Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book: "Court Appointed"

by Priscialla Audette

Books about death are invariably about life. In her book Memento Mori, Muriel Spark says: ''Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death life is insipid. You might as well live on the whites of eggs.''

In that vein, this book deals with the ever-present reality of death while concurrently embracing life.

It celebrates the lives of the greatest generation while alerting aging baby boomers to be aware of what is waiting for them around the next corner. As the clients in this book journey through the final stages of their lives toward death and the feeling that time is running out, Hope, the protagonist, conversely journeys toward a richer and fuller life. As cliched as this sounds, this thoughtful book encourages readers to celebrate life and to live each day as the gift it is.

Available through Amazon

Dimond wins award for Journal series

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Who Guards the Guardians,” an Albuquerque Journal series by reporter Diane Dimond, has been selected for the 2017 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting.

Diane Dimond
Diane Dimond The award by the nonprofit Fund for American Studies and the Institute on Political Journalism is named for the late Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter whose investigations into organized crime led to crackdowns on labor racketeering and Teamsters union corruption.

This year’s award will be presented to Dimond on June 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“I am pleased to inform you that your entry, “Who Guards the Guardians?” was the winning article chosen from 95 entries from newspapers and magazines across the country,” Joe Starrs, director of the Institute on Political Journalism, wrote in a letter to Dimond announcing the prize.

The award includes a $2,500 cash prize and expenses paid for the Washington, D.C., appearance.

The Institute on Political Journalism also awards prizes for economic and collegiate reporting. Its website says the institute was created “to develop … objective journalists with high ethical standards and solid understanding of free-market economic principles.” 

Full Article & Source:
Dimond wins award for Journal series

Handicapping Disciplinary Cases

Attorney Mark Dubois
At best, handicapping our Supreme Court is an inexact science, but if several recent cases give any indication, I think the pendulum there is swinging in favor of attorneys in discipline matters.

Last December, in a case called Parnoff, the court clarified the level of intent needed to prove "knowing misappropriation" when an attorney takes a client's money and triggers the automatic 12-year disbarment provisions of the Practice Book, adding an element of intent. I was a bit surprised by the result, as I had proposed using "willful and intentional" when I wrote the initial version of the rule. These terms were replaced by "knowing" in the final version, so I always figured that the idea had been to lower the level of intent needed to invoke the rule's harsh provisions. Now willfulness and intentionality are read into it, raising disciplinary counsel's burden of proof in a misappropriation case. Score one for the bar.

More recently, in a just-released case called Elder, the court again waded into the law of lawyer discipline, holding that what we all thought was a screening rule concerning when lawyer discipline cases became stale was really a statute of limitations. The rule had originally been drafted by a CBA committee, working with the Statewide Bar Counsel, to give this office flexibility to dismiss facially invalid claims for the sake of saving administrative resources and was enforced that way for many years. None of us ever thought it was designed to create substantive rights or defenses, rather just to give bar counsel the ability to weed out some of the chaff so they could concentrate on real cases. In Elder, however, the court held that the rule's six-year staleness test was really a mandatory statute of repose. Score another for the bar.

The same court just heard argument on a case called Rozbicki, where a judge suspended a lawyer for a pattern of making claims, including "judicial misconduct, judicial bias, judicial prejudice and judicial self-interest," against two judges. Before Parnoff and Elder, I would have bet that Rozbicki would have been a per curiam decision affirming the lower court. Now I'm not so sure.

The law concerning lawyers calling judges names or making unfounded claims is fairly well established. In a case called Notopoulos, a lawyer was disciplined for accusing a judge of "extortion" and funding "a private Marshall Plan for the support, care and feeding of his crony." In two different cases involving an attorney named Burton, discipline was imposed for unsubstantiated claims of bias and corruption. What is different from those cases and Rozbicki is that in all of them, judges either complained of the conduct or imposed discipline on their own motion. In Rozbicki, neither of the judges imposed discipline or referred the matter. While the trial judge didn't find this a distinction with a difference, I am not so sure.

There's a provision in the same screening rule at play in Elder which provides that the grievance authorities have no jurisdiction when the misconduct complained of occurs before a court and it "render(s) a decision finding misconduct or finding that either no misconduct has occurred or that the allegations should not be referred to the statewide grievance committee." The trial judge in Rozbicki refused to hold that a judge's not acting when s/he was aware of misconduct was the same as rendering a decision that no disciplinary referral should be made. But Section 2.15(b) and (c) of the Code of Judicial Conduct mandate that judges having knowledge of or receiving information regarding a lawyer's misconduct that "raises a substantial question regarding the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects" shall take appropriate action, including informing the appropriate authorities. Presumably, a judge not acting on such information may well be tantamount to determining that the conduct did not warrant action.

Section 2.15 of the code did not exist when the original screening rule was passed, but arguably when the judges adopted it, they must have understood that they were imposing heightened duties on themselves and their colleagues to police the bar. Thus, it's not too much of a stretch to wonder whether the Supreme Court took Rozbicki from the Appellate Court to round out the trifecta of pro-lawyer disciplinary cases. Serious misconduct occurring before a court or of which a judge has been made aware of should be handled, in the first instance, by the judge or judges involved. That's the argument the accused lawyer made in Rozbicki. After Elder, I think it might have legs.

Either way, we will have had three significant lawyer discipline decisions in about six months, which I think is some sort of record. It also means I am going to have to rewrite some of my treatise on Connecticut lawyer discipline.•

Full Article & Source:
Handicapping Disciplinary Cases

Superheroes with Laptops: Older Crisis Volunteers Are Saving Young Lives

“What stands out is when the texter, says ‘Thank you. You’ve really helped. I feel better.’ You sign off and look up in the sky and say, Whoa! It’s an amazing feeling.”
Thousands of people every day text 741741, and that number keeps going up. No, it’s not a secret sexting line; it’s the Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit 24/7 helpline that lets people in crisis text message a counselor. CTL’s success has surprised even its founder and CEO, Nancy Lubin.

Lubin began texting with teens when she was helming the youth volunteerism charity; that’s when she noticed something. The teens would text her when they were having problems—anything from bullying to sexual abuse. Lubin realized that for young people especially, texting is a primary mode of communication. And in a moment of crisis, it’s perfect. “It’s fast, no one can hear you, and it’s in real time,” she says. The anonymity and intimacy of text makes it that much easier to reveal a scary secret.

