Saturday, August 20, 2016

CMS Increases Mandatory Enforcement to Protect Nursing Home Residents

Under the federal Nursing Home Reform Law, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has authority and the “responsibility”[1] to impose Civil Money Penalties (CMPs) and other enforcement actions at nursing homes that are found to violate federal standards of care (which are called Requirements of Participation).[2]  For the first time in more than 20 years – since the federal enforcement regulations were published in 1994[3] – CMS has increased the numbers and types of situations when CMPs must be imposed against facilities, without first giving the facilities an opportunity to correct their noncompliance.

Effective for all nursing home surveys completed on or after September 1, 2016, CMS’s new national policy mandates, under additional specified circumstances, the immediate imposition of CMPs at nursing homes.[4]  The new policy will be implemented through revisions to Chapter 7 of the State Operations Manual (SOM), Pub. 100-07.[5]

The most striking changes are requirements that CMS impose immediate CMPs when a facility is cited with:

(1) A harm-level deficiency (level G or above)[6] in three specified areas:
  • 42 C.F.R. §483.13, Resident Behavior and Facility Practices [restraints],
  • 42 C.F.R. §483.15, Quality of Life, or
  • 42 C.F.R. §483.25, Quality of Care, and
(2) A harm-level deficiency in any other regulatory requirement on a previous survey, whether the prior survey was an annual survey, a Life Safety Code survey, or a complaint survey. 

These revisions to the so-called “double G” policy, which currently limits the immediate imposition of CMPs to facilities that were cited with G-level deficiencies in two consecutive annual surveys,[7] are significant, especially when viewed historically.

Historical Background

On July 21, 1998, President Bill Clinton introduced the “double G” policy as one part of his 21-point Nursing Home Initiative.  The nursing home industry was strongly opposed and argued, in a March 1999 press release, that G-level deficiencies were cited for trivial matters.  Senator Charles Grassley (R, IA), then chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, asked the American Health Care Association (AHCA) to identify G-level deficiencies that it felt were unfair.  The Senator then asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to analyze the 10 examples that AHCA provided in a May 6, 1999 letter.  AHCA claimed that its 10 examples “are clearly symptomatic of a regulatory system run amok.”[8]  Seven involved higher scope and severity than AHCA considered warranted and three involved proposed terminations.

The GAO’s analysis “did not find evidence of inappropriate regulatory actions.”[9]  Reviewing the eight examples for which it had “sufficient information for an objective assessment,” the GAO reported that the states had taken “appropriate regulatory action.”[10]  Of the seven G-level deficiencies, the GAO found that three citations were justified, the GAO did not have sufficient information to analyze two other deficiencies, and states withdrew the citations in the other two cases when the facilities provided additional information that had not been provided to surveyors during the survey.[11]  The GAO also cited its then-recent report, which found that 98% of 201 actual harm deficiencies in 107 surveys were correctly cited.[12]

New Enforcement Methods

As in the past, the new enforcement policy requires immediate CMPs when facilities are cited with immediate jeopardy deficiencies, the highest category of deficiencies reflecting practices that did or could cause significant harm or death to residents.  Under the new policy, however, these CMPs cannot be rescinded.

Another change is the requirement that CMS impose immediate CMPs at Special Focus Facilities that are cited with deficiencies at level F or above.  Special Focus Facilities are those with “a history of serious quality issues” that are subject to two standard surveys each year and more rigorous enforcement actions.[13]

More Needs to Be Done to Protect Residents from Poor Care

While the new policies strengthen enforcement against facilities that are cited with the most serious deficiencies, comparatively few deficiencies are actually cited at the immediate jeopardy and harm levels.  CMS reported in its 2015 Data Compendium that in 2014, only 0.9% of deficiencies nationwide were cited with an immediate jeopardy deficiency and only 2.3% of deficiencies nationwide were cited with an actual harm deficiency.[14]

The GAO has reported repeatedly since the enforcement system was put in place in 1994 that state survey agencies undercite and undercode deficiencies.[15]  The Center for Medicare Advocacy’s study of antipsychotic drug deficiencies cited in seven states in 2010 and 2011 found that 95% of the deficiencies were cited at a no-harm level, regardless of the poor outcomes for residents, the total number or proportion of residents affected by the deficient practice, and the number of federal requirements violated by the facility.[16]  Only 15 harm-level deficiencies were cited in the two-year period, and one state cited 11 of them.[17]  In a separate analysis, the Center showed that even facilities cited with immediate jeopardy deficiencies in nurse staffing are frequently not sanctioned at all.[18]

In addition, CMS has not yet promulgated rules to increase the amounts of CMPs, as required by The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.[19]  The law requires the heads of federal agencies to adjust civil money penalties through interim final rulemaking – a so-called “catch up adjustment” – with the increased penalties effective no later than August 1, 2016, and thereafter, to make cost-of-living adjustments to federal penalties.  The nursing home Civil Money Penalties were set in 1994 and have not been increased for more than two decades.  Rules to reflect the 2015 legislation are expected to be published shortly.

