Saturday, August 18, 2012

Inkster judge tossed from bench on August ballot

Lansing— Michigan Supreme Court justices ruled Tuesday that embattled Inkster Judge Sylvia James be removed from the bench.

The justices agreed with the findings of the Judicial Tenure Committee and ruled Tuesday in a 17-page document that James misappropriated court funds by spending thousands on self-promotions; committed administrative improprieties, including an improper dress code; violated a court anti-nepotism policy; and lied to investigators working to uncover wrongdoings.

"The cumulative effect of respondent's misconduct, coupled with its duration, nature and pervasiveness convinces this court that she is unfit for judicial office," the justices' opinion said. "Although some of her misconduct, considered in isolation, does not justify such a severe sanction, taken as a whole her misconduct rises to a level that requires her removal from office."

Only seven Michigan judges have been removed by the state Supreme Court since 1980. About a dozen judges have been removed since 1969, when the Judicial Tenure Commission — the investigative body of the high court — was created.

Neither James nor her attorney, Mayer Morganroth of Birmingham, could be reached for comment Tuesday. James, who had served as the lone judge of Inkster's 22nd District Court since 1998, was placed on paid administrative leave on April 13, 2011. The tenure commission filed formal charges of judicial misconduct in October 2011. She officially was suspended with pay that December and found guilty of misconduct in April. The justices'ruling is effective immediately and James is off the payroll.

Judge Richard Hammer of Garden City's 21st District Court took over as chief judge for both courts following her suspension.

Despite the ruling, James could be back on the bench as early as Jan. 1. She is one of eight candidates for the judgeship in the Aug. 7 primary. If she finishes first or second in the primary, she'll be up for re-election in November.

That scenario wasn't lost on Chief Justice Robert P. Young and Justice Stephen J. Markman, who dissented in part with the majority opinion, saying James also should have been suspended for one six-year term.

"Although the majority's ordering removal from office addresses the immediate harm caused by Judge James, it is an inadequate response and fails to address the likelihood of continuing harm," the dissenting opinion read.

"Given Judge James' lack of remorse and continuing refusal to acknowledge that she, too, is bound by the laws of this state, there is no reason to believe that Judge James will not continue to place her own will above the will of the people."

Full Article and Source:
Inkster judge tossed from bench on August ballot

The Forgotten Ones - Compassion for the Elderly

Hazel is a 91-year-old woman who not long ago lost her sight.

She grew up in Fayetteville, where she taught Sunday school. She enjoys talking about the Bible and having people read verses to her. She likes music, especially gospel songs.

She has no family.

Oscar, an 89-year-old Monroe County native, has lived in West Virginia all of his life. He is able to stroll with the aid of a walker. He enjoys playing the harmonica and singing for the other nursing-home residents.

He has no family.

These are typical profiles of the people who living in nursing homes because they require the specialized care that they can’t receive in their private homes. They are the ones who don’t have much to look forward to in the way of visitors, greeting cards or phone calls from family members and old friends.

And yet, there is tenacity within these people, and feistiness, and a sense of self with little or no concern over appearance, status, or accomplishment — or any of the driving forces that seem to define how most of us gauge ourselves.

These senior citizens could tell us much about the art of growing old.

Most of them display a peculiarly gracious attitude toward their bout with time.

But the days just before any special occasion or holidays seem most severe.

Troubled feelings creep in — feelings of isolation, aloneness, separation; feelings of loneliness, helplessness and boredom — reminding us that these are the constant companions of far too many nursing home residents.

Week by week, hour by hour, minute by minute — many nursing home residents know how it feels to have everything taken away from them — everything but their aloneness.

Loneliness, helplessness and boredom don’t even begin to describe the agony some senior citizens feel when their thoughts are dominated by an aching desire to just go home.

What can be done to soothe an aching spirit for those who have left behind all the things that make their life meaningful, things that give them a purpose for living?

A little mail for nursing-home residents goes a long way in spreading cheer.

“Our clients would love to get a card or letter or cassette tape from caring people,” a local nursing home administrator explained. “It makes them feel that someone outside the facilities they are there and that they are important. It helps build the citizens self worth.”

Which is where all of you come in.

Pick a name. Better yet, pick up the phone, call a nursing home, and ask for an address.

And send a greeting card or a valentine.

Full Article and Source:
Facebook: The Forgotten Ones - Compassion for the Elderly

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wake case shows perils of family members as financial guardians

RALEIGH -- In late March, Robert Anthony Watkins ran into his father’s burning home, yelling “Dad!” as he helped firefighters rescue Oscar “Pete” Watkins from a rampaging fire.