Thinking that a text-based helpline might save young lives, Lubin launched Crisis Text Line in 2013, starting in just two cities, Chicago and El Paso.

Within four months of its August 2013 start-up, word of the text-for-help line had spread nationwide.

Ten percent of the texters are under age 13.
Some are the victims of family sexual abuse.
Occasionally, a texter is sitting next to a bottle of Tylenol.

Wanted: Older Crisis Volunteers

By May 2017, more than 3,000 volunteer counselors have handled more than 36 million text messages.

Many of those volunteers are seniors.

Older people, it turns out, are especially empathetic—and they’re patient, active listeners.

Another advantage: Older people are responsible. “They show up on time and regularly commit to at least four hours of texting-time each week,” says Liz Eddy, director of communication at CTL. And since some of us don’t sleep so well as we age, we tend to be available during the hours before dawn when the number of texts spikes.

Steven Moray, 63, often volunteers for the Saturday night “spike team,” when people seem to be most in need of help. “More than a few times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and instead of doing crossword puzzles, I go on the CTL platform for a few hours,” he says.

That’s why CTL is hoping to grow its cadre of mature crisis volunteers—or “superheros with laptops instead of capes,” as the nonprofit calls its counselors.

How the Crisis Text Line Works

CTL’s concept hinges on having a live crisis counselor help a person move from a “hot moment” to a “cool moment” through a text conversation, or as Eddy explains, to “de-escalate” those moments of high anxiety, deep depression, risky behavior and even danger to a cooler, calmer and safer level, so that the person in crisis is better able to cope with their situation. The text line’s technology flags texts that may need speedy responses—among the triggers for a flag: an unhappy face crying emoji.

An average texting conversation lasts about 45 minutes, and texters can share at their own pace. Counselors act as sounding-boards, anonymous confidents who ask questions and encourage the texter to “talk” about what’s going on and how they’re feeling. In some cases, the counselor may recommend an organization or hotline that can offer specific help, whether it’s treatment for an eating disorder or guidance in escaping an abusive relationship. And although texts are confidential, in about one in a hundred cases, the counselor may refer a texter—say a potential suicide—to an emergency service. If an adult is abusing a minor, the counselor is required to report the situation.

Professional supervisors can access the texter’s number to initiate a “rescue.”

For now, those who reach out to the CTL are mostly in their late teens to early 30s, but as more and more older adults take up texting, the demographics of CTL users are likely to broaden.

Crisis Training for Older Superheroes

The person contacting CTL may be using their cell phone, but as a volunteer counselor you communicate via a special platform on your home computer. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to engage in several texting conversations at once while having a conversation with a supervisor if you need advice or support. The platform also lets you research community services, hotlines and other programs, and give that contact information immediately to the person who’s texting with you.

Nobody is thrown into the deep end—would-be volunteers complete a 36-hour training on- and offline program. Groups of volunteers meet with an instructor via Skype to learn the ropes of crisis management. They discuss different situations that a counselor is likely to encounter. They also cover Course material—readings and self-quizzes—offline. Finally, counselors in training take one-on-one tests with a supervisor to check their helping skills.

The training focuses on developing and communicating empathy for and an understanding of people who are at risk for self-harm or suicide, are homeless, have an eating disorder, feel undone by stress or depression, or who are experiencing any number of other challenges—bereavement, bullying, health concerns, LGBTQ issues, isolation…

Words that texters use who are struggling with loneliness.

“The training is great,” says Steve, the older volunteer who often helps during spike hours. He’s been a CTL counselor for a year and a half. Even after you’ve finished the training, he says, you’re never alone. “There’s always a supervisor to help. If you’re not feeling comfortable, you have several options. Your supervisor may make a suggestion, or you can trade off the texter to another volunteer.”

Each volunteer also has a mentor who can offer advice, guidance and encouragement.

There were a few times in the past, Steve admits, when he thought, “Hmmmm…maybe not.” Then he reminded himself that the goal is not to fix what’s broken, but to work with a person to help him or her get through the worst of the worst moments.

“I’ve had several hundred conversations,” Steve says. “What stands out the most is when, at the end of the conversation, the texter, says ‘Thank you. You’ve really helped. I feel better.’ You can’t replicate that feeling. You say, ‘You’re welcome.’ and sign off and look up in the sky and say, Whoa! It’s an amazing feeling.”

“Volunteering at CTL is a way to stay connected and to actually get back from what you give. We seniors are good at it, because we have a lot of life experiences.”

Watch Nancy Lublin’s TED Talk About Crisis Text Line

The Crisis Text Line analyses the millions of texts it receives, using data science to anticipate a texter’s issue and intent based on words in their messages. The intelligence gathered through those insights becomes the basis for alerts that the volunteers see certain words, for example, might trigger an alert that suggests the volunteer might ask the texter if they’re thinking about cutting themselves. The tech makes the volunteers better helpers. But the human connection is paramount.;Watch:

Full Article & Source:
Superheroes with Laptops: Older Crisis Volunteers Are Saving Young Lives

Friday, May 12, 2017

Former AG continues quest for adult guardianship office

BOSTON — Eighteen years after leaving office, former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is asking lawmakers to pick up an unfinished piece of the reforms he sought around elder protection and adult guardianship.

Harshbarger on Monday asked the Judiciary Committee to throw its support behind a bill that would establish a state office of adult guardianship as a public-private partnership that would handle the appointment of guardians for adults who cannot make their own legal decisions and lack family, friends or access to volunteers who could step into the role.

The office would serve “the poor and the powerless,” Harshbarger said, including people who are elderly and intellectually or developmentally disabled.

Harshbarger, who became attorney general in 1991 and left office in 1999 after an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, said creation of such an office has been proposed for years.

“The missing piece in it has been how would we fund this,” Harshbarger said. “We happen to propose an innovative way — nonprofit funding. All we’re asking for is that the state agency have oversight and a nonprofit agency will be the office of the public guardian, supported by public funding.”

Rep. Paul Brodeur’s bill (H 3027) would set up an office within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to supervise a privately funded nonprofit that would provide guardianship services.

