Saturday, February 11, 2012

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk Enters Rehab

Lake County blog Team America 10th has leaked some news that U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to enter rehab “today." [February 10]

According to the post, Mike Morgan, Kirk’s campaign chairman, said “Kirk’s mental capacity and the right side of his body are as good as ever; Kirk is monitoring what’s going on with his legislative agenda and is very, very pleased that his work is progressing while he is on the mend.”

Report: Kirk to Enter Rehab Today

Note: NASGA's best wishes are with Senator Kirk for a rapid and complete recovery!

SC: Probate Court Backlog Causing Delays

Probate Court Backlog Causing Delays

Prosecutors: Woman Moved to Retirement Home to Con Elderly

A transient woman suspected of bilking elderly residents at Seattle-area retirement homes after gaining their trust has been charged with several counts of felony theft.

King County prosecutors claim Fonda D. Michaux conned several residents of a Burien retirement home, where the 52-year-old was living with her father. Beyond those thefts, though, investigators suspect she may have used the same scheme against other elderly people elsewhere in the area.

“While living in retirement communities, the defendant befriended and defrauded a number of elderly and vulnerable victims,” Deputy Prosecutor Celia Lee told the court.

“The state has received additional information concerning identical criminal conduct that has occurred at other retirement homes,” Lee continued. She described the investigation as ongoing, but suggested additional charges may be forthcoming.

Full Article and Source:
Prosecutors: Woman Moved to Retirement Home to Con Elderly

Friday, February 10, 2012

Nebraska: Guardianship and Conservatorship Changes for 2012

For individuals filing for guardianship starting this year the new law and court rules require the filing of a national criminal history record check, a check of the Abuse and Neglect Registries for adults and children, a check with the sex offender registry, and a credit check, 10 days before the hearing to appoint a permanent guardian of an adult. The information will not be disclosed to non-parties without the court’s written consent. The respondent (proposed ward) is certainly a party and the term party could be argued to include others who participate in the proceeding, e.g. an interested party who objects to a petition.

If the order of appointment is issued this year the new guardian or conscervator much provide a number of forms before getting their letters from the clerk’s office. A Proof of Restricted Account is supposed to be filed within 10 days to prove establishment of any required account. There are information sheets, an inventory with an affidavit of due diligence, and any required bond. The rules also ask for a form from financial institutions holding accounts of the ward showing that the order for appointment was provided to them. The requirement to attend a class within 90 days of appointment remains the same.

All guardians and conservators, even thouse appointed years ago, are now required to gain court approval before making ATM withdrawals or receiving cash back on a debit card. They must also file their Letters with the Register of Deeds in any county where the ward has a real property interest. Reporting forms and requirements have also changed, and all reports will receive some level of third party review.

These, along with other new requirements, are designed to provide additional protection to wards. They will also make the entire process more expensive and time consuming. I know a number of professionals who says that they are either going to stop working in this area altogether or raise their fees substantially, making pre-planning alternatives like durable power of attorney documents even more appealling. Court staff, guardians, wards, and their legal counsel will all be working through the additional guardianship requirements throughout the coming months.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship and Conservatorship Changes in Nebraska for 2012

Iowa: Bill to Help Victims of Financial Exploitation

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill to help victims of identity theft and senior citizens who’ve been cheated.

Senate Study Bill 3055 allows Iowa victims of identity theft originating out of state to qualify for the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Passport Program. The Iowa Attorney General will provide victims with a “passport” that can be used as proof to law enforcement and creditors that someone has stolen their identity.

This bill will also allow victims of identity theft and elderly victims of financial exploitation to be eligible for help from the Victim Compensation Fund. Victims can get reimbursed for expenses, such as traveling to and from the courthouse to attend trial or missing work because of criminal proceedings related to the case.

The financial exploitation of senior citizens and identity theft are growing problems.

