Saturday, March 18, 2017

Another Viewpoint: Abuse of the vulnerable is sickening

There is something very wrong with a society that allows its weakest and most vulnerable members to be preyed upon. But that is what is happening in many nursing homes across America. Male and female residents, many of them with dementia or other debilitating diseases, have been abused.

A CNN investigation found that more than 1,000 facilities have been cited for "mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of sexual assault at their facilities."

Some of the cases are sickening, and inexplicable: An 83-year-old woman in Minnesota being ravaged by Alzheimer's disease was raped by a nurse's aide in the middle of the night. Her family later learned that the man had been suspended three other times for suspected assaults. In California, an 88-year-old woman was assaulted during the night and weeks later was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.

There is no way to know how rampant the abuse problem is because many of the victims have advanced stages of dementia and cannot identify their attackers or provide details about the assaults. Often the incidents are swept under the rug. In other cases, in order to prevent bad publicity, the assault is never reported.

But federal data document more than 16,000 cases of sexual abuse in long-term care facilities since 2000. That is an alarming number. Long-term care facilities need to abide by the Nursing Home Reform Act, which requires facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid to meet quality of care standards. That is not happening universally now.

Full Article & Source:
Another Viewpoint: Abuse of the vulnerable is sickening

NEWS: Nursing Home Inspection Reports Leave Gaps
  • The state conducts routine inspections of Florida’s 683 nursing homes once a year, on average, and once every two years for the more than 3,000 assisted living facilities. But the sites can face additional investigations for serious complaints — including imminent danger to residents. The resulting reports are typically posted on within about six weeks, officials said, and the site’s archives date back to at least 2008. For earlier years, consumers can file public records requests, the site notes.

  • At Families For Better Care — a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to creating public awareness of conditions in the nation’s nursing homes — Lee said the state shouldsuspend its automated redaction program until it can figure out a better system.

  • “I haven’t seen anything this blatant, as far as the disregard of the public records laws, as what’s coming out of the Agency for Health Care Administration right now,” he said. “And their attitude is very nonchalant, that this is just a computer glitch. It’s crazy — and, most importantly, it’s a disservice to residents and their families.”

Full Article & Source:
NEWS: Nursing Home Inspection Reports Leave Gaps

Bench warrant issued for caregiver accused of stealing from elderly Valley couple

MESA, AZ - A home caregiver, hired to care for the elderly, is now accused of stealing from them instead.

Kendra Leann Coultas is facing multiple counts of theft, trafficking in stolen property, and drug possession, while her boyfriend Joshua Clark is also charged with trafficking in stolen property.

The couple is accused of stealing money and jewelry from an elderly Mesa couple in their 80s.

The family, once relieved to hear about the arrest, is now turning to ABC15 for help in bringing their family justice.

The victim's daughter, Kathy Hunter said the suspects failed to show up for their recent court hearing, and a bench warrant has been issued for their arrest. Hunter said she was disappointed to learn that the couple may not be arrested, unless they're busted for another crime, as bench warrants for a crime such as this one are not considered high priority for most stressed and short-staffed police agencies.

A criminal defense attorney said courts issued many bench warrants every single day. Most law enforcement agencies spent the time and resources to track down suspects who were considered dangerous or violent.

"The whole system, trying to bring them to justice makes me feel like a victim again," said Hunter.

The family took a chance on the struggling couple who seemed down on their luck. 

"Plus my mom seemed to like her look," Hunter added.

After about a month, Hunter said she started noticing jewelry missing. The family then installed cameras in the home. Hunter said the video showed Coultas stealing everyday household items, money from wallets, and pilfering through items in their rooms.

"I mean it's one thing to steal my stuff, I still have a job, but to take money that's potentially food and medicine for an elderly person, it's disgusting," said Hunter.

Court documents indicated Coultas admitted to stealing cash and jewelry, then with the help of her boyfriend, pawning it off at the Gold Vampire pawn shop in Mesa.

"They've probably melted down most of it," said Hunter.

Among the stolen items included the engagement ring given by her father to her mother, also an engagement ring that had been in the family for generations.

"The diamond may not have been worth anything, but the sentimental value was," said Hunter. "To know that something that my mom treasured so much is never coming back to her is just devastating."

ABC15 News stopped by a Mesa address listed for Kathy Coultas and Josh Clark. Relatives said they did not live there anymore. A criminal defense attorney says if the couple is stopped for any traffic violation or commits another crime, the bench warrant will be activated, and the couple would be arrested. No future hearing dates are scheduled at this time.

"It's just not acceptable. She hasn't been convicted so this means she can work this crime again and again on the elderly until the cows come home," said Hunter.

She said she was speaking out to prevent this from happening to other families who relied on caregivers.

