Saturday, September 7, 2013

NY: The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption

On July 2, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appointed the “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act and Executive Law Section 63(8) to probe systemic corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York State.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will appoint the members of the Commission as Deputy Attorneys General giving the Commission broad investigative authority to probe matters that “involve public peace, public safety and public justice”.

The Commission will have the power to issue subpoenas and examine witnesses under oath.  They will be tasked with among things, reviewing the adequacy of existing state laws, regulations and procedures involving unethical and unlawful misconduct by public officials and the electoral process and campaign finance laws.  They will also examine whether existing laws and regulations have been fairly and vigorously enforced and what changes must be made to such enforcement.  The Commission is directed to make recommendations to toughen and improve existing laws and procedures.

The Commission will hold hearings in September:
* Tuesday, September 17 in lower Manhattan,
* Wednesday, September 18 in Buffalo,
* Tuesday, September 24 in Albany

The hearings will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption

Inheritance guardian sentenced for embezzlement

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A lawyer appointed to oversee the inheritance of a civil rights leader's grandson has been sentenced in Mississippi to serve 30 years in prison for using hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself.

Attorney Michael Brown was sentenced Aug. 29 in Rankin County to 40 years, with 10 suspended, on two counts of embezzlement related to the estate left to the grandson of late civil rights leader Aaron Henry.

Brown, 56, of Rankin County, represented himself during the four-day trial. He remains incarcerated and was not available for comment Thursday. A telephone call to the sheriff's office was not immediately returned.

Henry, a former state legislator who led the state NAACP for more than 30 years, died in 1997 at the age of 74, leaving his estate to his only daughter, Rebecca. She died in 2000, with her estate going to her two sons, Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Guest said a guardianship was set up in Hinds County in 2000 for Henry's grandson, Demon McClinton, who was a minor at the time.

Brown was under court order to use the funds strictly for the benefit of the child, but he put the money in his personal escrow account, spending some of it on five cars over a period of several weeks in 2001 and investing $550,000 in a cemetery, Guest said.

Rankin County brought criminal charges because the checks for the Lakeland Place Garden Cemetery investment were written in the county, Guest said. Brown faces additional charges in Hinds County, where Guest said other fraudulent transactions occurred.

Brown closed the guardianship in 2006 after spending $1.2 million and then filed fraudulent paperwork with the Hinds County Chancery court to make it appear the money was properly spent for the benefit of McClinton, Guest said.

The estate was reopened in 2011 when Hinds County Chancellor Dewayne Thomas held a series of hearings that uncovered the fraud, Guest said.

Full Article and Source:
Inheritance guardian sentenced for embezzlement

Man Gets 11 Years For Bilking Elderly

Former Vancouver resident must also pay $3 million in restitution

A former Vancouver resident was recently sentenced in San Diego to serve 11 years in a California state prison and pay $3 million in restitution for operating a phony insurance company and bilking elderly clients.

Michael B. Woodward, 50, pleaded guilty to residential burglary, theft from an elder, theft greater than $500,000, transacting insurance without authorization and failure to file a state tax return.

His wife, Melissa J. Woodward, 48, pleaded guilty to failing to file a tax return and was sentenced to probation.

When Woodward lived in Vancouver and was selling plans to senior citizens, he was investigated — nearly two dozen times by one agency alone — but never charged with a crime.

The prosecution of Woodward, who had his license to sell insurance revoked in Washington and Oregon, was the result of an investigation by the California Department of Insurance and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Insurance Fraud Unit.

The Woodwards were arrested April 10 at their home in Las Vegas and extradited to San Diego, according to a news release from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. They entered their guilty pleas in June and were sentenced on Aug. 8 in San Diego County Superior Court.

400 victims
Their approximately 400 victims in California, including more than 200 people in San Diego, ranged in age from 80 to older than 100.

“(The Woodwards) would target elderly senior citizens at their homes, telling them that for a prepaid annual fee, the victim could get an unlimited amount of non-medical services such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, toileting, dressing, laundry and shopping. To receive services, he told the victims, they should call him and provide a doctor’s note.”

But the Woodwards were the business’ only employees, according to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.

The most Woodward would do for clients was hire a third party to provide services, or reimburse clients after they had to pay out-of-pocket.