August 17, 2016 – T. Edelman

[1] “It is the duty and responsibility of the Secretary to assure that requirements which govern the provision of care in skilled nursing facilities under this subchapter, and the enforcement of such requirements, are adequate to protect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents and to promote the effective and efficient use of public moneys.”  42 U.S.C.  §§1395i-3(f)(1), 1396r(f)(1), Medicare and Medicaid, respectively.
[2] 42 U.S.C. §§1395i-3(h), 1396r(h), Medicare and Medicaid, respectively.
[3] 42 C.F.R. §488.438, added by 59 Fed. Reg. 56116 (Nov. 10, 1994),
[4] CMS, “Mandatory Immediate Imposition of Federal Remedies and Assessment Factors Used to Determine the Seriousness of Deficiencies for Nursing Homes,” S&C: 16-31-NH (July 22, 2016, revised 7.29.16) (Memorandum from David R. Wright, Director, Survey and Certification Group, to State Survey Agency Directors),
[5] (Survey and Enforcement Process for Skilled Nursing and Nursing Facilities).
[6] CMS classifies deficiencies in a 12-box grid, reflecting the scope and severity of deficiencies.  Harm-level deficiencies (G, H, I) reflect the second highest level of deficiencies.
[7] State Operations Manual, Pub.No. 100-07, Chapter 7, §7304.2.1 (“Mandatory Criteria for Having No Opportunity to Correct”),
[8] AHCA’s letter is Enclosure A, pages 12-14, in GAO, Nursing Home Oversight: Industry Examples Do Not Demonstrate that Regulatory Actions Were Unreasonable, GAO/HEHS-99-154R (Aug. 13, 1999),
[9] GAO, Nursing Home Oversight: Industry Examples Do Not Demonstrate that Regulatory Actions Were Unreasonable, GAO/HEHS-99-154R, page 2 (Aug. 13, 1999),
[10] Id. 
[11] Id.
[12] Id., citing GAO, Nursing Homes: Proposal to Enhance Oversight of Poorly Performing Homes Has Merit,
[13] CMS, Special Focus Facility Initiative,
[14] CMS, Nursing Home Data Compendium 2015 edition, page 48, Figure 2.2.3,
[15] See, e.g., GAO, Federal Monitoring Surveys Demonstrate Continued Understatement of Serious Care Problems and CMS Oversight Weaknesses, GAO-08-517 (May 2008),; GAO, Nursing Home Reform: Continued Attention Is Needed to Improve Quality of Care in Small but Significant Share of Homes, GAO-07-794T (May 2, 2007),; GAO, Nursing Homes: Efforts to Strengthen Federal Enforcement Have Not Deterred Some Homes from Repeatedly Harming Residents, GAO-07-241 (March 26, 2007),;  GAO, Nursing Homes: Despite Increased Oversight, Challenges Remain in Ensuring High-Quality Care and Resident Safety, GAO-06-118 (Dec. 28, 2005),; GAO, Nursing Home Quality: Prevalence of Serious Problems, While Declining, Reinforces Importance of Enhanced Oversight, GAO-03-561 (July 15, 2003),
[16] Center for Medicare Advocacy, “CMA Report: Examining Inappropriate Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Facilities” (CMA Alert, Dec. 12, 2013),  The full report is available at
[17] Id.
[18] Center for Medicare Advocacy, “Staffing Deficiencies in Nursing Facilities: Rarely Cited, Seldom Sanctioned,” CMA Alert, March 7, 2014),
[19] Section 701 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, Pub. L. 114-74.  See Center for Medicare Advocacy, “Budget Act of 2015 Increases Penalties for Programs under the Social Security Act, Including Nursing Facilities” (CMA Alert, Nov. 18, 2015),

Full Article & Source:
CMS Increases Mandatory Enforcement to Protect Nursing Home Residents

Falmouth judge placed on leave

Falmouth District Judge Michael Creedon
FALMOUTH — The first justice of Falmouth District Court has been off the bench for more than a month after being placed on administrative leave, according to a spokeswoman for the state Trial Court.

Judge Michael Creedon was placed on leave June 30 after meeting with District Court Chief Justice Paul Dawley in response to a complaint filed against him with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to Trial Court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue. Judge Kathryn Hand, who is first justice of Barnstable District Court, has been appointed acting first justice in the Falmouth court, Donahue said.

“The allegations have been reported to the Commission on Judicial Conduct,” Donahue said, declining to comment on the nature of the alleged misconduct.

Creedon did not respond to a voicemail left at his Cotuit home.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct is the agency responsible for investigating allegations that a state court judge has engaged in judicial misconduct or is incapable of properly performing judicial duties.

Creedon, a former lawyer, state representative and senator, was sworn in as first justice of Falmouth District Court in December 1999, replacing Judge Richard P. Kelleher, who retired. He is only the second person to hold that position at the court, which was created in 1996 and handles cases from Falmouth, Bourne and Mashpee.

Creedon, who attended Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., graduated from Harvard University in 1969 before receiving his law degree from Suffolk University Law School in 1975.

Before becoming a judge, Creedon practiced law in Brockton and was elected to the House of Representatives for that district in 1974. He served in the House until 1988 and then served four terms in the state Senate for the 2nd Plymouth and Bristol District until 1996.

He was appointed by Gov. William Weld in 1996 as a circuit judge for district courts in Attleboro, Hingham, Plymouth and Brockton before being named presiding judge in Falmouth. In Massachusetts, judges are required to retire at the age of 70. Creedon is slated for retirement Nov. 3.

Anyone may file a written complaint about a judge with the Commission on Judicial Conduct. The complaint is then screened by the commission staff to to determine if it is frivolous or warrants docketing.

Even if a complaint is docketed, the system is structured so that allegations against a judge, results of an investigation or discipline may never be known unless the judge chooses to contest them publicly.

If an investigation by the commission finds there is a cause for discipline, a judge could be privately reprimanded. An "agreed disposition" requires the agreement of the judge and often includes a period when the commission places conditions on the judge's conduct, which could include counseling, education, assignment of a mentor judge, monitoring by the commission for a specified period of time, voluntary retirement or other conditions, according to the commission’s website.

If the judge and commission do not agree on a disposition, there could be a public hearing, or the judge could choose to submit the matter directly and confidentially to the Supreme Judicial Court, according to the commission.

Full Article & Source:
Falmouth judge placed on leave

Caregiving Across State Lines: 45+ States Pass Law to Help

Imagine you care for your 90-year-old mother with dementia. She lives with you in your Georgia home. You help her with bathing and dressing, drive her to the doctor, cook her meals, manage her medications and do anything else she needs. Last year you were appointed her legal guardian by the state of Georgia to help manage her finances and make decisions for her about health care and more.

Your mother needs a special heart procedure, only available in a hospital in Florida, meaning you’ll have to cross state lines. The problem is, the Florida hospital may not accept guardianship orders from other states and is unable to treat your mother without authority from a Florida court. Now, as your mother’s health deteriorates, you have to desperately file for an expensive legal proceeding just so your mother can get the care she needs.

For some caregivers, the possibility of this hypothetical life-threatening situation is very real.

While every caregiving situation is different, many Americans care for their loved ones across state lines every day — and the law should be on their side, with consistent rules about state jurisdiction to make it easier.

The good news is, 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have already passed the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdictions Act (UAGPPJA), a law to support family caregivers serving as guardians as they care for their parents, spouses and other loved ones across state lines. This includes Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina, where this important act was signed into law in 2016.

This law ensures scenarios like the one I outlined don’t happen, and provide more protections, by:
  1. Outlining a set of rules for streamlining the transfer of guardianship from one state to another
  2. Allowing states to recognize and register guardianship orders from other states
  3. Creating a clear process for determining jurisdiction by designating which state should hear a request for guardianship when more than one state is involved
  4. Protecting seniors by giving the court information and authority to act on abuse and exploitation

Full Article & Source:
Caregiving Across State Lines: 45+ States Pass Law to Help

Friday, August 19, 2016

CCHR Launches Campaign to Reduce Involuntary Examinations of Seniors in Florida

Launching a campaign to help protect the elderly from abuse under the mental health law in Florida, CCHR, is hosting a workshop on Advanced Mental Health Directives on Sunday, August 21 at 2pm at the center located in downtown Clearwater.

