Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ex Nun Files Federal Lawsuit After Confrontation for Refusing to Leave a Nursing Home She was Visiting

A 76-year-old former nun says she was roughed up by Columbus Police after refusing to leave a nursing home she was visiting, according to a federal lawsuit she filed. The woman, Elizabeth Bormann, had driven 540 miles to visit a 96-year-old friend at the nursing clinic, but when she got there she found out the man’s legal guardian had removed her from the list of approved guests. She insisted she wouldn’t leave until she could tell her friend herself she was removed from the list.

From the local TV station, ABC6: Police say the removal was a response to a series of scams perpetrated by multiple women that had cost the man more than $500,000.

Investigators do not suspect Bormann of involvement in the scams…

Columbus Police Officer Theodis N. Turner, III was dispatched to the nursing home, where he instructed Bormann to leave the facility.

That, according to Bormann, is when the situation became violent.

"He said to me, 'I've had enough of you,' and he charged into me, basically, and somehow or the other, charged into my side, took my arm. It all happened so fast.

"Before I know it, I was down on my knees and then, of course, I urinated, and I started a little crying, and pretty much I was just stunned.

"I was humiliated. I do believe that I've become a victim. It just was such a surprise and such a shock."

Full Article and Source:
Cop Roughed Up Ex-Nun Visiting Nursing Home, Lawsuit Alleges

Colorado Legislative Session Includes Protections for the Disabled

When the regular session of the General Assembly of the Colorado Legislature adjourned May 9, it left a legacy of two laws that are intended to protect people with disabilities and at-risk adults from harm.

The first, Senate Bill 78, was co-sponsored by our own Sen. Ellen Roberts and supported in the House by Rep. J. Paul Brown. This bill strengthens the language requiring certain professionals to report suspicions of abuse, exploitation, neglect and mistreatment of at-risk adults, including people with disabilities and elders. The bill also creates an Elder Abuse Task Force to make recommendations at the 2013 General Assembly for a process of reporting and response to allegations.

Full Article and Source:
Legislative Session Includes Protections for the Disabled

NJ Nursing Home Rebel Makes Herself Heard

Anyone who thinks nursing home residents are helpless and unable to speak up for themselves never met Donna Parisi.

Her voice works fine. In fact, she's hoping it will be heard all the way in Washington, where federal officials are reviewing sweeping changes proposed for New Jersey's nursing home industry.

The former teacher, who uses a wheelchair, is leading the rebellion against the state's plan to further privatize its Medicaid program. She has spent hours trying to enlist local politicians and citizens to join her cause. She hands letters about the issue to any visitor she spots at Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne, where she lives. She's managed to gather 11,000 electronic signatures on a petition.

"I ask everybody who comes in here if they want to sign the petition," she said. "I'm not done fighting this even though it is going to take a miracle to stop it, mostly because nobody seems to be doing anything to try to stop it."

The state's plan — for which federal approval is expected soon — involves turning the long-term-care portion of the $5 billion Medicaid budget over to the four insurance companies that manage the rest of New Jersey's healthcare program for the poor. Proponents say this will curb rising Medicaid costs in nursing homes while providing more funding for services and equipment for people who want to remain in their homes.

But Parisi has serious concerns about letting private companies rather than state regulators set the reimbursement rates for such care. She is worried that for-profit companies will slash reimbursements, forcing nursing homes to cut staff and reduce services.

"This is going to alter how we live here and how we're cared for," Parisi said.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Rebel Makes Herself Heard

Friday, July 13, 2012

Santa Clara County Lacks Rules to Rein in Fees of Court-Appointed Conservators

In California, elderly and disabled adults, blessed with some savings but incapable of caring for themselves, foot the bill when judges appoint private business people to manage their finances or daily affairs.

But when it comes to racking up those charges, no place in the Bay Area stands out like Santa Clara County.

An examination by this newspaper found that in Contra Costa, Alameda and Marin counties, court-appointed conservators wouldn't get very far if they tried to charge the $330 maximum hourly rate that turns up on one San Jose professional estate manager's rate schedule, or the $295 an hour described on a well-known Campbell conservator's fee list. That's more than double what other courts allow.