Full Article and Source:
Helping Victims of Financial Exploitation

Thursday, February 9, 2012

MN: Guilty Plea From Former Guardian/Conservator Terri Ann Hague

Last year I wrote about a former professional guardian and conservator named Terri Ann Hauge, who had lost her license as a lawyer but found a new courthouse career overseeing the lives and finances of vulnerable adults, only to find herself in trouble again. Hauge pleaded guilty last week in Hennepin District Court to felony theft by swindle in connection with the theft of $53,000 from the estate of Foster A. Greene, an Edina man who died in 2003. She is scheduled to be sentenced May 21. Her co-defendant, Terrance Larpenteur, is scheduled to appear in court for a plea hearing March 30.

Hauge and Larpenteur ran Estate Resources, Inc., which at one time handled one of the state's largest portfolios of work as guardians and conservators. Hauge still faces numerous charges of theft by swindle, financial exploitation of an elderly adult and perjury in Rice County.

Guilty Plea From Former Guardian - Conservator

Editorial Lambasts Washington for Ignoring Elder Abuse

An editorial in this week’s Huffington Post from the National Coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition, offered a general summary of the sad state of affairs when it comes to elder abuse identification and prevention. Despite the encouraging signs that more focus is slowly being directed at the plight of so many vulnerable seniors, the fact remains that elders suffer every day without anyone doing anything about it. Certain aspects of the problem have reached epidemic proportions. For example, during the holiday season it is estimated that one in ten seniors fell victim to some form of elder financial abuse. Collectively, this amounts to a loss of more than $3 billion each and every year. In some of the most extreme cases, seniors lose savings that they had built up over a lifetime.

Last year Congress held hearings on the plight of many of these seniors, highlighting the scope of the problem and its various forms. In the past the body has actually worked to enact legislation to tackle the problem—the Elder Justice Act. However, as the editorial points out, for the second year in a row Congress passed a spending bill while failing to fun this piece of legislation—the only federal elder abuse prevention act on the books. The President had asked Congress to authorize $21.5 million in startup funds to get the prevention project off the ground. However, Congress ignored this request and so the measure will remain stalled yet again.

It remains disappointing that so little is being done on a federal level to actually prevent this abuse before it occurs so that victims are spared. Instead, elder abuse lawyers are forced to spearhead the accountability project by seeking to hold wrongdoers accountable after the fact. Ideally steps would be enacted to help stop the problems from arising in the first place.

Full Article and Source:
Editorial Lambasts Washington for Ignoring Elder Abuse

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TN: Legislation Could Limit Judges' Power

A Tennessee representative is pushing for reforms to the system that is meant to protect vulnerable citizens, but often leaves them destitute and homeless instead.

State Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, has introduced a bill that provides more protection to those who could come under the control of a conservator. A conservator is someone appointed by the court to oversee the person's personal and financial affairs.

Three Davidson County cases recently profiled by Channel 4 News show the system robs people of their rights and often drains their bank accounts to pay for attorneys they never chose and in some cases, found they could not fire.

People in conservatorships lose all their rights, including their right to handle their own money, their right to make their own medical decisions, their right to vote, their right to marry and their right to decide where to live.

Ginger Franklin fell under the control of a conservator after she fell down the stairs at her home and bumped her head.

While she was recovering, her conservator put her home up for sale, emptied her bank accounts and disposed of most of her personal possessions. A year later, she was broke and homeless.

The same thing happened to Jewell Tinnon. Her furniture, her clothes and even her paid-for home were all sold at auction. Once she won her release from her conservatorship, she had to move into public housing for the elderly.

Songwriter Danny Tate fought to free himself from a conservatorship. He ultimately lost his fortune.

Odom has introduced a bill to better protect people's rights in conservatorships.

"It's wrong. We need a better process. We deserve a better process," Odom says.

Odom's bill would require more medical evidence before a judge appoints a conservator. The person who would be the subject of the conservatorship would have the right to appear in court personally and would have the right to pick their own lawyer. That is not currently the case.

"That's unbelievable to me," Odom says.

