Saturday, March 15, 2014

Former Probate Judge Mark Belinky Answers Questions About His Resignation

Mahoning County Probate Judge Mark Belinky has resigned from the bench amid an investigation into suspected corruption.
21 News Reporter Michelle Nicks spoke with Judge Belinky after he issued his resignation.
She reports Belinky did return her phone call and answered some of her questions about his resignation.
Belinky said "I'm trying to approach my situation in the best interest of my family and myself. I am concerned about my staff and I am concerned about the court. I have spent 35 years working in Probate Court or being the judge of the court. It takes tremendous experience to run it. I thank the thousands of people who allowed me to help them there. It was an honor. The public overwhelmingly elected me to be the judge. I took that very seriously. I personally was proud to greet and wait on the public as they came to my office."
Belinky told Michelle Nicks that he will retain his law license for now and he's focused on supporting his family and getting through this.

He would not discuss the details of the Attorney General's investigation at this time, on the advice of his attorney.

There has been no indication that Belinky has been charged with any crime.

Last month agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and sheriff's deputies searched Belinky's courthouse office and his home.

According to a search warrant, investigators were looking for bank records, campaign finance reports, lists of donations and donors, ledgers, and any documentation, computers electronic storage devices, and electronic media.
Court documents said that authorities were seeking evidence in criminal offenses including, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, bribery, money laundering, theft and theft in office.

Full Article and Source:
Mahong County Probate Judge Mark Responds After Resignation

See Also:
Ohio Mahong County Probate Judge Mark Belinky Resigns!

Ohio Mahong County Probate Judge Mark Belinky Resigns!

Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky resigned Friday evening amid a probe of his dealings by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the FBI and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.

In a letter submitted to Ohio Gove. John Kasich Friday, Belinky said, “Please be advised that the undersigned is the Judge of the Mahoning County Probate Court. I hereby submit my resignation as Judge of the Court effective this date.”

Belinky would not go on camera, but in a phone interview, he said he made the decision in the best interest of his family and himself.

“I was overwhelmingly elected to be probate judge,” Belinky said. “I was honored to help the thousands of people who came to the court. I was honored to serve them, and I’m sorry I can no longer do that.”

Belinky also said he is very worried about the court and he hopes the governor would put a very qualified person in the position.

Political leaders are calling Belinky’s resignation another black eye for the Valley.

Full Article and Source:
Mahong County Judge Resigns

See Also:
Mahong County (OH) Probate Judge Mark Belinky's Campaign and Financial Records Seized

Boston Children's Hospital to be Investigated by the MA Department of Public Health Over the Justina Pelletier Case

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is set to investigate a complaint filed by a Boston Attorney against Boston Children’s Hospital and its “Bader 5″ Psychiatric Unit.

According to a January 31 posting by reporter Beau Berman – who broke the story leading to the complaint – the Department of Public Health has confirmed that it is assigning an investigator to review the complaint.

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the case, in February 2013, 15-year-old Justina Pelletier was checked into Boston Children’s Hospital with flu-like symptoms by her parents. Prior to her admission, Justina had been undergoing treatments for Mitochondrial Disorder at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Over three years ago, Justina had been diagnosed with the rare genetic condition of Mitochondrial Disease. Her 25-year-old sister, Jessica, also suffers from the disease. Both girls were treated by a specialist at Tufts Medical Center, Dr Mark Korson. The hospital was only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from their home in West Hartford, Connecticut.

At the recommendation of her doctor at Tufts Medical Center, Justina was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital to see a gastro-intestinal specialist, Dr. Alex Flores, who had recently transferred from Tufts to BCH.

Almost immediately, a different team of doctors swept in. delivering a different diagnosis, questioning the original diagnosis of mitochondrial disease, explains Beau Berman, Investigative Reporter with FOX News in Connecticut.

The Hartford-Courant explains what happened next:
*Within 24 hours of being admitted to Boston Children’s in February, physicians came up with a different diagnosis for Justina: somatoform disorder, a psychologically induced condition that has physical symptoms.
*Justina’s parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier, objected to the diagnosis and sought to discharge her from the hospital and take her to Tufts Medical Center, where she was originally diagnosed with mitochondrial disease.
*But hospital officials refused and reported suspicions of medical child abuse to the state in February, according to a source familiar with the situation and media reports. Shortly afterward, the state assumed custody of Justina.