Full Article and Source:
Man Gets 11 Years For Bilking Elderly

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fired Texas Social Services Worker Gets 10 Years

(Credit: ThinkStockImages)
GALVESTON, Texas (AP) – A fired social services worker in Southeast Texas who stole from people she was assigned to help must serve 10 years in prison.

A judge in Galveston on Wednesday sentenced 47-year-old Sylvia Ann Villarreal of Hitchcock. Villarreal on June 17 pleaded guilty to felony theft.

The Galveston County Daily News reports Villarreal must also pay $50,000 in restitution.

Villarreal worked for Galveston County’s guardianship program for nearly 15 years before she was fired in 2010. She was later indicted on a charge of theft by public servant involving funds since 2007.

The investigation began after a judge who appointed Villarreal to assist wards of the county noticed irregularities with their checking accounts. Records show many of the checks were made out to cash.

Authorities since then have implemented audits.

Full Article and Source:
Fired Texas Social Services Worker Gets 10 Years

See Also:
Social services worker in Texas stole from clients

Advocacy Group Publishes Nation’s First-Ever, State-By-State Nursing Home Report Card

TALLAHASSEE, FL) – Families for Better Care, a Florida-based nursing home resident advocacy group, published the first-ever state-by-state nursing home report card.

The group scored, ranked and graded states on eight different federal quality measures ranging from the percentage of facilities with severe deficiencies to the number of hours frontline caregivers averaged per resident per day.

“We’re excited about getting this report into the hands of public officials, nursing home owners, advocates, and—most importantly—residents and their families,” said Brian Lee, Families for Better Care’s executive director.  “Our goal is to applaud those states that provide good care while motivating improvement for those that score poorly.”

Top nursing home states included Alaska, Rhode Island and New Hampshire while Texas, Louisiana and Indiana hit rock bottom.

“A distinctive trend differentiated the good states from the bad states,” Lee exclaimed.  “States whose nursing homes staffed at higher levels ranked far better than those with fewer staffing hours.”

Three states (Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine) scored “superior” grades in every staffing measure and each ranked among America’s best nursing home states.  Conversely, of those four states with failing marks (Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas) each scored below average grades.

Full Article and Source:
Advocacy Group Publishes Nation’s First-Ever, State-By-State Nursing Home Report Card

See Also:
Report Says Texas Nursing Homes Are the Worst in the Country, And This Video Might Just Convince You

Cook County Opens New Elder Justice Center

CHICAGO (CBS) – Senior citizens in Cook County who need help navigating the court system, or fighting fraud and abuse, now have one place to turn for information.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the Cook County Elder Justice Center is the brainchild of Chief Judge Timothy Evans, and is located on the lower level of the Daley Center.

Presiding Judge Patricia Banks said volunteers and staff at the center can answer questions about financial exploitation, scams, and the like. “We don’t give legal advice,” she said. “No legal advice, or legal representation; but we do want seniors who have issues, who have questions about the court system, who have questions about paperwork that they might have that they don’t quite understand – we welcome them to come in. To the extent that we can help them, fine. If we can’t help them, we’re going to refer them to someone who can.”

Banks said she and Evans noticed seniors have become a growing part of the court system.

“They’re living longer, and they’re in need … because of all types of legal issues: consumer issues, the scams, we have also elder abuse and neglect,” she said. “That’s a very big issue, because of elder abuse, and neglect, and financial exploitation, we’re hearing stories everyday about seniors.”

Full Article and Source:
Cook County Opens New Elder Justice Center

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Grabbing the Purse

Dorothy Luck was enjoying the fruits of a lifetime of hard work: a well-cared-for house, a good-running Cadillac Deville, a million dollars in a bank account, another million in annuities, and a monthly income from investments and Social Security. A widow with no children or close relatives, she remains active and relatively healthy at 85.

Her comfortable lifestyle was made possible by various investments created with her husband, Leskie, who died 20 years ago. The couple co-owned and operated Luck Field, a general aviation airport that opened in 1960 in South Fort Worth, offering a landing strip and hangar rentals for 40 years, until it closed in 2000.

Shyness isn’t a problem. Luck dominates conversations, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and can be a pistol when riled. She’s also softhearted. Her church gets 10 percent of every dollar, and Luck gives additional money to charities and friends in need.

The neat and still-elegant woman has always kept a close watch on her finances, and she believed she’d have plenty of money to last until the end of her life.

