdemeanor theft charge related to the finances of four of his clients.

Full Article and Source;
Schend Revoked From Guardianship Practice

See Also:
Alleged Guardian Theft

Theft Investigation Against Guardian May Grow

An Appleton guardian accused of stealing several hundred thousand dollars from his elderly and disabled clients may be investigated in another county.

Jeffrey Schend, 44, is owner of JMS Guardianship Services. He faces six felony theft charges in Outagamie County for allegedly emptying the bank accounts of several clients who were deemed legally incompetent.

Action 2 News has learned Schend was contracted for services in Waupaca and Shawano counties and by the Oneida tribe as well.

After our report aired Wednesday, Action 2 News received a call from a former client of Schend's claiming more theft allegations against the former guardian.

Appleton police and Outagamie County tell us they're looking into the new complaint

Full Article and Source:
Theft Investigation Against Guardian May Grow

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Wrongful Life - Forsaken Brooklyn Boy Had Fortune and Childhood Squandered by Law Guardian

He was born with no arms and disfigured legs. He couldn’t walk. And though his mind was sound, perhaps even ingenious, he argued that legally he should have never been born.

The legal problems all began in 1999, when a Brooklyn attorney was first appointed as the disabled child’s guardian, charged with the duty of overseeing a large sum of money the 7-year-old had just been awarded in a wrongful-life action filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

A wrongful-life action is defined as “a lawsuit brought by or on behalf of a child with birth defects, alleging that but for the doctor-defendant’s negligent advice, the parents would not have conceived the child, or if they had, they would have aborted the fetus to avoid the pain and suffering resulting from the child’s congenital defects.”

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, most jurisdictions reject these claims. Brooklyn does not. Roy Lantigua, who was born without arms and with shortened legs and clubbed feet, received $684,700 from a settlement reached in his wrongful-life action.

With such a large sum of money, it would seem possible that Lantigua could purchase the items and services needed to actually make his everyday life a little closer to normal.

But the decision on what to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars on was not Lantigua’s to make. That decision was given to law guardian and Crown Heights attorney Ray Alfred Jones Jr.

And now, over a decade later, Jones could possibly face criminal prosecution for allegedly squandering over $500,000 of Lantigua’s money.

Several weeks ago, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Betsy Barros ordered Jones to pay a $501,425.67 surcharge, plus interest dating back to April 2004, for a pattern of “self-dealing and conflicts of interest” in his handling of the assets of Roy Lantigua.

“It is abundantly clear that [Jones] never acted in Roy’s best interest,” Justice Barros wrote in her March 31 ruling.

Jones was actually removed from his position as Lantigua’s guardian in 2004, and is no longer approved or eligible to serve as a guardian in Kings County.

But while serving as Lantigua’s guardian, Jones used the ward’s assets to buy Lantigua a home in Crown Heights that was not handicapped-accessible ($111,000), have the home renovated, though the renovations were never completed ($200,000), pay rent on a nearby apartment for Lantigua and his family to live in during said renovations ($32,000), and buy a handicapped-accessible van ($40,000), which Jones apparently took away from Lantigua’s mother after she got too many parking tickets.

“The hallmarks of [Jones]’s tenure as co-guardian/co-trustee are self-dealing, a cavalier disregard of Roy [Lantigua]’s abilities and disabilities, a contemptuous attitude toward and direct contravention of the court’s orders and authority, and a breakneck pace of expenditures, the lion’s share of which lie in the risky business of home renovation,” Justice Barros wrote in her order, which was published online.

This ruling against Jones ironically came in response to a February 2010 motion filed by Jones to obtain attorney’s fees for his work as Lantigua’s guardian.

“After [Jones] was removed from the fold, he came back and asked for extraordinary commissions for guardianing Roy,” said Francine Vlantes, the attorney representing Lantigua’s new guardians. “Kathryn [Greenberg, the new co-guardian] was the only one who objected. We asked the judge that not only should Ray Jones not be given anything, but that he should be surcharged.”

Full Article and Source:
A Wrongful Life - Forsaken Brooklyn Boy Had Fortune and Childhood Squandered by Law Guardian

Judge Disqualified in Leyton Case

County Chief Probate Judge Jennie E. Barkey has been disqualified from deciding whether the in-laws of county Prosecutor David Leyton need a guardian or conservator to help them with their daily affairs.

Two separate judges’ decisions from outside Genesee County resulted in Barkey being disqualified and the temporary guardians and conservators she appointed for the parents of Leyton’s wife removed.