Scaled-back elder abuse legislation wins Iowa House committee approval

A bill creating a new crime of financial exploitation of a vulnerable elder won committee approval in the Iowa House on Wednesday, keeping the issue alive for further discussion during the current legislative session.

Senate File 2239 makes financially exploiting vulnerable adults who are age 65 or older and unable to protect themselves a crime ranging from a simple misdemeanor up to a class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The penalty would depend on the dollar value of the exploitation.

The measure passed 21-0 in the House Judiciary Committee, clearing a procedural deadline and setting up debate on the House floor.

Full Article & Source:
Scaled-back elder abuse legislation wins Iowa House committee approval

6 Aging Myths We Need to Stop Believing

Myth No. 1: Your genes predetermine how healthy you are.
Why it's not true: Although the gene sequence you were born with is fixed, gene expression depends on how you live your life.

Myth No. 2: Getting older means feeling older.
Why it's not true: We each have a chronological age and a biological age. Your chronological age is the age on your birth certificate and answers the question, "How many times have you, in this body, revolved around the sun?"

Myth No. 3: Your body gets frail as you age.
Why it's not true: Your body doesn't have to get frail when you get older. You can increase both the strength and mass of your muscles and even improve bone density through exercises and weight-training. Within six weeks of beginning to exercise, studies show, there's a 100 to 200 percent increase in strength in men aged 60 to 70.

Myth No. 4: Your brain is destined to deteriorate over time.
Why it's not true: If you think you lose brain cells as you get older, and those cells are gone forever, think again. Research shows that some areas of the brain involved with memory and learning continue to produce new nerve cells every day. So while you do lose brain cells every day, you also are constantly replacing brain cells.

Myth No. 5: Your energy decreases as you get older.
Why it's not true: Energy levels in the body don't depend on age. They depend on your attitude and are influenced by the quality of your life. Meditation, restful sleep and exercise are the best ways to experience a joyful and energetic body.

Myth No. 6: The older you are, the more unhappy you are.
Why it's not true: Happiness has nothing to do with aging. In fact, the later years can be the best time of your life. Many studies have shown that people get happier as they age.

Full Article and Source:
6 Aging Myths We Need to Stop Believing

Friday, March 14, 2014

Major Update in Justina Pelletier Case; Lawmakers Get Involved, Teen will not be Transferred to Foster Care

Massachusetts lawmakers are getting involved in the Justina Pelletier case and have begun circulating a resolution asking the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to initiate the process of releasing the teenager to her parents.

State Reps. Marc Lombard and Jim Lyons, both Republicans, announced on Wednesday that 12 representatives have already signed on to support the resolution.

“The self-stated goal of the Department of Children and Families is to strengthen the link between families. Removing a child from her family is reserved for only the most egregious circumstances where evidence of malicious intent, negligence or the blatant inability to care for the child is present.

No such findings are present in this case,” Lombardo said in a press release. Lyons argued the Pelletier case is a “dispute between conflicting medical opinions” and treatment decisions should be left to parents, not DCF.

“The Department’s heavy-handed, unjustified interference with the rights of these parents is an example of what is wrong with this agency,” he added.

Full Article and Source:
Major Update in Justina Pelletier Case; Lawmakers Get Involved, Teen will not be Transferred to Foster Care

A Patient's Guide: How to Stay Safe in the Hospital

Why Checklists:
Conventional wisdom says that when you go to the hospital, you take someone with you. However, nobody is prepared. There’s nothing in college that teaches you how to be an advocate. There’s nothing in your life experience. We have an army of people sitting bedside, who are ripe for education.

We put a checklist out on Campaign Zero, but I could tell from the traffic that people were finding it only after a problem had occurred. They were Googling bed sores and how to treat them, staph infections. People do not prepare to be sick. So I wrote the book.

I learned during my research that there are repeated problems that put people back into the hospital that nobody ever tells you about. For example, if you have congestive heart failure, you need to weith yourself every single day. If you gain two pounds in a day, you have to get to a doctor right away.

But I don’t know how many people are told that. Even if you are told that when you’re discharged, many people are still on drugs and not thinking clearly. And it’s a hurried process. They need someone there with faculties intact to ask the questions, sweat the details, know what to look for and be encouraged to ask questions. The simple affirmation that it’s OK to ask questions makes people more comfortable.

