Saturday, November 9, 2013

Linda Kincaid Reports: Elder Abuse by Monterey County Public Guardian: Man Threatened and Left Homeless

Jim Kramer (67) suffered a stroke on November 5, 2013. Friend and former landlady Patricia Conklin believes the stroke was caused in part by harassment and elder abuse by Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis.

Kramer and Conklin shared a house in the coastal community of Pacific Grove. The quiet and gentle handyman was semi-retired, working part-time for Comcast. He had a modest but comfortable lifestyle.

On March 25, 2013, Kramer’s life changed forever. According to Kramer, Empasis entered his home and ordered him to leave. Empasis allowed Kramer just thirty minutes to collect his belongings and vacate the property. She threatened that Kramer would be arrested if he returned.

Kramer said his rent was paid. He was never served with eviction papers. Kramer is not aware of any action that gave Empasis authority to seize the home or order him into the street.

Neighbor Tara Robinson was also present when Empasis ordered Kramer from his home. Robinson said Empasis accused her of being a squatter and ordered her off the property as well.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Abuse by Monterey County Public Guardian: Man Threatened and Left Homeless

See Also:
Linda Kincaid Reports Elder Abuse at Senior Paradise:  NASGA President Speaks Out

Do Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Force Consumers to Sign Away Legal Rights?

Arbitration agreements in long-term care contracts are harming consumers and eroding the U.S. civil justice system, according to a prominent association of trial lawyers.

When people sign a contract with a forced arbitration provision, they are often unwittingly giving up their right to a jury trial and other legal processes related to dispute resolution. This creates a "David vs. Goliath" situation in which the consumer is David -- and, in this version of the story, David rarely wins when conflicts arise with the Goliaths of large nursing home companies or other corporations. This is according to a recently released report from the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America).

Proponents of arbitration agreements say they are a safeguard against frivolous lawsuits, but the practice has generated controversy. The AAJ strenuously objects in its report.

"If you or a family member must enter a long-term care facility, you have little choice about agreeing to a forced arbitration clause at admission," the report states.

It describes some cases of alleged nursing home negligence and abuse that have been thrown out because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Federal Arbitration Act prevents states from implementing policies such as excluding wrongful death claims from forced arbitration.

The report harshly criticizes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for pushing a pro-arbitration agenda. It registers firm support for a proposed measure in Congress that would stop some of the practices that the AAJ characterizes as abusive.

READ:  License to Steal:  How the US Chamber Forced Arbitration on America

Nursing home arbitration agreements force consumers to 'sign away legal rights,' trial lawyers argue

Friday, November 8, 2013

Guardianship Abuse is a Global Problem, Says Denise Brailey of the BFCSA Australia

Denise Brailey and The Banking & Finance Consumers Support Association (BFCSA) is an organization that everyone should be watching, as in the American Revolution of Independence, Denise will soon be firing "The Shot that will be Heard Around the World".

But this time it won't be from 13 rouge colony's of the Crown, this shot will be fired from Australia and have ramifications Worldwide as she aims directly at the heart of Global Financial Cartels that have used there power to Corrupt our Politicians and have destroyed the lives of so many Worldwide.

To say Denise Brailey is a remarkable women would be an understatement and she has managed to strike fear into the heart of the beast, exposing the Global Banking System for what it really is and how intertwined and interdependent via cross ownership they are.

When I said that we have an problem with "Institutionalized Elderly Abuse" I meant it and the message is not lost on Denise as she is fully aware of the danger the 800 Pound Gorillas are to the Wealth of the  Greatest Generation, the Boomers and their children.

See :
Bankers and Finance Consumer's Support Association, Inc.

Facebook:  Bendigo Banksters

Judge facing discipline refused to take deposition oath

Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown refused to be sworn during a deposition before the Judicial Qualifications Commission – a videotaped moment of defiance used against her Monday at the outset of her weeklong disciplinary case.

Over the objection of Brown’s attorneys, the three-judge panel of special masters allowed into evidence the judge’s videotaped refusal to swear to tell the truth during an Aug. 1 deposition in the case that now includes 47 counts of judicial misconduct.

“I am always an officer of the court,” Brown says in refusing to take the oath. “I am a judge.”

Meanwhile, Brown’s attorneys said the case against her is a result of problems with her court staff and that she’s being singled out for delayed releases of criminal defendants that have happened with other Marion Superior judges.

Brown was the first witness called in a hearing expected to last at least through the end of this week and possibly into next week. Brown wiped away tears as she attempted to explain why she refused to be sworn in the deposition. “I believe I’m always an officer of the court and therefore always bound to the truth,” she said.

