Saturday, May 26, 2012

Linda Kincaid Reports: Santa Clara County Residents Speak Out Against Elder Abuse by Public Guardian

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors met on May 15, 2012 to discuss county budgets, including funding for the Public Guardian. The Public Guardian’s office is under scrutiny related to allegations of elder abuse and neglect.

Public Guardian Don Moody offered the Board that his office could eliminate two full-time equivalents from their payroll.

Moody testified that the number of conservatees in the county has remained stable for several years and is not expected to increase. Moody’s testimony was unexpected, given the dramatic increase in the senior population.

A number of senior staffers from Moody’s office testified against their boss, claiming they cannot provide adequate services without the current complement of staff. Public testimony against a superior is rare and indicates turmoil within the office.

Members of the public addressed the Board during Public Comment (Item #3) and again during budget discussions concern the Public Guardian (Item #16). County residents brought attention to the plight of Gisela Riordan, a conservatee of the Public Guardian.

Gisela has been isolated from nearly all visitation and phone calls for over two years. The Public Guardian allowed Gisela less than two hours with her son in that time. Gisela is not allowed any visitors from the community.

Gisela’s living conditions speak of profound neglect. Gisela has lost about a third of her body weight under the care of the Public Guardian. Her dentures are missing. She needs new eyeglasses, and she is rarely allowed access to her hearing aid.

Deputy Public Guardian Carlotta Royal was adversarial toward this reporter’s enquiries about Gisela’s welfare. Moody has not responded to requests for comment.

Full Article and Source:
Santa Clara County Residents Speak Out Against Elder Abuse by Public Guardian

See Also:
NASGA: Gisela, California Victim

New Jersey Considers UAGPPJA

The New Jersey Legislature is considering a new law to prevent an elder abuse known as “granny snatching” by joining a multi-state network that protects adults who need the assistance of a guardian when families feud.

“There has been one case after another where we have venue challenges and jurisdictional challenges that have caused a lot of problems,” said Sen. Fred H. Madden (D-Gloucester), co-sponsor of the legislation.

Typically, a NJ court appoints a daughter as guardian for an elderly mother incapacitated by Alzheimer’s. The mother then visits another daughter in Florida, who goes to court seeking to overturn the New Jersey guardianship order and be named the new legal guardian.

The bill now under consideration in Trenton -- the New Jersey Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act -- would allow New Jersey’s guardianship orders to be recognized by other states with the law.

The bills, S1755 and A2628, establish uniform procedures for addressing interstate conflicts regarding adult guardianship issues, and brings New Jersey into an national guardianship reciprocity network that includes more than 30 states.

Full Article and Source:
New Jersey Considers Law to Prevent Granny Snatching

CO: Proposed Bill Aims to Protect Elderly

A bill that would urge people to report problems for the elderly and at-risk adults will be back on the legislative agenda next session.

Senate Bill 12-78, sponsored by Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, and Sen. Evie Hudak, Westminster, calls for residents to report abuse, exploitation or self-neglect of elderly and at-risk adults.

“I think we need a law for mandatory reporting of elderly abuse,” Schafer said.

The bill updates the definition of abuse of at-risk adults to include exploitation and illegally taking money or property from them. It will also allow for disclosure of information among agencies to improve coordination for investigation of at-risk adult cases, and will require background checks for all prospective county employees who would have direct contact with the parties to such cases.

The final reading for the bill was on May 3. Schafer and Hudak could not get the bill passed this year because they could not find $4 million for funding in time for the current session.

Federal law requires care providers of the elderly to report any sort of abuse, but Schafer's bill would extend that requirement to all people in contact with senior citizens.

Full Article and Source:
Proposed Bill Aims to Protect Elderly

Friday, May 25, 2012

Woman Says Past Mason Sheriff's Mismanaged Estate, Breach of Fiduciary Lawsuit Filed

A Mason County woman is alleging the last four sheriffs have played a role in cheating her out of a family inheritance.

Former sheriffs David Lee Anthony II, Scott Simms, Troy "Shorty" Huffman and Paul Ernie Watterson are named as co-defendants in a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit filed by Gina M. Eads. In her complaint filed April 9 in Mason Circuit Court, Eads, 44, a Leon resident, alleges the four lawmen over the last quarter century mismanaged funds belonging to the estate of her grandmother, Grace M. Thornton, during their respective terms in office.

According to the suit, Thornton died on Oct. 8, 1986. In a holographic will dated Oct. 23, 1979, she directed that her entire estate, except for her home in Kenny Street in Point Pleasant, be liquidated and the proceeds placed in an interest bearing account with the interest paid monthly to her son, Richard D. Gaylor.