What would you say is the one most important thing someone can do?
I have two: Ask people to wash their hands. The greatest hazard in hospitals is infection, and the number one thing you can do to prevent infections is hand washing. Don’t let people give you flack about it.

The second thing is to take notes. Take notes to ask questions and be organized. When the doctors and nurses come in, if you’re prepared with your questions in notes, then you use your time wisely.

Also note when medications are given, when tests are ordered and the test results. You could have tests ordered at 9 a.m., and the results might be critical for next steps. If they don’t come until 9 p.m., that’s a problem. And a detail like that can get lost.

People respect stuff that’s written down. And if the doctors and nurses know you’re on it, they will be more accountable. It’s very subtle, but it takes the drama and emotion out of it, and makes the experience more businesslike.

Full Article and Source:
A Patient's Guide:  How to Stay Safe in a Hospital

St. Louis-area lawyer indicted on fraud charge accused of stealing his mother's identity

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis County lawyer who went missing for more than four months amid mounting legal troubles is accused of stealing his mother's identity by enlisting a client to impersonate the woman.

Jeffrey M. Witt, 39, was arrested last week in New York after stepping off a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul. He hasn't yet been returned to St. Louis to answer felony charges of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( ) reported Thursday that Witt relied on a client pretending to be his mother to take out a $100,000 loan using the deed on her Des Peres home as credit. Prosecutors say the client then endorsed a $60,000 check that Witt deposited into his office account but used for personal expenses.

Shortly before Witt went missing, Missouri's chief disciplinary counsel filed a 10-count complaint him that alleges that as far back as 2009, Witt had lied to clients and the court, missed deadlines and court hearings, mishandled money, failed to file necessary documents or improperly filed them and didn't tell clients that an employee was a disbarred former lawyer who was also a convicted felon.

Full Article & Source:
St. Louis-area lawyer indicted on fraud charge accused of stealing his mother's identity

San Antonio Defense Attorney Pleads Guilty To Theft And Forgery

Hilda Valadez was known around the Cadena-Reeves Justice Center as Bexar County’s highest-paid court-appointed attorney, reportedly receiving more than $400,000 dollars over three years before 2010. She defended indigent clients, often in high-profile murder cases. Now she's on the other side of the law, entering a plea agreement that she hopes will keep her out of prison.

The embattled attorney was indicted in 2012 on 46 counts of theft and forgery charges for falsifying inflated payment vouchers submitted to the courts for her services. The indictments reportedly included forging judges’ signatures and double-billing the county in some cases. The district attorney is quoted in 2012 saying the investigation had uncovered about $120,000 dollars in incorrectly processed vouchers.

Full Article & Source:
San Antonio Defense Attorney Pleads Guilty To Theft And Forgery

Thursday, March 13, 2014

JARED SHAFER vs REBECCA SCHULTZ - Dismissed without Prejudice

LAS VEGAS - Since November 2012 when their case was originally filed, attorneys for for-hire "guardian" Jared E. Shafer have been failed to prove that Rebecca Schultz authored 108 “Ripoff Reports” that allegedly defamed their client.

Today, Clark County District Court Judge Joanna Kishner dismissed without prejudice what many consider to be the SLAPP suit Shafer filed against Schultz in retaliation for removing her father and his fortune from Shafer's control. Guadalupe Olvera from Shafer's exploitive guardianship in 2010 after learning that Shafer had drained Olvera's bank account of hundreds of thousands of dollars with the approval of Clark County "Guardianship Commissioner" Jon Norheim.

During the course of the guardianship and the legal battle that Schultz mounted to free her father of Shafer, Olvera's bank account was drained by Shafer over $411,000.00 for "guardian fees," "e-mails," court appearances, and excessive legal fees paid to his attorneys, Soloman, Dwiggins and Freer, LTD. In 2013, a California Superior Court Judge ruled Olvera to be competent, and terminated Shafer's guardianship after Shafer paid his personal legal fees out of Olvera's Trust account.
Rebecca Schultz believed that had she not removed her father from Shafer's custody in 2010, her father would have died soon thereafter in a rest home of Shafer's choice, and her father's half million dollar home, car, and personal possessions would have also been taken by Shafer to pay his "fees" and other expenses to try to force Olvera to return to Nevada Schultz attorney Brian Boggess successfully argued today that Shafer's attorneys Alan Freer and Ross Evans had not supplied evidence that Schultz was the author of the Ripoff Reports in question.