Clearwater, United States – August 16, 2016 /PressCable/ —
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a non-profit mental health watchdog dedicated to the eradication of abuses committed under the guise of mental health, launched a campaign to educate senior citizens on their rights under the Baker Act in the hope of reducing unnecessary involuntary examinations of the elderly in Florida.

In honor of National Senior Citizens Day, CCHR is launching a campaign to help protect the elderly from abuse under the mental health law in Florida with a workshop on Advanced Mental Health Directives on Sunday, August 21 at 2pm at the center located in downtown Clearwater.

An advance directive is a written document expressing a person’s wishes for treatment, services and other assistance they want during a mental health crisis. This document is a clear statement of the person’s medical treatment preferences and can also be used to grant legal decision-making authority to another person until the crisis is over.

“When government insurance coverage for electroconvulsive therapy takes effect, 65-year-olds receive 360 percent more ECT treatment than 64-year-olds in the United States,” stated Diane Stein, President of CCHR Florida. “With studies showing that ECT shortens the lives of elderly people significantly it is our duty to educate senior citizens on their rights and help them to put in place advance directives that will ensure their treatment wishes are honored.”

CCHR will be hosting a weeklong open house following the Advanced Mental Health Directive Workshop on August 21st and for more information on the workshop, the open house or the protection of elder rights under the mental health law please call 727-442-8820.

About Citizens Commission on Human Rights:
Initially established by the Church of Scientology and renowned psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz in 1969, CCHR’s mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections.

It was L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, who brought the terror of psychiatric imprisonment to the notice of the world. In March 1969, he said, “Thousands and thousands are seized without process of law, every week, over the ‘free world’ tortured, castrated, killed. All in the name of ‘mental health.’”

After discovering that 55 percent of foster children in Florida had been prescribed powerful mind-altering psychotropic drugs, CCHR documented the abuse to the health department which initiated changes that led to a 75 percent reduction in prescriptions for children under six.

Considered a potentially abusive, marketing tool for psychiatrists, CCHR Florida led the charge that got “Teen Screen”, mental health screening of school children, banned from Pinellas County schools in 2005. For more information visit,


For more information, please visit

Contact Info:
Name: Diane Stein
Organization: Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida
Address: 109 N. Fort Harrison Ave
Phone: 727-442-8820 

Full Article & Source:
CCHR Launches Campaign to Reduce Involuntary Examinations of Seniors in Florida

National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association (NMMAA) Files Complaint Claiming Abuse of Patients in Nursing Home

News Release

For Release: Monday, August 15, 2016
Contact(s): Deirdre Gilbert (832) 488-5765

HOUSTON – The National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association announced today that it has filed a complaint against The Colonnades at Reflection Bay, alleging abuse of several patients. The complaint alleges that the facility engaged in abuse, degradation, physical punishment, neglect, theft of property and failure to maintain infection control. The complaint also alleges that this facility is money laundering money through a for-profit Sweeny Hospital District with Cantex Continuing Care Network as the Management Company.

The Colonnades at Reflection Bay is a large size nursing homes facility in Pearland Texas. It is purported to provide both short and long-term care. This company is stated not to be a part of a Continuing Care Facility according to the Department of Aging and Disability Services. On August 1, 2016 NMMAA was called about a patient within the facility who was stated to have fallen out of the bed. No one could account for how long the patient had been on the floor or how she received several contusions, and bruises to her body. This patient happened to be my family member of the National Director of NMMAA. National Director, Deirdre D. Gilbert visited the facility to find out what happened and no one could tell her anything. It is stated when she walked into the room the patient was naked from the waist down, laying on a bed half covered laying on a wet pad. This was 6:30 pm of that same day and the patient had not been documented of the fall or was taken or observed for any broken bones. It was only at the insistence of Deirdre Gilbert that the patient was sent to Memorial Hermann for observation and was given a series of test to determine if there were any broken bones. The patient was found to have internal bleeding which could have been caused by the doctor giving her three blood thinners. The patient was also documented with bruises on elbow, arms, and knees.

The patient was also noted to having hallucinations so NMMAA Director, requested from the doctor to see if there was a test to see if she had been injected with Haldol, but there is no test to determine that. Many nursing homes have resorted to giving patients these drugs without consent causing patients to become disillusioned and lethargic. On August 2, 2016 Pearland Police was contacted to come in and do a report so that we could have it on file that we were reporting abuse of a patient. Case #2016064934.

The records of the patient showed that she had not had a bowel movement for 20 days. She was noted to have E, Coli which was not being treated. Nurses were caring for other patients in the facilities without gloves or protective clothing. The patient had not had a bathe since she entered that facility on July 15, 2016.

The Colonnades at Reflection Bay has been cited for abuse of patients on several occasions. The police reported that they have had several complaints from this facility. We also received from EMS that they have had to transport several patients noted to have been abused, neglected, mistreated and some have died. NMMAA receives several complaints and one week after the filing of the first complaint has had another call reporting abuse of another patient. From a confirmed source several patients have died in this facility and states that The Colonnades has never reported these incidences.

In addition The Colonnades has been stripped of its’ funding on several occasions and is still not adequately protecting residents from abuse. NMMAA has asked for a full investigation and Complete Closure of its’ facility.

For more information please contact us at

Full Article & Source:
National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association (NMMAA) Files Complaint Claiming Abuse of Patients in Nursing Home

City of Knoxville receives grant to combat elder abuse

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The city of Knoxville has received a $350,000 grant to combat elder abuse in the community.

In 2015, there were 483 investigations involving adult protective services in Knox County. Among those investigations, 105 allegations of emotional abuse, 78 allegations of physical abuse, 136 allegations of financial exploitation, 111 allegations of elder neglect and 13 allegations of sexual abuse were reported.

“I think this is an issue that not a lot of people realize is a problem in their community but is something that when people find out more about they feel engaged, passionate. They want to do something to help seniors in their community,” Joseph Winberry, elder abuse community outreach program manager, said.

Though elder abuse remains an on-going issue in Knoxville and around the country, city leaders predict an even greater number of crimes against the elderly as more baby boomers enter retirement. Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said it’s an issue that affects one of the community’s most vulnerable populations.

“Unfortunately, you have caretakers in the home that are family and they will take advantage and that’s probably the most heartbreaking, because you want to trust your family,” Rausch said.

While local law enforcement and social services respond to hundreds of elder abuse calls every year, the number of cases are believed to be much higher, pointing to data that shows only one in every 20 elder abuse crimes is reported.

“The problem is real and it is vital that all of us who serve the public and interact with elderly citizens know how to recognize the signs of abuse and what resources are available,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said.