“I was very wealthy,” she said. “Now they’ve stripped me of about everything I have.”

The people stripping away her wealth aren’t con artists, muggers, or thieves, although the end result looks the same. “They” are a judge and court-appointed lawyers involved in a probate system that deemed Luck to be mentally incapaci-tated and unable to handle her affairs.

Two years ago they took control of her money and her life. She’s been writhing in the court system ever since, trying to regain control of her bank account, which has become at least $500,000 lighter since the court took over.

“I’ve worked since I was 15 years old, and I don’t deserve this,” Luck said. “It’s going to kill me. It’s aged me terribly.”

Texas, unlike most states, allows its judges to initiate guardianship cases. If a defendant in a civil lawsuit refuses to settle, a Texas probate judge can say, “I think you’re mentally incapacitated.” Then that same judge can remove the defendant’s right to hire an independent attorney and use court-appointed attorneys to settle the case in a closed hearing without the defendant’s input.

Don’t believe it?

Luck wouldn’t have believed it either. Until it happened to her.

Full Article and Source:
Grabbing the Purse

Former attorney indicted on felony charges

A former Upper Arlington lawyer faces a range of charges for allegedly forging documents and collecting death benefits intended for a minor child.

Lindsey T. Burt, 33, of Berwyn Road, was indicted Aug. 27 on felony charges of theft, forgery, tampering with records and money-laundering.

As of ThisWeek Upper Arlington News' press time, Burt was slated to appear in Franklin County Common Pleas Court Sept. 11 for arraignment.

The county prosecutor's office alleges Burt altered documents that were supposed to make Mark Chapa of Texas the legal guardian of his son, a minor who lived in Franklin County and whose mother had died.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Burt arranged to collect the woman's Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) death benefits, which were intended to go to the woman's son.

"(Burt) altered documents to make herself guardian ... and to designate the money go into an account controlled by her," O'Brien said. "She told the natural father she had to be guardian to collect the benefits for him.

"She periodically sent money to (Mark) Chapa in Texas to kind of keep him at bay. She periodically sent him money, but it was not much."

According to the prosecutor's office, the criminal activity occurred between April 18, 2008, and April 19, 2013.

During that time, Burt allegedly collected $67,183 from OPERS, but turned over only around $12,000 to the boy's father.

Burt's attorney, Bradley Koffel, said Aug. 30 he hadn't seen the prosecution's allegations against his client, but added Burt would plead not guilty at the arraignment.

"We need time to digest what the accusations are and have an opportunity to see what the claims are and try to understand them ourselves," Koffel said. "Lindsey is deeply surprised by these allegations."

Full Article and Source:
Former attorney indicted on felony charges

Couple charged with elderly exploitation

GRAHAM – Detectives arrested a Graham couple Wednesday for allegedly exploiting an elderly relative.
According to the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, corporate security investigators with SunTrust Bank contacted detectives with the Financial Crimes Unit of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 16 because they were concerned about an $18,000 check written on the account of Louise Brown.
The check wasn’t honored because the bank was concerned it was forged, and the sheriff’s office began an investigation. Investigators found that over the period of three months, beginning in June, more than $22,000 had been taken from Brown’s account.
The investigation led to the arrest of Brown’s great-nephew, Michael Troy Shoffner, and his girlfriend, Sandra Lynn Johnson, both of 2444 N.C. 87 South, Graham.

Full Article and Source:
Couple charged with elderly exploitation

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

NJ guardian laws leave Toms River man fighting to regain freedom

The Bill of Rights no longer applies to Ken Schmidt.

He can’t vote, sign a lease, get married or open a bank account.

Schmidt, 74, had many of his civil rights stripped away after he fell and hit his head outside his Toms River home in January 2012. A judge declared him to be mentally incapacitated, and ordered the state Public Guardian to take charge of his assets and medical care under New Jersey’s guardian laws.

With one false step, Schmidt, a retired insurance salesman, plunged headlong into a bureaucratic system he hasn’t been able to climb back out of, even though he says he fully recovered a year ago. He walks under his own power, writes coherently in a clear, steady hand, enjoys James Patterson thrillers, and is conversant in such wide-ranging topics as the A-Rod steroid scandal, Obamacare and the recent bloodshed in Egypt.