During the next two months, as his father, 75, recovered from devastating burns, Robert Watkins was awarded legal guardianship of Pete Watkins’ affairs, only to have the status removed by the Wake County Clerk Of Court’s office less than two weeks later.

Robert Watkins, 51, has a record of criminal convictions that includes multiple felonies. And according to filings in the case, he had begun dipping into his father’s holdings, estimated at more than $450,000, mostly in the form of the downtown building he once ran as Watkins Grill, now the Oakwood Grill.

Efforts to reach Robert Watkins were not successful.

His brief guardianship career is an example of the potential pitfalls of the process, said Lorrin Freeman, Wake County Clerk of Superior Court. Watkins slipped through the cracks of a system that handles nearly 500 such appointed guardianships a year – and uses criminal background checks to test their fitness as guardians, Freeman said.

“We basically are giving an individual control over somebody’s life,” Freeman said. “That includes everything from what medical care they get, to where they live, to what they can buy, to whom they can associate with.”

Full Article and Source:
Wake case shows perils of family members as financial guardians

St. Joseph County probate judge accused of misconduct

SOUTH BEND— A long-serving St. Joseph County probate judge is accused of misconduct on the bench in connection with alleged remarks made to a woman in a guardianship hearing for a deaf teenager last year.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has filed one count of misconduct against St. Joseph Probate Court Judge Peter Nemeth, it announced Tuesday.

Nemeth has served as the county's probate judge since 1993 and is retiring at the end of this year.

The commission's complaint alleges that Nemeth made inappropriate comments to a woman in court as a potential guardian for a deaf 18-year-old when she asked for a court-provided interpreter for the teenager.

The commission said Nemeth first denied her request to supply a sign language interpreter for the woman, and instead ordered her to provide one herself.

He later appointed one when the woman referenced portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the complaint said.

During the May guardianship hearing, the woman testified she had not worked or paid taxes in the past 10 years, the commission said.

The commission alleges Nemeth later suggested to the woman she should not have asked the court to pay for an interpreter when she had not paid taxes for years.

Nemeth on Tuesday said he will fight the charge against him.

Full Article and Source:
St. Joseph County probate judge accused of misconduct

See Also:
N. Ind. judge accused of making improper comment

The Forgotten Ones

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
~ Morrie Schwartz

* Remember the lonely and forgotten elderly in your community. Please volunteer. ♥

Facebook - The Forgotten Ones: Compassion for the Elderly

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Elder financial abuse in Illinois on rise

Downers Grove retiree Robert Govenat was on the computer every day, watching prices of his stocks go down.

It was November 2007, and a bear market was threatening.

"He was about to have a nervous breakdown or a heart attack," recalls his wife, Jan, a retired third-grade schoolteacher.

Over lunch at a hot dog place in Darien, a longtime friend and financial planner Algird Norkus told Govenat that he had an alternative investment for select people: It would keep the couple's principal safe and pay 13.5 percent annual interest.

Govenat went along. Eventually, the couple would lose nearly all of their life savings — $225,000. Govenat also steered his mother into what ultimately turned out to be a Ponzi scheme, and she lost more than $200,000, most of her assets.

Norkus pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud. In March, he began serving 63 months in prison. He also was ordered to pay $4.6 million in restitution to nearly 70 victims, many elderly, including Robert and Jan Govenat, and Robert's mother. His plea agreement said he commingled investors' moneys, in part to make payments to other investors and in part to benefit himself.

"Don't trust anyone," Jan Govenat, 71, said Tuesday when asked what she learned from the experience. "I can't tell you how many times I've said that to friends since this happened." She also regretted not sharing their change in investment strategy with their two adult children.

Robert Govenat, 72, gets choked up discussing what happened with the savings of his mother, now 99 and living in a retirement community. "I'm not proud of what I've done to my mom," he said last week with a quivering voice.

Full Article and Source:
Elder financial abuse in Illinois on rise

Misconduct charges against judges make news much quicker than those against lawyers

News of the professional-misconduct charges against state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola didn’t surface until about a month after they were filed.

The state Supreme Court Office of Discipline doesn’t breathe a word about charges lodged against lawyers until attorneys respond to the charges and hearings on the complaints have been scheduled.

In Piccola’s case, the office filed the charges June 29, but didn’t make them publicly available until July 30.

Even then, the office doesn’t go out of its way to alert the public about charges. It posts hearing dates and the names of those being charged on its website, but it doesn’t give background information on the charges unless asked, and it doesn’t issue news releases on the matters.

