Saturday, July 28, 2012

Petition: Sen.Beavers, Rep. Gary Odom: Impeach Judge Randy Kennedy

Guardianship and conservatorship law is designed to “guard,” “conserve” and “protect” incompetent or disabled citizens, vulnerable elderly, and their estates.

Under Tennessee law, it is Judge Randy Kennedy’s duty alone, to decide whether or not a person is in need of a guardian or a conservator, and then to protect the vulnerable, elderly or disabled person. The law clearly states that the decisions Judge Kennedy makes should be in the best interest of the conserved person. Their best interest is NOT taken into consideration in his court and they are NOT protected!

• Judge Kennedy convenes emergency hearings without proper notice, in which people are conserved and their rights to due process and the law – federal and state - violated.
• Wards' assets are depleted, property, and belongings quickly sold before they have the chance to prove they are competent. These people should NOT have to prove they are competent!
• Court appointed guardians and lawyers in these cases profit greatly at the expense of the very people they are appointed to protect, also sanctioned by Judge Kennedy.
• Judge Kennedy improperly seals files from public view.

Mrs. Jewell Tinnon, Ginger Franklin, and Danny Tate are citizens who were conserved by petitions being filed without their knowledge, had their assets depleted and property sold, (a combined worth in excess of $2.5 million) - all signed off on by Judge Kennedy. Mrs. Tinnon even pleaded before Judge Kennedy not to sell all the things she had worked hard for. He ordered the sell anyway!



Chief of Wayne County Probate Court Refuses to Take Judge Off Rosa Parks Case

The chief judge of Wayne County Probate Court refused Friday to remove one of his colleagues from presiding over the estate of Rosa Parks, the late civil rights icon.

Judge Milton Mack Jr. said attorney Steven Cohen of Farmington Hills failed to present any evidence to justify removing Judge Freddie Burton Jr. from the estate, which has been embroiled in controversy since Parks died in 2005.

"There has been no showing of personal bias," Mack said after a 30-minute hearing, adding that Cohen's decision to sue Burton and then demand his removal from the case amounted to "naked forum shopping."

Cohen has accused Burton of allowing Detroit probate lawyers John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr. to drain the estate with excessive and unnecessary legal fees. Cohen said Burton improperly dismissed his suit and then rejected Cohen's motion to disqualify himself.

Cohen represents Elaine Steele, Parks' longtime personal assistant, and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, which the two women formed in the 1980s. Parks left the bulk of her estate to Steele and the institute.

"This case should be a warning to the people of Wayne County that the probate court judges do not believe their authority is limited in any manner," Cohen said after court, vowing to appeal the rulings of both judges. "If a judge can dismiss a case in which he is a defendant, then he can do anything."

Full Article and Source:
Chief of Wayne County Probate Court Refuses to Take Judge Off Rosa Parks Case

See Also:
Judge Fires Back in Rosa Parks Estate Dispute

Attorney Pleads Guilty to Financial Exploitation

The status of a Dixon attorney’s law license is uncertain after he pleaded guilty this week to bilking thousands of dollars from a now-deceased Dixon woman.

“When we’re dealing with allegations of conversion or theft from an elderly person, we always ask for a substantial penalty, like disbarment or a long suspension,” said Jim Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

Al Henry Williams, 63, pleaded guilty Thursday in Lee County court to financial exploitation of a disabled person, a Class 4 felony, and was sentenced to 6 months of conditional discharge.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office dropped the more serious charges of financial exploitation of an elderly person and theft of between $10,000 and $100,000.

He also was ordered to pay $15,992 in restitution to the estate of Dorothy Gaul, and $593 in court fees.

If Williams successfully completes the terms of his discharge and pays all fines and restitution, the case will be dismissed.

Full Article and Source:
Attorney Pleads Guilty to Financial Exploitation

Friday, July 27, 2012

Barb Montrond Reports: The Perils of Probate Court

Elder financial abuse has been around as long as older people have had money and property. Financial abuse, often accompanied by physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse remains a sad reality for many older citizens. Until recently, one particularly disturbing type of elder abuse has managed to remain a “dirty little secret” within local and national probate courts: Guardian and or conservator/fiduciary abuse.

Guardian and/or conservator abuse occurs when perpetrators use the system to drain the estates of vulnerable people in order to enrich their own lives. These unscrupulous individuals shield themselves behind the walls of the probate court, under the thinly veiled guise of protecting the elderly. Thousands of aging and/or otherwise vulnerable citizens undergo a particularly dehumanizing process as they are systematically stripped of their civil and constitutional rights via the probate or similar court system.