“But you decided to do something different today,” JQC attorney Adrienne Meiring said after Brown took an oath before the masters. Retired Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro is presiding over the panel that includes Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure and Lake Superior Judge Sheila M. Moss.

Meiring pointed Brown to rules of evidence requiring witnesses be sworn and admitted into evidence the statutes governing oaths that judges and other public officials such as police officers must take. Taliaferro asked Brown multiple times to explain why she believed she wasn’t required to swear an oath at the deposition.

“I wasn’t basing it on anything other than I’m always an officer of the court,” Brown said.

Meiring argued that Brown’s refusal to be sworn at the deposition illustrated the nature of many of the complaints against her. The charges against Brown include allegations that she delayed release of at least nine defendants – in one case for 22 days – failed to properly oversee her court, was hostile toward parties who came before and retaliated against court staff who complained, among other things.

Meiring opened by using Brown’s alleged words against her – “This isn’t McDonald’s … It’ll get ruled on when it gets ruled on,” Meiring said. “This is not simply a situation of a bad day.

Full Article and Source:
Judge facing discipline refused to take deposition oath

See Also:
Deadline set for Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown to respond to petition seeking her removal

Pa. disciplinary court orders indicted Phila. Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry suspended with pay

Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline has denied a petition by the Judicial Conduct Board to suspend indicted Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry without pay, ordering that the minor bench jurist receives his salary while serving out his punishment.

In an Oct. 25 order signed by President Judge Bernard McGinley, the CJD ruled that Lowry, who is facing charges in connection with a federal ticket-fixing probe, be suspended with pay until further notice.

The ruling is retroactive to Feb. 1 of this year, and orders that Lowry immediately receive any pay that has been withheld from him since that time.

Lowry faces felony charges in connection with a federal indictment in which he and eight other current and former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges are accused of fixing motor vehicle citations for relatives, friends and political acquaintances.

Full Article and Source:
Pa. disciplinary court orders indicted Phila. Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry suspended with pay

November lawyer discipline – 2 from Houston, 14 other Texans

Disciplinary Actions — November 2013 list (verbatim from the State Bar of Texas)
General questions regarding attorney discipline should be directed to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office, toll-free (877) 953-5535 or (512) 453-5535. The Board of Disciplinary Appeals may be reached at (512) 475-1578. Information and copies of actual orders are available at The State Commission on Judicial Conduct may be contacted toll-free, (877) 228-5750 or (512) 463-5533. Please note that persons disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Conduct are not necessarily licensed attorneys.


On Oct. 1, 2013, McCuller C. Stephens III [#19158750], 56, of Houston, filed a petition in the 295th District Court of Harris County (Cause No. 2013-58703) for reinstatement as a member of the State Bar of Texas.

A notice in the October issue indicated that David Patrick Smitherman [#24027992], 39, of Houston, received a three-year partially probated suspension on July 19, 2013, and that Smitherman had filed a notice of appeal. As the result of an order signed by the trial judge, the sanctions set forth in the judgment have been stayed during the pendency of the appeal, so that Smitherman has not been placed on suspension.  At all times since the judgment was signed on July 19, Smitherman has been in good standing with the Bar, and he remains in good standing at the present time.
On Sept. 5, 2013, Quinon A. Brooker [#24053771], 36, of Houston, accepted a one-year fully probated suspension effective Aug. 15, 2013. An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that in representing his client, Brooker neglected the legal matter entrusted to him. Brooker failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of her civil suit and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. Brooker violated Rules 1.01(b)(1) and 1.03(a). He was ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution and $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.


On June 28, 2013, Craig F. Sandling [#17621700], 59, of Austin, was disbarred. An evidentiary panel of the District 9 Grievance Committee found that complainant hired Sandling on or about March 9, 2012, to secure his release from jail and to represent him in five criminal cases. Complainant paid Sandling $29,500, of which $20,000 was an advanced fee for Sandling to represent complainant in the criminal cases, and the remaining $9,500 was paid to a bail bonds company to secure complainant’s release from jail. Sandling did not deposit any of the fees paid for complainant’s representation into a trust or escrow account. Complainant terminated the representation shortly thereafter and requested a refund of unearned fees. Sandling did minimal work to obtain complainant’s release but did not enter a notice of appearance in any of his cases. Sandling failed to return any unearned fees. Sandling violated Rules 1.14(a), 1.14(c), 1.15(d), and 8.04(a)(1). Sandling was ordered to pay $19,500 in restitution and $9,551.94 in attorneys’ fees and expenses. Sandling has filed an appeal.