Rausch said the majority of elder abuse crimes involve domestic abuse, financial exploitation and scams. The federal grant will fund the training of 877 law enforcement officers, with the Knoxville Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the education of professional care takers, and services for victims of abuse.

Organizers said it’s a much needed step to ending what they call an epidemic and an opportunity for Knoxville to be a leader in the fight against elder abuse.

“I know that if my grandmother was in need or an older adult that I cared about needed that support, I would hope that someone would do that for them, so I’m thankful to be able to do that in Knox County,” Winberry said.

City of Knoxville receives grant to combat elder abuse

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Elderly Hospital Patients Arrive Sick, Often Leave Disabled

Janet Prochazka
SAN FRANCISCO — Janet Prochazka was active and outspoken, living by herself and working as a special education tutor. Then, in March, a bad fall landed her in the hospital.

Doctors cared for her wounds and treated her pneumonia. But Prochazka, 75, didn’t sleep or eat well at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. She became confused and agitated and ultimately contracted a serious stomach infection. After more than three weeks in the hospital and three more in a rehabilitation facility, she emerged far weaker than before, shaky and unable to think clearly.

She had to stop working and wasn’t able to drive for months. And now, she’s considering a move to Maine to be closer to relatives for support.

“It’s a big, big change,” said her stepdaughter, Kitty Gilbert, soon after Prochazka returned home. “I am hopeful that she will regain a lot of what she lost, but I am not sure.”

Many elderly patients like Prochazka deteriorate mentally or physically in the hospital, even if they recover from the original illness or injury that brought them there. About one-third of patients over 70 years old and more than half of patients over 85 leave the hospital more disabled than when they arrived, research shows.

As a result, many seniors are unable to care for themselves after discharge and need assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing or even walking.

“The older you are, the worse the hospital is for you,” said Ken Covinsky, a physician and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco division of geriatrics. “A lot of the stuff we do in medicine does more harm than good. And sometimes with the care of older people, less is more.”

Hospital staff often fail to feed older patients properly, get them out of bed enough or control their pain adequately. Providers frequently restrict their movements by tethering them to beds with oxygen tanks and IV poles. Doctors subject them to unnecessary procedures and prescribe redundant or potentially harmful medications. And caregivers deprive them of sleep by placing them in noisy wards or checking vital signs at all hours of the night.

Interrupted sleep, unappetizing food and days in bed may be merely annoying for younger patients, but they can cause lasting damage to older ones. Elderly patients are far different than their younger counterparts — so much so that some hospitals are treating some of them in separate medical units.

San Francisco General is one of them. Its Acute Care for Elders (ACE) ward, which opened in 2007, has special accommodations and a team of providers to address the unique needs of older patients. They focus less on the original diagnosis and more on how to get patients back home, living as independently as possible.

Early on, the staff tests patients’ memories and assesses how well they can walk and care for themselves at home. Then they give patients practice doing things for themselves as much as possible throughout their stay. They remove catheters and IVs, and encourage patients to get out of bed and eat in a communal dining area.

“Bed rest is really, really bad,” said the medical director of the ACE unit, Edgar Pierluissi. “It sets off an explosive chain of events that are very detrimental to people’s health.”
Such units are still rare — there are only about 200 around the country. And even where they exist, not every senior is admitted, in part because space is limited. (Click to continue)

Full Article & Source:
Elderly Hospital Patients Arrive Sick, Often Leave Disabled

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane resigns after criminal conviction

Kathleen Kane, once a rising star in Pennsylvania politics, said Tuesday that she will resign as the state’s attorney general after she was found guilty of nine criminal charges, including two felony perjury counts.

“I have been honored to serve the people of Pennsylvania and I wish them health and safety in all their days,” the first-term Democrat said in a statement the afternoon after her conviction.

Kane, who was elected in 2012, was accused of leaking information to the media about a 2009 grand jury probe as a way to get back at Frank Fina, a political rival and former state prosecutor.

Prosecutors said Kane masterminded the leak and a subsequent coverup — and then lied to a grand jury about it.

After hearing days of dramatic testimony, a 12-person jury in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County agreed with prosecutors, finding Kane guilty Monday of two counts of felony perjury, as well as obstruction, false swearing and other misdemeanor charges.

Kane, 50, faces up to seven years in prison on each of the felony perjury charges. Under state law, she was required to resign by the day of her sentencing.

“It seemed we had somebody who felt she was above the law,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele told reporters outside the courtroom after the verdict was delivered. “This was about the defendant going before a grand jury in Montgomery County and lying to that grand jury.

The evidence was overwhelming in that regard.”

Calls for Kane to resign had mounted soon after the verdict was delivered late Monday.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called it a “sad day” for the state and said “there should be no question” Kane should resign immediately, according to

Assistant District Attorney Michelle Henry joined the chorus of those denouncing Kane’s actions.

“What she did while she was the attorney general, the fact she would commit criminal acts while the top prosecutor, is a disgrace,” Henry said after the verdict.

On Tuesday, after Kane’s announcement, Wolf, the governor, said “her decision to resign is the right one, and will allow the people of Pennsylvania to finally move on from this situation.” (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane resigns after criminal conviction

Grandparents Who Babysit Are Less Likely To Develop Dementia And Alzheimer’s

Grandchildren can be quite the blessing. Outside of their pure cuteness, they also are very beneficial to the grandparents. Research published in the journal of the North American Menopause Society found that grandmothers who babysat once a week scored higher on cognitive tests versus those who did not. Like anything though, the key is moderation. The same study also found that grandparents who babysat five or more days per week scored lower on the same tests.

In addition to the study, there is a growing body of research that shows social interaction is a key component to healthy lifestyles for seniors. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that there is a “strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults.” The NIA goes on to note that watching grandchildren helps seniors be more healthy and active.

So what are you waiting for? If you have a young child, this is the perfect excuse to get the grandparents to take the kids off your hands for a day. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Full Article & Source:
Grandparents Who Babysit Are Less Likely To Develop Dementia And Alzheimer’s

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Judge Orders Los Angeles Assisted Living Facility to Stop Abuse and Evictions

On August 9, 2016, Judge James Chalfant issued a temporary restraining order to protect the elderly and disabled residents of Brentwood Manor, a 140-bed residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) in Los Angeles.  Attorneys from Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLS), with pro bono legal services from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and assistance from CANHR, helped residents obtain the order requiring the owners and employees of Brentwood Manor to stop their campaign of harassment and illegal evictions, and comply with state laws regarding facility closures.

California law requires RCFEs that are closing to minimize the trauma associated with moving by providing meaningful assistance to vulnerable residents in assessing their needs and identifying appropriate alternative facilities that meet those needs.  In May 2016, Brentwood Manor triggered this relocation protection law by distributing a letter to its residents stating that it was planning to sell the property and transfer ownership, and that residents would be required to vacate the premises by July 31, 2016. 