"Do your own individual background checks, do other research before letting people into your home, and be cognizant of what's happening," said Hunter.

Court documents indicate that Coultas admitted to stealing at least $13,000 worth of items from the couple.  Documents also stated that Coultas said she knew what she did was wrong, and apologized for her actions.

Background checks indicated Coultas had an outstanding warrant out of Mesa city court for failing to appear in court for a previous shoplifting charge.

Court records also indicated that Clark said he knew the items he was pawning were stolen, but was hurting financially and needed the money.

Full Article & Source:
Bench warrant issued for caregiver accused of stealing from elderly Valley couple

Friday, March 17, 2017

Former court-appointed guardian accused of theft from wards

LAS VEGAS - A former court-appointed financial guardian in Las Vegas, her friend and her office manager were charged Wednesday with siphoning more than $550,000 out of accounts of people assigned to her business as wards of the court.

A 270-count criminal indictment filed in Nevada state court alleges that more than 150 victims lost money to April Parks, her employee Mark Simmons, and Parks' friend, Gary Neil Taylor, through overbilling for court filings, banking visits and services not rendered by the business, A Private Professional Guardian LLC.

Together, the three are accused of racketeering, theft and exploitation of a vulnerable person — charges that could get them decades in state prison.

"Guardians are appointed to protect ... some of the most vulnerable members of our community," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who joined state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and county Sheriff Joe Lombardo to announce the charges after a two-year investigation.

"They are entrusted with every aspect of that person's life, including their health and finances," Wolfson said in a statement. "These defendants took advantage of helpless individuals who did not have the ability to defend themselves."

Laxalt said the indictment "should send a message to court-appointed guardians throughout the state that law enforcement is committed to aggressively protecting our elderly and vulnerable populations."

Parks and Simmons also face perjury charges. In all, Parks faces 212 charges, and Simmons faces 134 counts. Taylor faces seven.

Parks' attorney didn't immediately respond to messages. Officials said she is believed to now live in Pennsylvania.

Simmons' attorney, Julian Gregory, declined to comment. It wasn't clear from officials or the court record if Taylor has a lawyer.

Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti ordered the arrest without bail of Parks and Simmons and set bail at $200,000 for Taylor.

Officials didn't say how they believe Parks, Simmons and Taylor spent the money they're accused of stealing from about December 2011 to July 2016.

The indictment alleges they used various schemes to illegally siphon money from the accounts of people they were assigned and entrusted to protect.

One method had Taylor, who prosecutors identified as Parks' boyfriend-turned-husband, serve as a deliveryman to file court papers that could be filed online. Another billed wards for bank deposits made in person rather than by direct deposit.

Wards were billed extra for home visits made to deliver holiday gifts, and one ward was billed $4,800 for services even though he died just two days after Parks filed her petition for guardianship.

The investigation became public with the creation of an enforcement task force in late March 2015, after stories emerged about abuses in the guardianship system. The investigation of Parks began a couple of months later.

The Nevada Supreme Court also created a 25-member commission in July 2015 that still meets monthly to study guardianship abuse.

Officials noted the defendants were affiliated with a private guardianship business, not a Clark County Public Guardian office that serves people legally determined to be incapable of managing their own affairs. The public office also offers a voluntary money management assistance program for people over 60.

The case also led to charges of theft and filing a false instrument against Las Vegas family law, estate planning and tax attorney Noel Palmer Simpson.

Simpson's attorney, William Terry, said his client intends to plead not guilty and will seek to sever her case from the others. Terry said Simpson posted $7,500 cash bail pending a March 22 court appearance.

Full Article & Source:
Former court-appointed guardian accused of theft from wards

The LA Times on "Edith+Eddie"

Documentary is the most hybrid of media creations. Lacking the full-blown invention of scripted movies but also the hard-knuckled reality of broadcast news, it occupies a more powerful in-between. Like scripted film, it has the power to suspend assumptions and persuade us into new beliefs. But it does so without asking us to leave reality behind; documentary actively wants to shape our world and increase its comprehensibility.


“Edith + Eddie” starts out feeling like an inspirational story. A black woman and white man find each other, and love, in their mid-90s.

But as the couple is separated due to a legal battle, what could have been a life-affirming hug turns into something darker: an indictment of the elder-care system, with racial undertones. One is meant to leave the theater feeling anger at the forces that drove them apart.

“I thought it was going to be this uplifting story,” said director Laura Checkoway, a print journalist turned documentarian. "But as we were shooting it became clearer something else was happening that I strongly felt needed to be shown.”