On Sept. 30, 2013, the Supreme Court of Texas accepted the resignation, in lieu of discipline, of Alto V. Watson III [#20932800], 53, of Beaumont. While employed at a law firm, Watson wrongfully billed clients separately for his services and personally accepted client funds meant for the law firm and deposited the funds into his personal accounts for his own use and benefit. Additionally, on Aug. 5, 2013, Watson was placed on five years deferred adjudication for the offense of theft. As part of the terms of supervision, Watson was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $29,320 and was also ordered to surrender his law license to the State Bar of Texas. Watson violated Rules 1.14(a), 1.14(b), 8.04(a)(2), and 8.04(a)(3).

On Aug. 21, 2013, Stuart L. Leeds [#12151500], 58, of El Paso, agreed to a five-month active suspension effective Aug. 1, 2013. The District 17 Grievance Committee found Leeds unreasonably increased the cost and burdens of the case or unreasonably delayed resolution of the matter. Leeds violated Rule 3.02 and was ordered to pay $1,500 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On Aug. 6, 2013, Allyson A. Egan Rowe [#24030173], 48, of Round Rock, received a two-year partially probated suspension effective Oct. 1, 2013, with six months actively suspended and the remainder probated. An evidentiary panel of the District 8 Grievance Committee found that on Feb. 7, 2012, Rowe was convicted of assault by strangulation/family violence, a third-degree felony, and was sentenced to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said sentence being probated for a period of five years subject to conditions of supervision imposed by the court. In early April 2011, Rowe, knowing that a criminal investigation or official proceeding was pending or in progress on the above-referenced matter, prepared and presented an affidavit for a family member that contained materially false statements concerning evidence of the assault/family violence incident, with the intent to have the family member sign the affidavit and to present it to authorities during the investigation. The family member refused to sign the affidavit. The affidavit prepared by Rowe contained materially false statements concerning evidence of the assault/family violence incident that resulted in Rowe’s conviction as referenced above.  Rowe violated Rules 8.04(a)(2) and 8.04(a)(3). She was ordered to pay $1,199.02 in direct expenses.

On Aug. 23, 2013, Jacques Evan Trevino [#00797571], 45, of Edinburg, received a seven-year partially probated suspension effective Oct. 8, 2013, with the first two years actively served and the remainder probated. The District 12 Grievance Committee found Trevino failed to keep client funds separate from his personal property, failed to promptly deliver funds, failed to ensure a non-lawyer staff member’s conduct was compatible with his professional obligations, and engaged in conduct involving misrepresentation. Notice of appeal received. Trevino violated Rules 1.14(a), 1.14(b), 1.14(c), 5.03(a), 5.03(b), and 8.04(a)(3) and was ordered to pay $91,667 in restitution and $3,477.60 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On Sept. 13, 2013, Brian Anthony Hamner [#24041050], 37, of San Antonio, accepted an 18-month fully probated suspension effective Sept. 18, 2013. The District 10 Grievance Committee found Hamner neglected a client matter, failed to communicate with a client, and failed to refund the unearned portion of a legal fee.  Hamner violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.03(b), and 1.15(d) and was ordered to pay $2,050  in restitution and $800 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On Aug. 21, 2013, Jennifer Lee Parks [#24056095], 32, of Fort Worth, received a five-year probated suspension effective Aug. 14, 2013. An evidentiary panel of the District 7 Grievance Committee found that Parks was hired to represent a client in a bankruptcy matter. Parks neglected the legal matter entrusted to her by failing to file the bankruptcy on her client’s behalf. Further, Parks failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from the client. Upon termination of the representation, Parks failed to refund advance payments of fees that had not been earned. Parks violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), and 1.15(d). She was ordered to pay $2,650 in restitution, $2,212.50 in attorneys’ fees, and $307.42 direct expenses.

On Sept. 11, 2013, Perry Don Cortese [#00790508], 50, of Little River Academy, received a three-month fully probated suspension effective Sept. 15, 2013. The 169th District Court of Bell County found that Cortese violated Rule 1.14(a) [requiring a lawyer to hold funds and other property belonging in whole or in part to clients or third persons that are in a lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s own property], Rule 1.15(d) [requiring a lawyer upon termination of representation to take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled, and refunding any advance payments of fee that has not been earned], and Rule 8.04(a)(1) [prohibiting lawyers from violating the disciplinary rules].  Cortese was ordered to pay $700 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