That isn’t how it works with the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania, which disciplines judges.

As soon as charges are lodged against a judge, the information goes public.

Full Article and Source:
Misconduct charges against judges make news much quicker than those against lawyers

Probate fight over Mo. hotel magnate continues

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The legal fight over 93-year-old Springfield hotel magnate John Q. Hammons remains unresolved nearly 18 months after a group of close friends filed suit over concerns about his care.

A Greene County judge quickly sealed the probate court case, but online court records show it remains active.

Meanwhile, the John Q. Hammons Hotel Management Co. and the woman chosen by Hammons as his successor face two new lawsuits alleging improper business practices.

A New York real estate company accuses CEO Jacqueline Dowdy of exaggerating the company's worth to secure an $80 million construction loan.

And a holding company that owns more than half of the 78 hotels managed by Hammons says Dowdy broke a contract by taking over the company.

Hammons Hotel Management officials call the claims "baseless."

Full Article and Source:
Probate fight over Mo. hotel magnate continues

See Also:
Eight Petition for Guardianship for John Q. Hammons

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Veteran's guardian found in contempt

The court-appointed guardian of a now-deceased Vietnam veteran has been found in contempt of court and threatened with an indefinite jail term while a specially appointed master tries to unravel what became of thousands of dollars of the veteran’s assets.

In a case that a participant says is one of a kind, the former guardian, George Phillips, has been ordered to repay the estate of his uncle, Harold C. Hill, for thousands of dollars in rent payments while Hill was a permanent resident at the Alvin C. York Veterans Medical Center in Murfreesboro.

Phillips was, in effect, paying himself since he was Hill’s landlord.

Dozens of payments from Hill’s bank account have been challenged dating to 2005, when he was first placed in a guardianship.

“The disbursements made for utilities were almost 10 times the amount of the actual utility bill for the apartment the ward (Hill) resided in,” one court filing states.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, and this is a first. It seems that every time we look, something else turns up,” said Michael Knowlton, the attorney representing Regions Bank, which took over the guardianship after Davidson Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy removed Phillips early this year. Regions Bank had previously become involved at the request of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Full Article and Source:
Veteran's guardian found in contempt

N. Ind. judge accused of making improper comment

A northern Indiana judge says he'll defend himself against a charge that he violated the code of judicial conduct by making an improper comment to someone applying to be a guardian.

St. Joseph County Probate Judge Peter Nemeth (NEH'-mihth) said Tuesday he's confident he acted appropriately.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a misconduct charge against Nemeth, saying he acted inappropriately during a 2011 hearing. The commission says he said then it would be improper for a woman to ask taxpayers to pay for a sign language interpreter when she "hadn't paid taxes for several years."

Full Article and Source:
N. Ind. judge accused of making improper comment

Connecticut Lawyer Arrested After Bringing Loaded Gun Into ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Theater

New Haven, CT — A prominent Connecticut lawyer was arrested Tuesday night before a screening of The Dark Knight Rises after police found a loaded handgun in his waistband and he was apparently uncooperative.

Sung-Ho Hwang, president-elect of the New Haven Bar Association, who has a carry permit, called the charges against him baseless according to the Connecticut Law Tribune.

The lawyer also suggested that he was carrying the weapon for his own personal protection.

Hwang was charged with breach of peace and interfering with police, both misdemeanors.

According to the Hartford Courant, the cinema called police about a report with a man with a gun. Police arrived and searched the approximately 12 moviegoers waiting for The Dark Knight Rises to begin.

Full Article and Source:
Connecticut Lawyer Arrested After Bringing Loaded Gun Into ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Theater

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Connecticut Pulls Disabled From Site of Alleged Beatings

A Connecticut agency plans to pull at least four disabled state residents out of a Florida rehabilitation center facing allegations that its patients were abused and neglected.

Terrence Macy, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services, said he was “outraged” watching video that police describe as footage of two autistic patients being beaten at the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation.

Macy said his department doesn’t plan to make any further placements at FINR and is taking steps to withdraw four of the 10 patients it already has sent to the facility in rural Wauchula, Florida. Last week, investigators from three state agencies conducted a surprise inspection of the treatment center, without disclosing what they found.

Wayne J. Miller, an attorney for closely held FINR, said the patients slated to leave the facility “have vastly improved as a result of the care they were given at FINR and are now well enough to be transferred to a facility in Connecticut that provides a lower level of care.” He said FINR has been working with Connecticut officials for a “few months” on the discharge of those patients.