Brodeur, a Melrose Democrat, said the office would serve between 4,100 and 4,700 people in Massachusetts who “truly have no one but the Legislature and advocacy groups to fall back on for help.”

He said such people may need legal decisions made on their behalf when being discharged from a hospital or admitted to a nursing facility.

“There’s no one in some cases that can speak with legal authority for that person,” Brodeur said.

“What does that mean? It very often means that the hospital or the provider will have to go into court, find a guardian and make arrangements to put that decision into force. That usually happens in a time, essentially, of crisis.”

Peter Macy, the executive director of Guardian Community Trust, said the bill proposes a “radical new way to fund guardianship,” and 60 percent of the necessary private funding has already been pledged.

He said a business plan has been developed calling for approximately $800,000 annually in private dollars to “entirely fund the operational side of a public guardian,” leaving the state’s cost at around $400,000 for a supervisory office with between three and five staff members.

“Creating the office of public guardian is critical,” Macy told the committee. “We must have it. We cannot get the private dollars without your help to create a tiny government office.”

Full Article & Source:
Former AG continues quest for adult guardianship office

R.I. court dismisses suit brought by Warwick woman accused of elder exploitation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The state Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the Coventry Police Department by a Warwick woman who has repeatedly been accused of exploiting elderly men — most recently an aging veteran diagnosed with dementia.

The high court upheld a ruling by Superior Court Judge Bennett Gallo dismissing a suit brought by Carel Callahan Bainum, a longtime Warwick resident who ran for mayor in 2014. Bainum had accused the Coventry police of maliciously prosecuting her for trespassing when she visited an elderly man with dementia at the Coventry Health and Rehabilitation Center while donning a blond wig to disguise herself.

The case stems from Bainum’s relationship with Michael Koczan, a World War II Army Air Corps veteran who died in in 2013 at age 96. Bainum was visiting Koczan in the center’s secure dementia ward on Oct. 16, 2009, when Coventry Officer Ryan Desisto asked her to leave, at the center’s request. She was told, too, that Koczan’s daughter, Kristin Wild, was seeking to halt all Bainum’s visits to her father.

Still, Bainum continued to visit Koczan, wearing the blond wig. Staff eventually recognized her, leading Coventry police to charge her with willful trespass.

A trial was held in Superior Court in 2010 in which Bainum, Warwick’s onetime animal-control supervisor, represented herself. A jury, in 55 minutes, convicted her of the misdemeanor count. Judge Edward C. Clifton gave her a one-year suspended sentence with probation and ordered her not to contact Koczan.

Bainum then filed suit, accusing the department and individual officers of malicious acts, altering police reports and perjury. She charged that they had colluded and conspired against her.

She told The Providence Journal prior to her trespass trial that Koczan, who suffered severe cognitive impairment and a host of physical problems, was being kept “a prisoner” in the Coventry nursing center. She claimed to be Koczan’s friend and said she wanted to call attention to his plight.

Koczan told nursing home staff that he wanted to leave, marry Bainum and “live happily ever after.”

H. Reed Cosper, who was the state’s mental-health advocate at the time, alleged in a prior guardianship petition that Bainum was exploiting Koczan and had a history of “financial and emotional exploitation of elderly men, particularly veterans.”

Bainum vehemently denied that she was an elder predator.

Gallo in 2015 dismissed Bainum’s claims as meritless. The judge found that Bainum’s malicious prosecution allegation hinged on whether the police had probable cause to prosecute her for trespass.

Gallo found that her conviction “conclusively establishe[d]” the required probable cause.

The high court agreed.

“Further, the plaintiff’s malicious-prosecutions claim ... requires that the criminal proceeding terminated in the plaintiff’s favor. Here, the plaintiff’s criminal willful-trespass conviction clearly demonstrates that the prior proceeding did not terminate in her favor,” Justice Gilbert Indeglia wrote for the court.

Bainum, whose phone number at Sunnyside Drive was disconnected, could not be reached for comment. But she has been the subject of much litigation in Rhode Island courts.

Providence lawyer, David J. Strachman, sued Bainum on behalf of Vartan Baligian, who loaned her $120,000 in 2002. In 2007, the year the loan was due, it was rewritten to become an 11-year-interest-free note. Baligian died in July 2008. A judge has ruled that Bainum had “hoodwinked” Baligian into signing the new loan documents and has blocked her from disposing of assets until the civil-fraud case is tried.

Strachman said the $179,207 judgment awarded in that case has not been paid. Of the Koczan ruling, Strachman said, “It’s a disturbing involvement with yet another extremely old senior citizen.”

Full Article & Source:
R.I. court dismisses suit brought by Warwick woman accused of elder exploitation

Senior Investors Are the Focus of New “Principal Consideration” in FINRA Sanctions

On April 10, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) National Adjudicatory Council (NAC) introduced new Sanction Guidelines (Guidelines) which allow the NAC and FINRA staff to take into consideration the vulnerability of customers in determining appropriate sanction levels.1 The last update to the Guidelines occurred approximately two years ago, and included changes related to unsuitable recommendations and misrepresentations.2 Last month’s changes to the Guidelines provide for the first time a “principal consideration that analyzes whether a respondent has exercised undue influence over a customer.”3 Now listed as a specific factor for adjudicators and FINRA staff4 to consider in determining appropriate sanctions is “[w]hether the respondent exercised undue influence over the customer.”5

I. New Guidelines Codify Past Practices and Apply Immediately

Prior to the new “principal consideration,” FINRA has historically acknowledged the vulnerability of customers in certain decisions.6 However, including customer vulnerability and a respondent’s undue influence over a vulnerable customer when analyzing sanctions has never been specified.

This new “principal consideration” applies to all FINRA cases immediately, unlike the recent senior investor-related rulemakings (new FINRA Rule 2165 (Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults) and amended FINRA Rule 4512 (Customer Account Information)), which are not effective until February 2018. The NAC and applicable FINRA staff can immediately take the new “undue influence” factor into consideration when adjudicating, prosecuting or negotiating disciplinary actions.