On Sept. 6, 2013, Rogelio Vargas [#00791848], 46, of San Antonio, accepted a four-year fully probated suspension effective Oct. 31, 2013. The District 10 Grievance Committee found Vargas neglected client matters, failed to keep clients reasonably informed, failed to return unearned fees, and failed to timely respond to grievances. Vargas violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.03(b), 1.15(d), and 8.04(a)(8) and was ordered to pay $14,300 in restitution and $800 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On Aug. 19, 2013, Stephen Mark Naslund [#14812600], 56, of Amarillo, received an 18-month active suspension effective Aug. 9, 2013. An evidentiary panel of the District 13 Grievance Committee found that Naslund failed to pay attorneys’ fees and costs as required under a Dec. 20, 2010, default judgment of partially probated suspension. Additionally, Naslund failed to complete five additional hours of continuing legal education in the area of ethics as required under the judgment. Finally, Naslund failed to furnish to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s office a response or other information as required by the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, or assert any grounds for his failure to do so. Naslund violated Rules 8.04(a)(7) and 8.04(a)(8). He was ordered to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and $707.37 in direct expenses.

On Aug. 30, 2013, Joy M. Thomas [#00798004], 48, of Fort Worth, accepted an agreed judgment of public reprimand. An evidentiary panel of the District 7 Grievance Committee found that on Feb. 1, 2008, Thomas was hired by complainant to represent her father in a personal injury matter. In representing complainant’s father, Thomas neglected the legal matter entrusted to her by failing to completely and timely answer discovery, causing the case to be dismissed. In representing complainant’s father, Thomas frequently failed to carry out completely the obligations Thomas owed to complainant’s father. Thomas failed to keep complainant and her father reasonably informed about the status of the personal injury matter. Thomas failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from complainant and her father about the personal injury matter. Thomas failed to explain the personal injury matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit complainant and her father to make informed decisions regarding the representation. Thomas violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.01(b)(2), 1.03(a), and 1.03(b). She was ordered to pay $1,373.91 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On Sept. 11, 2013, Glen M. Crocker [#24001445], 43, of Beaumont, accepted an agreed judgment of public reprimand. An evidentiary panel of the District 3 Grievance Committee found that Crocker neglected his client’s case and failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the case. Upon termination of the representation, Crocker failed to refund any of the unearned fees. Crocker violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), and 1.15(d). Crocker was ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution and $1,125.26 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On Sept. 11, 2013, Mark Anthony Davis [#24012509], 42, of Victoria, accepted a public reprimand. The District 11 Grievance Committee found Davis failed to refund unearned fees and failed to respond to the grievance. Davis violated Rules 1.15(d) and 8.04(a)(8).

On Sept. 6, 2013, Rene O. Oliveira [#15254700], 58, of Brownsville, accepted a public reprimand. An evidentiary panel of the District 12 Grievance Committee found Oliveira engaged in an ex parte communication with a judge without notice to and outside the presence of counsel for the opposing party. Oliveira violated Rule 3.05(b) and agreed to pay $1,500 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

Full Article and Source:
November lawyer discipline – 2 from Houston, 14 other Texans

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Linda Kincaid Reports: Elder abuse at Senior Paradise: NASGA president speaks out

Margarita Zelada has been confined and isolated for months at Senior Paradise. The Monterey County, California assisted living facility has management practices more akin to a prison than a paradise.

Margarita is allowed almost no visitation with her family. Phone calls are often restricted.

Elder advocates attempting to make contact with Margarita found multiple locks on the front door. Administrator Margaret Eldred Camara told advocates she would call the police if they did not leave. Camara said her instructions to unlawfully confine and isolate Margarita were issued by Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis.

The National Association to STOP Guardian Abuse (NASGA) is a human rights organization that opposes abusive guardianships. NASGA president Elaine Reniore sent the following open letter to Deputy Public Guardian Empasis.

Full Article and Source:
Elder abuse at Senior Paradise: NASGA president speaks out

Linda Kincaid Reports: Elder abuse at Senior Paradise: Isolation & possible chemical restaint

Margarita Zelada’s family tells of frightening elder abuse at Senior Paradise. The small assisted living facility is located in idyllic Del Rey Oaks, quiet town on the California coast in Monterey County. A charming facade hides licensing violations and criminal abuse.

Margarita is rarely allowed visitors or phone calls. When family is able to establish contact, they find Margarita has suffered a dramatic decline in mental and physical function.

On August 2, 2013, Margarita’s niece, retired Air Force Colonel Bonnie Lind, had traveled from her home in Texas to visit Margarita on Saturday and Sunday. Senior Paradise allowed Bonnie and Margarita just one hour together on Saturday.