Instead of providing its elderly and disabled residents with required information, documents and services, Brentwood Manor waged a campaign of abuse, neglect, intimidation, harassment and coercion in an effort to constructively evict its residents in violation of their rights.  The illegal conduct included removing residents’ belongings from their rooms or threatening to throw them away, shutting off telephone access, failing to treat bedbug and other insect infestations, not repairing broken smoke detectors and call lights, and threatening to forcibly remove residents who remained in the facility after July 31st.

After repeated refusals by Brentwood Manor to comply with the law and refrain from violating residents’ rights, counsel brought suit and successfully obtained court intervention to protect the residents.  Thanks to the extraordinary legal work of attorneys from LAFLA, NLS and Morgan Lewis, the owners and employees of Brentwood Manor are now prohibited from evicting residents, transferring residents to other care facilities without obtaining knowing written consent, stopping critical care services, and closing the facility without first providing requisite relocation services.  Judge Chalfant also ordered the facility to treat residents’ belongings for bedbugs so that they do not bring the infestation to other facilities.

For more information, see:
Press Release
Temporary Restraining Order

Full Article & Source:
Judge Orders Los Angeles Assisted Living Facilityto Stop Abuse and Evictions 

Nome judge disciplined for 'undignified and discourteous' comments in court

Nome Superior Court Judge Timothy Dooley
Alaska's highest court ruled Friday that Nome Superior Court Judge Timothy Dooley made inappropriate comments while on the bench that harmed witnesses and victims and betrayed the public's perception of the court's integrity.

Dooley was censured — essentially a public statement of wrongdoing — by the Alaska Supreme Court in the decision, the culmination of an ethics complaint and subsequent recommendation from the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The Alaska Supreme Court accepted the commission's findings, made in its recommendation in December, that Dooley's statements in open court were negligent, "undignified and discourteous" and "suggest bias or prejudice." The actions harmed the public's perception of the court system, it wrote in the decision.

Dooley and the commission agreed in December that the comments were inappropriate and that he had violated the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct.

The comments that led to the complaint against him began several weeks after his appointment by then-Gov. Sean Parnell. The first one occurred on May 29, 2013. During a sentencing, Dooley asked a defendant, "Has anything good ever come out of drinking, except for sex with a pretty girl?"

A total of five comments were subject to the ethics complaint. In December, Dooley apologized for each comment during the disciplinary hearing. He wrote in a statement to the commission that his May 29 comment "was wrong for me to say especially in view of the fact that sex offenders were present in the gallery."

In December, Dooley spoke of the challenges in transitioning from private practice as an attorney to a judgeship. Dooley said he has "quit going off script," that he regretted causing trouble for the "wonderful people" at the Nome court, and that "my poor wife did a lot of crying at night and I caused her an amazing amount of stress."

During the December hearing, Dooley's attorney Bill Satterberg argued that the court system was partly to blame, having not provided adequate training or support staff for the new Superior Court judge.

The Alaska Supreme Court, however, said Dooley was responsible for his own statements.

"Contrary to the arguments … Judge Dooley is not the victim in this disciplinary matter," the court wrote.

Efforts to reach Dooley for comment were unsuccessful Monday, and Satterberg declined to speak about the ruling.

During the December disciplinary hearing, the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended that Dooley be publicly censured and receive a year's worth of mentoring and additional sensitivity training.

Dooley is retiring in February 2017, so the recommendations for training were not ordered by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Public censure is the least severe form of public discipline the commission can recommend, judicial commission Executive Director Marla Greenstein said at the time.

Removal from office is the most severe discipline, and only one judge — Dennis Cummings of Bethel — has faced such a recommendation, Greenstein said. Cummings ultimately retired before the Supreme Court heard the case, though the court still ruled to remove Cummings even after his retirement.

Full Article & Source:
Nome judge disciplined for 'undignified and discourteous' comments in court

Legislature approves audit of judicial ethics agency

The state legislature last week approved an audit of the Commission on Judicial Performance, the state agency charged with overseeing the conduct of some 2,000 judges behind what critics have long contended is a curtain of confidentiality and secrecy.

The audit is the first in the 55-year history of the agency. It comes at a time of stepped up criticism by litigants and legislators, who decry its lack of transparency, and judges — who believe it hands out discipline for minor infractions and doesn’t give them information on complaints made against them.

The audit request was made by Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson of Santa Barbara, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who is married to a retired judge, and Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of Dublin.

It asks State Auditor Elaine Howle to examine more than two dozen questions broadly covering the agency’s “policies and practices for handling and resolving complaints against judges.”

Those complaints are dealt with largely in secret under the policies of the commission. All complaints made against a judge are confidential — the commission does not confirm if it has received a complaint.

The commission’s annual statistics shows that it routinely dismissed 90 percent of complaints made without an investigation or inquiry, determining the complaints were unfounded. Of the 1,231 complaints received in 2015, for example, 41 resulted in some kind of discipline. Most were handled privately, with no public record of the outcome.

The commission’s report said that it issued private discipline — an advisory letter or admonishment — in 37 cases.

Public discipline, in which the name of the judge and the circumstances describing the misconduct become public, was handed out in four cases.

The lack of information on the outcome of a complaint, and how long it takes to find out, can be frustrating. Len Simon, a San Diego lawyer, was one of more than a dozen people who filed a complaint with the commission more than 2 ½ years ago.

It concerned San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep and his campaign for a seat on the bench in 2012. The complaint said Kreep violated judicial ethics by misrepresenting his qualifications and those of his opponent, and violated campaign finance rules.

Simon said he has not been told anything about the disposition of the complaint since.

“I’m very frustrated,” he said. “Two-and-a-half years is a long time. If a judge did something wrong, they should be reprimanded, and if not, they should be cleared. You just don't get much information from them.”

In a statement after the audit was approved, Assemblywoman Baker sounded a similar theme.

“The public deserves to know how the CJP investigates and disposes of complaints against judges, and there is very little information available about the complaint and disciplinary process,” she said. “Transparency is essential to ensure due process and confidence in our judicial system.”

Legislators have also been frustrated with the committee since Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. The light sentence sparked outrage and a move to recall Persky from the bench.

Nearly a dozen legislators have called for CJP to investigate Persky’s conduct, and the commission offices were picketed. Because of its policies, the commission has declined to say whether it has received other complaints about the judge.

The commission’s executive director, Victoria Henley, did not respond to a message seeking comment on the audit last week.

In April a new Bay Area group, Court Reform LLC, published a study comparing California's judicial discipline record to Texas, New York and Arizona.