II. New FINRA Rule 2165 and “Undue Influence”

Neither FINRA Rules nor By-Laws define the term “undue influence.”7 Definitions in new FINRA Rule 2165 may help the industry to understand what it means for a respondent to “exercise undue influence” over a customer. The concept of undue influence arises in Rule 2165’s “financial exploitation” definition as “an act or omission . . . to . . . obtain control, through deception, intimidation or undue influence, over the Specified Adult’s8 money, assets or property.”9

It is possible that the NAC or FINRA staff may look to whether a senior investor was deceived or intimidated by the respondent, or whether the respondent exercised an inappropriate level of “control” over an investor given that investor’s mental capacity or the availability of a designated family member or friend. Presumably any influence over a customer’s decisions would only be considered “undue” if there was some level of deceit, self-dealing or other bad intent. However, this conclusion is not clear from the Guidelines.

III. Expect Continued Scrutiny of Firm Interaction with Senior and Vulnerable Investors

The senior-centric update to the Sanction Guidelines should come as no surprise. Over the past two years, FINRA has significantly increased its focus on senior investors, first with a joint report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in early 2015,10 followed closely by the launch of its Securities Helpline for Seniors,11 the topic’s rising prominence in the latest examination priorities letters,12 and most recently with the adoption of new FINRA Rule 2165.13 This scrutiny is expected to increase, with a focus on related sales practice examinations and subsequent enforcement actions.

Full Article & Source:
Senior Investors Are the Focus of New “Principal Consideration” in FINRA Sanctions

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Financial Exploitation: When Taking Money Amounts to Elder Abuse

A lone senior male stressed about financial issues late in the evening.
About 1 in 20 older adults report being financially abused by a family member in the year 
prior, according to research funded by the U.S. Justice Department. (iStockphoto)

When her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack, “Mary” – who asked that her real name not be used due to the sensitive nature of her story – was devastated and began spiraling downward.

He was only in his late 60s and in relatively good health, she recalls. Mary fell into a severe depression after his passing. “I withdrew. I isolated myself,” says Mary, now 70, who lives in Playa del Rey, California. In addition to her abject despair, she believes the antidepressants she was taking contributed to suicidal thoughts. She attempted suicide – overdosing on powerful painkillers she had for treating her arthritis, she says. She was hospitalized in 2015 and admitted into an inpatient rehab facility to recover.

Mary had previously appointed her daughter as trustee under a family trust and agent under powers of attorney to manage her finances if she was ever unable to do so herself. And it was during this time that – due to Mary’s psychiatric issues – her daughter's authority under the POA and trust became effective. Mary had been financially supporting her daughter, who was living in Mary’s home along with her daughter’s son. But instead of acting in her mother’s best interests, “she ran up $120,000 in credit card debt, which I only recently found out about,” Mary says – money spent on everything from online shopping to food delivery. She purchased a new car in her mother’s name, a new refrigerator and three new computers, all with her mother’s money and without permission; she rented out her mother’s bedroom to bring in more income for herself; and she failed to pay property taxes on Mary’s home.

According to research funded by the U.S. Justice Department, about 1 in 20 older adults report being financially abused by a family member in the year prior. Though definitions vary, elder financial abuse is generally considered to be financial exploitation, such as stealing money or taking over assets without permission, of an older adult – 60 or 65 and older – by a family member, caregiver or another trusted person, like a financial advisor. By one estimate from the San Francisco-based financial services firm True Link Financial, seniors lose nearly $36.5 billion to financial abuse annually. A previous widely cited estimate from MetLife put the figure at less than one-tenth of that – still a high loss, at $2.9 billion; but many experts say that’s most certainly a gross underestimate, given how very few financial exploitation cases ever see the light of day. “That’s based on only cases that got media coverage, which must be some tiny fraction of 1 percent of all elder abuse cases,” says Kathleen Quinn, a senior advisor and past director of National Adult Protective Services Association.

More Than Money

Money lost is only part of the profound price paid by seniors who are financially exploited. Quinn says that some people lose their homes, and notes – based on research of the issue in Utah – an estimated 9 percent, or nearly 1 in 10, of those who are financially exploited go on Medicaid as a direct result.

Because the perpetrator is typically a family member or caregiver, experts say being financially exploited can deeply undermine a person’s ability to trust others, and lead them to withdraw and become isolated, which can make a person more vulnerable to re-victimization. Studies show financial abuse can increase hopelessness and risk for depression and raise suicide risk. “This is obviously about more than just money,” says Sarah Barnard, a social worker who manages an elder abuse prevention program at WISE & Healthy Aging, a nonprofit social services organization in Santa Monica, California. Going from a place of stable financial footing to no longer having money needed for daily expenses can be “psychologically devastating,” Quinn says.

After Mary’s condition stabilized, she was transferred to an assisted living facility. “I really wanted to come home, but my daughter said I couldn’t come home,” she says. So instead she languished for six months at the facility, paying $2,000 a month to be there, before finally coming home. Eventually, Mary notes that her psychiatrist called Adult Protective Services, who reported the issue to local law enforcement. Mary also enlisted Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles – which provides legal assistance and advice in elder abuse cases, including financial abuse – to revoke her daughter’s power of attorney and regain control of her finances.

That’s proved an involved affair, as her daughter had been withholding her driver’s license, medical insurance cards, credit and debit cards and other money, says Dominique Sanz-David, a staff attorney at Bet Tzedek. Instead, Mary’s daughter generally just used Mary’s money for her own benefit, Sanz-David says.

Not having access to her own financial means or identification did more than rob Mary of money. “I was basically a faceless person,” she says. “She had me totally isolated.” Mary notes that she couldn’t even talk to her doctor without her daughter’s permission. The ordeal has not only taxed her financially, but it’s taken a toll on her mentally. “I was depressed,” Mary says. “I was hopeless.”

Outside Help

Experts say the scenario Mary found herself in is a familiar one, where an adult family member exploits a supportive relationship, such as when the perpetrator is already living in the home. Often those who are financially abused have recently lost a spouse and may otherwise be alone.

That makes it incredibly important – while also often being exceedingly difficult – for the individual experiencing the financial abuse to seek outside help. That includes contacting Adult Protective Services and law enforcement to put pressure on the perpetrator to cease the abuse. Though it can be difficult in many cases to recoup money lost – since frequently it’s spent and perpetrators commonly have limited monies of their own – experts still often advise filing a civil lawsuit as well.