Then Senior Paradise Administrator Margaret Eldred Camara sent Bonnie the following email denying the visit planned for Sunday.
Date: Sat, 3 Aug 2013 18:13:08 -0700
Subject: postponed Sunday visit 
Hi Bonnie,
I think we are going to need to postponed the visit on Sunday to another day.
Margarita had a very upsetting day and it is best to postpone the visit.
If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer on her cell 831-594-6550
Thank you so very much for understanding
Senior Paradise did not respond to Bonnie’s requests for another visit.

Full Article and Source:
Elder abuse at Senior Paradise: Isolation & possible chemical restaint

Linda Kincaid Reports - Elder abuse at Senior Paradise: Unlawful confinement and isolation

Senior Paradise or senior prison? The residential care facility advertises,
"Del Rey Oaks Senior Paradise is a new kind of living experience!"
For Margarita Zelada, that living experience does not include her family or friends. She is locked inside and not allowed visitors.

Family says phone calls are often restricted. Visitors for Margarita are denied entry into the facility. Staff threaten to call police when advocates request to to check on Margarita.

Around noon on October 20, 2013, elder advocates Dr. Robert Fettgather and Linda Kincaid attempted to visit Margarita Zelada at Del Rey Oaks Senior Paradise. Fettgather and Kincaid arrived with flowers, strawberries, and chocolate.
  • Senior Paradise had doors locked (with three locks) in violation of 22 CCR 87468(a)(6).
  • Margarita was not allowed to leave the building, which is a violation of 22 CCR 87468(a)(6).
  • Administrators Margaret Eldred Camara and Judith Pardo-Soto stated that Margarita is not allowed any visitors without approval from Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis, which is a violation of 22 CCR 87468(a)(11). Empasis instructed the administrators to call police if anyone asked to visit Margarita.
  • Margarita’s relatives state that phone calls to Margarita are often blocked, which is a violation of 22 CCR 87468(a)(14).
Advocates were not allowed to conduct a welfare check or determine whether Margarita receives adequate care. Flagrant violation of personal rights leads advocates to wonder what sort of conditions are hidden behind locked doors.

Full Article and Source:
Elder abuse at Senior Paradise: Unlawful confinement and isolation

Linda Kincaid Reports: NCPEA forum discussed social isolation as psychological elder abuse

On October 1, 2013, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) held its first Forum on Polyvictimization in Later Life. The event in St. Paul, Minnesota was attended by elder abuse experts from around the country. This Examiner had the honor of being invited to participate.

The team solicited research and practice examples from a range of experts. The Oct 1 Forum deepened the team’s understanding of the research findings.

A common theme throughout the discussions was that elder abuse rarely occurs as single incident or as a single form of abuse. As with child abuse and domestic violence, abuse patterns repeat. Multiple forms of abuse occur together.

Social isolation is often an indicator of more broad ranging elder abuse. Perpetrators with designs on an older person’s assets will often isolate the victim from family and friends.

Social isolation is itself a form of elder abuse. Preventing an elder from having visitors or phone calls, telling callers that the elder is not available is a common tactic to separate the elder from loved ones. Social isolation is recognized as a form of psychological abuse.

In California, isolating an elder is a crime under Penal Code 368. On August 19, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 937, clarifying that conservatees retain the right to visitation, phone calls, and personal mail.

Investigators attending the forum were encouraged to “look beyond the surface.” They will often find that psychological abuse is accompanied by financial abuse and perhaps physical abuse or sexual abuse. By “digging deeper” investigators can find the forms of abuse that are not as readily seen.

Full Article and Source:
NCPEA forum discussed social isolation as psychological elder abuse

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Losing Freedom: The ABC Action News I-Team Investigates Florida's Guardianship Program

She met friends for lunch, went shopping at thrift stores and spent dozens of hours at her feed store and at home.

That's what we discovered when the I-Team followed Patricia Johnson for five straight days.

But only once, for approximately 20 minutes, did we see Johnson go to an assisted living facility to check on one of her 50 incapacitated wards.

That's not surprising to some of their family members.

“When you walk into the nursing home and they're like ‘we never see her here, we can never get a hold of her, she's very hard to reach,’” said Amy Eldridge, whose grandmother Rita Eldridge was one of Johnson’s wards.

When asked whether Johnson comes to visit her mother Rebie Jimenez often, Cindy Lee replied, “My mother says no. But then when I ask the staff there, they say never. “

Bills from Johnson's wards' files indicate she's working hard on her wards' behalf.