After hearing forty five minutes of pleadings, Judge Kishner agreed with Boggess and dismissed the case against Schultz. Since he was moved away from Shafer's jurisdiction in Nevada and back to his home in Santa Cruz County, California, Mr. Olvera has thrived while living with his loving family.


RipOffReports Solomon, Dwiggins and Freer Ltd.

Some of Jared E Shafer's Bogus Bills Bled From Guadelupe Olvera's Trust Account AFTER Shefer's Guardianship Was Terminated


Fake Cancer Patient Sentenced for Defrauding Elderly Man

A woman who faked cancer to bilk an elderly Auburn man out of more than $400,000 was sentenced  to two years in federal prison.

Julie Ann Dahlquist, 52, pleaded guilty in November to Social Security fraud, admitting that the money she received from the fraud victim disqualified her from receiving federal disability benefit she'd been collecting. Dahlquist did not report the money she received from the 78-year-old man to the federal government.

As part of her plea agreement, Dahlquist agreed to pay more than $400,000 in restitution to the man, court records show.

Federal prosecutors said Dahlquist told the man in May 2009 that she had cancer and was financially unable to pay for treatment.

The man agreed to help her and wrote nearly 200 checks to her over the course of three years, records show.

Dahlquist used the money for other expenses and to support her gambling addiction, the records show.

Full Article and Source:
Fake Cancer Patient Sentenced For Defrauding Elderly Auburn Man

Read more here:

Louisiana Judge Janice Clark Faces Possible Censure for 'Judicial Misconduct'

A state district judge faces possible censure by the Louisiana Supreme Court after the state’s Judiciary Commission found she committed judicial misconduct in dismissing a lawsuit without legal grounds or a proper hearing.

The request for censure  marks the commission’s fourth formal charge in 12 years against Judge Janice Clark,  of the 19th Judicial District, but is only the first to be made public, court records show.

Clark’s attorney, Bob Downing, said Thursday that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, the case has already taken its toll on Clark, who has spent “an enormous amount of money” responding to the allegations.

He said the case, which comes as Clark heads into her next election campaign, might also have cost her an opportunity for a federal appointment.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Janice Clark Faces Possible Censure for "Judicial Misconduct"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bret Bohn Case Puts Spotlight on Alaska State Guardian Program

A high-profile case involving the appointment of a state guardian for a 27-year-old Wasilla hunting guide hospitalized for nearly five months with a brain infection is getting attention from a well-known crusader against forced psychiatric drugging.

An Anchorage Superior Court judge last month appointed a state guardian to make medical and all other decisions for Bret Bohn at Providence Alaska Medical Center over the objections of his parents and other family members.

State officials couldn't release any information about the guardian assigned Bohn due to confidentiality restrictions.

It's pretty clear he or she is busy.

The state's adult guardians work with an average of 80 clients each, according to Elizabeth Russo, supervising attorney for the public guardian sector. In a hospital setting, they rely on national medical decision-making standards and try to make decisions based on what their clients would want.

A judge must assign a guardian, Russo said.

"You can't just walk into a room and say I'm now your guardian," she said. "The individual has due process rights that are taken into account. Courts don't make these decisions lightly."

But Jim Gottstein, an Anchorage attorney and co-founder of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, said the Bohn case illustrates an "incestuous" relationship between the state and hospitals when it comes to the guardian process.

A guardian rarely, if ever, questions a hospital's decisions, he said.

Full Article and Source:
Wasilla Guide Case Puts Spotlight on State Guardian Program

Read more here:

7 Years After Son's Death, Local Father Continues Fighting for Those With Disabilities

Michael Carey does not take a day off from advocating for those with disabilities, so Saturday he spoke out on the 7 year anniversary of the death of his son, Jonathan.

Carey says a recent report on the amount of calls made to the New York State Justice Center about abuse and serious incidents against the disabled or mentally ill needs to be addressed and handled better.

Governor Cuomo set up the center in an attempt to battle this major problem.

Seven years ago Jonathan Carey, who was diagnosed with autism , died at the hands of an employee of the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center, a state facility, in Niskayuna.

Jonathan Carey would have been 20 years old this year.

His father told NEWS10 ABC, "I made a vow in my heart and in my own way I said to Jonathan, ‘Jonathan I will not forget your friends and so I'm not going to,'"

Michael Carey spends each and every day working in his office for the Jonathan Carey foundation.