Mary says Sanz-David has been instrumental in helping her regain control of her finances, while huge hurdles remain. Mary has worked with a debt consolidation attorney to begin paying down a lower negotiated amount on the credit card debt. She’s looking to return to the workforce – a difficult prospect, given her age, she says. And she’s planning to sell her house when she’s able and relocate, possibly out of state, she says, so that her property tax burden is lower. It’s all together a monumental undertaking.

It remains unclear what repercussions – including any criminal charges – her daughter will ultimately face as a result of Adult Protective Services reporting the issue to local law enforcement. Experts say victims – particularly older parents – are often unwilling to take action, like contacting law enforcement, against family members who’ve taken advantage of them.

Similarly torn, Mary still allows her daughter to live with her. Sanz-David advised Mary to get her daughter out the home, and told her she could get a restraining order against her because of the financial abuse. She also advised her to take civil action. But Mary has declined to do so. “Mothers and grandmothers do not want to hurt their children and grandchildren even at their own expense,” Sanz-David says; she adds that she’s advised Mary to contact her if she changes her mind.

A reluctance to take action – as well as shame and embarrassment of having been exploited – is frequently used against victims of financial abuse by those perpetrating the abuse, experts say, to not only conceal it, but to re-victimize.

Mary, for one, says she is firmly back in control of her finances – if still struggling mightily to pay for damage done by her daughter. “She doesn’t have the durable power of attorney, so she can’t commit any financial obligation to me without my permission,” Mary says, while acknowledging that some patterns continue.

“She’s told me that she’s sorry, and she’s going to get a job, but she isn’t looking for a job. So I’m looking for a job – a part-time or a full-time job to help pay the property taxes,” she says. As for not putting distance between herself and her daughter, she sees no choice in the matter. “She’s my daughter, and I do have unconditional love for her. She has nowhere to go. She has no income … she would be homeless,” Mary says; in which case, she adds, her daughter wouldn’t be able to take care of her 10-year-old son. “So I wouldn’t do that.”

But even though Mary has opted not to take legal action against her daughter as advised, she echoes elder abuse experts in emphasizing that outside intervention is absolutely critical to combat financial exploitation – even if it’s perpetrated by next of kin. “If you don’t, it just becomes a quagmire. It’s like one of the sinkholes in Los Angeles,” she says. “It just appears out of nowhere, and suddenly you’re in the sink hole, and you feel hopeless – you feel like there’s no way out.

Full Article & Source:
Financial Exploitation: When Taking Money Amounts to Elder Abuse

The Mental and Physical Cost of Elder Financial Abuse

A senior woman sits in a wheelchair in a hospital.
Changes in cognitive function or appearance – like self-neglect – may leave seniors more 
vulnerable to financial abuse. (Getty Images)

Ideally, David Top would like to move his father, 88-year-old Gabriel Top of Manhattan, into a memory care facility – that is, if the money were available to do so.

After suffering a stroke about a dozen years ago, Gabriel’s short-term memory was greatly diminished, and today Gabriel suffers from severe dementia. Memory care is specialized long-term care offered by some nursing homes for residents with dementia – like that caused by Alzheimer’s disease – and other memory issues. “His dementia is getting worse, and he doesn’t get the amount of care that he needs,” David says of his father. “Part of the goal was to move him to Las Vegas, where they have a top-notch memory care facility.” That’s also where David’s daughter lives and family often gathers for reunions and vacations. “So he would be part of his family’s life, basically, instead of being isolated.”

Though family travel to see Gabriel in Manhattan, they can’t afford to relocate him or put him in memory care, after hundreds of thousands of dollars Gabriel had saved were taken from him by a long-time companion, David says. “He depended on her for everything – for advice and to get to his medical appointments, and really to manage his life,” David says of his father’s companion; at one time, Gabriel and the woman had been a couple. But David notes she started to take utter control of Gabriel’s life, including alienating him from family – even convincing him not to get needed medical care. She also became a joint account holder on bank and investment accounts, eventually removing his name from those accounts. "The amount of money the long-term companion took from Gabriel is estimated at close to $750,000, in addition to an unknown amount of interest and dividends," says Jahna Locke, an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at the non-profit New York Legal Assistance Group, who is working on Gabriel’s case. NYLAG is providing free legal services to try to help recover the money that was taken. “She basically took all his money,” David says.

One of the most common forms of elder abuse, financial exploitation is growing in prevalence (along with other forms of abuse) as the population ages. Most commonly committed by a family member, caregiver or trusted individual, financial abuse typically involves taking money, property or other assets – or withholding those – without a person’s permission. Though in Gabriel’s case, David says he didn’t yet have dementia when the abuse appears to have started in 2012, he and Locke say his companion took advantage of his dementia as time went on.

Even mild cognitive impairment has been shown to inhibit financial-decision-making, studies show, and can make a person more vulnerable to financial exploitation. More than one-third of people 65 and older already have some form of cognitive impairment, notes Dr. Robert Roush, a professor of geriatrics at the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Roush is the medical project director for the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program, or EIFFE, Prevention Program, which was created by the Baylor College of Medicine and funded by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust. Among other things, as part of continuing medical education EIFFE teaches doctors how to screen older patients for cognitive deficits that could put them at higher risk of being financially exploited. “You’ve got a lot of people out there at risk, and a lot of people that we know are being scammed,” Roush says. “For every one of these cases of financial exploitation that we know about, there is so many more.”

Frequently, money that's been stolen is spent by perpetrators and never recovered by victims. In Gabriel's case, efforts to recover the money he lost are greatly complicated by the fact that his alleged abuser recently died, following a stroke last fall. Locke declined to release the individual's name, citing concerns that doing so could compromise future legal action taken on behalf of Gabriel, and in light of an ongoing criminal investigation into the matter. "We're looking into the possibilities of working probate with the [late friend's] estate to see if there's any way that we can capture these funds," Locke says. "The thought is that the funds are still within her name."

“He was saving his whole life for when he needed it,” David says of his father. “He even short-changed himself on some of his quality of life trying to be self-sufficient in his older years.” Though his father isn’t able to articulate his feelings, David says the exploitation by his long-time friend saddened his father and recast the entire relationship. “Mentally it weighs on him,” David says, adding he believes his father has suffered from depression as a result.
Financial abuse not only affects a person’s fiscal health, but overall well-being. Research finds it can raise a person’s risk of depression, leading people to withdraw and increasing hopelessness. Faced with profound loss, some victims even become suicidal, experts say. Additionally, having money and assets stolen in retirement can make it difficult for some people to afford needed medical care.