And if estate managers burned through the life savings of a dependent adult in San Francisco or San Mateo counties, they would be expected to stay on the job the rest of their client's life -- for free.

But in Santa Clara County, this newspaper found, these court-overseen services can come at exorbitant costs in a probate court system with few specific rules to rein them in. When families can't care for elderly and incapacitated adults, these private professionals can be assigned as conservators or trustees to arrange everything from complex money management to rides to the grocery store.

In Santa Clara County, some work alone, charging top rates for their services. Others employ staff members, whose multiple tasks layered on top of fiduciary fees can also add up to astounding six-figure bills for a single year.

"The buck stops at the court, and we should have more guidelines and more factors to determine reasonable fees," said Victoria Tran Sood, a South Bay probate and trust attorney who represents the elderly and their families. "Here we don't have that, so people take their chances. The young fiduciaries charge according to what they're taught, and the older guys charge double and layer their bills because they can get away with it."

Full Article and Source:
Santa Clara County Lacks rules to Rein in Fees of Court-Appointed Conservators

See Also:
The Mercury News' "Loss of Trust" Series (Anchor article)

Editorial: Santa Clara County Judges Must Impose Tighter Rules for Managing Vulnerable Residents' Estates

Mercury News reporter Karen de Sá's report on the court-sanctioned raiding of vulnerable Santa Clara County residents' assets is heartbreaking and infuriating. How can this usually progressive county allow court-appointed conservators to prey upon people the courts are supposed to protect?

Other counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin, have guidelines that prevent conservators from charging exorbitant fees and draining the bank accounts of the elderly and disabled. Since de Sá began her inquiries, Santa Clara County is considering doing the same. No kidding. The pity is that it can't make the rules retroactive. Maybe the judges who have allowed this to go on could take up a collection for the victims.

Most conservators in Santa Clara County charge reasonably for their important work. But de Sá's six-month investigation found a small group of court-appointed personal and estate managers submitting huge, questionable bills -- and if people challenge them, they charge more. These are licensed professionals appointed to handle the affairs of clients who have resources but cannot manage them themselves.

Once the conservators -- and think of the irony of that label -- milk bank accounts dry, people who thought they were financially secure are faced with needing government assistance. And that means everybody pays for this predation.

Full Editorial and Source:
County Judges Must Impose Tighter Rules for Managing Vulnerable Residents' Estates

See Also:
The Mercury News' "Loss of Trust" Series (Anchor article)

Zsa Zsa Gabor's Relations Settle Conservatorship

Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband and daughter are through fighting over her, for the time being.

Frederic von Anhalt and Constance Francesca Hilton have reached a settlement over the ailing actress’ conservatorship, or their attorneys have.

Von Anhalt will serve as her temporary conservator. A judge approved provisions Wednesday, which include financial oversight by several attorneys and the right for Hilton to visit once a month.

“Victory!” the retiring Von Anhalt declared outside the courthouse.

Hilton said she came to court “to protect my mother and me.”

Hilton's attorney Kenneth Kossoff said he is cautiously optimistic the arrangement will work. He will now receive monthly statements on Gabor's finances, be able to review her medical files and send out bills for doing so.

Full Article and Source:
Zsa Zsa Gabors Relations Settle Conservatorship

See Also:
Petition Filed to Conserve Zsa Zsa Gabor

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Today

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s legislation to protect seniors from neglect and abuse by guardians passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today (Thursday, July 12) with a 15-3 vote, paving the way for a vote in the full Senate.

The Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, co-sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), would protect seniors and persons with disabilities from neglect and financial exploitation by improving oversight and accountability for court-appointed guardians and conservators.