The same judge presided over the Tinnon, Franklin and Tate cases - Probate Judge Randy Kennedy. He did not return our calls asking for comment on Odom's bill.

Odom says his bill does not target Kennedy specifically, just the system itself.

"This legislation obviously cannot undo wrongs that have taken place in the past, but it can try to protect people in the future," Odom says.

Full Article and Source:
Legislation Could Limit Judges' Power

MS Lawyer Jailed for Fraud and Contempt

A Rankin County attorney is in the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond. Hinds County Chancery Judge Dwayne Thomas said Michael J. Brown will stay there until he accounts for and returns a lot of money that belongs to the grandson of a late civil rights legend.

The court found that Brown was supposed to establish a guardianship account for at least $3 million dollars inherited by De Mon McClinton from his mother, Rebecca Henry McClinton.

Brown never did.

His mother, the daughter of the late Doctor Aaron Henry, died in 2000 when McClinton was 16-years-old.

Brown never deposited the funds into a bank as required by a court order 12 years ago.

He loaned out $550,000 of McClinton's money and personally borrowed another half-million dollars from McClinton's funds in 2001.

Additionally, Brown forged two checks totaling more than $230,000.

And in 2001, Brown tried to have a $398,000 fee approved in Hinds County Chancery Court for getting McClinton's funds from his mother's estate.

Judge Thomas ordered Brown's case turned over to the Hinds County district attorney and to the Mississippi Bar.

Full Article and Source:
Flowood Attorney Jailed for Fraud and Contempt

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Former AZ Attorney Grant Goodman Loses Case

Goodman, a Phoenix (now suspended) attorney who had his 15 minutes of fame a few years ago as an alleged champion of local folks being abused by their legal guardians/conservators and by the Maricopa County Probate Court, has lost yet another case--his own.​

In a memorandum decision filed January 25 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel shot down Goodman's appeal of serious sanctions imposed against him by federal judge Mary Murguia, who is based in Phoenix.

Last summer, the Arizona Supreme Court suspended Goodman from the practice of law for up to five years following a finding that he habitually exploited vulnerable Probate Court clients.

William O'Neil, the presiding disciplinary judge for the Arizona State Bar, wrote that Goodman's actions would be potentially harmful to the public and the legal profession if he had been allowed to continue practicing law.

"A growing number of probate court observers worry,' [Sara Fenske at the LA Weekly] wrote, "that Grant Goodman is less a white knight than a shark who smells blood in the water -- and that he intends to use Maricopa County's most vulnerable for both good publicity and a fat payday."

Earlier, the Phoenix barrister had been trumpeted as a shining star in a series of Arizona Republic stories about troubles in the county's Probate Court.

In truth, Goodman quickly became known (and reviled) for filing endless court papers against judges, court-appointed guardians and lawyers under the guise of protecting Probate Court clients, then try and rake in the legal fees.

Without taking oral argument, the appellate court last week said that Judge Murguia had not abused her discretion by issuing the sanctions against Goodman.

Goodman's remaining contentions, including those related to the district court's alleged bias in imposing sanctions, are unpersuasive. Goodman's motion, in which he appears to ask this court to dismiss the state disciplinary proceedings against him or to void his suspension from practice by the State Bar, is denied."

Full Article and Source:
Grant Goodman, Disgraced Local Attorney, Shot Down By Appellate Court

See Also:
Attorney Grant Goodman Suspended

Pennsylvania Proposal Seeks Cap On Punitive Damages In Nursing Home Claims

What do you think about a Governor and legislator supporting a law which places an arbitrary cap on punitive damages if you, or a loved one, are the victim of negligence in a nursing, long-term care, assisted living, and personal care facility? This even includes unlawful conduct! This is precisely what the Governor and many legislators in Pennsylvania are proposing and supporting.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a measure, last week, which will cap the punitive damages awarded in nursing home abuse lawsuits. House Bill 1907 (HB 1907) now goes to the Pennsylvania Senate where the Senate should be urged not to even consider this unconstitutional, unnecessary, and hurtful measure.