In the Age of Alternative Facts, Decoding Truth in Documentary

A Review of the Documentary "Edith+Eddie"

Laura Checkoway’s Edith+Eddie. A Kartemquin-supported project, Checkoway’s film introduces us to Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison of Annandale, Virginia, the world’s oldest interracial newlyweds.
At ages 96 and 95, their late-life love affair seems the stuff of fairytales — we witness them going out dancing and attending their weekly church service — but it isn’t long before we learn that Edith’s mental state has left her under the legal care of those who have more interest in her property than her wishes.

Edith+Eddie examines the psychic repercussions of familial estrangement to devastating effect.

Heart and Form in the Midwest: The Best of the 2017 True/False Film Festival

Thursday, March 16, 2017

UPDATE: Court records show guardian charged wards for Christmas gifts

UPDATE MARCH 14: Private for profit guardian April Parks is now behind bars. She and three others were indicted last week for running a criminal enterprise involving theft and exploitation.

Court records show Parks disregarded her duty as a guardian, treating the vulnerable as "cash cows."

In one example, Parks and her business partner Mark Simmons profited from a scam where they bought Christmas gifts for their wards, such as popcorn, socks and other small items. When the wards received the gifts, they were charged at a hourly rate of $100 per hour.

Clients were also billed when Parks' husband Gary Taylor drove to the courthouse and waited in line to file papers that could have been submitted online.

UPDATE MARCH 09: April Parks was arrested by local police in East Goshen Township, PA.

The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department charged Parks with being a fugitive from justice and she was arraigned.  Her bail was set at $500,000 dollars.  Parks was remanded to Chester County Prison pending extradition to Clark County, Nevada.


LAS VEGAS (KTNV) -- What started with a Contact 13 investigation has led to hundreds of felony charges against four suspects for the way authorities say they treated people in their care.

This is the latest move in cases involving more than 150 victims and nearly $560,000 in stolen money.

It's the most significant guardianship exploitation indictment in Nevada's history -- so says Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in what authorities hope will wipe out a long-standing crime wave in our state.

Cheers and fist pumps erupted in the Regional Justice Center lobby from a crowd of people who haven't had much to celebrate over the last few years.

On Wednesday, they went from victim to victor as April Parks, the woman who they say stole everything from their loved ones, was indicted.

"Today, law enforcement sends a clear message to those who take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

Contact 13 first exposed April Lynn Parks in early 2015 when she told Darcy Spears, "I do it because I love it," in reference to her work as a private, professional guardian.

Guardians are appointed by the court to protect and serve their wards. They're entrusted with every aspect of a person's life, including their health care and their money.

"I can't imagine a class of people more susceptible to criminals than wards of a court," said Wolfson.

Parks, her husband Gary Taylor, her attorney Noel Palmer Simpson and her office manager Mark Simmons are together facing 270 felony counts of perjury, racketeering, filing false records, theft and exploitation.

The charges involve more than 150 victims who've lost more than half a million dollars.

Authorities say Parks and her co-defendants used a position of trust and authority to prey on disabled, vulnerable people ranging in age from 40 to 90, and systematically bilk them out of their life savings.

"I've never been so happy in my life! All the thousands of hours and dollars I put into this was not in vain," said Elizabeth Indig, whose mother was one of Parks' wards.

So were Julie Belshe's parents -- Rudy and Rennie North. Contact 13 broke their story in February 2015.

"When I reached out to you I was very traumatized," said Belshe. "I didn't know what to do!"

As for Wednesday's indictments, Belshe says, "It restored my faith in the people, in the justice system -- that there are good people in our system that are working and they're on our side -- the citizens' side. Because you start to think, who's going to believe me? Because you tell these stories and they're unbelievable!"

"I really think this is going to send a very strong message to the other guardians and the attorneys and the judges who aided and abetted her in this," said Indig. "And I think maybe Nevada will be clean of this crime and people can move here and retire without fear of losing everything."

Contact 13 will have more on the Family Court system's role in all this as the report continues on Thursday.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, all four defendants had been arrested in law enforcement actions across the country.

April Parks was arrested by local police in East Goshen Township, PA.

The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department charged Parks with being a fugitive from justice and she was arraigned.  Her bail was set at $500,000.00 dollars.  Parks was remanded to Chester County Prison pending extradition to Clark County, Nevada.

Full Article & Source:
UPDATE: Court records show guardian charged wards for Christmas gifts

In Lillie's Voice: Elder Exploitation

In Lillie's Voice: Elder Exploitation

Dear CA Attorney General: Nursing Home Residents Need Your Attention

With the confirmation of Xavier Becerra as California’s new Attorney General, we have an opportunity to re-introduce our state’s top law enforcement agency to the problems in our state’s nursing homes.

For over ten years, the AG’s office has largely forsaken nursing home residents - contributing to a weak enforcement system that leads to poor care, broken promises, and victimized residents.