These perpetrators have learned to use the system supposedly intended to protect vulnerable citizens to dehumanize and destroy them instead.

Full Article and Source:
The Perils of Probate Court

JP Morgan Chase Bank Manager and Her Husband Convicted of Scamming Elderly Man Out of $1.1 Mil

A JP Morgan Chase bank manager and her husband were convicted Thursday of scamming a 97-year-old man out of $1.1 million in life savings, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney.

Prosecutors said that bank manager Christina Bray, 30, befriended the elderly banking client and pretended to manage his financial affairs. Instead, prosecutors said, Bray and her husband, Jimmy Bray, 39, of San Jose, spent the victim’s money on luxury cars and liposuction.

The couple pleaded guilty to several counts of felony elder theft.

Jimmy Bray was also convicted of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Christina Bray is set to be sentenced to an expected six years in prison and Jimmy Bray is expected to be sentenced to eight years in prison at a hearing scheduled for Sept. 4.

“Elderly people rely on bankers to carefully watch over their life savings," Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard said in a statement. “The Brays criminally used this vulnerable gentleman as their ATM.”

Full Article and Source:
SJ Bank Manager, Husband Bilk Victim of $1.1 M

Hospital Orderly Accused of Stealing $250,000 From Elderly Relative

An orderly at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite faces charges of stealing approximately $250,000 from an elderly relative, virtually wiping out the 93-year-old's retirement income.

Sean Caldwell, 39, was arrested last Friday by Atlanta police and charged with financial identity theft and exploitation of the elderly. Investigators say he began writing checks to himself from the account of his wife's great uncle, Mager Leach, a retired railroad worker, last fall.

Leach is suffering from the onset of dementia, said Atlanta Police Sgt. Paul Cooper of the major fraud unit, and was unaware Caldwell was withdrawing such large amounts from his account.

"[Caldwell] really enhanced his lifestyle," Cooper said.

Full Article and Source:
Hospital Orderly Accused of Stealing $250,000 From Elderly Relative

Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Lawless America - The Movie' and the Filming of the Gary and Sara Harvey Case

The Star Gazette’s Ray Finger was on hand during filming for “Lawless America — The Movie”, which took place Thursday, July 19, 2012 in Elmira, New York. The subjects of the Elmira segment were Gary & Sara Harvey and the government officials and their attorneys who have kept Gary Harvey isolated in a hospital room with little stimulation and extremely restricted visitation.

Finger reports:

Filmmaker and activist William Windsor is a man on a mission, and that mission brought him to Elmira on Thursday as he seeks to battle what he calls 14 categories of corruption.

“Our challenge is to educate and reach a million-plus people,” said Windsor, who started June 14 on a 143-day trip through all 50 states to work on “Lawless America – The Movie.”

Through the project, he is recording the stories of people who say they are victims of judicial and governmental corruption.

“The name ‘Lawless America’ was developed not to say our country is lawless or that we have a lot of lawless people,” he said.

“It’s to say that we have laws and they aren’t enforced, and we have people who are supposed to enforce the law and they don’t do the right thing, so they’re lawless. The judges change the law at a moment’s notice.”

Finger further reports:

Windsor called the Harveys’ situation a horrible story.

“He has no business having a guardian other than his loving wife,” he said.

“From my experience with the people I’ve filmed for guardian abuse, they go for the money. Guardians get put in place when you have family members that are ready, willing and able to do it and care for their loved ones,” he said.

Victims end up getting bled dry of their money, he said. “That’s a disgrace, and we have to try to expose it.”

Mr. Windsor has taken note of the Harvey story, (as well as the stories of numerous other victims), and he is taking the story out of the guarded territory and out into the public eye. No longer will it matter if the mainstream media ignores these stories, failing to give victims a voice. No longer will it matter who has turned (or is attempting to turn) a blind eye or only listened to half a story. Now the truth will be told and the victims will be heard.

Full Article and Source:
Lawless America - The Movie and the Filming of the Gary and Sara Harvey Case

See Also:
Lawless America Films Sara Harvey

Film Maker Stops in Elmira to Expose Injustices

Corruption Filmmaker Gathers Testimony in Wilkes Barre, PA

A man who dubs himself a leading authority on judicial corruption came to a place some would argue is the epitome of judicial corruption to interview a woman who has been the face of corruption victims.

Bill Windsor, a 63-year-old Georgian who claims to have been the victim of a corrupt judge himself, brought his documentary film venture to a room in the Hampton Inn Friday, videotaping testimony by seven area people who claim they are victims of corrupt public officials.