Specifically, the legislation caps punitive damages at 200 percent of compensatory damages awarded in medical negligence lawsuits that name nursing, long-term care, assisted living, and personal care facilities as defendants, even for unlawful conduct. The only exceptions are when a defendant intentionally or knowingly acted negligently.

The sole reason for passing the law is to bolster a nursing home’s profits at the expense of safety. Even more insulting to the elderly and victims is the fact that Pennsylvania’s Governor Corbett is endorsing this measure.

Don’t you agree that this Bill should not see the light of day?

Scott B. Cooper
Schmidt Kramer PC
209 State Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Pennsylvania Proposal Seeks Cap On Punitive Damages In Nursing Home Claims

Monday, February 6, 2012

District Attorney: Jeffrey Schend Could Face New Charges

Outagamie County Dist. Atty. Carrie Schneider may file additional charges against Jeffrey M. Schend, a former Appleton guardian accused of stealing about $500,000 from elderly and disabled clients he was appointed to serve.

Meanwhile, an exhaustive investigation continues into every financial transactions Schend made while acting as a corporate guardian.

Schneider declined comment on any new findings in the case or the nature of new charges she's considering.

Outagamie County Judge Gregory Gill Jr. this past week canceled a weeklong jury trial that was scheduled to begin in March. It is the third time Schend's trial has been delayed. Schend will return to court March 12 for a status conference.

Full Article and Source:
Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider: Former Guardian Could Face New Charges

Hunderdon County Caretakers Sentenced to 3 Years

The owner of a state-licensed home for disabled adults in Bloomsbury and a former government caseworker were sentenced [Feb 3rd] to three years in state prison in connection with the neglect of three women who had been under their care, including two who later died.

The owner, Debra Sloan, 57, and the former caseworker from the state Department of Human Services, Bridget Grimes, 55, of Phillipsburg, pleaded guilty last year to neglect of a disabled person and theft, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Grimes also pleaded guilty to official misconduct.

It was the first time in recent history that a department caseworker was held criminally liable for failing to provide proper care, the department said.

From 2002 to 2008, Sloan and Grimes were responsible for the care of the three women — Tara O’Leary, Erin Germaine and Lydia Joy Perry — who court records show suffered from serious neglect.

Full Article and Source:
Hunterdon County Caretakers Sentenced to 3 Years in State Prison After 2 Women Died From Neglect

Virginia Could See Elderly Exploitation Laws This Year

For more than two years, state Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd) has lobbied for legislation aimed at criminalizing the exploitation of elderly or maimed citizens, only to have his proposal fail in the Senate Finance Committee.

But with his legislation, Senate Bill 222, gaining support from both parties this year, the senator says 2012 may be the year the “fastest-growing crime” in Virginia becomes more-recognizably illegal.

“When I began working on this legislation in 2009, we found that Virginia’s laws were among the weakest in the nation at protecting older Virginians from financial abuse,” Herring said in an emailed statement.

While the price tag associated with Herring’s proposal was a relatively slight $50,000 – for criminal bedding, enforcement measures – SB 222 in past years has failed because a lack of funding.

In his 2012 budget proposal, however, Gov. Robert McDonnell incorporated the cost for cracking down on elderly abuse.

The bill was discussed Jan. 23 by the Courts of Justice Committee, where Chairman Sen. Thomas Norment Jr. (R-3rd) recommended Herring’s bill and two other similar proposals be consolidated into one piece of legislation. One of the other proposal’s, Senate Bill 443, was filed by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27th).

Full Article and Source:
Virginia Could See Elderly Exploitation Laws This Year

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Editorial: Assisted Suicide Needs Careful Consideration

As members of the Senate Judiciary Committee prepare to study the “doctor-prescribed death” bill, they would do well to critically evaluate whether the state has the ability to protect terminally ill Vermonters from manipulation, exploitation and coercion under an act promoted in the name of compassion.