“When elders lose enough money to have to make choices between paying for out-of-pocket health care costs and routine living expenses, they’re going to go with the latter and forgo the former, which can cause all types of conditions to worsen,” Roush says. That can range from not being able to get needed drugs that aren’t covered by insurance to forgoing treatment due to out-of-pocket costs, or even not going to the dentist or purchasing healthful foods, due to expense.

A study published in the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect in January found financial mistreatment, like having money stolen, is associated with a decline in functional health – predicting more difficulties doing activities of daily living, such as dressing or bathing or getting in and out of bed without assistance. The reason for the association is not perfectly clear. But, “a lot of older adults are retired and relying on a fixed income to access care and treatment to sustain their health,” says Jaclyn Wong, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago who led the research. “So perhaps the financial mistreatment is reducing the monetary resources that older adults need in order to maintain their physical well-being.”

For older, frail adults, health can spiral down quickly, particularly if they’re unable to get the care they need, Roush says. “It’s a constellation of things,” he adds of the health effects linked to financial abuse. Many who are abused feel embarrassed or ashamed and withdraw, leaving themselves more vulnerable to re-victimization and myriad other health consequences associated with isolation, from further contributing to depression risk to raising the specter of future heart problems.

While doctors and others on the front lines seek to prevent and report elder financial abuse, Roush says loved ones and seniors should be aware it can happen to anyone. He advises also taking notice if a loved one experiences changes in cognitive function or appearance – like self-neglect – which may leave them more vulnerable to financial abuse.

What’s more, experts say, because of the pernicious nature of financial abuse, it’s important to treat victims with compassion and understanding that reflects the profound impact it can have. Wong reiterates that the problem shouldn’t be viewed purely through an economic lens: “Your economic situation, your social situation, your health situation – those are all linked,” she says.

Full Article & Source:
The Mental and Physical Cost of Elder Financial Abuse

What to Do If You or Someone You Love Has Been Financially Exploited

A senior man sits on a park bench.
“They feel like they can’t reach out and get support, because they feel like they’re not 
allowed to feel victimized in a way.” (Getty Images)

As with those who have endured other types of abuse, victims of financial elder abuse often feel they can’t or shouldn’t seek recourse.

Most commonly perpetrators of financial exploitation – which can range from stealing Social Security checks to taking over assets – are family members, caregivers or others known and trusted by those who are victimized. That can make individuals who are financially exploited all the more reluctant to come forward, and experts say perpetrators often bank on this or pressure victims not to speak up as well to keep their indiscretions from seeing the light of day – and stave off a day in court.

That betrayal by a family member or another trusted person is especially hard on those who are financially abused, says Sarah Barnard, a social worker who manages an elder abuse prevention program at WISE & Healthy Aging, a nonprofit social services organization in Santa Monica, California. On top of that, many who’ve been financially exploited feel shame and guilt, and that may be reinforced by victim-blaming. “It’s just people’s way of distancing themselves, saying, ‘Oh that wouldn’t happen to me,’” Barnard says. “People feel so much pain,” she adds. “They feel like they can’t reach out and get support, because they feel like they’re not allowed to feel victimized in a way.”

But as experts note, the widespread nature of financial exploitation shows it can happen to anyone.

Increasingly, states are looking at new ways to legally address financial exploitation – to better address and deter this form of abuse as the U.S. population ages and, experts say, increasing numbers are vulnerable. Most states currently criminalize financial elder abuse, says Matthew Andres, director of University of Illinois College of Law’s Elder Financial Justice Clinic, which provides free legal services to victims of financial exploitation. That means in addition to laws already on the books to prosecute things like theft, there are “enhanced” penalties or additional charges that may be filed in financial exploitation cases involving seniors or vulnerable adults that could increase jail time for perpetrators.

What’s more, Andres notes that a handful of states now have statutes in place allowing older or vulnerable adults – such as someone with cognitive or mental impairment – to sue specifically for elder financial exploitation; Andres says states with so-called elder financial exploitation civil causes of action include Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon, Minnesota, Utah, Illinois and Washington. (In general, in cases where victims are deemed to be unable to act on their own behalf, due, for instance, to cognitive impairment like severe dementia, another person acting under power of attorney or a public guardian may file suit on their behalf.)

A key feature of elder financial exploitation civil causes of action is that they allow victims to sue for multiple times the amount lost – typically two or three times the amount – and also to recover attorneys’ fees for bringing the case, Andres says. “It’s both to punish people more and act as a deterrent for this kind of behavior but also to encourage settlement of these cases,” he says. “Because somebody is more likely to give back 100 percent of the money that is taken if they know that at the end of the case they may have to give back 300 percent of the money that was taken.” In addition, being able to recover attorneys’ fees can help in finding a lawyer to take an elder financial abuse case, which can be challenging to litigate. “They’re complex cases and a lot of attorneys just don’t want to get involved in recovery – recovery may be difficult,” he says. “So rewarding attorneys' fees is important to help people get representation.”

In the rest of states without elder financial exploitation civil statutes, individuals can still sue to recover losses. But commonly they may not be able to recover more than 100 percent or attorneys' fees. Frequently property or money stolen is quickly expended, with nothing left to recover. That’s another reason experts say it’s critical that victims as well as anyone who suspects elder financial abuse report it immediately to authorities. Call local law enforcement or contact your local Adult Protective Services office to report financial exploitation – the earlier, the better to best prevent damages from mounting.

Don’t forget, too, experts say, that the cost of financial abuse goes far beyond the monetary loss. Rather, it should be treated like other types of abuse or trauma, Barnard says. “Victims and their families should know that services like counseling and case management can help them heal and stabilize after being financially abused. The victim may need help with basic needs like reliable caregiving, food, transportation and housing.” This may involve getting help from numerous agencies; Barnard recommends looking up social services in their area to see what’s offered.

Therapy may also be helpful to address the fallout from financial abuse. Studies have found increases in depression and anxiety associated with financial exploitation, and experts say it may increase risk for suicide as well. Therapy can help address mental health concerns, Barnard says. “It can help elders process the shame and betrayal that many victims feel after being taken advantage of by those who they may have trusted.”