A holographic will is one that is his handwritten, and signed by the testator -- the person making it -- but not witnessed by someone else. Records show, the Mason County Clerk's Office accepted the will into probate a week following Thornton's death.

On an unspecified date following Thornton's death, the Sheriff's Office was appointed to serve as its administrator. Also, because of his incapacity, it was appointed to act as Gaylor's guardian and conservator.

The reason for Gaylor's incapacity is not stated.

According to the suit, Gaylor died in 2008. Pursuant to Thornton's will, Eads was to receive the residual of her estate following Gaylor's death.

However, Eads alleges during the last 24 years Watterson, Huffman, Simms, Anthony "and their fiduciary officers ... paid over to Mr. Gaylor sums of money to which he was not otherwise entitled to receive." Funds in Thornton's estate, Eads alleges, "have dwindled almost to the point of non-existence."

Specifically, Eads alleges at the time her suit was filed, she's lost at least $67,615.31.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Says Past Mason Sheriff Mismanaged Estate

CA Judge Admonished for Delays, False Affidavits

The Commission on Judicial Performance [May 16] publicly admonished a Merced Superior Court judge for holding cases under submission beyond the 90-day limit and falsely swearing that he was not doing so.

The commission said that Judge John D. Kirihara had appeared before it on May 8 to object to the discipline, but that it had approved the discipline by a vote of 8-0, with two members recused and one not participating.

Kirihara, the commission said, violated the 90-day rule three times in 2010. He had one civil case under submission for 320 days, a probate matter under consideration for 237 days, and a matter involving a trust under submission for 110 days.

The commission also noted that with respect to the probate matter, the judge was specifically advised that the case had been under submission for five or six months, yet took another 59 days to submit his decision.

The judge committee further misconduct on 11 occasions, once a month from May 2010 through March 2011, by falsely swearing that he had no cases under submission for more than 90 days, the CJP found.

The commission also found that the judge violated the Rules of Court or the ethical canons by failing to keep a list of cases he had under submission, even during a period that he was presiding judge of the court and obliged by the rules to circulate such lists among the judges.

“Presiding judges have the responsibility of monitoring the cases under submission on their county and ensuring that no cases remain undecided for more than 90 days,” the commission said. “Consequently, a presiding judge should be particularly vigilant about monitoring his or her own submitted matters.”

Kirihara, a judge since 2001, was presiding judge from April 2007 through the end of 2010, the commission said.

CJP Admonishes Judge for Delays, False Affidavits

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our View: Public's Right to Know Trumps Seal

The guardianship case of Dr. John D. Witherspoon has taken a bumpy course through Davidson County Circuit Court, marked by an attempt to skirt the First Amendment that should give the public cause to reflect on how easily the right to know can be taken away from us.

Judge Randy Kennedy not only closed a hastily called hearing on May 11 regarding whether the doctor should be placed in a conservatorship; he sealed the court record, as well. Those moves violated legal precedent established in Tennessee by the 1985 State vs. Drake court case, as well as the state Supreme Court’s long-held belief that the public has a qualified right to attend judicial proceedings and read documentation of those proceedings.

The Tennessean and WSMV, whose representatives were kicked out of the May 11 hearing, may be accused of trying to intrude on private matters of the Witherspoon family solely because the doctor’s daughter, actress Reese Witherspoon, is a celebrity. But the real issue for these media outlets is the broader question: If court cases are entirely sealed, where is the oversight of the judicial process?

We ask that question because of Jewell Tinnon.

She is the 80-year-old Nashville resident who was placed in a conservatorship without her knowledge or consent nearly two years ago, and as a result lost all her possessions. Tinnon has since fought Kennedy’s ruling in her case, and is suing the attorney and social services agency who handled her conservatorship.

Of course there are many other Tennesseans who potentially face similar fates — and if those records are sealed there is opportunity for abuse and no public scrutiny.

Full Article and Source:
Public's Right to Know Trumps Seal

See Also:
Witherspoon Conservatorship: Sealing of Conservatorship Cases Raises Concerns

'All Baby Boomers Should Be Tested for Hepatitis C'

The federal government Friday called for all baby boomers to be tested for hepatitis C, which kills more Americans each year than AIDS and is the leading reason for liver transplants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the draft recommendation in an effort to find hundreds of thousands of people who have the infection but don't know it.

Baby boomers account for more than 2 million of the 3.2 million Americans infected with the blood-borne virus. It can take decades to cause liver damage, and many people don't know they're infected.

CDC officials say the new measure could lead 800,000 more baby boomers to get treatment and could save more than 120,000 lives.