Call the AG’s office today to tell them we need their help in addressing abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

The AG’s public inquiry line is (800) 952-5225. 

Full Article and Source:
Dear New Attorney General:  Nursing Home Residents Need Your Attention

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Family laments mom’s fate under court guardianship

At the age of 91, Mary Louise Terry was getting by on food stamps and monthly Social Security checks, living under the care of her son in her home of 11 years on Belen’s main street.

But a $100,000 insurance windfall Terry inherited after that son died in May 2015 marked the beginning of the end of her stable family life.

Terry, who has dementia, is now under a guardianship approved by a Valencia County district court judge. She is in her fourth nursing home in six months despite the fact she has three sons and a daughter-in-law willing to care for her.

Terry – who had two other sons die within three months of each other in 2015 – was assaulted last month by another nursing home resident and has since been moved to a different long-term facility in Albuquerque.

This family photo taken in the early 1960s shows Mary Terry with five of her six sons, including David Stout, who is at the far right of the bottom row. David had been taking care of his mother at their Belen home until his death in May 2015.
This family photo taken in the early 1960s shows Mary Terry with five of her six sons, 
including David Stout, who is at the far right of the bottom row. David had been taking care 
of his mother at their Belen home until his death in May 2015.

Her Belen house is gone, sold by the guardian/conservator who by law can be paid out of an incapacitated person’s assets. The state of her finances is unclear. And family members in New Mexico say court-appointed professionals rejected their offer to take care of Terry in their own homes.

“Mother should have been allowed to live whatever years she has left the way she wanted to. Like all the rest of us want to,” daughter-in-law Lois Painter of Albuquerque said last week.

“None of us wants to live like she has been living … Shuffled from one place to another, beat up, etc. No one, right mind or not, would want this happening to them or their loved ones. What would you think if this happened to your family?”

Secret process 

Court records show that in December 2015, Terry’s daughter who lives in Texas filed a petition seeking appointment of a professional guardian/conservator to oversee her mother’s finances and health care – all under a secret legal process that’s supposed to be a “last resort” to protect an incapacitated person.

Now, most if not all the $100,000 insurance proceeds are gone, other family members say.

They say the guardian/conservator firm, which handles all of the Terry’s finances, took control of her $753-a-month Social Security checks, which had previously been automatically deposited.

The New Mexico family complains that the guardian never closed her bank account, so hundreds of dollars of still-unpaid overdraft charges have been assessed. Late payment fees and disconnect charges accrued when the utility bills at the Belen home hadn’t been paid by the professional guardian. Her homeowners’ insurance also lapsed, Painter told the Journal.

Last fall, the guardian notified the family that Terry, now 93, had to move from her Belen house to a $5,500-a-month assisted living home. Just two months later, the family was told Terry was being evicted because her money had run out. Terry has lived in three other homes since then, but family members aren’t sure how those bills are getting paid.

“There’s been no accounting of money to us at all. None. All that was told is, Mary doesn’t have any more money,” Painter said.

Guardians have authority over the personal health and welfare of the individual adult deemed incapacitated by a court.

But family members say that, in the past year, the assigned professional guardian “never shows up” when issues with Terry’s care arise and consistently asks Terry’s son to respond to emergencies.

Roxanna Gates, owner of the guardianship company, CNRAG, Inc., declined to respond to questions from the Journal, citing confidentiality surrounding guardianship matters.

Painter said last month that CNRAG sold Terry’s Belen house for about $82,000, which Painter said was $40,000 under the appraised value. How much of that money will go to the guardian or other bills isn’t information that is furnished to her New Mexico family – only to the court.    (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Family laments mom’s fate under court guardianship

NM system appears to favor first petitioner

Judge Steven Gevercer
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mary Louise Terry’s case was one of 415 filed statewide in 2016 seeking court approval to place an adult under guardianship or conservatorship or both, according to a spokesman for the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts.

Her case exemplifies the unwritten practice in New Mexico that critics say stacks the deck in favor of the family members or others who go to court to try to have a person declared incapacitated and placed under a guardianship/conservatorship.

In New Mexico, the person who files the petition for guardianship/conservatorship can nominate the three people who will advise the judge on whether to issue a guardianship. The services of those three advisers and the guardianship company are typically paid out of the assets of the incapacitated person.

“To get what you want, you know exactly who to nominate,” said one critic of the system.

That’s not the case elsewhere. In California, for example, independent probate court investigators who are court employees first gather facts on whether a conservatorship is in the best interest of an alleged incapacitated person, then make a recommendation to the judge.

New Mexico probate law doesn’t require a petitioner to nominate the group of ostensibly objective advisers. But most often, judges in New Mexico agree to appoint the people who are recommended.