Yet until a judge says otherwise, Schmidt can’t even receive his own mail. Nor can he leave the $5,000-a-month assisted-living facility the state placed him in more than a year ago, and return home to the Toms River townhouse he owns, mortgage-free, just six miles away.

“I never wanted this. I never asked for this. They just buried me here,” he told the Asbury Park Press.

“I want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “I want my life back, first and foremost ... but nobody seems to care.”

Little public scrutiny

Schmidt’s predicament is a cautionary tale of how quickly someone’s civil rights and life savings can be swept away, and just how difficult it can be to get a judgment of incapacity lifted.

In addition to his home, Schmidt had more than $65,000 in the bank prior to his accident. He said the care manager assigned to him by the Office of the Public Guardian has told him that those funds have been exhausted paying for his care.

“ ‘It’s all gone.’ That’s their classic answer: ‘I’m sorry, it’s all gone.’ And they won’t give me anything in writing,” Schmidt said. “Everything’s just disappeared.”

The state’s guardianship system is a critical safety net for tens of thousands of disabled and vulnerable individuals.

But the system is shrouded in secrecy. Court documents in guardianship cases aren’t public records, the identities of wards and their guardians aren’t publicly disclosed and no one keeps track of how many active guardianship cases there are statewide.

All guardians, except for the Public Guardian, are required to file an annual update on the incapacitated person’s condition and care, and an accounting of how the person’s assets are being spent. In Schmidt’s case, the Public Guardian, a post currently held on an acting basis by Helen C. Dodick, doesn’t have to account for how his money was spent until he dies, according to the judge’s order.

Meanwhile, privacy rules prohibit the Office of the Public Guardian from commenting on Schmidt’s case. An agency spokeswoman said Schmidt could sign a release to waive his privacy rights, but because he’s still legally considered to be incapacitated, he can’t sign anything, at least not without his guardian’s permission.

“I have no rights. I’m not allowed to do anything,” Schmidt complained.

“The state has too much power. I know that they are helping people, and people do need help,” he said. “(But) they just assumed I wouldn’t rehabilitate.”

Rare to get out

It’s the rare person who tries to get out from under a guardianship, which requires the filing of a petition in state Superior Court.

In the vast majority of guardianship cases, the incapacitated person has progressive dementia that only worsens over time. Jeffrey M. Moran, the Ocean County surrogate, says his office typically handles no more than two or three requests a year from wards or their guardians to dissolve a guardianship.

The process requires affidavits from two doctors, or a doctor and a psychologist, attesting that the person has sufficiently recovered to have his personal rights restored.

Without the cooperation of their guardians or families, however, wards like Schmidt are at a distinct disadvantage.

“There are significant impediments to regaining your rights,” said Point Pleasant attorney Robert F. Brogan, past president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

“You have no access to funds, and you have no legal ability to contract with anybody to help you,” he said. “How do you hire a doctor, how do you hire a lawyer, when the court has taken away your ability to engage in contracts?”

Such restrictions are proper and necessary to protect a truly incapacitated ward from making critical mistakes, such as “giving $50,000 away to the vacuum salesman,” Brogan noted.

But when a ward is no longer incapacitated, the restrictions of an indefinite guardianship can be difficult to bear, Brogan said.

“Your life,” he said, “can really get turned upside down.”

Full Article and Source:
NJ guardian laws leave Toms River man fighting to regain freedom

Grand Forks Co. not liable for guardian

GRAND FORKS — It took a jury only about a half-hour Friday to decide Grand Forks County was not liable for any misdeeds by the county’s former public administrator Barb Zavala in her oversight of assets of Paul Veum, a ward of the county.

The four men and two women on the jury heard two days of testimony and a full morning of closing arguments by attorneys Friday. The verdict, read out in court by state District Judge Richard Geiger, found Zavala did “breach a fiduciary duty owed to Paul Veum” but that the breach didn’t cause any damages to Veum.

Zavala was not on trial in this civil case, but the county, as her employer, may have been on the hook for any damages.

A year ago Veum sued the county over what he claimed was mishandling by Zavala and her assistant, Cathi Westensee-Fisk, who acted as public administrators over Veum’s property and bank accounts for 90 days in 2011.

Veum, through his attorney, Tim Lamb, sought about $30,000 in damages, including cash and a 2002 pickup he claimed went missing while Zavala was his guardian and conservator. He also sought at least $50,000 for “pain and suffering,” but Judge Geiger limited the jury to finding only for “economic damages.”