The probate case came into focus as Leyton ran for Michigan attorney general last fall, in part because county sheriff’s office investigators — the same ones Leyton has used to prosecute others for elder abuse — indicated Leyton’s in-laws had been “neglected” and received minimal care.

Leyton would not comment on the case and has said previously that the case is a matter for his wife’s family to resolve.

Glen Lenhoff, an attorney for Leyton’s brother-in-law, who also opposed the guardianship order, said developments in the case show Barkey took too drastic an action with limited information.

“I think the public should know what a drastic ... deprivation of freedom this is,” Lenhoff said. “The judge ran roughshod over due process. ... I pity other people who go through that court and don’t get a fair shake and don’t have the money to appeal it.”

Full Article and Source:
Genesee Chief Probate Judge Jennie E. Barkey Disqualified From Hearing Case Involving Inlaws of County Prosecutor

See Also:
Judge Appoints Temporary Guardian For Leyton's In-Laws

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Press Release: Grassley, Kohl: Nursing Home Residents Receive Powerful Antipsychotic Drugs for Off-label Uses, Inspector General Report Shows

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin wrote to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in response to a new report showing that 88 percent of the powerful antipsychotic drugs being prescribed to nursing home residents with dementia were for uses that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Nursing home residents are getting antipsychotic drugs for dementia, not psychoses,” Grassley said. “No one seems to have a good handle on whether the patients are benefiting from these medicines or whether they’re being prescribed drugs that don’t help and might even harm them. The government needs to do a better job of protecting nursing home residents from unnecessary drugs. I’ll continue to work to hold the Medicare program and nursing homes accountable for the quality of care delivered to nursing home patients.”

Late last year we convened a panel of national experts on Alzheimer’s and they told us that we must do a better job of providing care to the rapidly growing number of elders with dementia who live in our nation’s nursing homes,” Kohl said. “As these experts told us, and as the HHS OIG report confirms, Alzheimer’s patients who do not have a diagnosis of psychosis can be seriously harmed by this class of drugs. CMS must find ways to encourage the medical community to use appropriate non-pharmacological treatments for these patients, who deserve to lead dignified lives.”

Grassley and Kohl commented on a report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The report titled, “Medicare Atypical Antipsychotic Drug Claims for Elderly Nursing Home Residents,” was requested by Grassley in December 2007.

Full Press Release and Source:
Grassley, Kohl: Nursing Home Residents Receive Powerful Antipsychotic Drugs for Off-label Uses, Inspector General Report Shows

Atty Charged for Not Reporting Crimes by Her Employee

A Tuscaloosa attorney was charged [5/12/11] by federal prosecutors to a charge of withholding and concealing information on a crime that involved a law clerk in her office using the credit cards of an elderly client who suffered from dementia.

Zondra Hutto also entered into a plea agreement to the charge, according to federal court records.

Hutto, 61, had been appointed in September 2007 by Tuscaloosa County Probate Court as temporary guardian to a 79-year-old woman who suffered dementia, delusion disorder, and paranoia and required nursing home care, according to Hutto's plea agreement. Between Sept. 28, 2007 and April 18, 2008, a male employee in her office, whose work included clerical duties, used the elderly woman's debit card and a department store card to make purchases totaling $19,358.

Purchases included paying for two plane tickets and a trip to a resort in Mexico, and a Coach designer purse that the employee gave to Hutto as a Christmas present in 2007.

Full Article and Source:
Tuscaloosa Attorney Charged For Not Reporting Crimes by Her Employee

Abuse by Caretaker Charges Filed Against Oklahoma Woman

A former activities director at a local assisted living center was charged with felony abuse Wednesday in district court.

Stacy Michelle Brown, 40, Chickasha faced the abuse by caretaker charge for knowingly committing financial neglect involving a disabled, elderly man during about a 18-month timeframe, according to information from the district attorney’s office.

Court documents show that Brown called local police in December 2010 asking if a report had been filed about her involvement in financial exploitation. The acts were committed during the time she was a caretaker, on or between Aug. 1, 2009, and Jan. 1, 2011.

Brown admitted to Chickasha Police Officer G.G. Music Jr. that she took about $4,550 from the 87-year-old disabled veteran, records show. Music reported in documents that Brown said she had also planned on personally changing the victim’s POA (Power of Attorney) and nominating herself. She had also planned on splitting his estate proceeds with a business woman in town.

Full Article and Source:
Abuse by Caretaker Charges Filed Against Local Woman