At least one judge in Albuquerque is known for selecting his own panel of advisers, who by law are to include a guardian ad litem attorney representing the alleged incapacitated person; a qualified health care professional; and a court visitor. The visitor is supposed to evaluate the needs of the alleged incapacitated person and the appropriateness of the proposed guardian or conservator.

In Mary Terry’s case, her daughter-in-law, Lois Painter, asked Valencia County district judge Allen R. Smith to appoint a different guardian ad litem attorney for Terry.

Painter said Terry’s family in New Mexico didn’t think that Albuquerque attorney Barbara Buck “was acting in Mother’s best interest.” Painter said her request was denied.

Buck last week didn’t return Journal calls seeking comment.

Buck’s role in the case ended after the judge in April 2016 agreed to appoint CNRAG, Inc., a professional company, to perform guardianship/conservatorship duties.

Buck wasn’t involved in the subsequent financial oversight and other actions of CNRAG, Inc., that have been criticized by some of Terry’s New Mexico family.

By contrast, in California, guardian ad litem attorneys are appointed only on a case-by-case basis.

“We appoint the next GAL in line on our appointment list, and do not accept recommendations from the parties,” Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Steven M. Gevercer said in an email.

Without the research by his probate court investigators, Gevercer told the Journal, “the Court would not be presented with all relevant information and the quality of decision-making would suffer.” The California court charges a fee for investigators’ services for “court users who have the ability to pay,” he added.

Full Article & Source:
NM system appears to favor first petitioner

Assisted living facility under investigation for elder abuse, neglect

LANSDOWNE, Md. - Baltimore County police are investigating an assisted living facility after receiving reports of possible elder abuse.

According to police, a cousin of a resident at an assisted living facility said that she went to visit and found her relative tied to a chair. She also informed police that she saw a pair of moldy dentures by the bathroom sink. She reported the possible abuse to authorities on March 8.

Police and two representatives from the Office of Health Care Quality (OHCQ), a division of the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene met with the owner at the facility. When the officer and the OHQC representatives began to conduct a site inspection, the owner told them that all of the residents were off-site at the movies.

Upon further inspection, the officer found two residents in a locked room on the first floor and 12 residents in a locked room on the second floor. Sixteen residents between the ages of 50 and 95 were living in the facility, but the facility was only licensed for four residents, according to police.

Medics assessed the condition of all residents at the scene and one was taken to the hospital for treatment of a non-life threatening injury. The OHQC representatives assisted in moving all of the residents to different facilities.

The investigation is still ongoing. Once the investigation is complete, the information will be sent to the Baltimore County State's Attorney's office for review. 

Full Article & Source:
Assisted living facility under investigation for elder abuse, neglect

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

‘Columbo’ bill seeks to curb guardian power

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While New Mexico waits, several states are moving ahead with key reforms.

Catherine Falk
Arizona, Hawaii, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and the U.S. Virgin Islands all passed versions of the so-called Peter Falk bill last year – legislation that originated with the late “Columbo” actor’s daughter, Catherine Falk.

She was denied visitation with her father at the end of his life, not because a court appointee stopped her, but rather because her father’s second wife did. She says she learned of her father’s death in 2011 from the media.

Falk urges states to pass legislation that declares: “A guardian may not restrict an incapacitated person’s right of communication, visitation, or interaction with other persons, including the right to receive visitors, telephone calls, personal mail or electronic communications.”

The Falk bill also requires guardians to alert applicable family members when their loved one’s residence changes and when he or she develops a life-threatening condition or dies.

Falk told the Journal she and representatives of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse met with New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, in the summer of 2015.

“We were (working) full force with his legal drafters and we came up with a draft bill … in December 2015,” she said. “It got nipped really quick. We were told this language is too dicey and we want to wait for the ULC law committee.”

Wirth declined to comment to the Journal for this story.

Asked what she believes the chances are for passage of the Falk bill in New Mexico, Catherine Falk said, “Very bleak. The biggest forces there are working against us. They are powerful and have deep pockets, and it’s very difficult to combat that.”

Begging for reform

Falk isn’t the only activist frustrated by the inability to enact elder guardianship safeguards in New Mexico.

Marcia Southwick
“I’ve been speaking with legislators since the 2013 legislative session,” said Santa Fe resident Marcia Southwick, co-director of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, in describing the times she has discussed the issue with lawmakers and, literally, begged for reforms.

“I got up at committee hearings and said, ‘No one is monitoring this system!’ I’ve heard from many family members who say they have nowhere to turn.”

Southwick says she has been told the legislative leadership was waiting for proposals from the Uniform Law Commission, a national group of lawyers that proposes uniform laws for states to consider.