That issue, and the larger one of whether Zavala “was acting within the scope of her employment” with the county, were not decided since the jury first found she caused no damages.

Veum, 77, lives in a nursing home in Lakota. He testified, despite showing the effects of Parkinson’s and dementia that were at issue in the trial. Under cross-examination by Howard Swanson, the county’s attorney, Veum said he couldn’t say for sure what Zavala took, if anything.

In his closing argument, Lamb told the jury to “use your common sense.”

Referring to Zavala and Westensee-Fisk, Lamb said, “If they didn’t breach their fiduciary duty, he’d still have stuff.”

Swanson admitted, during his closing statement, that Zavala failed to properly inventory and report on Veum’s property and bank account and what she did with it. But her failures “didn’t cause any of his property to go away,” and there was no evidence Zavala stole or mishandled any of it, Swanson said.

Swanson said he was pleased with the verdict and called it “consistent with what our position has been all along.”

Lamb said he was disappointed but respected the jury’s decision.

Zavala was ordered to take the stand this week, but she declined to answer questions from Lamb, citing her Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate herself. State and federal prosecutors have been working on possible criminal charges against Zavala since late 2011.

The Veum case highlighted the unusual nature of the traditional office of public administrator in North Dakota counties. Grand Forks, after Zavala, was one of the last to contract out the services to a professional firm experienced in taking over the financial affairs of vulnerable adults.

Swanson’s argued that although Zavala was a county employee during her time as public administrator from 2008 until early 2012, the nature of the office under state law meant only a judge, not the county, had any supervisory control over her.

The Veum verdict may affect a similar lawsuit Lamb has brought against the county over Zavala’s handling of the property of Faith Krueger, an elderly Grand Forks woman.

t’s set to go to trial Sept. 10, also before Judge Geiger, and also with Swanson representing the county.

“I learned some things that should help in that case,” said Lamb, who told the jury this was his first courtroom trial. “But it’s a whole different set of facts in the Krueger case.”

Full Article and Source:
Grand Forks Co. not liable for guardian

See Also:
Elderly Claim County Exploitation

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Elderly Claim County Exploitation

Grand Forks County has been hit with a civil lawsuit that claims the financial exploitation of elderly citizens.

Attorney, Tim Lamb says his clients lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, while Public Administrator, Barbara Zavala was working as their legal guardians. Zavala resigned her job in January.
Lamb says both victims were medically incapacitated at the time the incidents happened.

One of those clients is 85-years old Faith Krueger, who claims she's lost over 300-thousand dollars.

Faith Krueger, Victim: "I'm just devastated by what happened."

Reporter: "Faith, do you feel cheated?"

Krueger: "Yes I do, very much so."

Reporter: "Did it cause lots of mental stress?"

Krueger: "A great deal if it, yes."

Rodney Folkers is now the legal guardian for the second victim, Paul Veum, who lost 50-thousand dollars.

Rodney Folkers, Legal Guardian: "You know… was able to care for himself. He didn't need anybody. He didn't need the County. He didn't want the County… didn't want the help."

Reporter: "Where did the money go?"

Tim Lamb, Attorney: "We don't know. We're assuming or we're making the allegation that it's been taken and it is in effect, been exploited from her."

Lamb emphasizes that this is a civil lawsuit. However, he says a criminal investigation is underway.

Lambs call it a horrendous act…  and says he believes there may be more victims.

No criminal charges have been filed in this case. The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation will not confirm any involvement in an active case.

Howard Swanson, the attorney representing Grand Forks County is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Attorney Tim Lamb says he's expecting a response from the County to his lawsuit sometime next week.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Claim County Exploitation

Judge sides with hospital that forced chemotherapy for Amish girl with leukemia

An appeals court has sided with a hospital that wants to force a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

The court ruled that a county judge must reconsider his decision that blocked Akron Children's Hospital's attempt to give an attorney who's also a registered nurse limited guardianship over Sarah Hershberger and the power to make medical decisions for her.

The hospital believes Sarah's leukemia is very treatable but says she will die without chemotherapy.
The judge in Medina County in northeast Ohio had ruled in July that Sarah's parents had the right to make medical decisions for her.