The analysis found Arizona's discipline rate was four times higher than California’s. Texas received about the same number of complaints about judges as California, but investigated three times as many complaints as California, and publicly disciplined three times as many judges.

“When judges know that their oversight agency is going to take every complaint seriously and be held publicly accountable, that is going to result in less misconduct,” said Joe Sweeney, founder of Court Reform, who has been pushing for the audit for months.

The audit request outlines 26 questions, and several have to do with complaints judges have had over the years about the commission. In general judges contend they don’t get enough information about the substance of the accusation against them and who is making them.

Full Article & Source:
Legislature approves audit of judicial ethics agency

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Asst. AG On Death Of Elderly Woman: ‘Her Backside Rotted Away, Her Bones Liquefied’

HALLANDALE BEACH (CBSMiami) – The Broward Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, arrested the owner of a Hallandale Beach assisted living facility after an elderly woman died under her care.

Gail Victor, 64, is charged with aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person by culpable negligence.

According to investigators, the 80-year-old woman “developed pressure ulcers on her buttocks, hips, sacrum and heels while under care at Bernadette’s ALF, located in Hallandale Beach.”

Detectives said Victor, a licensed practical nurse, not only failed to treat the victim but also falsified nursing notes.

Victor also allegedly concealed the extent and severity of the ulcers from others involved in the 80-year-old woman’s care.

Authorities said the victim’s condition worsened to the point she had to be taken to Aventura Hospital.

Just eight days after arriving at the hospital, the woman died as a result of cardio respiratory arrest, sepsis and osteomyelitis.

Assistant Florida Attorney General Arielle Demby-Berger said what Victor did to the victim was gruesome.

“Under the care of Ms. Victor, her backside rotted away, her bones liquefied.” Demby-Berger said.

“This was a horrendous manslaughter.”

Victor has subsequently relinquished her license to the Department of Health.

When a family member asked that Victor be released without bond, Broward Judge Michael Davis wouldn’t hear it.

“This was a heinous crime, a particularly heinous crime,” the judge said.

He ordered Victor held on $20,000 bond.

She has to wear a GPS tracking device and is forbidden from having anything to do with anyone’s health care.

If convicted on the first-degree manslaughter charge, Victor faces up to 30 years in prison.

Full Article & Source:
Asst. AG On Death Of Elderly Woman: ‘Her Backside Rotted Away, Her Bones Liquefied’

Pennsylvania's attorney general found guilty in perjury case

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's attorney general showed little emotion Monday night as she was convicted of leaking grand jury secrets and lying about it under oath.

In calling her a flight risk, the judge ordered Kathleen Kane, 50, to surrender her passport and threatened to jail her if she retaliated against the once-trusted aides who testified against her.

"The court is concerned, especially with respect to her potential to flee, particularly with her going to Haiti (in 2014) in the middle of her office's tumult, and leaving no one watching the store," Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy told Kane's lawyers.

Kane's political consultant, testifying with a grant of immunity, changed his grand jury testimony last week to tell jurors that he had "conspired" with Kane to leak the grand jury material and then frame her chief deputy for the crime.

Kane, a first-term Democrat who had never held elected office, enjoyed a brief honeymoon period in 2013 before her agency descended into chaos as she feuded with officials inside and outside of the department.

When she suspected a former office prosecutor had leaked a critical news article about her shutting down a statehouse probe, she decided to leak word that he had shut down an investigation into an NAACP official in 2009, the jury found.

The NAACP official, who was never charged, was smeared in the process, authorities said.

Kane had the material sent to a reporter through chief deputy Adrian King and political consultant Josh Morrow.

"Where is my story? I'm dying here," she texted Morrow as the Philadelphia Daily News reporter worked on the story, according to texts shown to the jury.

Defense lawyer Seth Farber, in closing arguments Monday, said Morrow and King would "say whatever they need to in order to protect themselves."

Text messages and phone records show frequent interactions among the three of them on key days in the prosecution's timeline: when the documents changed hands, when the Daily News article appeared and when a grand jury started to investigate the leak.

A top deputy told the jury he was alarmed by the contents of the June 2014 article. He testified Kane told him it was no big deal.

"Who would say that other than the person that is responsible for it?" Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele asked.

Kane did not testify during the trial or call any defense witnesses.

"The conviction on all counts ... was a crushing blow, but we have not lost our resolve," said defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, who said he would appeal the judge's decision to exclude evidence about the offensive, mildly pornographic emails Kane found on state computers.

"We have been denied the opportunity to mount a full defense," Shargel said.

Perjury, the only felony charged, can bring up to seven years in prison. The misdemeanor charges include conspiracy, official oppression and false swearing.

Gov. Tom Kane, a fellow Democrat, renewed his previous calls for Kane to step down. She already has lost her law license over the charges. However, officials in Pennsylvania do not have to resign over misconduct until they are sentenced.

"What she did while she was the attorney general, the fact she would commit criminal acts while the top prosecutor, is a disgrace," assistant district attorney Michelle Henry said after the verdict.

Full Article & Source:
Pennsylvania's attorney general found guilty in perjury case

Monday, August 15, 2016

Crow Wing County guardian stripped of her duties following neglect allegations

Simone Jarvis, Ellen Starkka and Oscar Camacho
BRAINERD, MINN. – A 39-year-old Breezy Point woman who once oversaw vulnerable adults is now the target of a criminal investigation amid allegations that she mistreated some of the ailing and elderly wards entrusted to her.

Those complaints, by relatives of those Susan Gerber cared for, date back a year and recently prompted a Crow Wing County district judge to remove Gerber from all 13 of her cases.

Some of her wards’ family members alleged that Gerber, who operated Honorable Guardian Services, rarely responded to their phone messages and failed to pay her clients’ bills on time, resulting in threats to cancel services, disconnect utilities, evict the wards and cut off their medications.

“My mother has worked hard for her money but is receiving no pleasure from it,” Sheila Ruling wrote Crow Wing County District Court in March, demanding an investigation of the way Gerber was overseeing the accounts of Jeanne Baardson, who has dementia. “Her health, welfare and safety are at risk.”

The case against Gerber began building momentum in June, when Nathan Bertram, Crow Wing County community services coordinator, recommended she be barred from acting as a guardian after finding “gross neglect” in another case and noting that other, similar complaints were being investigated.

“Even if Social Services has not been involved, we feel that it would be inappropriate for Susan Gerber to remain as guardian on any case,” Bertram wrote the court, adding that the wards’ well-being was in jeopardy.

Sandra Larson, an adult protection investigator, followed up a month later with a letter stating that Gerber had been found to be mistreating vulnerable adults. Gerber did not appeal that finding, Larson noted.