Southwick’s organization and other concerned groups monitoring draft versions of guardian reform as they are produced by the ULC committee on Guardianship and Protective Proceedings say they are discouraged because, they believe, proposed new language still benefits the for-profit players and does nothing to acknowledge or rein in problem guardians, conservators or caretakers.

Full Article & Source:
‘Columbo’ bill seeks to curb guardian power

Guardianship reforms DOA in New Mexico

Efforts to reform New Mexico’s system of court-approved guardianships for the elderly have met with frustration and failure – to the chagrin of families caught up in a system many say leaves them as helpless bystanders when a loved one is declared a ward of the court with no say in his or her life.

No one knows that frustration better than former Rep. Conrad James, an Albuquerque Republican.
James, who did not seek re-election last year, carried legislation in 2016 that addressed a frequently heard complaint: that guardians or conservators who become annoyed with family members can – and do – arbitrarily bar (or sharply curtail) them from visiting an aging family member who has become a “protected person.”

James’ bill would have required judicial approval before visitation could be cut off – and only if a clear danger to the ward could be demonstrated.

Former Rep. Conrad James
Conrad’s colleagues in two house committees voted to approve the bill and it passed out of the full house toward the end of the 2016 session. It went no further as the Senate did not have time to consider it.”

“I have carried a number of controversial bills,” James told the Journal. “I have never received, or seen in a committee hearing, the kind of anger and blowback that I saw with this bill – one that I thought was a very commonsense, straightforward bill.”

James attributed the blowback to lawyer-lobbyists who work in the elder guardianship system or who have associates who do.

The legislation’s fate was particularly disheartening to reform advocates, who say the best safeguard against elder exploitation is to keep a trusted family member close to the protected person as an extra set of eyes. In the past, some elders who have been isolated from their families have died without being able to see their adult children for months or years.

James isn’t alone in watching a guardianship reform proposal killed. Other lawmakers who have sought to address complaints about the guardianship system in previous years have fared no better.

And lawmakers considering introduction of elder guardian reform measures this year threw in the towel before they even introduced the legislation, when leadership in the Democrat-controlled Legislature made it clear no legislative solutions would be entertained this session.

Can’t wait

The Albuquerque Journal published a six-part investigative series on the guardianship system late last year, detailing how it is administered and the devastating effects critics say it can have on an aging person who becomes a “ward of the court” and their families.

James, a Sandia National Laboratories scientist who has also served as a University of New Mexico regent, is among those who believe reform is urgently needed in a system that routinely declares mentally frail elders “incapacitated” and with that designation strips them of their civil rights. They no longer have the power to manage their own affairs – from health care to finances.

“I’m a scientist and engineer,” James said. “I’m perfectly willing to have a 60 percent solution to get the ball rolling on something. Some legislators want to get it to 80 or 85 percent.”

“We can’t sit around and wait for perfect.”

He worries that bad things could happen to good families while solutions to the problem are put off year after year.

Secrecy rules

Acting at the request of a lawyer – who often represents one family member who is aligned against others – judges typically appoint strangers recommended by that lawyer to take both personal and financial control of an elderly person’s life. In many cases, there is little subsequent court supervision or auditing of their actions.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship reforms DOA in New Mexico

Deference to law commission stops guardian reforms cold

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Uniform Law Commission has powerful influence over the laws of the land, yet few people know about it. Established in 1892, all of its approximately 350 commissioners are lawyers who come from every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Every state and territory is a ULC signatory, but they are not obligated to accept the commission’s “best practices” work product.

ULC commissioners regularly debate legal issues, formulate new legal language and urge all states to accept the uniform set of laws they devise. There are more than 100 different committees within the commission tackling issues as diverse as real estate law and presidential electors to internet privacy and court-ordered guardianships.

It usually takes at least two years for a ULC committee to finish its work on an issue and present final language to the full commission for approval. Only then is the language transmitted to states for consideration.

The ULC committee on Guardianship and Protective Proceedings has been working on drafting new safeguards since April 2015 and expects final language to be ready for a full commission vote by July. Its proposed bill considers all types of potential guardianships, including those appointed for children and disabled or elderly people.

New Mexico is a faithful adherent to ULC recommendations, having signed on in 1908, even before statehood.

“New Mexico is one of our top-ranking states in terms of pure numbers of ULC acts adopted,” said the ULC’s Katie Robinson.

New Mexico’s delegation numbers 12. The New Mexico Legislative Council appoints four legislators and four other members of the state bar. The governor has two appointees, and the dean of the University of New Mexico law school has a seat.

There are rules requiring appointments from both major political parties, and any lawyer who has represented the state at the ULC for 20 years or more has a spot.