The appeals court ruling issued Tuesday said the judge failed to consider whether appointing a guardian would be in the girl's best interest. It also disagreed with the judge's decision that said he could only transfer guardianship if the parents were found unfit.

The family's attorney, John Oberholtzer, said Wednesday that the ruling essentially ordered the judge to disregard the rights of the parents.

Andy Hershberger, the girl's father, said the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her extremely sick.

"It put her down for two days. She was not like her normal self," he said. "We just thought we cannot do this to her."

Sarah begged her parents to stop the chemotherapy and they agreed after a great deal of prayer, Hershberger said. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious.

"Our belief is, to a certain extent, we can use modern medicine, but at some times we have to stop it and do something else," Hershberger said in a telephone interview.

They opted to consult with a wellness center and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins, and see another doctor who is monitoring their daughter, Hershberger said.

"We see her every day. We watch her really close," her father said. "She runs, plays. She crawls up ladders. She's got a lot of energy, more than she had when she was doing chemo."

Hershberger said they have not ruled out returning to Akron Children's Hospital if Sarah's health worsens. "We told them if it gets to the point that we cannot do anything for her, we would come back," he said.

After the appeals court decision, the hospital said in a statement Wednesday that its goal is to ensure that the girl receives the most appropriate care based on scientific evidence and added that the allegation has never been about "parental unfitness."

 Full Article and Source:
Judge sides with hospital that forced chemotherapy for Amish girl with leukemia

See Also:
Ohio hospital wants to force Amish girl’s cancer treatment after parents stop chemotherapy

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What You Should Know about Guardianships

When a person can no longer make financial or health decisions, a guardian may be appointed to fulfill these duties—but this position comes with great responsibility.

Often times, a person is appointed guardian to decide on financial and personal matters for someone who is unable to make such decisions—whether it’s old age or a disability. A family member or person of interest can petition the court to be named the guardian.

“You don’t plan to have a guardian,” says Randy Kessler, founding partner of Kessler & Solomiany.
“Depending on the terms of the guardian order—it’s like a power of attorney—the broadest would be every decision including medical decisions but the more common ones are financial,” says Kessler. In some states, “conservatorships” refer to having the authority to make financial decisions for a person, while the term “guardianship” generally refers to both financial and medical decisions.

“If someone’s in mental duress, a civil court could appoint a guardian when there’s financial decisions involved,” says Kessler. It’s a guardian’s job to make the best decisions on behalf of the other person, also called the ward.

If you’re seeking a guardianship over someone, experts suggest considering the time commitment. “It’s literally almost a tethering of the guardian to the ward,” says Robert Meyring, family law and estate planning attorney in Atlanta. “They take on handling everything and reporting back to the courts to the extent required.”

Before looking to take on this responsibility, experts provide the following information and tips to help maneuver through the process:

What’s the guardianship process?

Guardianships are a court-appointed process that can take four to eight weeks and can get ugly. And even though guardians are paid, the costs to establish the guardianship and time commitment can be high.

“It is a huge difference in cost with [estate] planning versus if you didn’t plan and [a guardianship] was imposed upon you later on,” says Randy Michel, family law and estate planning attorney in College Station, Texas. “The difference can be a few hundred dollars [for an estate plan] versus tens of thousands of dollars [for a guardianship], easy.” If a guardianship is contested, the costs can spiral out of control.

“If you’re appointed guardian, you can use the person’s money to pay legal fees,” says Michel. “If you lose, you’re going to pay out of your own pocket.”

Having an estate plan can take care of any situation that may occur prior to death. “In more than 50% of the time, someone will suffer incapacity before they pass away,” says Meyring.

How are Wards Protected?

The person you are seeking guardianship over will be made aware of your intentions.

“The person who wants to become a guardian needs to understand the person will be served with papers that they’re incapacitated and they may be mad about that,” says Michel. This safeguard protects people from losing control over their lives if they are still competent to handle their health and financial decisions.

“In certain states, if you owe this person money, you’re not qualified to be guardian,” he adds.

A psychologist typically reports on the person’s mental health to decide if a guardian is needed. “The person can give testimony in court in opposition to the guardianship. If they have a very lucid moment, it could complicate matters,” says Michel.

The court appoints an attorney to represent the person in question’s best interest, whether the guardianship has merit and the fitness of both people. “It’s really the lawyer’s duty to make sure that the person seeking the guardianship follows the law,” says Michel.