"People with disabilities are worth it and New York State cannot continue to violate their equal rights, equal protections," Carey said.

Full Article and Source:
7 Years After Son's Death, Local Father Continues Fighting for Those With Disabilities

Judge Jones Case A Waste of Just About Everything

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline on Monday entered its findings of fact in the smoking wreckage that remains of Family Court Judge Steven Jones’ career.

Although it’s a wrist slap compared to what awaits the defrocked judge, the commission also made final its discipline of Jones: a three-month suspension without pay for his unethical relationship with the late prosecutor Lisa Willardson. The commission could have pushed to have him removed from the bench he hasn’t seen in months because of a pending federal fraud indictment.

Instead, it recognized his lack of a prior disciplinary record, “otherwise exemplary” 20-year judicial career, and the “relatively minimal violations” of three of the counts against him to opt for a lesser penalty. (The commission explored only the allegations before it and clearly didn’t wade into other legal swamps in which Jones finds himself mired.)

Truth is, it’s been all over but the shouting for Jones for months. Only he has been denying the undeniable. Backed into a corner in a Jan. 27 hearing, Jones said he planned to withdraw from his re-election bid. The fact he had been making one speaks volumes about the guy.

The notion that he continued to collect his six-figure salary in recent months despite his self-inflicted civil and criminal entanglements is downright disturbing. With his pay finally suspended, you would think even Jones would at last do the right thing and resign from office.

It wasn’t a close call. Ample evidence existed early in the process that pointed to Jones’ inappropriate relationship with a prosecutor who had cases in his courtroom.

“The close relationship of Ms. Willardson, a prosecutor, and Respondent, the judge who presides over their cases caused concern,” commission Chairman Douglas Jones wrote in a unanimous decision. “At least one case had been prosecuted by Ms. Willardson and was still pending through the period when the Respondent’s relationship with Ms. Willardson further developed.”

The judge’s failure to recuse himself was trouble on its face. Parental rights and the future of a child’s custody were at stake.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Jones Case a Waste of Just About Everything

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Nashville Judge: Former Public Guardian, Jeanan Mills Stuart, Not Responsible for Ward's Losses

A Davidson County circuit court judge has thrown out part of a suit filed against a former public guardian who was removed from her post following multiple questions about her billing practices, including charging attorney-level fees for accompanying wards on shopping trips or attending a concert.

The ruling means that former Davidson County public guardian Jeanan Stuart is not liable for losses sustained by Ginger Franklin while Stuart was acting as Franklin’s conservator.

Circuit Judge Hamilton V. Gayden Jr. said in a letter to Franklin’s attorney that he had decided to grant Stuart’s motion for summary judgment.

Franklin, who lost her condo, car and all her belongings during the conservatorship, said she could not understand the decision.

“Everything I owned was gone,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Gayden’s letter does not disclose the reasoning behind his decision, and a formal ruling has yet to be posted on the circuit court web site.

But the judge left the door open for Franklin to proceed with her case on a second charge.

Gayden said in his letter to attorney Michael Hoskins that he had not yet decided whether to reject a separate claim by Franklin relating to Stuart’s placement of Franklin in a group home, where Franklin has charged she was put to work taking care of other residents.

A Sumner County judge, in a separate suit filed by Franklin against the group home and its owner, ruled that Franklin and other residents at the group home were the victims of “egregious and intentional abuse” when they were put to work by the group home owner.

The judge in the case, C.L. Buck Rogers, died recently before a hearing could be held to determine the amount of punitive damages to which Franklin was entitled.

Full Article and Source:
Nashville Judge:  Former Guardian Not Responsible for Ward's Losses

The Perils of Problematic Prescribing: A Double Dose of Warnings

Twice this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed to the harm caused by aberrant and inappropriate prescribing by physicians.

First, the CDC reported Monday that doctors are a primary source of narcotic painkillers for chronic abusers at the highest risk of overdoses.  Physicians edged out even family, friends and drug dealers. More than 16,000 people died of narcotic overdoses in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, the CDC has reported.

On Tuesday, the public health agency said that it found  vast differences in the use of antibiotics  among different hospitals’ medical/surgical wards. Doctors in some hospitals prescribed three times as many antibiotics as those in other hospitals. The CDC also said that in about one-third of cases, prescriptions for the antibiotic vancomycin included a potential error – either it was prescribed without proper tests or evaluation, or given for too long.