The avuncular Windsor is on a 143-day tour of all 50 states taking such testimonies, with plans to edit it all into a movie titled “Lawless America.” At 5 p.m. Friday, with pizza boxes on the bed and a root beer bottle on the dresser, he sat down to record Sandy Fonzo.

Fonzo gained national fame following the February 2011, conviction of former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella in the so-called “kids for cash” scandal, a moniker he was flatly rejecting on the courthouse steps after the verdict when Fonzo screamed her contention that Ciavarella’s mishandling of her son’s case as a juvenile led to his suicide.

“I’ve heard unbelievable stories,” Windsor said, “Sandy’s – as tragic as it is – at least it focuses a light on corruption here.

“And it’s not just here, there is rampant dishonesty bred from power, greed and ego.”

Full Article and Source:
Corruption Filmmaker Gathers Local Testimony

See Also:
Filmmaker in Elmira NY Turns Camera on Corruption

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TN Conservator Charged With Raping Woman, Stealing From Couple

Eight years ago a Tennessee chancery court judge concluded a mentally disabled couple needed a court-appointed conservator because they couldn’t take care of their most basic needs.

Now the family friend given control over every aspect of their lives stands charged with rape by an authority figure, three counts of sexual battery and theft of more than $60,000.

Those charges were filed last month in a criminal case in Clay County Circuit Court against Walter Strong, 66, of Celina. Strong was released on bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 14. Asked if his client would be entering a not guilty plea, Strong’s attorney Jack Lowery said, “absolutely,” but declined further comment.

The charges come at a time when conservatorships are under increased scrutiny in Tennessee, prompting the General Assembly to pass a new law requiring increased disclosure by those seeking to place a person under the control of a conservator. A legislative panel is set to consider additional changes over the summer.

In a separate civil suit filed in U.S. District Court, Craig Fickling, the attorney for the couple, has charged that Strong treated the couple’s funds “as if they were his own,” embezzled just under $100,000 and coerced the woman into performing sexual intercourse.

The Tennessean does not name victims of sexual abuse.

Court records show that the couple were placed in the conservatorship on Aug. 19, 2004, by now-retired Judge Vernon Neal when Strong and a now-deceased sister of the woman filed a petition in Clay County Chancery Court. According to the suit, the wife was born with a mental disability and the husband suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1994.

Full Article and Source:
Conservator Charged with Raping Woman, Stealing From Couple

NJ Appeals Court Rules Family not Entitled to Investigative Report Involving Son's Mistreatment

The Department of Human Services followed the law and made the right call when it withheld an investigative report from the family of a man mistreated by an employee at the Hunterdon Developmental Center, according to an appeals court ruling Tuesday.

The department gave Rosamund and Daniel Caliendo of Hampton a summary of the results from an investigation into whether an employee unlawfully restrained their son during a holiday party on Dec. 1, 2007. But the family wanted the name of the worker and details of the case.

Disability Rights New Jersey, a legal advocacy group, sued on the family's behalf to obtain the entire investigative record.

The Caliendos said they found their son, Damien, in his electric wheelchair facing a wall, with the chair's front wheels suspended in the air and the tray table jabbed into his stomach. The summary concluded the unidentified worker showed a "disregard for the client's right to unrestricted mobility" and would be forced to undergo additional retraining.

According to the ruling, the state Open Public Records Act does not permit the release of the unredacted investigative records. Citing an earlier decision, the appellate court wrote: "a record which contains or involves factual components is subject to the deliberative process privilege when it was used in the decision-making process and its disclosure would reveal the nature of the deliberations that occurred during that process."

Full Article and Source;
N.J. Appeals Court Rules Family not Entitled to Investigative Report Involving Son's Mistreatment

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Editorial: Judges & Justice

People deserve to appear before fair, impartial, courteous and respectful judges.

If judges fail to meet those standards, they should be investigated and prosecuted by the Judicial Conduct Board and disciplined by the Court of Judicial Discipline. But judges should not be targeted because of the rulings they make.

Dissatisfaction with judicial decisions should be handled through the appellate process. We are troubled that the Pittsburgh police union seems to ignore this distinction in its new complaint procedure about magisterial district judges.

Problems regarding judges’ bias and demeanor should be raised with the county president judge or with the Judicial Conduct Board, especially if a pattern of such conduct is documented. But judges should not be targeted because police officers disagree with their decisions on the setting of bonds. And the promise that the Fraternal Order of Police will use the complaints when making its judicial endorsements undermines the ability of judges to act independently when deciding cases.