Soon after, District Judge David Ten Eyck issued an emergency order stripping Gerber of her guardianship and conservatorship appointments. After she ignored an earlier order to bring overdue client financial records and an inventory of assets to court on July 18, Ten Eyck took the rare step of ordering Gerber’s arrest on contempt charges.

Ten Eyck sentenced Gerber to six months in jail, suspending all but 10 days providing that she comply with future court orders. Gerber, who was released from jail Aug. 6, did not respond to requests for comment.

Gerber’s attorney, John Chitwood, said in an interview after a recent court hearing that Gerber is being treated for “an enormous amount of health problems.”

Mixed reviews
Gerber, a single mother of three teenagers, formed her professional guardianship business in 2014, a year after graduating from Bemidji State University with a degree in social work. Before that, she had been a licensed dental assistant.
Susan Gerber

Although records filed in several of her guardianship and conservatorship cases say she has never filed for bankruptcy, court records show that she and her husband filed for Chapter 7 liquidation of their debts in Ohio in 2003. They divorced in 2007, and court records show he was $66,499 in arrears on child support payments last year.

In Minnesota, guardians make important decisions for vulnerable wards under the auspices of the court, including who they see and what they can do with their lives. Conservators make spending decisions and manage accounts. Gerber has served in both roles.

Taken at face value, the paperwork in her cases indicates that she was a watchful overseer of her clients’ lives.

Gerber became the guardian and conservator for Levi Albert Frink, who was suffering from prostate cancer, severe depression and a stroke, in January 2015. She quickly took steps to protect him from his longtime girlfriend, who later was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty of financial exploitation.

Frink’s daughters, Monica Peterson and Charis Oothoudt, of Washington state, praised Gerber’s care and said she seemed to have her father’s best interests at heart, though Oothoudt said Gerber has not provided a final accounting since his death last October.

The children of Ellen Starkka, 83, of Crosslake, Minn., however, have a harsher view of Gerber.

Starkka suffers from multiple system atrophy, a disorder that gradually shuts down vital bodily systems. Her husband, Ernie Starkka, had cared for his wife at home and promised that she’d never end up in a nursing home, but her care suffered as his own health declined, their children say.

When hospice workers raised concerns about his wife’s care, Ernie Starkka said he didn’t want any of his children to serve as her guardian, according to their daughter Starr Jarvis, a registered nurse who stayed with her parents part time in recent years.

The court appointed Gerber as guardian and conservator in May 2015. In November, Gerber notified the court that she had been unable to complete a required inventory of Ellen Starkka’s assets and alleged that her children interfered and were removing her personal property. She called police, but said they declined to pursue the matter.

Family members denied the accusations in interviews and said that they had problems with Gerber from the get-go.

Dan Starkka, of Baxter, Minn., said that when he first met Gerber at his parents’ home in June 2015, she was scolding his father, who died about two months later. He said that Gerber seldom responded to his phone calls — even urgent ones — and that her assistant failed to show for several appointments with his mother. He said after he hired a lawyer to replace Gerber, she responded by falsely accusing him of stealing his parents’ personal property.

Jarvis and her brother recalled a particularly humiliating period after their mother was removed from hospice care because her health wasn’t declining quickly enough to continue with the program, which is designed to serve people with less than six months to live. The hospice service removed its medical equipment — including a hospital bed and portable commode — but arranged for a supplier to bring in replacements, they said. When the equipment failed to arrive, they called the supplier, who informed them that Gerber had canceled the order because she was planning to move their mother to a nursing home.

“For a week there we had to put my mom on a five-gallon bucket [to relieve herself] because there was nothing else we could do,” Dan Starkka said.

Mounting complaints
Concerns about Gerber began to surface publicly in several Crow Wing County court files in February and March.

The court removed Gerber as guardian and conservator of Lavern Nystrom, who suffers from the aftermath of strokes and seizures, in February in response to an emergency petition that said the check for his housing had bounced, his care costs had gone unpaid for three months, and his pharmacy refused to fill prescriptions, citing an unpaid balance of $3,500. The pharmacy reported that its calls to Gerber went unanswered for three months.

Even before complaints surfaced in court records, some raised concerns about Gerber.

Sheila Ruling and her brother Robert Eng began questioning the treatment of their mother, Jeanne Baardson, 85, soon after Gerber was appointed as guardian and conservator in August 2015.

Gerber got into conflicts with another of Baardson’s daughters, Deb Eng, accusing her of misspending her mother’s money. Deb Eng and Baardson’s personal caregiver, Tracy Joppru, complained that Gerber refused to leave Baardson any cash for outings to McDonald’s with her friends, and refused her pleas for money for small purchases, such as a new outfit for Thanksgiving, alleging that the family would steal it.

Although Baardson could afford to pay her bills, Joppru said, Gerber failed to keep up, which led to shut-off notices, the cancellation of her homeowner’s insurance and her beloved newspaper subscription.

“Susan even tried to have me fired when I was raising some questions toward the end,” Joppru said.

Robert Eng said he demanded that Gerber produce a year-end accounting and cash flow statement for his mother’s accounts, but she was unwilling to do so. “So that’s what triggered me to going to the authorities and say I had this great concern,” he said.

Ruling, who works in Texas in behavioral health and protective services, said Gerber isolated her mother from family and friends.

“My mother was a prisoner,” she said.

Ruling said she blames Gerber for precipitating her mother’s death. They got into an argument one day over money and Baardson went home so upset that she ended up choking on food. Baardson was rushed to the hospital, where she later died.

Joppru said Baardson’s newspaper delivery resumed the next day.

“Elderly people toward the end of their lives shouldn’t have to go through this kind of chaos,” Joppru said. “It’s just not right.”

Full Article & Source:
Crow Wing County guardian stripped of her duties following neglect allegations

Campbell County judge indicted for official misconduct, suspended

Amanda Sammons
JACKSBORO (WATE) – A Campbell County judge was suspended Wednesday after being indicted on counts of official misconduct.

General Sessions Judge Amanda Sammons, 41, faces four counts of official misconduct after investigators say she intentionally tried to harm three women. TBI Special Agents began investigating Judge Amanda Sammons. During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that from September 2014 to January 2015, Sammons made rulings that exceeded her official power as a General Sessions Court Judge.

Krista Leigh Smith was criminally charged by Sammons. Investigators say the charge nor the bond were not based on information in Smith’s warrant, record or hearing.

Also, an order to show cause was made by Sammons against Kristie Anderson and Julie Lester on why they should not be held in contempt for not appearing in court. Investigators say these actions were also based on information not in their records.