“While most court-appointed guardians are undoubtedly professional, caring and law-abiding, there is mounting evidence that some guardians use their position of power for their own gain,” Klobuchar said. “This is a positive step forward for this critical legislation that would help increase accountability and oversight of guardians and protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Klobuchar’s legislation would provide support to states to implement programs to increase oversight of guardians and conservators. Specifically, the bill provides funding for state courts to assess the handling of proceedings relating to guardian and conservators, and then make the necessary improvements to their practices. The bill sets aside a portion of the funding for states seeking to implement or improve systems for conducting background checks on potential guardians and conservators. It also authorizes state courts to implement an electronic filing system in order to better monitor and audit conservatorships and guardianships.

Full Article and Source:
Klobuchar Legislation to Protect Seniors From Neglect and Abuse Passes Committee

See Also:
Senior Klobuchar Pushes 'Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act," S.B. 1744

Loss of Trust Series - Santa Clara County's Court-Appointed Personal and Estate Managers are Handing out Costly and Questionable Bills

In a span of three years, two cars plowed into Danny Reed, leaving him brain-injured and partially paralyzed. But the San Jose man eventually earned a measure of relief -- a trust fund created for a lifetime of care.

Then he was hit again, this time in a seldom-watched branch of Santa Clara County Superior Court, when the man appointed by a judge to protect Reed's assets delivered the bill for 41/2 months on the job. With tasks charged at up to $250 an hour, the bill totaled $108,771.07 -- a pace of spending that would wipe out the cash in the 37-year-old's trust in about three years.

"I couldn't believe it," Reed said. "After I read through page after page of sickening page, it was just hard to believe that something like this could be permitted in the court system."

Believe it. While Reed's case stands out among the roughly 1,500 elderly and incapacitated adults whose lives and finances are overseen by Santa Clara County's probate court, a six-month investigation by this newspaper found a small group of the county's court-appointed personal and estate managers are handing out costly and questionable bills -- and charging even more if they are challenged. The troubling trend is enriching these private professionals -- working as conservators and trustees -- and their attorneys, with eye-popping rates that threaten to force their vulnerable clients onto government assistance to survive.

"In theory, they're looking at a person's estate and wondering: 'How much can I make here before they pass away?'" said Denis O'Neal, a former deputy Santa Clara County counsel, who is familiar with the group's billing practices and drew some sharp conclusions about the worst cases he saw in his 30 years in the field of elder abuse. "Their goal is to tap into that money."

Full Article and Source:
Santa Clara County's Court-Appointed Personal and Estate Managers are Handing out Costly and Questionable Bills

Santa Clara County Court-Appointed Estate Manager Quits Case After Questions About Fees, Judgment

Two years after a Los Gatos Jesuit center settled an explosive sex-abuse lawsuit, a Santa Clara County judge entrusted Russ Marshall to oversee the $2.5 million awarded to one of two mentally disabled dishwashers molested for decades by clergy.

Such a delicate and high-profile assignment seemed a natural fit for Marshall, one of Silicon Valley's premier estate and elder-care managers, overseeing $76 million in assets.

But late last year, with questions mounting over his billing practices, Marshall resigned from the case as court officials made a troubling discovery: The $50-an-hour personal companion he had hired to take his long-abused client on outings turned out to be a former priest.

"Appalled" that a former priest had been anywhere near the traumatized man, Judge Thomas Cain blocked Marshall from charging his client's estate $19,406 for the companion's trips to ice rinks, ballgames and other events during a 22-month period. Cain said hiring the companion "shows all kinds of problems with regard to not only background checks but judgment and everything else. He never should have been there to begin with."

A deeper look into Marshall's background shows this wasn't the first red flag.

Full Article and Source:
Santa Clara County Court-Appointed Estate Manager Quits Case After Questions About Fees, Judgment

See Also:
The Mercury News' "Loss of Trust" Series (Anchor article)

Court Hears Mickey Rooney's Allegations of Elder Abuse

Mickey Rooney's battle against alleged elder abuse continued Monday morning, following a hearing in conservatorship proceedings for the 91-year-old actor who has accused his stepson of maltreatment and meddling in his financial assets.

An official at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse (map) of the Los Angeles Superior Court, where Rooney's hearing was scheduled to take place, said she could not provide any details about the case.

Monday's hearing was another piece in Rooney's ongoing allegations that he had been emotionally, verbally and financially abused by his stepson, Christopher Aber, 52, and Aber's wife, Christina, 42.