"The CDC views hepatitis C as an unrecognized health crisis for the country, and we believe the time is now for a bold response," said Dr. John Ward, the CDC's hepatitis chief.

Full Article and Source:
All Baby Boomers Should Be Tested for Hepatitus C, The CDC Decides

Missouri House Votes to Expand State's Elder Abuse Law

Missouri's elder abuse law could soon be expanded to protect older citizens from financial exploitation.

The House voted 147-2 in favor of legislation that makes it a crime for those with authority over an elderly person to take advantage of that person's state of mind for financial gain.

The provision would apply to people who have guardianship, power of attorney or some other financial management role for seniors.

If someone steals money from an elderly person that had been intended to cover nursing home expenses, a judge could order that the money be paid to the home.

Supporters say some senior citizens need more protection because of their age and health.

The measure has already been approved by the Senate and now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon.

Elder abuse bill is SB689.

Missouri House Votes to Expand State's Elder Abuse Law

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lawyer Sues Judge, 2 Others in Rosa Parks Estate Case

In a highly unusual move, a lawyer is suing a Wayne County probate judge and two court-appointed lawyers, accusing them of looting the estate of the late civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Attorney Stephen G. Cohen said in court papers that Judge Freddie Burton Jr. conspired with probate lawyers John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr., enabling the pair to rack up more than $507,000 in mostly unnecessary legal fees that drained Parks' estate of its cash, leaving it $88,000 in debt.

Cohen also said Burton, through secret hearings and improper rulings, allowed the pair to concoct a bogus breach of confidentiality dispute. Cohen said Burton used the dispute to strip Elaine Steele and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute that she created with Parks of their share of Parks' property, said to be worth up to $8 million .

"Chase and Jefferson, together with Judge Burton, illegally, maliciously and wrongfully conspired... for the illegal purpose of raiding Mrs. Parks' estate of its value," Cohen said in a 38-page probate petition.

He requested a jury trial in probate court and asked Burton to remove himself from presiding over Parks' estate.

Burton declined to comment on the dispute, the latest twist in a long-running battle that began when Parks' nieces and nephews challenged the validity of her trust after her death in 2005. Chase and Jefferson didn't return calls seeking comment.

Probate experts predicted Cohen's move would fail.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Sues Judge, 2 Others in Rosa Parks Estate Case

See Also:
Rosa Parks Estate Battle Ruled

VT Governor Shumlin Vetoes Increased Protection Reporting Bill

Gov. Peter Shumlin vetoed a bill Wednesday calling for greater information sharing by a state agency that is being sued for allegedly falling down on its job of protecting the state's elderly and disabled from abuse and exploitation.

Shumlin's veto of the measure calling for increased reporting by the state's Adult Protective Services division came five months after groups representing the elderly and disabled sued Vermont, saying the state had a backlog of hundreds of investigations of physical abuse and financial exploitation of its most vulnerable residents.

Lawmakers responded to the concerns raised by groups Disability Rights Vermont and the Community of Vermont Elders by passing a bill calling for greater performance reporting by APS, which is a division of the state Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. That department, in turn, is part of the Agency of Human Services.

Shumlin called the bill "an example of misplaced good intentions. By requiring expensive, time-consuming, and duplicative reports by the Agency of Human Services to the legislature, this bill distracts AHS from doing its job: protecting our most vulnerable Vermonters," he said in a written veto message.

"I am vetoing this bill because it does nothing to advance the goal of protecting those vulnerable Vermonters, adds yet another layer of bureaucracy to state government, and wastes taxpayer dollars," Shumlin added.

Full Article and Source:
Shumlin Vetoes Increased Protection Reporting for Elderly

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Witherspoon Conservatorship: Sealing of Conservatorship Cases Raises Concerns

When a Davidson County judge closed his courtroom to the public during a conservatorship case involving actress Reese Witherspoon's father last week, he didn't just close a day's proceedings: He sealed the entire case history, something he has done in only a handful of other recent cases.

In sealing the case from public view, 7th Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy said the prejudice that would befall the Witherspoon family outweighs the public's right to know. Kennedy sealed the entire case file - not just individual medical or financial records - and required the media to leave the courtroom.

But completely blocking access can hinder efforts to curb guardianship abuse and prevents the public from performing its watchdog role over the court system, conservatorship reform advocates and a First Amendment expert said.

Of the first 528 probate and conservatorship cases filed in the first three months of 2012 in Davidson County, only five have been sealed, a review of court docket records shows. Kennedy handles both types of cases.

Kennedy said in court May 11 that there was a precedent for closing the Witherspoon hearing and sealing the records.