Full Article and Source:
What You Should Know about Guardianships

Monday, September 2, 2013

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Astor swindler Anthony Marshall's 'sick' ploy in bid to go free

SMILE! Evidence photo from DA showing Anthony Marshall was well enough to attend a black-tie gala at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Manhattan last February at the same time his lawyers were arguing he was too sick and frail to go to prison.

The octogenarian aristocrat who swindled his philanthropist mother, Brooke Astor, out of $185 million claims he is too sick to serve out his prison term — but Manhattan prosecutors aren't buying it.

Anthony Marshall, 89, hasn’t provided medical documentation to back up his sob story and was even partying on the Intrepid right before he was sent away, prosecutors claim.
The Parkinson’s suffering fraudster — who has served fewer than two months of his 1- to 3-year sentence — will go before a parole board tomorrow to determine whether he’ll be released on medical grounds from Fishkill Correctional Facility.

Marshall’s medical claims can’t be substantiated as he hasn’t turned over sufficient medical records despite repeated requests, wrote Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Loewy in a seven-page letter sent to the Department of Correction on Aug. 14..

But his attendance at a party last February suggests he isn’t doing too badly, the prosecutor argues.

“Marshall was well enough to attend a black-tie gala at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Manhattan,” she wrote. She even included a picture of the wheelchair-bound con smiling in a tux as his wife, Charlene, stands behind him. The lavish dinner party for 600 guests celebrated the construction of the ship Titanic II, the letter states.

“Mashall’s ability to socialize to this extent, at about the same time defense counsel and Dr. Franklin were describing his condition in such dire terms, is certainly relevant to the determination whether releasing him at the outset of his prison term would undermine the public’s respect for the law,” she wrote.

She adds that Marshall’s age shouldn’t be a factor in considering his release especially given that his own mother was 102 years old and in the throes of Alzheimer induced dementia when he robbed her blind.
Full Article and Source:
Astor swindler Anthony Marshall's 'sick' ploy in bid to go free

See Also:
Final Curtain for Anthony Marshall’s Plea for Freedom

Marshall's Criminal Trial

Mrs. Astor Regrets

Too Sick for Court?

Texas Judge Says OK To Class-Action Suit For Over 12,000 Foster Children

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A class-action lawsuit accusing Texas of poorly supervising foster children can proceed.

Retired U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack has certified as a class more than 12,000 abused and neglected children permanently removed from their birth families. The lawsuit was brought by the group Children’s Rights.

The Dallas Morning News ( ) reports Jack ruled this week following a January hearing. Attorneys for Texas are reviewing the ruling.

The state continues to investigates the July death of 2-year-old Alexandria Hill. Her foster mother, who was recruited by contractor Texas Mentor, faces a capital murder charge.

State officials after the death examined 23 Texas Mentor homes. The Austin American-Statesman ( ) reports two children were removed amid concerns about how caretakers disciplined the youngsters.

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Texas Judge Says OK To Class-Action Suit For Over 12,000 Foster Children

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Indianapolis attorney-blogger Paul Ogden faces judicial disciplinary complaint

All he had to do was apologize.

 But Paul Ogden wouldn’t — and now the Indianapolis attorney may lose his license to practice law for privately criticizing a judge. Today, Ogden will attempt to acquit himself at a public hearing conducted by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

He’s hanging his defense on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. But the ability to exercise that basic right gets murky when it comes to working lawyers, who relinquish some of their speech protections.

Ogden is expecting the worst but said he’d rather face a suspension or lose his law license than hold his tongue.

That response comes as little surprise to those who know Ogden or read his blog at, where he often unleashes caustic attacks on politicians and bureaucrats, the legal community and media. Among his targets: the disciplinary commission that now holds his fate.

It was Ogden’s criticism of Hendricks Superior Court Judge David H. Coleman in a private email, however, that landed him in trouble with the commission. The judge learned of Ogden’s comments alleging he had a conflict of interest in a case in which Ogden represented a client. The judge asked for an apology. When the attorney refused, the judge filed a complaint. "I was standing up for a client who got a raw deal,” Ogden said. “As far as I can tell, this is the first time they have gone after an attorney for something said in a private context. My question is: How far are they going to go? Attorneys criticize judges all the time, and this could have a real chilling effect. This is about more than me.”