Connecticut is responsible for certain disabled and mentally ill patients under laws entitling them to adequate care.

Incident Video

“Watching the video, I saw things that were reprehensible to me and horrific and would never be tolerated in this state,” Macy said.

In one video recorded last year, 21-year-old autistic patient Danny Silva sits on a couch between two large male staffers who punch, elbow and slap him at least 30 times.

The video was taken by a third employee using a mobile phone, according to police, and posted online last month by Bloomberg News. The two staffers have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of abuse.

Melinda Jakobowski, a mentally ill patient sent to Wauchula by Connecticut, died at a Tampa hospital last year after she was found unresponsive in her room at FINR. Investigations by Florida regulators determined that staff members failed to watch Jakobowski as required, including one who slept on the job.

The state will step up monitoring of Connecticut patients who remain at FINR, Macy said.

Full Article and Source:
Connecticut Pulls Disabled From Site of Alleged Beatings

Judge booted after making sexual advances

HARRISBURG — A former Allegheny County judge was removed from office and barred from serving on the bench last month, after he was convicted earlier this year of sexually assaulting two women in his chambers.

The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline, which hears official complaints against judges who violate the state constitution and judicial code, said former Magistrate Judge Ross Cioppa used his position to engage in a “tawdry, coercive pursuit of sexual liberties,” which included kissing and embracing two women who appeared before his bench. On both occasions, he promised to rule in favor of the women, if they went along with his advances, according to court documents.

“It is not open to question that (Cioppa’s) conduct was intended to affect a specific outcome — he promised that it would,” the board concluded, adding that the judge’s actions prejudiced the proper administration of justice.

Full Article and Source:
Judge booted after making sexual advances

How Wall Street lawyer-turned-insider trader eluded FBI

Every dawn in the early spring of 2011, Matthew Kluger peered out his window, wondering when federal agents would knock at his door.

Kluger, a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer, says he worried that authorities were closing in on him as the source of illegal tips in a three-man insider-trading ring that had eluded detection for 17 years.

The knock came April 6. U.S. agents handcuffed Kluger, hustled him into a Dodge Intrepid, drove to the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Manassas, Va., and laid out the case against him. The evidence included tape recordings of Kluger telling the man he tipped to get rid of a cellular phone that could lead back to him - and to do it carefully because the authorities had dogs that can sniff out mobiles.

"I really would like to see this phone go bye-bye ASAP," Kluger said, adding: "Do you want this to be our undoing?"

Kluger's account offers a unique view of insider trading by a midlevel lawyer who moved from one powerful firm to another, exploiting his access to partners and confidential documents. It shows how difficult it is to police such activity when conspirators take care to conceal their crimes and trade with discipline. The trio's downfall came only when one of them changed the routine after almost two decades.

Full Article and Source:
How Wall Street lawyer-turned-insider trader eluded FBI

Monday, August 13, 2012

How insiders snatch millions from estates in the scandal-scarred Surrogate Courts

If you’re a lawyer in New York, there’s no sweeter deal than getting assigned to an estate case in Surrogate’s Court.

The work is often routine — selling assets, paying bills, contacting heirs — but the pay can reach into the millions.

Landing such a gig requires currying favor with one of the city’s seven surrogate judges, who handle wills and estates. They have the power to appoint lawyers and approve their sometimes jaw-dropping invoices.

The jobs often go to the judges’ friends, associates or campaign contributors, court authorities admit. Looting of the estates can sometimes result.

The most recent example involves Bronx Judge Lee Holzman, who last week faced removal from the surrogate bench after he signed off on legal work that was never done.

The bills, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, totaled $300,000 and went to the judge’s associate, lawyer Michael Lippman, a Democratic Party crony who ran Holzman’s campaign financing, raising $125,000, a court watchdog claims.

Lippman then got into money trouble himself, racking up $1 million in gambling debts and allegedly faking bills to cover his losses.

Prosecutors say they uncovered the cooked books and charged him with fraud.

Another alleged thief preyed on a lucrative and largely unsupervised part of the system — cases in which there is no will.

Such cases go to public administrators, who work with Surrogate’s Court judges in handling their finances.

In May, Richard Paul, the bookkeeper for the Brooklyn public administrator, was indicted for stealing $2.6 million from these estates, allegedly manipulating the check-writing process to get at the cash.

Judges who allow fraudulent pay-outs are “a disgrace to the legal profession and to the state of New York,” said Monroe Freedman, a Hofstra University professor and leading expert on legal ethics. “They should be removed from the bench and disbarred.”

Freedman said an entrenched system of favor-trading, with hints of bribery, has persisted for decades.