New Mexico’s commissioners include Reps. Zachary Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Antonio (Moe) Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Sens. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, and William Payne, R-Albuquerque.
Other New Mexico commissioners include Raul E. Burciaga, John (Jack) Burton, Matthew Chandler, Robert Desiderio, Philip Larragoite, Patrick Rogers, Raymond G. Sanchez and Paula Tackett.

Full Article & Source:
Deference to law commission stops guardian reforms cold

Monday, March 13, 2017

Farmington Hills lawyer charged with raping incapacitated woman

Daniel Carlson arrested for third-degree criminal sexual conduct

Daniel Carlson
FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. - A 33-year-old Farmington Hills lawyer was arrested Wednesday on charges of raping an incapacitated woman.

Daniel Carlson was arrested for third-degree criminal sexual conduct and felony obstruction of justice at a home in Farmington Hills.

Police said Carlson is accused of sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman in October 2016 and failing to comply with a court-ordered search warrant for evidence.

Carlson was arraigned Thursday in 77th District Court on both felony charges. He is being held on $175,000 bail.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call police at 231-592-0150.

Full Article & Source:
Farmington Hills lawyer charged with raping incapacitated woman

Woman Wanted On Dozens Of Charges In Las Vegas Arrested In Chester County

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A woman wanted in Las Vegas on dozens of charges has been apprehended in Chester County.

Authorities say the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department was alerted by the FBI that April Lynn Parks, 52, was at a business on the 1300 block of Enterprise Drive in East Goshen Township.

Officers arrested Parks without incident and confirmed she was wanted on a felony warrant in Clark County, Nevada.

According to the indictment warrant, Parks was charged in Nevada with racketeering, theft, exploitation of an older person, exploitation of and older person/vulnerable person, theft, offering false instruments for filing or record and perjury.

Authorities say the investigation in Las Vegas focused on a business operated by Parks that was supposed to provide guardianship to the elderly and disabled.

Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police charged Parks with being a fugitive from justice and she was arraigned. Her bail has been set at $500,000.

Parks was remanded to Chester County Prison pending extradition to Clark County, Nevada.

Full Article & Source:
Woman Wanted On Dozens Of Charges In Las Vegas Arrested In Chester County

Fugitive Arrested in East Goshen

On March 8, at 4 p.m. the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department was alerted by the FBI that a fugitive was at a local business.

The 52-year-old, identified as April Lynn Parks, was located in the 1300 block of Enterprise Drive in East Goshen Township. Members of the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department and Willistown Township Police Department arrested Parks without incident and confirmed through NCIC that she was wanted on a felony warrant issued by the Clark County District Court in Nevada.

According to the Indictment Warrant, Parks was charged in Nevada with multiple felony counts of racketeering, theft, and exploitation of an older person. She also was charged with offering false instruments for filing felony counts of perjury.

The investigation in Las Vegas concentrated on a business operated by April Lynn Parks that was supposed to provide guardianship to elderly and disabled persons. Parks was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Lori Novak Donatelli, who set bail at $500,000. Parks was remanded to Chester County Prison, pending extradition to Clark County, Nevada.

Full Article & Source:
Fugitive Arrested in East Goshen

Woman wanted in Vegas busted in East Goshen

EAST GOSHEN >> A fugitive learned the hard way that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas.

Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department received an alert at 4 p.m. on Wednesday from the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) that a fugitive was seen at a local business in the 1300 block of Enterprise Drive in East Goshen Township. The FBI identified the fugitive as April Lynn Parks, 52, who was wanted in Nevada for felony theft charges. According to her online criminal report, she has an address in Malvern.

Members of the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department said on Thursday that they, along with Willistown Township Police Department officers, arrested Parks without incident and confirmed through NCIC that she was wanted on a felony warrant issued by the Clark County District Court in connection with an indictment on Wednesday.

Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police announced that according to the indictment warrant, Parks was charged in Nevada with one felony count of racketeering, 33 felony counts of theft, 19 felony counts of exploitation of an older person, 18 felony counts of exploitation of and older person/vulnerable person, 9 felony counts of theft, 74 felony counts of offering false instruments for filing or record and 58 felony counts of perjury. The investigation in Las Vegas concentrated on a business operated by Parks that Las Vegas Metropolitan police said was supposed to provide guardianship to the elderly and disabled persons.

The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department charged Parks with being a fugitive from justice. According to her online criminal report, Parks was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Lori Novak Donatelli, who set bail at $500,000. Parks was remanded to Chester County Prison pending extradition to Clark County in Nevada.

In addition to the FBI and Willistown police, the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department was assisted by East Whiteland police.