While Ogden appears to face an uphill battle in the fight for his legal future, the First Amendment protects his speech, said Margaret Tarkington, an associate professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. Tarkington, who has written extensively on professional conduct and the free speech rights of attorneys, said Ogden is not alone in finding himself at odds with an attorney disciplinary system for comments that most other citizens are free to make. It is an issue that free speech advocates and legal scholars say is becoming more common — and troubling — across the U.S.

It is not just the attempts to stifle criticism, particularly statements made outside the courtroom, that Tarkington and others find troubling. It also is how the disciplinary process works.

In defamation cases regarding public officials, the First Amendment requires that the victim prove the statement was false and that the speaker knew it was false or entertained serious doubts as to its truth. Yet in many states, attorney discipline cases require the accused to prove their statements are true, which Tarkington opines is in direct violation of established First Amendment law.

Then there’s the reality that, in cases involving criticism of judges, it ultimately is a panel of judges — the Supreme Court in Indiana — that makes the final determination on guilt and punishment.

Unlike other public and elected officials, Tarkington said, judges can insulate themselves from public criticism by the people who know the most about them — attorneys.

Lawrence G. Walters, a Florida-based attorney who has a national First Amendment law practice, said there are some legitimate reasons for limiting what attorneys can say, but those are primarily related to comments inside the courtroom and about pending cases.

"There’s a certain level of decorum and formality that is essential to permit the proper administration of justice,” he said. “The public has to have faith in the system, that it’s not a circus.” Attorneys should have more freedom outside the courtroom, Walters said, “so long as it doesn’t affect the administration of justice.”

Ogden contends his comments had no bearing on the case. The judge he criticized already had been removed, at Ogden’s request, for failing to act within established time frames. "I have been very critical of the commission,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to do with that.” His past complaints have included asking the Supreme Court to “take a good look at what is going on at the disciplinary commission and investigate how it operates,” Ogden said. In fact, the charges that he violated professional conduct standards came not long after Ogden wrote a blog post criticizing the commission. His claim: The panel recommended action more often against individual and small-firm attorneys, while ignoring the actions of attorneys with the state’s big law firms.

"Maybe I’m paranoid,” Ogden said, “but shortly after that, I started getting things filed against me.”

Ogden contends his comments had no bearing on the case. The judge he criticized already had been removed, at Ogden’s request, for failing to act within established time frames. He suspects the disciplinary action really is more about his criticism of the commission. “I have been very critical of the commission,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to do with that.”

His past complaints have included asking the Supreme Court to “take a good look at what is going on at the disciplinary commission and investigate how it operates,” Ogden said. “They need to go after attorneys doing unethical things, who are endangering the public.”

In fact, the charges that he violated professional conduct standards came not long after Ogden wrote a blog post criticizing the commission. His claim: The panel recommended action more often against individual and small-firm attorneys, while ignoring the actions of attorneys with the state’s big law firms. “Maybe I’m paranoid,” Ogden said, “but shortly after that, I started getting things filed against me."

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Indianapolis attorney-blogger Paul Ogden faces judicial disciplinary complaint

No decision made in Ken Anderson hearing

No decision was made Friday on whether District Judge Ken Anderson will be put on trial for allegedly withholding evidence that put a man behind bars for nearly 25 years.

Judge Anderson and his attorneys were going head to head with the Commission of Lawyer Discipline and now he'll have to wait seven to 10 days before the judge decides whether his case will go to trial.

Back in 1987, Michael Morton was convicted of murdering his wife the year before. Nearly 25 years later, DNA showed he didn't even do it. Mark Norwood was tried and convicted of the crime.

At a court of inquiry this February, it was argued that Judge Anderson who was the DA at the time had withheld really important evidence like the fact that a suspicious looking green van was spotted near the Morton home before the murder.

Julie Oliver with Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability spoke with FOX 7 after Friday's hearing. She made the original complaint against Anderson in 2011.

"I think it's, you know I think it's unfortunate that someone who is willing to do this and to cover it up in the way that he has is sitting on the bench, I think that's very unfortunate. This particular situation won't affect that. The ultimate he could get out of this is a disbarment," Oliver said.

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No decision made in Ken Anderson hearing

See Also:
Ken Anderson appears for civil hearing in Morton case