“They’re stealing from the client, which is one of the worst things you can do,” he said. “I can’t think of much worse. The judges are not only condoning it, but they’re helping lawyers do it.”

Even when there is no illegality, huge sums vanish.

A decade after Wall Street investment banker Ted Ammon was beaten to death in his East Hampton home, a group of politically connected lawyers pummeled his estate with $10 million in fees, records show.

That amounts to 20 percent of his $50 million fortune, well above the 6 percent rate that court administrators deem acceptable.

Full Article and Source:
How insiders snatch millions from estates in the scandal-scarred Surrogate Courts

Arizona woman arrested in elderly fraud case

CAMP VERDE, AZ - A Camp Verde woman has been arrested for allegedly defrauding an elderly woman of more than $100,000.

According to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, the 90-year-old victim's granddaughter discovered the theft after reviewing her grandmother's bank records.

Authorities say the victim requires 24 hour care and was under the caretaking services of C and R Home Care owned by 37-year-old Rosemary Flores of Camp Verde.

The victim, who lives in Cottonwood, was charged $2,200 each week for 24-hor service involving several caretakers.

Authorities say Flores would offer to fill out the victim's personal check and have her sign the blank check.

Flores would then alter the check to increase the amount before getting the cash equivalent from the bank.

Checks were altered in varying amounts between $3,200 and $12,300.

Before contacting the sheriff's office, the victim's granddaughter had confronted Flores about the excessive cash withdrawals but Flores told her not to worry as the cash outs were necessary for extraordinary expenses.

After an investigation by a patrol deputy, the case was handed over to a detective from the Criminal Investigations Bureau.

Authorities say it was also discovered that Flores had convinced the victim to "put all (her) eggs into one basket" by cashing out her annuities. When she did that she suffered a $32,000 loss due to the early cancellation.

Full Article and Source:
Arizona woman arrested in elderly fraud case

Nursing Home Fails to Save Elderly Woman

A son suspecting that a local nursing home had covered up his mom’s death has now filed a lawsuit against the nursing home. The court documents state that the nursing home had failed to inform the son that his mother had choked to death while she was being fed by a licensed vocational nurse.

The nurse had told the emergency care responders that the elderly woman had chocked on rice when it was in fact a large chunk of meat. The elderly woman had a “do not resuscitate” order that prompted the lifesaving efforts to cease. The son states that the events were not correctly documented and that the nursing home’s failure to save his mother contradicted the efforts of EMS. “Do not resuscitate” only applies to situations in which the elderly woman was placed in a suffering state or an incurable and irreversible condition cause by an injury or a disease. The son of the elderly woman feels that the nursing home was the cause of the injury and that they withheld life-sustaining efforts in order to cover up their mistake. A jury trial has been requested.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Fails to Save Elderly Woman

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An Age for Justice: Confronting Elder Abuse in America

From and |

An Age for Justice; Elder Abuse in America, a video produced by the Elder Justice Now campaign, shows the families and individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by elder abuse. The video provides stark proof of the financial, emotional, and phsycial and psychological impact of the violence and abuse that an estimated five million Americans face every day. We hear from Vicki Bastion, 92, who installed a security gate inside her home to protect herself and what valuables she had left from her grandson and his gang‐related friends; Betty Beckles talks about her daughter beating her; Bob Lee tells us about his father, who was victimized by a paid caregiver causes depression that contributed to his death; and Pat Smith tells us about her husband, who has Alzheimers disease and was victimized financially by a young woman in Las Vegas who walked with $750,000. The video was produced by the National Council on Aging and WITNESS, to shine the light on what one interviewee called a dark mark on our humanity.

CCHR: Psychiatric Abuse of the Elderly

An estimated 15,000 Elderly patients are killed ever year from antipsychotic drugs - while thousands more are electroshocked.

Psychiatry and those who follow their practices (drugs, restraints, electroshock) have no reverence or respect for the elderly, and employ dangerous drugs and 'treatments' as a method of control and keeping them quiet. They will happily supply endless prescriptions of psychoactive drugs or ECT. In just a six-month time period in 2007, Medicare received $309 million in claims for antipsychotics for elderly in nursing homes. Daniel R. Levinson, Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Health and Human Services, stated recently, "Despite the fact that it is potentially lethal to prescribe antipsychotics to patients with dementia, there's ample evidence that some drug companies aggressively marketed their products towards such populations, putting profits before safety.... Government, taxpayers, nursing home residents, as well as their families and caregivers should be outraged -- and seek solutions."