Under Florida law, Johnson is allowed to use her wards' own money to pay herself $70 an hour for things like banking, opening mail and paying visits.

Her bills can only be submitted twice a year for each ward and have to be approved by a judge.

The I-Team spent more than two weeks pulling hundreds of Johnson's bills from court files and entering them into a spreadsheet.

We discovered that from January 1st, 2010 to December 31st, 2012 Johnson's bills added up to $260,000, an average of nearly $87,000 a year.

Full Article and Source:
Losing Freedom: The I-Team Investigates Florida's Guardianship Program

See Also:
ABC Action News I-Team Personal Stories

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ABC I-Team Investigation: Family Members Raise New Questions About Guardianship Program in Florida

In September, the I-Team introduced you to Patricia Johnson, a Pinellas Park City Council woman who serves as a professional guardian for 50 wards.

Now, there are new questions about how she handles her cases.

Family members of other wards are now speaking out about their experiences with the professional guardianship program.

“Birthday parties, Christmases, everything. My grandmother raised me for a good section of my life,” said Amy Eldridge.

[In] 2008, Amy's grandmother Rita was declared incapacitated by the court.

Amy says she doesn't know why.

Rita was removed from her house and Patricia Johnson became her court-appointed professional guardian.

Amy's father James took care of his mother in her house at the time.

“There was no family that they knew of when they were going through the process,” Amy said, describing how it was reported to the judge that Rita Eldridge had no one to care for her, even though her father was living in the house with his mother at that time.

Johnson evicted James on Rita's behalf and obtained a nearly $5,000 judgment to pay the legal bill.
Rita Eldridge was moved to a nursing home.

Her own home was sold for less than half its appraised value.

“We were told that, basically, we were stealing if we took anything from the house,” said Amy Eldridge.

As for the sentimental things left in the home, “They were all taken from the house and thrown away. There was no ‘hey, we've gotten everything of value out of this house, if you would like to come rummage through this, you can get what's left. It was ‘everything in the house needs to stay, you just need to go and everything's ours now.’"

Everything was sold for $295 to the same man court records show bought several wards' possessions, including those of Rebie Jimenez for $100.

“I was never allowed into the house to go through any of my mom's belongings or even our items as we were growing up as kids,” said Cindy Lee, Jimenez’s daughter.

Before being incapacitated, Jimenez lived with her husband Fernando, who Patricia Johnson also evicted immediately.

Lee said that her mother’s husband Fernando, who lived in the home for 25 years, was locked out of his residence by Johnson.

He died several days after his wife was taken away.

“I was like wow, how can this have happened? They removed her, then a total stranger came in and took over and then next thing I know, immediately, there was a for sale sign up,” said Lee.

The home sold for $85,000 to an investor, who resold it for $170,000 four months later.

Rebie Jimenez is now in the memory unit at Grand Villa.

Rita Eldridge passed away last November.

“I felt like my grandmother was in prison. I had to go to her warden to make sure everything was ok. So that I could see her,” said Amy Eldridge.

Johnson refused multiple requests for an interview.

Full Article, Video and Source:
Family members raise new questions about guardianship program in Florida

See Also:
ABC Action News:  Questionable Guardianship Real Estate Transactions

FL: ABC Action News I-Team: "Incapacitated: Florida's Guardianship Program"

The ABC Action News I-Team first started looking into Florida’s Guardianship Program after we learned 99-year-old William Berchau had been placed in an Alzheimer’s unit by his guardian, despite strong evidence from those who know him best that he didn’t belong there.

We soon began looking at more than 50 other cases involving his guardian, Patricia Johnson, and Florida’s guardianship system.

The I-Team discovered a system that claims to look after wards’ best interests, but has very little oversight outside of the courtroom.

In Florida, guardians are not required to get appraisals before selling wards’ homes, leading to homes often selling far below their actual values (meaning less money is available for wards’ care). Guardians also aren’t required to be accompanied while doing initial inventories of personal possessions. Often, relatives aren’t allowed to review what reportedly came out of their loved ones’ homes.

Guardians use the “honor system” when submitting bills.

Judges, in some cases, have disregarded signed legal documents that delegated powers-of-attorney, medical decision-making and other legal authorities to their relatives before wards were incapacitated.

The I-Team interviewed friends and family members of wards, experts in the guardian field and others to get a deeper sense of what’s going on within this system that remains invisible to most members of the public.

Incapacitated:  Florida's Guardianship Program

ABC Action News I-Team: Personal Stories

Who Is William Bercheau?

Who is Rita Eldridge?

Who is Rebie Ellen Jimnez?