Full Article & Source:
Woman wanted in Vegas busted in East Goshen

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Journal series sparks town hall on guardianship program

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Who Guards the Guardians?” – an Albuquerque Journal series by reporter Diane Dimond – has triggered an exceptional response, so much so that the Journal, KANW-FM and the Albuquerque Department of Senior Affairs are sponsoring a town hall-style discussion on the issue of the state’s court-monitored guardianship program for senior citizens.

The event will be held in the Journal auditorium from 7 to 9 p.m. March 22 and will be broadcast live on KANW, 89.1-FM.

A panel of family members, advocates, judges, lawmakers, industry representatives and others will join Dimond in making presentations. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, former Rep. Conrad James and Mayor Richard Berry will be among members of the panel. There also will be an opportunity for audience participation.

Journal senior editor Kent Walz and Tom Trowbridge of KANW will serve as moderators. Reprints of the series will be available to those in attendance.

“This series touched a nerve in the community,” Walz said. “We hope that this forum can lead to better understanding and positive changes in a system that critics say is in dire need of repair.”

“If honoring a family elder is the purpose of this guardianship system, something is terribly wrong,” said Jorja Armijo-Brasher, director of Albuquerque Senior Affairs. “We definitely need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

The venue can accommodate about 50 members of the public, so advance sign-ups are required. If you are interested in attending, please let us know by sending an email to

If you have questions you would like to ask the panel, please send them to the same email address. Because it will not be possible to ask all questions submitted, they will be selected in an effort to cover various points of interest.

If you go
What: Town hall meeting on New Mexico’s guardianship program
When: 7-9 p.m. March 22
Tune in: Broadcast live on KANW 89.1-FMSponsors: Albuquerque Department of Senior Affairs, KANW, Albuquerque Journal

Journal series sparks town hall on guardianship program

Attorneys fight to save life of CA man

Joe Williams collapsed in a hospital emergency room nearly eighteen months ago and suffered a major disability as a result.

He has responded to therapy that needs to continue, but a caregiver has sought to have him taken off life support.

He went without food for two weeks before Life Legal Defense Foundation intervened. Foundation director Alexandra Snyder tells OneNewsNow that the organization is fighting attorneys representing the other side.

"One of whom is Jon Eisenberg," she says, "who was the attorney for Michael Schiavo and who ultimately succeeded in getting Terri Schiavo killed, death by dehydration.”

Schiavo suffered brain damage during a heart attack and she died in 2005 after her husband persuaded courts to order life support removed.

Joining Eisenberg in the Williams' caregiver's case is an attorney from Compassion and Choices, an organization that promotes doctor-assisted suicide.

“So for the other side, this is no longer about Joe,” says Snyder. "It's no longer about compassion.

This is about an agenda and that agenda says if you're too needy, you're too dependent, you're too burdensome, you're too expensive, then you have to die.”

Life Legal has an agenda too, and that is to obtain court-ordered treatment for Williams to sustain his life and ultimately to return home for continued treatment.

Full Article & Source:
Attorneys fight to save life of CA man

Bill targets state nursing home issues

State Sen Charles Schwertner
Texas does not do well by the more than 93,000 elderly and disabled people who depend on the services of nursing homes for their daily care.

That could be changing with recently introduced legislation to eliminate a loophole in the law that allows a large percentage of violators of nursing home regulations, even repeat offenders, to avoid fines.

The filing of the bills comes on the heels of a recently released report by AARP titled “Intolerable Care” that offers a troubling snapshot of what the organization calls the “Texas nursing home quality crisis.”

AARP’s findings are based on its review of multiple years of records from the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which licenses long-term care providers in the state. The lack of attention to the quality of care found in many of the state’s more than 1,200 nursing homes was blamed on the department’s lack of enforcement power under current law.

While the agency can cite nursing home operators for violations, its hands are tied when it comes to fining them. State law allows nursing homes to correct any violation without administrative penalty if the violation did not result in serous harm or the death of a resident, did not constitute a serious threat to health or safety, and did not limit the capacity to provide care.

Of the 17,466 licensing violations found in 2015, only 40 resulted in enforcement action. Many of those cited were repeat offenders. State records show that in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, about one-quarter of nursing homes accounted for 94 percent of all serious violations. Records show the state collected fines from only 22 of the 328 long-term care facilities that were cited.

There are no penalties assessed on 80 percent of the violations. That means limited incentive for nursing home operators to correct the violations, AARP found.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, has filed legislation seeking to address the problems cited in the nursing home report. The proposed legislation eliminates the “right to correct” language in the nursing home regulations and imposes progressive sanctions based on the severity of recurring violations. It also requires all nursing facilities in the state to carry professional liability insurance coverage of $300,000 per occurrence and $1 million in aggregate.

The legislation will go a long way toward holding those responsible for providing long-term care for our state’s more vulnerable residents accountable.

Full Article & Source:
Bill targets state nursing home issues