Full Article and Source:
The Perils of Problematic Prescribing:  A Double Dose of Warnings

Arizona House Passes Bill for Prosecuting Assisted Suicide

The Associated Press has reported that an Arizona bill designed to make it easier to prosecute cases of assisted suicide passed on the Arizona House on Tuesday. The article stated:
Republican Rep. Justin Pierce of Mesa says his bill will make it easier for attorneys to prosecute people for manslaughter for assisting in suicide by more clearly defining what it means to "assist." 
House Bill 2565 defines assisting in suicide as offering and providing the physical means used to commit suicide, such as a gun. Current state statute does not clearly define what it means to "assist." 
The proposal was prompted by a difficult prosecution stemming from a 2007 assisted suicide in Maricopa County. 
The House approved the bill by a 41-18. It will now move to the Senate.

House Bill 2565 is a response to the acquittal of two Final Exit members stemming from a 2007 assisted suicide case. An Associated Press article from February 13 described the issue more clearly. The article stated:  
Four members (Final Exit) were tried for manslaughter. Two pleaded guilty to lower charges, while another two others were acquitted. 
Rebecca Baker, the legislative liaison for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office who worked with Pierce on his bill, said juries acquitted those two members because they did not clearly understand what it means to assist. 
"The conclusion we ultimately came to was that we should just have the statute be more specific," she said.
Arizona House passes bill for prosecuting assisted suicide

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jenny Hatch Justice Project

On behalf of Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, I am proud to introduce you to the Jenny Hatch Justice Project (“JHJP”)! The JHJP is an integrated, multi-faceted resource and outreach center dedicated to advancing people with disabilities’ right to make their own choices and determine their own path and direction in life.

Margaret “Jenny” Hatch is a 29 year old woman with Down syndrome who the Washington Post describes as a “hero to the disabled.” 

She never planned to be.

Instead, Jenny wanted to live her life the way she always had – deciding where to live, what to do, work and see like everyone else does.  That all changed in August of 2012, when Jenny was served with a Petition attempting to put her in a guardianship, one where her guardians would have the power to make all her decisions for her – even whether to receive or withhold healthcare.  Almost immediately, Jenny was placed in a temporary guardianship and forced to live in a group home, where she was cut off from her friends, removed from her job and taken from the life she made for herself in her community. 

Through it all, Jenny never lost hope, never stopped insisting that she did not need a guardian, she just needed a little help.  Like everyone else. 

At long last, after a year of litigation and six days of trial, Jenny won the right to make her own decisions. Jenny now lives and works where she wants, has the friends she chooses, and encourages others to do the same. 

Since the “Justice for Jenny” trial ended, Jenny has become a sought-after speaker, sharing her story and strength with groups across the country.  The Jenny Hatch Justice Center is named in her honor, in recognition of her courage and commitment.


Arkansas: How Judicial Misconduct Investigations Work

It’s likely that Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio did not have formal notice that a state judicial oversight commission has been looking into allegations of online impropriety.

It was claimed on Monday by an online alternative news website,, that Maggio may be the author of embarrassing and misogynistic posts to a LSU online forum under the pseudonym “geauxjudge” — which would tend to raise questions of decorum possibly amounting to a violation of the state Code of Judicial Conduct. The person writing the posts also revealed that Charlize Theron, the actress, adopted a child in a Faulkner County proceeding.

Generally, all adoption proceedings are sealed by law and few people not directly involved in actress’s adoption knew about it until it was published online by the Blue Hog Report and Arkansas Times on Monday.

Maggio said in a press release on Tuesday that he was “unaware of any [Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission] complaint,” and was “prohibited from commenting” if there was one.

During an investigation into alleged judicial misconduct, the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission may delay notifying the subject of the investigation “so that court proceedings may be monitored or certain evidence obtained,” according to a summary of usual procedure on the JDDC’s website.

Formal notice to a judge comes at the conclusion of the preliminary investigation, when the judge “is then formally notified of the substance of the allegations and given an opportunity to respond both in writing and at a formal appearance before the commission.”

At this point the JDDC may dismiss the complaint based on the judge’s response, or if the misconduct is found to be “of a relatively minor nature” the JDDC may end matters there with a public admonition or “informal adjustment” such as professional counseling or other assistance.
But if the misconduct warrants a formal disciplinary procedure, a formal disciplinary hearing before the JDDC will be scheduled. This hearing is open to the public and operates much like a civil trial, with evidentiary and procedural trial rules.