Who is Paulette Karpa?

Incapacitated: Florida's Guardianship Program

Monday, November 4, 2013

Embezzling client money leads to discipline for Tampa Bay lawyers

Misappropriating clients’ money has resulted in law license revocations for two area lawyers while four others were disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court for other misconduct.

The court granted Tampa lawyer David Anthony Fontes’ petition for disciplinary revocation of his license, which is tantamount to disbarment, according to a Florida Bar written statement. He may apply for readmission after five years.

Fontes was suspended last year and then arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for grand theft. He was accused of misappropriating more than $138,000 entrusted to him to pay the debts of a client’s estate.

Fontes subsequently reimbursed the client’s money.

The court also granted Scott V. Boruta’s petition for disciplinary revocation of his license. The Palm Harbor lawyer had two pending complaints of embezzling client funds and criminal theft.

Hillsborough County deputies investigated Boruta last year and arrested him for grand theft, records show.

A conflict of interest led to a four-month suspension for Sarasota lawyer Kenneth D. Doerr. In an estate case, he represented two clients in a matter in which they had adverse interests and wishes. He displayed “a lack of diligence and candor” by not disclosing to each client that he represented the other, according to the Bar statement.

Land O’Lakes lawyer Henry T. Sorenson II was suspended for three years. He failed to properly represent clients who wanted a trial court’s ruling appealed and failed to file the appeal notice. He also fabricated an appellate court opinion indicating the clients won the appeal.

Full Article and Source:
Embezzling client money leads to discipline for Tampa Bay lawyers

Court upholds dismissal of Ark. judge's suit

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has upheld the dismissal of an Arkansas judge's civil rights lawsuit against a judicial disciplinary commission.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon's dismissal of Circuit Court Judge L.T. Simes's lawsuit against the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.
Bataillon is a federal judge in Nebraska who heard the case because all Arkansas judges recused.
Bataillon ruled last year that Simes had no pursuable claim because the Arkansas Supreme Court twice refused to remove him from the bench — despite the commission's recommendations.
The Supreme Court reprimanded Simes in 2011 over his handling of a lawsuit. Justices suspended Simes in 2009 over a separate complaint, but he but won re-election to his seat.

Full Article and Source:
Court upholds dismissal of Ark. judge's suit

Senate Panel Advances Older Americans Act

A Senate committee today advanced legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, which supports Meals on Wheels and other services for the country’s rapidly-growing population of seniors.

The 5-year reauthorization sent to the Senate floor by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was cosponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman, and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking member. Sanders chairs the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.

First passed by Congress in 1965, the Older Americans Act provides essential services for seniors like nutrition programs, job training, caregiver support, transportation, preventive health services and protection from abuse and financial exploitation.

Sanders made the case that Older Americans Act programs are a good investment. “We can feed a senior for an entire year for the cost of one day in a hospital,” he said. One study found that for every $1 in federal spending on Meals on Wheels, there is as much as a $50 return in Medicaid savings alone. Another program to prevent falls, the leading cause of injuries for people 65 and older, has been credited with reducing accidents and yielding savings on costly hospital and nursing home care.

As baby boomers age, the senior population in America has grown dramatically. Since 2006, the last year in which the Older Americans Act was reauthorized, there has been a 20 percent increase in the U.S. population of people 60 years old or older.

But inflation-adjusted spending on Older Americans Act programs has not kept pace. “All states are serving more seniors in need with less money,” Sanders said. “I strongly believe we should devote considerably more funding to these programs.”

Sanders said he is pleased that this bill has the strong support of more than 50 organizations representing the voices of tens of millions of Americans, including AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the National Council on Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Meals on Wheels Association of America.

“In the year 2013, in the United States of America, seniors should not be worried about how they will get their next meal. They should not be forced to choose between paying their electric bills or buying their medications. They should have the supports available to them to remain in their homes and communities. American seniors deserve to live with dignity and with a sense of security, and the Older Americans Act helps to provide that,” Sanders said.

Full Article and Source:
Senate Panel Advances Older Americans Act

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tonight on T.S. Radio: WWII War Hero Victimized by Predatory Guardian

Joining us will be Ginny Johnson, whose father, a WW2 veteran became the victim of a predatory guardian.  Ginny continues to fight for justice for her father who survived WW2 as a prisoner of war....then died a prisoner of an abusive guardianship.