Christopher and Christina Aber deprived Rooney of food and medications, and prohibited him from leaving his house, Rooney said.

"Over the course of time, my daily life became... unbearable," Rooney said in his March 2011 testimony to Congress. "I felt trapped, scared, used, frustrated and overall, when a man feels helpless, it's terrible."

Full Article and Source:
Court Hears Actor Mickey Rooney's Allegations of Elder Abuse

See Also:
Elder Abuse Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Mickey Rooney

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Accused Former Guardian Jeffrey Schend Tries to Replace Judge

A former Appleton guardian accused of stealing from his elderly and disabled clients has asked a judge to step down from the felony case.

Jeffrey M. Schend, 45, appeared Monday in Outagamie County Court to request that a judge from a different county be assigned to the case, based in part on Judge Gregory Gill’s role as supervisor for the county probate office. The register in probate is responsible for the oversight of guardians serving county clients.

Gill didn’t make a decision on Monday. Dist. Atty. Carrie Schneider is expected to provide Gill with written arguments later this week.

Gill also set a July 24 deadline for prosecutors to file any additional charges against Schend. Schneider said that would entail a “significant amendment” to charging documents if she expands the case.

Schend is charged with six felony theft counts and one misdemeanor count of theft. He’s accused of stealing about $500,000 from his clients.

Full Article and Source:
Former Appleton Guardian Jeffrey Schend Seeks New Judge in Theft Case

See Also:
Bonds in Jeffrey M. Shend's Appleton Guardian Case Won't Cover Losses

PA: Ex -Lawyer Charged in Estate-Funds Theft

A former Butler County lawyer will have another round of charges of stealing from a client.

Samuel J. Brydon, 56, was charged on Tuesday by Butler County detectives with theft. He is accused of taking money from the estate of Agnes Jablonski, 86, of Butler, who died in March 2009.

Brydon, who has been disbarred from practicing in Pennsylvania and federal court, could not be reached on Friday.

Detective Charles A. Barger said Jablonski’s son, Richard, hired Brydon to administer the estate and gave him a check for $81,000 — the value of the estate.

The trust account had a balance of $926 on Jan. 26, according to a criminal complaint.

“Checks from this account went to Mr. Brydon and other expenses, but none were used to pay the Jablonski estate,” Barger wrote in a criminal complaint.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Lawyer Charged in Estate-Funds Theft

Medicaid Approved for Comatose Freddie Lempe

A Smithfield father fighting a Raleigh hospital to keep legal guardianship of his son has been able to secure Medicaid benefits to cover the teen's treatment for a traumatic brain injury.

Freddie Lempe, 18, has been in a coma at WakeMed since a car wreck in March 2011.

His father, Fred Lempe, says Medicaid coverage for his son was dropped in December when he turned 18.

The hospital has said that the teen was denied coverage because his father failed to file the paperwork.

It wants the court to appoint a guardian for Freddie who would be legally authorized to make all medical decisions.

Full Article and Source:
Medicaid Approved for Smithfield Teen in Coma

See Also:
Smithfield Dad Battles WakeMed Over Son's Guardianship

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Alameda County judge charged in elder abuse case to take leave of absence; affidavit outlines charges

It reads like an outline for a B-grade detective novel: A reclusive elderly couple with no close relatives lives in a house crammed with jewelry, stamp collections, stock certificates and dozens of pieces of art worth, conservatively, $3 million. Throw in a huge model train collection, too. And rats. Don't forget the rats.

Because it's the discovery of the rats by city health inspectors that eventually forces the couple to go live in a hotel, leaving their fortunes behind in their Berkeley home, intermingled with mounds of trash. But they assume they are taken care of -- their neighbor is a lawyer, soon to become an Alameda County Superior Court judge. The couple places him in charge of their belongings and money, trusting him to manage their estate while they are away.