Dr. Robert Roush, a professor of geriatrics at the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, emphasizes the importance of this kind of “psychological first aid” to help those affected feel safe again. In addition, it’s important that those who have been victimized don’t make any major financial decisions right away – such as in an attempt to try to recoup losses – says Roush, who is the medical project director for the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program (or EIFFE) Prevention Program. Instead, the extent of the loss first needs to be determined, and it’s important to speak with professionals, such as social workers who deal with financial abuse cases, financial advisors and possibly with attorneys experienced in dealing with such cases – if considering legal action – about next steps.

Apart from taking action to recover monetary losses, experts say victims of financial abuse most especially need support to weather the storm and reduce the likelihood of re-victimization. “Check in with vulnerable elders to reduce isolation and loneliness, as those are factors that increase their likelihood of being exploited,” Barnard says. That might include seeing if they’re interested in going to a local senior center or getting involved with a church they attend, she suggests. Providing non-judgmental support is critical to begin to address and recover in a holistic way all that was really lost, experts say, when a relationship was financially exploited to profit the abuser. As Barnard points out, “The vast majority of people who are financially abused get into that position because they are looking out for others.”

Full Article & Source:
What to Do If You or Someone You Love Has Been Financially Exploited

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


DETROIT – After a fractious family battle lasting three years, Marine Corps veteran Gayle Robinson’s adult children all told Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith April 24 that they want their mother back in her Westland home of 60 years, and notorious guardian/conservator Mary Rowan promptly dumped from her case.

Robinson is currently confined against her will in the Maple Manor nursing home in Wayne, Michigan, where Rowan placed her indefinitely without any court order. Keith had pledged during a hearing July 28, 2014, that he would not allow Robinson to be removed from her home without such an order, according to court transcripts.

“Why I am in jail?” Robinson asked a friend of the family who told VOD she visited her at Maple Manor a few days before the hearing. Robinson told VOD during an earlier hearing that she wanted to remain in her home with her son Randy, his daughter and her dog Fluffy, a wish which a former Guardian Ad Litem, Ella Bully-Cummings, also relayed to Judge Keith.

The friend said Robinson was sitting at a table in the corner of the Maple Manor dining room with three other residents, none of whom were eating the food placed in front of them. She said Robinson had a shriveled up hot dog and potato chips on her plate.

“When Gayle recognized me, she got up and gave me a big hug,” the friend said. They went together to the tiny room she sleeps in, but another resident who Robinson said sleeps all day occupied the bed next to a tiny TV. So Robinson does not watch the TV. When nursing home staff saw her in the room, they promptly told her to leave, she said, saying Robinson’s guardian Rowan did not want anyone visiting before her court hearing.

Over the past three years, Robinson has been deemed able to live on her own by medical professionals at Henry Ford Hospital, the Veterans’ Administration, and even a court-appointed evaluator, Dr. Marlena Geha.

“We have all come together,” Robinson’s daughter Mary Robinson told Keith during the hearing April 24, as the adult children crowded in front of him. “My mother’s wish is to be in her home. I will move out of my home and stay with her if she needs it. My mom is entitled to [in-home] care as a veteran. But instead over $5,000 of her insurance money has been spent at Maple Manor, out of $9,000.”

She said Rowan’s assistant Katie McDonald told her that her mother is not eligible for VA in-home care.

Other siblings at the hearing expressed unanimous agreement that their mother should be back at home, and that Rowan should be removed as guardian/conservator.

“I lived in my mom’s house for six months every night,” said son Ricky Robinson, referring to an agreement reached with McDonald that someone be with Robinson at all times. “But I was nothing but her prison guard, so we stopped. I kept visiting her with my kids. Please let Randy move [back] in with my mother and get rid of Mary Rowan.”

Randy and his daughter Lynette had been living peacefully with Robinson, who was active in VA affairs and other events, and was able to manage her own home and financial affairs, when her oldest daughter Kathleen Law opened probate proceedings in 2014.

Keith later ordered Randy out of the home and even jailed him for three months at Rowan’s request after his mother fled to her brother’s home in California to avoid placement in a nursing home.

Full Article & Source:

Judge grants Casey Moreland’s request to go see ill mother in Indiana

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A judge has granted Casey Moreland’s request to go out of state to see his elderly and ill mother who is in hospice care in Indiana.

According to the filing, Moreland, who remains under house arrest per the conditions of his release from custody, will visit with his mom at her Indiana home on Friday and Saturday of this week.

The document states he will leave with his wife and sister on Friday morning and return back to Nashville on Saturday.

While in Indiana, Moreland will stay at his mother’s home.

The former Nashville judge was indicted last Tuesday by a federal grand jury on five counts of obstruction of justice. He’s accused of taking steps to obstruct and interfere with an FBI investigation by devising a scheme to pay a material witness to take back her previous statements.

Moreland has since pleaded not guilty to those federal charges.

Full Article & Source:
Judge grants Casey Moreland’s request to go see ill mother in Indiana

See Also:
Casey Moreland to take leave from bench

Judge dismissed tickets, fines for female friend

Metro General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland resigns as presiding judge

Ethics Complaint Levels Charges Against Two Judges, Lewis

Investigation underway into inmate/deputy relationship in judge’s court

Nashville judge faces federal criminal charges

Many seniors who qualify for home-based care under Medicare aren’t receiving it. Why?

One of the greatest gaps in Medicare coverage is that it does not help to pay for home-based care unless such care is requested by a physician as medically necessary. Medicaid will cover such long-term custodial care for people with little to no income or assets. But Medicaid covers fewer than one in five of the roughly 55 million people on Medicare, leaving the rest to fend for themselves or, for a small group of mostly better-off folks, purchase private long-term care insurance.

Now, it appears that even Medicare’s limited home-based coverage benefits for those with medical needs are also not possible for many people. The nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy says it been researching the availability of Medicare-covered home-based care in response to a worrisome and growing volume of complaints from Medicare enrollees that they are being denied home-based care even though they are qualified to receive it and it is covered by Medicare.

Like nearly everything about Medicare, this is a complex topic. But it appears that Medicare is not keen to encourage use of allowable home care benefits. Home care providers don’t much like this benefit either. They don’t make much money on it, and under new Medicare rules, they can actually lose money providing such care.