Captain Hugh Johnson:
War hero
Led the 303rd Bomber Group on 26 missions against Nazi forces
“Hell’s Angels” earned the Distinguished Unit Citation
Dad’s B-17 was shot down in 1945 – MIA and German POW
Dad died on June 15, 2012.
One year after Theriault was appointed guardian
Expected burial as an honored combat veteran
Theriault ordered body cremated immediately
Prevented autopsy requested by Ginny
Theriault charged Hugh’s estate $95/hr.
Court did not impose any limits on charges.
Theriault sold $2M family home for $700K.

5:00 PST … 6:00 MST … 7:00 CST … 8:00 EST
LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

NASGA:  Captain Hugh Johnson, North Carolina Victim

New oversight of conservatorships proposed

A task force assigned to examine the growing number of  conservatorships in Davidson County has concluded there aren’t enough resources to provide adequate oversight and has proposed the creation of a publicly funded Office of the Public Guardian.

The new office would replace the existing single public guardian, a post now vacant.

In a 55-page report made public Friday, the task force appointed in March by Probate Judge David “Randy” Kennedy said the proposed new office could be funded by a combination of public money and voluntary support.

The panel cited an increasing caseload of conservatorships in the local court, with the number jumping from 636 in fiscal year 2009 to 1,782 in 2012.

The task force was appointed in the wake of the abrupt resignation of the public guardian, Jeanan Mills Stuart, after a series of Tennessean reports on the fees Stuart charged for a variety of tasks. Among those tasks were accompanying wards on shopping trips and attendance at events, including a symphony orchestra performance.

Stuart, whose resignation coincided with Kennedy’s demand that she resign, charged her wards the full hourly lawyer’s fee — up to $225 an hour — no matter the task.

A Tennessean review of Stuart’s billing showed she billed twice for the same services, including a five-hour shopping excursion.

Specific fees dodged

The task force dodged the issue of setting specific fees for nonlawyer tasks but did recommend that conservators be required to “use their time as judiciously as possible” and “act in the best interest of the ward.”

The panel, headed by attorney Colleen P. Mac­Lean, did not recommend a specific budget or staffing level for the proposed public guardian office but instead contrasted the current effort in Davidson County with Tarrant County in Texas, which it cited as a model program.

While Tarrant has a staff of 11.5 to handle an annual caseload of 1,237 cases, the panel said, Davidson has a single judge and a staff of 3.5. Davidson’s caseload is growing and is expected to surpass 1,910 a year.

The Tarrant court has an annual budget of $940,000 and it spends an additional $675,000 to contract with a third party to provide services to wards.

In addition to urging an increase in public funding, the panel said increased court filing fees could underwrite the cost of some of its recommendations.

Kennedy did not respond Friday to a request for comment but provided a copy of a letter forwarded to Metro Council members along with copies of the report.

“I am confident that working together we will continue to enhance and improve our system of justice in this challenging area of the law,” Kennedy wrote in the letter.

The panel attributed the high Davidson County caseload — the highest in the state — to a variety of factors, including a high number of nursing homes, hospitals and veterans facilities and a large homeless population.

“This translates into a ballooning demand, particularly of indigent individuals in need of a conservatorship who do not have friends or family available to serve in this position,” the report states.

Data gathered by the panel showed that the fees charged by conservators currently range from $50 to $250 an hour. Much of the current caseload, it found, is handled by nonprofit and government agencies.

But, the task force warned, those entities “don’t have the capacity to serve all the indigents in Davidson County.”

While not recommending specific fees for non-legal-conservator services, the panel did suggest a system under which overall fee limits could be set.

It cited a flat fee of $1,500 for a case requiring minimal duties and a ceiling of $10,000 for more complicated cases, with a requirement that fees over that ceiling would require greater documentation.

The panel also called for the creation of a program to provide voluntary services for overseeing conservatorships. Such a program would provide training for those interested in serving as conservators.

Overall, the panel concluded that the Davidson County court has too few resources dedicated to the administration and oversight of conservatorships.

“The number of these cases is expected to grow even further as the baby boomer generation ages and life expectancies continue to grow due to advances in modern medicine,” the report concludes.

Full Article and Source:
New oversight of conservatorships proposed

"Managing Someone Else's Money" Guides

Millions of Americans are managing money or property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. This can be very overwhelming. But, it’s also a great opportunity to help someone you care about, and protect them from scams and fraud.

We are releasing four easy-to-understand booklets to help financial caregivers. The Managing Someone Else’s Money guides are for agents under powers of attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries.)

The guides help you to be a financial caregiver in three ways:
  • They walk you through your duties.
  • They tell you how to watch out for scams and financial exploitation, and what to do if your loved one is a victim.
  • They tell you where you can go for help.
Source: Blog