"There are numerous conservator cases that this court and courts across the state have placed under seal," Kennedy said before ordering reporters from the courtroom Friday.

"The primary overriding justification for that has, in my estimation, been the protection of the private interests of those private citizens whose health records, financial records and personal courses of conduct would otherwise be laid open to the scrutiny of the public, thereby jeopardizing them."

Reese Witherspoon went to court last week with her brother for an emergency hearing on whether her father, Dr. John D. Witherspoon, should be placed in a conservatorship.

The family contacted Kennedy's assistant directly about having the case addressed before filing any paperwork with the court. The hearing took place at 3 p.m. May 11 in a nearly empty courthouse and not on the judge's regular 10 a.m. docket.

The outcome remains unknown because even the judge's order is sealed. Kennedy decided to seal the entire case, rather than redact only the most sensitive private information.

Full Article and Source:
Sealing of Conservator Cases Raises Concerns

See Also:
Witherspoon Conservatorship Proceedings in Judge Randy Kennedy's Courtroom

Judge Randy Kennedy Schedules Hearing Regarding Sealed Witherspoon Records

Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy on Monday ordered a hearing to determine whether records and hearings involving Reese Witherspoon’s father will be open to the media and public.

Witherspoon is attempting to have her father, Dr. John Witherspoon, placed under a conservator, who would act as his legal representative because of concerns about his competency. The Hollywood actress’ actions came after he was accused of marrying Tricianne Taylor, while still married to Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Witherspoon.

Kennedy on May 11 ejected the media from a hearing and ordered all court records in the case sealed. The Tennessean and WSMV-TV Channel 4 objected to the closures and have filed a joint emergency motion to have all proceedings opened to the public.

In response to that action, Kennedy on Monday ordered a hearing to argue the motion at 1:30 p.m. June 1. The Witherspoons’ attorney, Andra Hedrick, and John Witherspoon’s temporary guardian, attorney Winston Evans, declined to discuss the case after Monday’s hearing.

Judge Agrees to Hear Arguments to Unseal Witherspoon Records

Monday, May 21, 2012

NY: Attorney for Department Disciplinary Committee Sues Court System

An attorney for the Appellate Division, First Department's disciplinary committee alleges in a federal lawsuit that she was sexually harassed by two now-retired officials at the watchdog agency while a third retaliated against her for complaining.
Nicole Corrado also suggests that after she lodged a complaint officials retaliated by targeting her attorney in an unrelated property matter. She claims that the committee launched an investigation into allegations of bribery and forgery against her attorney, and then suddenly dropped the matter when he abandoned her case.

Additionally, Corrado claims she was punished for supporting a lawsuit brought against the court system by a colleague.

Corrado v. New York State Unified Court System, 12-cv-1748, filed in the Eastern District on April 10, alleges violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (See Complaint).

Corrado, who has served as a principal attorney at the disciplinary committee since 2006, claims she endured years of harassment by her supervisor, Andral Bratton, and that the committee's chief investigator, Vincent Raniere, touched her inappropriately and forcibly kissed her on several occasions.

According to the complaint, when Corrado reported the "pattern of sexual harassment" by Bratton and Raniere in 2008, the court system referred the matter to its inspector general. However, only the allegations against Bratton were investigated, the complaint claims.

The complaint states that Bratton admitted during the Office of the Inspector General probe that he was "smitten" with Corrado and crossed "an emotional boundary." Bratton was transferred to another unit at the same salary and Corrado was simply told to "avoid" him, according to the complaint.

Corrado alleges that while her sexual harassment complaint was pending, she retained an attorney to represent her in an unrelated action involving a property dispute. She claims the disciplinary committee instigated an investigation into that attorney—who is not named in her complaint—involving allegations of bribery and forgery.

Corrado contends that after the attorney withdrew from her case and her claim was dismissed, all of the ethical charges against her lawyer were dropped. She claims that because of her attorney's abrupt withdrawal, her civil case was dismissed and she was "ultimately forced to settle her case for a fraction of its value."

Bennitta Joseph of Borrelli & Associates in Great Neck, who is representing Corrado in the civil rights claim, declined to identify the allegedly intimidated attorney who represented her client in Corrado v. East End Pool & Hot Tub.

Corrado also claims in her complaint that she was retaliated against for supporting the claim of a colleague who accused the agency of racial discrimination.

The complaint does not identify that employee, but Joseph confirmed in an interview that it was Christine Anderson, a former staff attorney who alleged she was wrongfully discharged in June 2007 on a pretext of insubordination after she revealed that the panel was protecting well-connected attorneys. A jury rejected her claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the verdict (NYLJ, Oct. 30, 2009).