It is critical to ensure our judges adhere to the highest ethical standards. But seeking to affect judicial decisions by threats to report judges is directly contrary to the operation of our justice system.

~Shira Goodman & Lynn A. Marks

Judges & Justice

CA: Judging the Judges

This year as in past years, the state's Commission on Judicial Performance published a report chronicling the bad behavior of California's judges. And like previous surveys, what this year's report shows most dramatically is how rarely judges are disciplined.

As of 2011, there were 1,786 judges on the bench. But over the past half century, only 25 judges have been removed from office and just 48 were publicly censured. Some of those punished had accumulated a long laundry list of commission admonishments. Others were caught in egregious behavior, like Judge Patrick Couwenberg of Los Angeles County Superior Court, who in 2002 was found to have lied about his judicial credentials and service in combat. And impairment sometimes contributes, as in 1977 when Supreme Court Justice Marshall F. McComb was found to be suffering from senile dementia.

Judging the Judges

OH Judge Rastatter's Disciplinary Case Rare

A former member of a state disciplinary board that hears complaints against judges and lawyers said how the board dismissed a complaint against a Clark County common pleas judge was rare but not unheard of.

Judge Douglas Rastatter was cleared of wrongdoing earlier this month after a two-day hearing when his attorneys asked for two of the six counts to be dismissed. The panel instead dismissed the entire case, which included allegations of failing to uphold the integrity of the judiciary.

Michael E. Murman, a private practice attorney with Murman & Associates in Lakewood, was a member of the Board of Grievances and Discipline at the Ohio Supreme Court from 2001 to 2003 and has since argued cases before the panel.

Even if there is enough in the complaint to constitute a violation, disciplinary panels can exercise discretion for judges who they feel are not likely to put themselves in similar situations again, Murman said.

“Our job is to protect the public from lawyer and judge misconduct. If it’s not necessary … what would be the point of sending this to the Supreme Court? It’s not about punishing lawyers and judges. Sanctions are a way to protect the public and the legal system,” Murman said.

Murman said Rastatter’s testimony and demeanor could have suggested to the panel that he had learned from mistakes.

He also said the friction with local defense attorneys Richard Mayhall and John R. Butz, who initiated the 13-page complaint, may have also played a role in the dismissal.

Disciplinary action against judges is rare in Ohio. For example, only four judges have been disbarred in more than 50 years.

Since 2007, less than 20 judicial misconduct cases have been filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, compared to more than 500 cases involving attorneys.

During that time, 10 judges have faced sanctions ranging from a public reprimand to disbarment. And each year, it’s estimated that only a handful of cases that have been brought before a state disciplinary panel involving lawyers and judges get dismissed.

Full Article and Source:
Judge's Disciplinary Case Rare

See Also:
Ohio Judge Rastatter Wins Conduct Case

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Issue: Can Court-Appointed Conservators Be Sued?

Daniel Gross, 85, was suffering from a leg infection when he visited his daughter in Waterbury, Conn, in 2002 and had to be taken to a local emergency room. After Gross spent nine days in the hospital, a hospital social worker asked the Connecticut probate court to appoint a conservator for him.

The judge agreed, and from there, things spun out of control. Gross was sent to a nursing home and kept there for more than 10 months, unable to freely visit with his family. At one point he was attacked by his roommate, a convicted felon.

An attorney won his release, but before Gross died in 2007, he sued his lawyer, the conservator, and the nursing home. According to legal briefs, his attorney failed to challenge the conservatorship despite Gross' request, and his conservator failed to oversee Gross' financial affairs.

The federal District Court threw out the lawsuit in the spring of 2008, saying that Gross' conservator and his lawyer could not be held liable for their actions because they were appointed by a probate court. The case then went to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded in October 2009 that the case should be resolved in state court. In April, the Connecticut Supreme Court sided with Gross. The high court did carve out an exception - that immunity could be granted to a conservator if a probate court approves his or her actions. But it also ruled that the conservator can be sued for harm or loss to the person under conservatorship.

The case is expected to be referred to the trial court where it began. A jury will then decide whether to hold Gross' court-appointed lawyer, the conservator and the nursing facility liable.

Full Article and Source:
AARP Bulletin: The Issue: Can Court-Appointed Conservators Be Sued?

Lawyer Replaced in Contentious CT Probate Case

Town Attorney Peter Boorman has been replaced as conservator in a bitter probate court case nearly two months after he and the grandson of the woman he represented got into a fight and were arrested.