If at the end of the formal disciplinary hearing the JDDC decides to take a disciplinary action, it has the authority to reprimand or censure (sternly rebuke) a judge or to recommend to the Arkansas Supreme Court that the judge be suspended or removed from office.

Full Article and Source:
How Judicial Misconduct Investigations Work

Woman Charged With Financial Exploitation of Elderly Woman in Her Care

A woman hired to be a caregiver for an elderly resident with Parkinson’s disease is facing criminal charges for allegedly using the 86-year-old victim’s credit cards without her permission, running up thousands of dollars in charges.

Carpentersville Police Cmdr. Timothy Bosshart said the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Lalaine Regencia, 46, of Cary, with financial exploitation of the elderly and two counts of theft. All are class 2 felonies.
Regencia had been working as a caregiver for the victim since February 2013, reports stated. The victim said she trusted Regencia, who would use her own car to take the victim to church, stores and to get her hair done.
On Jan. 14, according to reports, police met with Regencia who admitted to using the victim’s Chase credit card since spring or summer, to pay bills and to buy groceries and clothing.
When police asked her about the Chase bill approaching $16,000, the report stated Regencia said she didn’t realize it had gotten that high.

Full Article and Source:
Cary Woman Charged With Financial Exploitation of Elderly Woman in Her Care

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Guardianship Abuse - New Laws Coming to Protect the Predators

Marcia Southwick joins us this evening to discuss new laws being promoted in several states claiming to reform predatory guardianships, perpetrated by professional predators operating through and with the probate courts.

As an example: SB 634 from Florida, sponsored by Senator Brandes appears on the surface to deal with the failure to submit timely audits of the victims estate. A careful reading of the opening paragraph, lines 1-32 makes clear that this new statute would apply only to other words, family members or anyone not working in a professional capacity in guardianship.

Anyone not working under protection of the probate court, the BAR Association, The National Guardianship Association or any other association that operates as a protection racket for professional predators.

This should be a revealing discussion on what is intentionally omitted from bills, what is written to appear as a major change when in fact it is nothing more than a furtherance of protection for those gaming the system while targeting families and friends.

We will take calls in the second hour. 5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

LISTEN LIVE to the show or listen to the archive later

Arizona: State Launches Investigation After Undercover ABC15 Investigation into Assisted Living Center

State officials have launched an investigation into an assisted care center for disabled and vulnerable adults after ABC15 exposed troubling conditions at the facility.

The Department of Health Services and Adult Protective Services (APS) both confirmed that they are looking into The Lodge at 14th Street, a directed care home for residents with mental illness, physical disabilities, or both. Almost all of the residents are taxpayer funded through Medicaid.

The ABC15 Investigators went undercover at The Lodge and shot or obtained videos and pictures to document the conditions. On Sunday, we aired footage that showed filthy rooms, residents in tattered and dirty clothing, blood- and bug-stained mattresses without sheets or blankets, and evidence of past and current bed bug problems.

Health department inspectors visited The Lodge on Tuesday.

In a statement, APS said they are “aware of the situation and will visit the home” and will work with the health department to “address quality of care issues.”

The state expects to release more information about the investigation in coming weeks.

Full Article and Source:
State launches investigation after undercover ABC15 investigation into assisted living center

See Also:
Arizona:  ABC15 Undercover Investigation:  Filthy Conditions, Bedbugs at Assisted Living Facility

Binding Arbitration Unhelpful in Elder Care Dispute

When Karen Fritz retired from a career at Rosauers Supermarkets nine years ago, she began taking care of her aging mother.

Soon, it became apparent her mom, Alice Newton, could no longer look out for herself. Her vision was failing. She was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Fritz moved in with her. It was a challenge, but it was also a joy, Fritz said. They planted a garden together. Fritz would put her mom in her wheelchair and take her out shopping.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Fritz, who is now 71.

But in 2009, Newton stopped sleeping well. She wouldn’t stay in her bed at night. Fritz, exhausted, turned to a new facility in Spokane Valley for help. Fritz put her mom in the center for a few days of respite care, so she could get some badly needed rest.