It is not, however, a novel. According to new details revealed this week in an 87-page affidavit written by a veteran District Attorney inspector, it is how Superior Court Judge Paul Seeman, 57, came to be arrested June 14 and charged with elder theft and perjury. He is free on $525,000 bail after pleading not guilty. The case is scheduled for a court hearing next month; Seeman won a motion at his arraignment to not attend minor legal proceedings

He "does not intend to return to the bench until this matter is resolved," his lawyer, Laurel Headley, said in a prepared statement issued Thursday. Headley declined to take questions, but the statement said the judge is looking forward to "all the facts in this case coming to light in a fair and complete" trial.

Seeman could also be impeached by the state Assembly, and the State Commission on Judicial Power is mulling suspending him as the criminal charges unfold. If convicted, Seeman, who then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed to the bench in 2009, would immediately be forced from office.

Seeman told police that he was just trying to help the couple, Lee and Anne Nutting. Lee Nutting, a chemist who worked for Hills Brother's Coffee, died in 1999. Anne Nutting, who headed the Berkeley Public Library's Art and Music Department, was still struggling with Seeman to regain control of her assets when she died in 2010 at 97, the affidavit states.

Full Article and Source:
Alameda County judge charged in elder abuse case to take leave of absence; affidavit outlines charges

See Also:
CA: Alameda County Judge Charged With Elder Theft

Judge surrenders, slips out back

Former Wake County District Court Judge Kristin Ruth surrendered to authorities Friday morning on a misdemeanor charge of willfully neglecting to discharge the duties of her office.

Ruth was released on her signature by a magistrate at the Public Safety Center in downtown Raleigh after arriving an hour before she was expected. Learning that an ABC11 television crew was waiting in the lobby, Ruth's attorney spoke with officials, and she was allowed to slip out the back through a secure area of the Public Safety Center.

Ruth, was indicted by a Wake County grand jury earlier this week. Also charged are criminal defense attorney James Crouch and his legal assistant.

The indictments charge Crouch with felony conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and altering documents. He signed a $50,000 bond and was released Wednesday pending his trial.

Full Article and Source:
Judge surrenders, slips out back

Judge faces six counts

Attorney: Complaint not accurate view 
of Rastatter’s tenure.

SPRINGFIELD — Separately, the charges of judicial misconduct filed last year against Clark County Common Pleas Judge Douglas Rastatter are not cause for much concern, say experts.

But together, the six-count complaint shows a “troublesome” pattern and if found to be true, could result in sanctions. “While some of the conduct standing alone is not so troublesome, the totality is,” said Arthur F. Greenbaum, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

Rastatter will appear Monday and Tuesday before a panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court to face allegations of wrongdoing in six cases.

The cases stem from his actions on the bench since he was elected judge Nov. 2, 2004.

After the hearing, the panel can dismiss the case or write a recommendation to the full 17-member board who would issue a report to the Ohio Supreme Court, which could determine whether Rastatter faces sanctions.

The 13-page complaint by the Ohio State Bar Association accuses Rastatter of failing to follow the law, failing to uphold the integrity of the judiciary, engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, lacking decorum and acting in a manner that does not promote confidence in the judiciary.

Most troubling in the complaint, Greenbaum said, is the allegation that Rastatter failed to carry out mandates by higher courts.

“One instance would be one too many, but here that is alleged in three separate cases,” Greenbaum said.

Full Article and Source:
Judge faces six counts

Monday, July 9, 2012

DuPage judge orders state health chief to appear in court

State director hasn't turned over records

A DuPage County judge has ordered the state's highest-ranking public health official to appear in court to explain why he shouldn't be held in contempt for failing to turn over investigative records related to potential elder abuse.

Prosecutors asked Judge Kathryn Creswell on Tuesday to make the finding after representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Health failed to appear in court. Assistant State's Attorney Ken Tatarelis said the department has been essentially unresponsive to subpoenas issued as part of grand jury investigations into undisclosed allegations of abuse at three DuPage nursing homes.

“They responded, but their responses were, in a sense, nonresponsive to the information sought in the subpoenas,” he said.