The misdemeanor breach of peace charge against Boorman, 58, was nolled, meaning it will likely not be prosecuted, but can be reinstated if he is arrested again within the next 13 months.

Newington Judge of Probate Robert Randich this week appointed Katrina K. Camera of Schafler & Camera in Shelton as the new conservator for 96-year-old Margaret Geremia.

Geremia's sons and grandson have fought over her care and modest assets for more than a year with each of her sons accusing the other of misappropriating funds.

Full Article and Source:
Newington Town Attorney Replaced in Probate Case

See Also:
After Fisticuffs, Attorney in Contentious Probate Case Resigns

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Linda Kincaid Reports: Yucaipi Mayor Riddel and Sheriff's Captain Hamblin Ignore Elder Abuse

Wildwood Canyon Villa celebrated its eight-year anniversary on April 21, 2012. In that time, the Yucaipa residential care facility for the elder received numerous Department of Social Services citations for licensing violations and elder abuse.

In January 2012, Wildwood was sued for wrongful death, elder abuse, and neglect of a resident. Wildwood’s attorneys settled the case quickly and quietly, avoiding the publicity of a jury trial.

In March, 2012, Wildwood was sued for elder abuse and conspiracy to commit elder abuse of another resident. Wildwood’s attorneys responded that the victim’s family does not have standing to sue for abuse until the victim is deceased.

In April 2012, “Yucaipa Mayor Dick Riddell enjoyed the barbecue lunch with the residents and presented a proclamation to the business, marking the occasion” according to the Yucaipa News Mirror.

In a July 2009 opinion piece for the News Mirror, Mayor Riddell praised Wildwood Executive Director Lynnette Alvarado as, “a charming, friendly, energetic, and obviously capable leader.” Mayor Riddell neglected to mention that Alvarado has only a GED, not the two years of college that Department of Social Services requires for her position.

In May 2012, Alvarado did not appear, “energetic and obviously capable.” Alvarado shrank into her chair and spoke in a whisper as she gave testimony concerning abuse and neglect of Wildwood residents. The court reporter asked Alvarado to speak more loudly, as Alvarado’s voice was barely audible.

In July 2012, Wildwood’s Events & News showed Alvarado presenting an outstanding service award to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Captain Lee Hamblin. Captain Hamblin’s “outstanding service” does not include investigation of elder abuse at Wildwood.

Families of victims repeatedly contacted Mayor Riddell and Captain Hamblin, expressing concerns about abuse and neglect of their loved ones. Mayor Riddell and Captain Hamblin exchange awards with Wildwood, while casting a blind eye on abuse of Wildwood residents.

Yucaipa Mayor Riddel and Sheriff's Captain Hamblin Ignore Elder Abuse

Woman Accused of Bilking Mom Must Pay Back $100K

A Missoula woman convicted of bilking her elderly mother, who has dementia, of the money from her home received a 10-year suspended sentence. Paulette Homer Ford also was ordered to pay back $100,000 – less than half the amount sought by the prosecution.

“Our elderly family members are being taken advantage of and this is the time we tell the community it’s not OK,” said Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jennifer Clark.

Clark had argued in favor of a 10-year sentence with eight years suspended. She also sought restitution of nearly $208,000, an amount that included attorneys’ fees expended by Ford’s relatives in a long-running battle over control of their mother’s care and assets.

Those relatives were furious when Ford used the proceeds from a reverse mortgage on her mother’s home to pay off her own mortgage and debts. Because of that, they said, there was no money to maintain their mother in a nicer nursing home than the one where she now resides.

Ford was found guilty of exploiting an older person in a bench trial in January. She could have faced 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Full Article and Source:
Missoula Woman Convicted of Bilking Mom Must Pay Back $100K

How to Avoid Fights Over Inheritence

An elderly woman on her deathbed has an estate worth $400,000. She has four children and a will stating that she wants each child to receive 25 percent of her assets after she dies.

The situation seems simple enough: The woman has a legal document in place—a will—that contains specifics on how she wants her estate to be passed along to her children. But according to estate-planning experts, this woman's death could kick off a long and expensive legal process that often turns ugly. Fights over inheritance can cause rifts in families that are sometimes impossible to heal, these experts say.

"Family fights among children after death occurs in a large percentage of families," says Tim O'Sullivan, a partner and estate planning and tax attorney at Kansas law firm Foulston Siefkin. "If the No. 1 goal is to create family harmony, then the estate plan ought to be designed in a way that preserves it. It's so sad to see what happens in these situations."

Full Article and Source:
How to Avoid Fights Over Inheritence