Sammons is on interim suspension and will not be able to preside over a court, issue warrants or any other judicial duty until the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct says otherwise.
Wade Davies, the attorney for Judge Sammons released the following statement:
I have been informed that Judge Sammons was charged. While this is disappointing, Judge Sammons is prepared to show she has not committed any offense. Judge Sammons will plead not guilty, and we will work to get this case tried quickly so that she can go back to carrying out the job the people of Campbell County elected her to do. We understand the judge will be temporarily suspended on the basis of being accused. Judge Sammons is eager to get this resolved and not to disrupt the work of the court.
Sammons turned herself in to the Campbell County Jail and was released. She is scheduled to be in court on Thursday, August 18 for her arraignment.

Full Article & Source:
Campbell County judge indicted for official misconduct, suspended

Ex-health aide gets four years after pocketing $260G from Manhattan widow, 99

Stephany Hernandez
A home health aide who stole $260,000 by cashing forged checks — ripping off her 99-year-old widow she worked for — got up to 4 1/2 years in prison on Friday.

Stephany Hernandez, 25, pleaded guilty in July to grand larceny in exchange for an incarceration stint of 1 ½-to-4 ½ years, and agreed to pay back the sum she stole, according to the Manhattan District Attorney.

Hernandez worked for an E. 68th St. elderly couple between February 2014 and March 2015. The victim's husband died at age 100 last year.

Their crooked employee wrote over 100 bogus checks to herself, padding her pockets with loot from the infirm woman's account.

With the stolen money, Hernandez went shopping at places like Bloomingdales and Barneys. She took trips to Miami and the Dominican Republic. She also paid her bills.

"Too often, financial exploitation of seniors goes unreported, leaving perpetrators free to move on to their next mark," Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement.

Relatives of the victim uncovered the fraud when reviewing her records after her husband's death.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-health aide gets four years after pocketing $260G from Manhattan widow, 99

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Caregivers deserve support, not debt

Finally, I can see the light.

I’m slowly but steadily climbing my way out of a mountain of debt that I accrued as a caregiver.

The financial burden of being a caregiver can be devastating, but it is often overlooked. We don’t like to talk about caregiving in dollars and cents, because acts of compassion are priceless, right?

Well, not quite. Doing the right thing morally can destroy you financially.

Caregivers shouldn’t be forced to choose between family duty and financial stability. A new University of Pittsburgh study, “Addressing the Needs of Caregivers at Risk: A New Policy Strategy,” outlines the grim realities caregivers currently face, while offering suggestions for policy improvements. According to the study, family caregivers provide over 90 percent of the long-term care for 12 million Americans, yet lack access to meaningful financial resources and helpful programs like flexible working schedules.

In five years as my parents’ caregiver, I racked up over $20,000 in credit card debt. I burned through my modest savings and drained a Roth IRA before tapping into my parents’ savings. I was a few months away from tapping into my 401K before my financial situation began to improve.

In many respects, I was fortunate.

Initially, the additional expenses I incurred as a long-distance caregiver were manageable. My parents retired to New Mexico and I live in Georgia. After my father was placed in a memory care facility, I paid for what the monthly fee didn’t include, such as adult diapers and nutritional drinks. Even with my father’s Teamsters pension and Social Security, there was not enough to cover the over $4,000 monthly facility payment, so after exhausting dad’s limited savings, my mother was forced to dip into money she had won from a lottery jackpot. After taxes, the amount totaled about $60,000, and over half was spent on my father’s medical care.  (Click to continue)

Full Article & Source:
Caregivers deserve support, not debt

California Lawmakers Order First Audit of State’s Judicial Oversight Agency in 56 Years

For Immediate Release:
August 10, 2016
Media Contacts:
Kathleen Russell 415-717-2221
Joseph Sweeney 510-717-2567 
California Lawmakers Order First Audit of
State’s Judicial Oversight Agency in 56 Years
Request to Audit the Commission on Judicial Performance Was Passed at
Today’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee Hearing

SAN RAFAEL- In a unanimous vote from the consent calendar, members of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in the California Legislature passed an historic request this morning to audit the California Commission on Judicial Performance for the first time since it was established in 1961. Since its inception, this small but powerful judicial oversight agency has operated in relative secrecy, until June of this year, when Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky’s lenient sentencing of Stanford University student rapist Brock Turner created a national outcry that unwittingly thrust the agency into the media spotlight.

“The Center for Public Integrity gave California an ‘F grade’ on its 2015 report card for judicial accountability, said Kathleen Russell, the executive director of the Center for Judicial Excellence.

“California’s lack of judicial accountability is renowned, and it weakens the public’s trust in its judges,’ she continued, “so this audit is an important step toward creating a culture of accountability for our state’s nearly 2,000 judges.”

Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), an attorney, worked collaboratively to develop a balanced, comprehensive audit request which addresses both the public’s concerns about a lack of transparency and extremely low discipline rates, and the judges’ due process concerns about Commission investigations. The chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Assemblyman Mark Stone (D- Monterey Bay), and the chair of the Accountability & Administrative Review Committee, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D- Bell Gardens), also signed on as co-authors of the request.

The audit request received support from the state’s powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU California), the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV) and the Sacramento Chapter of the NAACP, along with more than a dozen court reform and child protection organizations. A number of audit supporters have been working to expose widespread corruption in the family court system that many say has created an epidemic of judicial trafficking of abused children away from their protective parents and into abusive homes during divorces and separations.

The Commission on Judicial Performance was established by constitutional amendment in 1960. Its mandate, as stated by the amendment’s authors, Senators Edward J. Regan and Joseph A. Rattigan, is to protect the public against “incompetency, misconduct or nonperformance of duty on the Bench.” The Senators intended the CJP to provide “an effective and expeditious method for the removal of a judge who is unable or unwilling to perform his duties.” The fact that less than 2% of public complaints result in judicial discipline – and 80% of all discipline is private – shows how far the agency has strayed from its original mission.

The estimated cost of the audit is $492,480 and the State Auditor estimates that it will take 4,104 staff hours to complete.

Recent Audits Related to the California Judicial Branch:

2015-030State Bar of California: It Has Not Consistently Protected the Public Through Its Attorney Discipline Process and Lacks Accountability (June 2015)

2014-107Judicial Branch of California: Because of Questionable Fiscal and Operational Decisions, the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts Have Not Maximized the Funds Available for the Courts (January 2015)

“When judges know that their oversight agency is going to take every complaint seriously and be held publicly accountable, that is going to result in less misconduct,” said Joe Sweeney, founder of Court Reform LLC, an advocacy group that has helped pushed for the audit.

Center for Judicial Excellence, P.O. Box 150793, San Rafael, CA 94915, USA

Full Article & Source:
California Lawmakers Order First Audit of State’s Judicial Oversight Agency in 56 Years