Creswell ordered Illinois Department of Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck to appear in court July 26 and either provide the records or explain why his office has not complied with the subpoenas. If Hasbrouck is found to be in contempt of court, he could face a variety of penalties, from a fine to jail time.

Tatarelis said the records involve complaints about potential elder abuse at three unnamed nursing facilities. He said the state initially investigates any such reports, and prosecutors want records of those investigations.

Full Article and Source:
DuPage judge orders state health chief to appear in court

Elected, experienced judges more likely to be disciplined

State judges who were elected, worked in smaller communities or had been previously disciplined were more likely to be sanctioned for misconduct during the past two decades, according to figures from the California Commission on Judicial Performance.

California imposed 878 disciplinary actions against trial court judges from 1990 through 2011, according to the commission, which investigates complaints against the state's judiciary.

More than half of the disciplinary actions between 1990 and 2009 involved judges who had been previously sanctioned, according to a recent study conducted for the commission.

“When we see repeat offenders, the bells should go off, because it means that it is not just a problem with the judges, it is a problem with the oversight itself,” said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in judicial ethics.

Commission officials dismissed such concerns.

"The commission takes the obligation to protect the public very seriously," said Victoria Henley, the agency's director-chief counsel. "There may be some instances where the commission gives a judge another chance. And usually it is because the judge has taken steps to avoid a problem reoccurring."

The most common violations involved judges who failed to disqualify themselves from cases to avoid conflicts of interest, denied someone's constitutional rights or lacked decorum in the courtroom, the report found. The review did not offer specifics on the judges who were sanctioned.

Full Article and Source:
Elected, experienced judges more likely to be disciplined

Medicaid fraud audits poor investment: GAO

Lawmakers blasted a Medicaid anti-fraud program that has cost taxpayers more than five times as much as it recovered.

Since 2008, more than $102 million was spent on the Medicaid audit effort, but only $20 million in overpayments were recovered, federal investigators revealed during a Senate hearing.

“I think Congress has been complicit in this far too long,” said Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). The Government Accountability Office determined that nearly two-thirds of the audits of state spending were “unproductive.”

Full Article and Source:
Medicaid fraud audits poor investment: GAO

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blumenthal Hearing On Health Issues For Elderly Includes His Brother

Caring for the elderly in hospitals, group homes and nursing homes is fraught with problems from over medicating patients, to people falling and injuring themselves when they're not supervised.

A lack of coordinated medical treatment for patients, over-medicating elderly people to subdue behavior related to dementia and all manner of other problems recur in places that care for elderly people, according to advocates and clinicians.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., held a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing Monday at a legislative office Monday in Hartford. The point of the hearing was to bring attention to some of those problems and to examine possible remedies.

"Preventable adverse events contributed to the deaths of as many as 950 Medicare beneficiaries last year in Connecticut alone," Jean Rexford, founder of Connecticut Center for Patient Safety, said in her testimony before Blumenthal.

And that was just in hospitals, she said. "This statistic does not include preventable deaths in our nursing homes or private homes, nor does it include the non-Medicare population," Rexford said. "Another 22,000 patients acquired infections while they were treated in health care facilities and almost all of those were preventable."

Full Article and Source:
Blumenthal Hearing On Health Issues For Elderly Includes His Brother

Hennessey’s Adult Guardianship Legislation Signed by Governor


HARRISBURG – Major legislation authored by Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-Chester), chairman of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, which would bring the Commonwealth in line with 29 other states in dealing with adult guardianships and protective proceedings, was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett Thursday. Hennessey’s House Bill 1720 is now Act 108 of 2012.

“I’d like to thank Governor Corbett for signing this much-needed proposal into law, because it will help our seniors to prevent the abuse of themselves and their property, and help bring them peace of mind,” said Hennessey. “There was a cooperative effort put into the final legislation, with many individuals and groups having input. I am grateful for all of the hard work put into the new law.”

The new law enacts the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, which sets the ground rules for determining which state would have jurisdiction over adult guardianships, conservatorships and other protective proceedings. The act also sets up a system for resolving multi-state disputes.

Full Article and Source:
Hennessey’s Adult Guardianship Legislation Signed by Governor