One specific, timely and highly relevant illustration of a major regulatory failure can be found in connection with the state’s duty to protect vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation. In early December, a disabilities rights group filed a suit against the state of Vermont because of its failure to protect disabled and elderly and otherwise vulnerable citizens of this state. This is not a trivial problem. The backlog has been running in the order of 300 cases yet to be investigated. The abuse and exploitation alleged ranges from financial manipulation and exploitation to physical and even sexual abuse. And sadly, much of that neglect and abuse is done by the very family members and those others charged with the care of the vulnerable adults.

It is blatantly absurd to suggest that the state of Vermont is competent to effectively manage a program that oversees doctor-prescribed death when it cannot even investigate and clear a backlog of 300 reported cases of abuse of the disabled and elderly, let alone prevent the abuse in the first place.

Assisted suicide is laden with the potential for manipulation and exploitation of the worst kind — i.e., exploitation and manipulation with fatal consequences.

~Pete Gummere
St. Johnsbury

Assisted Suicide Needs Careful Consideration

Intimacy a Concern for ALF's

Ernie and Madelyn got married on Valentine's Day. She was 86, he 88. The two, both widowed, had been good friends for many years. Family members and church friends were tickled to see their love blossom.

Bob and Barbara surprised their family by announcing they would be married soon at the church they attend. Both also are widowed and had found love through their church connection.

Louis and Vera, both living in an assisted-living facility, found comfort and companionship when they started eating meals together. Now they share laughter -- and intimate moments.

Sometimes families are supportive, other times upset when mom or dad finds love or intimacy after one spouse dies.

But when that parent has dementia and lives in a memory care facility, it can be unsettling. If a mother hardly recognizes her own children, how can she consent to intimacy?

A recent occurrence at Heritage Place Community Assisted Living Facility and Memory Care Center in Bandon prompted a flurry of phone calls, meetings and even an appointment with an attorney. A staff member walked in on an 86-year-old woman and man, both memory care residents with differing levels of dementia, while they were having sex. When the employee tried to redirect the behavior, she was told by the couple that they were doing what they wanted to do and to leave them alone.

State law mandates that it must be determined whether the intimacy was consensual. Did one of the people involved feel fearful or threatened? Did they know what was going on? Though one of the partners in a relationship may have a higher level of cognition than the other, that doesn't necessarily mean the sex was coerced, Lubke said.

Full Article and Source:
Assisted Living Sex Stire Worry

Three Charged in Seperate Financial Exploitation Cases

A Madison County grand jury has indicted three people in connection with separate financial exploitation cases involving elderly victims.

Collinsville residents Romayne Y. Pike, 80, and her daughter, Diane M. Moore, 53, both were charged in the indictment handed down Thursday with two counts of financial exploitation of an elderly person, a Class 1 felony.

The victim, a 91-year-old female, is a resident at the Fountains II Assisted Living Facility in Troy. The defendants, her cousins, have had power of attorney since 2005. During that time, police allege that they stole $462,686 belonging to the victim. Police were contacted last October after an employee at the Fountains noticed financial discrepancies. Investigators believe that the money was spent on various items, including bills, vehicles and property.

In the second case, the Illinois State Police were contacted last October by employees of the Alhambra Care Center, in Alhambra, after they became suspicious over unpaid bills. The alleged victim in this case, a 64-year-old female, had given her power of attorney to Marjorie L. Phelps, 63, of Marine, in 2003. Phelps had asked the victim to move in with her and her family following the death of the victim's husband in 2003.

Investigators said they believe that Phelps was having financial problems when she started stealing the alleged victim's money. It is estimated that $290,148 has been stolen from the nursing home resident.

Phelps was charged with two counts of unlawful financial exploitation of a disabled person, two counts of theft over $100,000 and two counts of unlawful financial exploitation of an elderly person, all Class 1 felonies.

FullArticle and Source:
Three Indicted on Elderly Exploitation Charges