What happened at the Pine Ridge Alzheimer’s Special Care Center over the next six days is a matter of sharp dispute, and of a legal process that’s done virtually nothing to clarify that dispute. Fritz says her mother returned home with unexplained bruises and rug burns, complaining in consistent and specific ways about abuse and threats from caregivers at the center.

The center denies that it abused or neglected Newton and says the ailing woman made many accusations that were, on their face, untrue. A state inspector was coincidentally at the center during Newton’s stay and investigated her claims, finding that the center had improperly turned off her bed alarm and not investigated her claims quickly enough, but issued no abuse or neglect citations, said Gerald Kobluk, the attorney who represented Pine Ridge and its owner, JEA Senior Living.

“JEA Senior Living is one of the good guys out there,” Kobluk said. “They have an exceptional reputation and a spotless record.”

The case exemplifies many of the legal and personal challenges that surround an aging population, including the highly uncertain way that many claims against elder care facilities are resolved. When she put her mother into Pine Ridge, Fritz agreed to resolve almost all disputes through binding arbitration. An arbitrator awarded her $150,000 in December based on her claim of negligence but ruled in favor of the center on Fritz’s claims of neglect and abuse.

Under state law, negligence is a “failure to exercise ordinary care.” Under the Vulnerable Adult Protection Act, neglect is a “pattern of conduct or inaction” that causes harm by someone with a duty to care for a vulnerable adult.

Fritz’s attorney, Doug Spruance, calls it “an impossible ruling,” and an example of the way that binding-arbitration agreements limit a plaintiff’s ability to seek justice. He sees the finding as contradictory, the kind of thing that should be tested on appeal.

“You can’t have no neglect and have negligence,” he said. “I’ve won losers and I’ve lost winners throughout my career. I’ve never seen something that I feel so strongly would be reversed on appeal.”
The use of binding-arbitration agreements is increasing as long-term-care facilities try to hold down their liability expenses, which are steadily rising. Critics of the agreements say that many people – like Fritz – enter them unknowingly or thoughtlessly, and are signing away their rights to a jury trial or appeal.

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Shawn Vestal:  Binding Arbitration Unhelpful in Elder Care Dispute

News 4 New York I-Team: Families Outraged After Macabre Nursing Home Death Involving Two Veterans

Families of two Korean War veterans say a Long Island nursing home neglected basic care and left their elderly loved ones to suffer gruesome deaths last year.
In one case, a former soldier died after his bedsores grew so large and deep, a human hand could fit inside some of the gaping holes in his skin. Another elderly veteran with dementia died after nursing staff lost sight of him for nearly an hour and he accidentally hanged himself while trying to wiggle out of a wheelchair restraint.
Thomas Bischoff lived at the Suffolk Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing for several years. By the time of his death at age 74 on March 18, 2013, pressure ulcers, better known as bedsores, covered much of his backside.
Medical records from Brookhaven Memorial Medical Center say Bischoff went into cardiac arrest after a septic infection attacked his respiratory system. The records also say his bedsores helped cause that septic infection.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he was neglected,” his granddaughter, Alicia Zarzana, told the I-Team.
Richard Mollot, director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, said such gaping sores are almost always a sign of nursing home neglect.
“When we see that the pressure sores are very serious – very large, there is a number of them, etcetera – that should ring everyone’s alarm that something is wrong here,” Mollot said.
About four months after Bischoff died, another Korean War veteran, Raymond Curiale, accidentally hanged himself. Curiale’s care plan after he was admitted in March 2013 required staff to monitor him every 15 minutes.

In recent years, New York state has steadily relaxed the number of penalties levied against long-term care facilities.
According to data compiled by the Long Term Care Community Coalition, the Health Department issued 142 enforcement actions against nursing homes in 2007. In 2011, the number was down to 81. Last year there were 27 enforcement actions against New York nursing homes totaling just over $217,000 in fines. Of those, the Suffolk Center was found responsible for just over $36,000.
The New York Health Department declined to share any reason for the drop in enforcement actions against nursing homes.
New York is also one of few states that have no law establishing a minimum number of assistants per nursing home resident. A bill in the New York legislature called the “Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act” sought to change that, but it stalled in committee last year.
As the Department of Health scales back penalties, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman appears to be getting tougher on nursing homes. In February his office filed criminal charges against a Bronx nursing aide who was caught on camera pushing a dementia patient. The same month, his office accused owners and employees of a Medford nursing home of providing substandard care and cheating Medicaid. Defendants in both cases pleaded not guilty.