Corrado contends that after she agreed to corroborate Anderson's allegations of "racial discrimination and other improper conduct" by the disciplinary committee, Alan Friedberg, the committee's chief counsel, threatened her and gave her an unreasonable workload. Additionally, Corrado says Bratton threatened her.

In light of Corrado's complaint, Anderson has asked the Second Circuit to reinstate her claim. Anderson contends in her petition that Corrado, who testified on her behalf at a deposition but not at trial, "was threatened and chilled into not testifying" at her trial, constituting a "manifest attack on our system of law and a clear denial of appellant's right to a fair trial."

Corrado claims that because of the anxiety and stress from the harassment she endured at the disciplinary committee she took a two-year unpaid leave of absence between 2009 and 2011, returning only after Bratton, Raniere and Friedberg had left. According to the Office of Court Administration, all three took advantage of an early retirement incentive in the fall of 2010.

"She feels like she has to do something," Joseph said. "She took a two-year leave of absence because the environment had become so toxic, and then once all the offending parties left, she came back."

Raniere said the allegations are false. "I didn't do a damned thing," he said.
Friedberg declined to comment. Bratton could not be reached.

David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, declined to respond, noting that the court system does not comment on pending litigation.

Attorney for Department Disciplinary Committee Sues Court System

Florida Bar Report Proposes New Attorney Discipline Standards

The Florida Bar may need to hold lawyers to a “higher standard” when it comes to misconduct, according to a much-anticipated report by the Hawkins Comission on Review of the Discipline System.

The commission was formed in the wake of two major scandals that rocked the legal profession in Florida – the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme and the robo-signing controversy over forged foreclosure docuements.

The report recognizes that the Florida Supreme Court is moving toward “stronger sanctions” for attorneys who commit wrongdoing on the job.

Although light on detail, the report recommends that the Florida Bar acknowledge the court’s strong sanctions: “The Court and The Florida Bar have a duty to protect the public from harm by lawyers and it may be that holding lawyers to a higher standard may increase the reputation of all lawyers in the eyes of the public.”

Full Article and Source:
Florida Bar Report Proposes New Attorney Discipline Standards

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Linda Kincaid Reports: Fire, Safety Violations at Wildwood Canyon Villa

Department of Social Services (DSS) has cited Wildwood Canyon Villa for many licensing violations. The residential care facility for the elderly, located in Yucaipa, CA, has a history of substandard care.

•2004: Meds stored residents’ rooms
•2004: Missing criminal record checks
•2004: Missing doctor’s orders for diabetic resident
•2004: Missing required documents in resident’s files
•2004: No first aid certification for Activities Director
•2005: Pulse readings taken by staff without training
•2005: No documentation that old meds were destroyed
•2006: Insufficient staff in memory care unit
•2006: Bed rails used without doctor’s orders
•2007: No proof of training for care of hospice patient
•2007: No fire clearance for bedridden residents
•2010: Violated resident’s personal rights
•2011: Placed resident’s mattress on the floor
•2012: Defective magnetic latch on fire door
•2012: Blocked bedroom egress with oxygen bottles

Full Article and Source:
Fire Code Violations and Safety Violations at Wildwood Canyon Villa

NC: Nearly 20K Reports of Elder and Disabled Abuse Last Year

There were nearly 20,000 reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly citizens and younger adults with disabilities made to North Carolina's county departments of social services in 2011, according to data released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

In response to these numbers, Governor Bev Perdue dedicated $2.3 million in her budget to support an innovative Adult Protective Services pilot program in six counties across the state.

She also proclaimed May 11 through June 18 Vulnerable Adult and Elder Abuse Awareness Month - the time period between Mother's Day and Father's Day weekends - and urged all North Carolinians to take extra time and care to check on vulnerable neighbors, friends and family members.

Governor Perdue recognized that the state's current adult protective services program is outdated and ill-equipped to respond to the needs of and threats to seniors and younger adults with disabilities. Current law does not allow for proactive, preventative measures for responding to adults at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation. This leaves a potentially dangerous gap in the supports available to vulnerable adults, including our growing elderly population which is expected to double in the next 20 years.

"We need to be more aware of our neighbors who may be at risk," said DHHS Secretary Al Delia. "If abuse or neglect is suspected, no matter what the age or level of ability, someone should be able to step in and offer assistance. The governor's investment in a system to protect older adults begins to fill a crucial gap in community care."

Full Article and Source:
Nearly 20,000 Reports of Abuse, Neglect of Elderly and Disabled in 2011