Let’s begin with the benefit itself. According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Medicare will pay for up to 35 hours a week of home-based care — provided by nursing and home health aids — to people who are housebound and for whom such care is prescribed as medically necessary by their doctor or another authorized caregiver. The home health benefit also includes physical, occupational or speech-language therapy.

READ MORE: Does Medicare pay for a home health care provider?

Skilled nursing care is covered on an “intermittent” and “part-time” basis and also for home-based medical social services and for home health aides, who are allowed to perform certain personal services that stem from the patient’s underlying medical needs, but which are not the same as custodial care, which is not covered by Medicare.

These last two coverage categories, while part of Medicare’s benefits, merit only a footnote on the Medicare website. And when Medicare updated its home health care brochure last March, it was full of errors about the nature of available coverage, according to Center for Medicare Advocacy associate director Kathleen Holt.

Holt says the allowable benefits are thus broader than people realize. However, she adds, it looks like it doesn’t matter what’s actually covered, because home health agencies routinely decline to provide even the skimpier services that Medicare publicizes to Medicare enrollees who request them.

Significantly, Medicare will only pay insurance claims to home health agencies who are registered and approved by Medicare. Ostensibly to help consumers, it has developed an extensive quality rating system, so consumers can find the most qualified agency. However, there apparently is no requirement that an agency actually provide home health services when Medicare enrollees request them.

The reasons why these agencies turn away business, Holt claims, stem partly from Medicare’s increasing emphasis on paying for health care that actually helps patients get better. This is an admirable goal, but what it means is that home health agencies are rewarded for treating patients who are likely to get better.

Supporting care that cures people, while understandable, is not a requirement Medicare insists on for covering most health care. Therapy that maintains a person’s ability to function, or even that slows the pace of decline, is a perfectly good goal for treatment and one that many older Americans and their families embrace.

However, Medicare and Congress have supported the shift from fee-for-service health care to fee-for-results care. In this situation, home health agencies face a carrot-and-stick financial incentive system based on measurable patient improvement. That’s all fine and dandy, but what this means is that agencies are effectively discouraged from treating people with long-term chronic conditions who may be qualified for services, but are unlikely to get better.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Many seniors who qualify for home-based care under Medicare aren’t receiving it. Why?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Man's guardian says Kensington Place nursing home failed to address risk of falls

CHICAGO — A guardian is suing Kensington Place Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, citing alleged insufficient measures were taken to prevent injuries and negligence.

Tim Jones, as plenary guardian for Donnie Jones, filed a complaint on April 26 in Cook County Circuit Court against the defendant alleging Donnie Jones suffered injuries from a fall, including an acute left subdural hemorrhage which required emergency surgery, causing the deterioration of his overall health. The plaintiff holds Kensington Place responsible because the facility allegedly failed to provide adequate medical assistance and supervision to address Donnie Jones' risk of falling.

The plaintiff seeks judgment against the defendant in an amount greater than $50,000 plus court costs. He is represented by Ashley Hadler Herschberger and Jacob D. Radecki of Levin & Perconti in Chicago.

Cook County Circuit Court Case number 2017L004233

Full Article & Source:
Man's guardian says Kensington Place nursing home failed to address risk of falls

The Not-So-Surprising Unannounced Nursing Home Inspection

An ongoing problem that nursing home residents, their families, and consumers have expressed for years is the belief that facilities are “overly prepared” for routine annual inspections[1].

Their complaints generally sound something like this:

“Over the past several months, this nursing home has had a lot of problems answering call lights, has served food that’s, at best, barely palatable; has neglected to hire enough staff to cover the evening and weekend shifts; and has this permeating stench of urine and feces.  But, then, out of the blue one day, there’s extra staff walking the hallways, many people of whom we have never seen before; the food goes from deplorable to tasty; call lights are responded to in minutes, not hours; and the aroma smells of flowers and fresh baked bread.”

Residents, families, and advocates have repeatedly claimed that the underlying reason for this sudden and short-lived change from bad to good nursing home quality is the nursing home’s apparent awareness of the not-so-surprising, unannounced inspection–“that the state is coming in soon for their survey.”

And more often than not, they’re right.  The timing seems to be uncanny.

Unfortunately for the residents, once the inspectors leave, the daily awfulness returns, leaving residents and families scratching their heads, frustrated by what appears to be a compromised inspection process.

While much of the evidence about their claim has historically been anecdotal, a closer look at the inspection histories of the nursing homes most recently added to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid’s Special Focus Facility list gives credence to their argument.

Of the nine nursing homes added to the list this month, more than two-thirds of the cited severe deficiencies in those homes were discovered during random complaint investigations[2] (see graph below).
The sample data shows when inspections are untethered from restrictive timeframes and occur randomly, a nursing home’s ability to undertake advanced preparations for the surveyor’s visit is diminished–yielding more serious problems that need immediate attention.  And when this happens, surveyors are more apt to pinpoint those problems so they can can quickly negotiate a prompt remedy before violations become catastrophic for residents.

Fortunately, federal and state officials are aware of this overall concern and have taken some steps to enhance the integrity of the inspection process by, for example, coordinating a percentage of annual surveys during non-regular business hours and by standardizing additional family interviews during their surveys.

The Not-So-Surprising Unannounced Nursing Home Inspection

Summit County Probate Court helping developmentally disabled children transition to adulthood with new video

AKRON, Ohio -- Summit County Probate Court released a new video titled "Guardianship: As your Special Needs Child Becomes An Adult," to help parents of developmentally disabled children make decisions about their child's transition into adulthood.

The video is meant to inform, address issues and answer questions parents may have as their children approach age 18.

The 39-minute-long video can be viewed through the Probate Court's website at or at

"I recognize that it can be a difficult decision to journey on the path from parent to legal guardian," Probate Court Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer said in a news release. "This video acknowledges this reality and provides an important piece in our overall effort to protect our wards and to support their guardians."

The video shows parents Fiovi, who talks about her son Nicholas, and Mary, who discusses her experience becoming the legal guardian of her son Scott. 

They each speak with Stormer, who guides them through the process of making a decision in the best interest of their children.

The video can be used in tandem with a video previously released by the Probate Court titled "Guardianship of Persons With Developmental Disabilities." The videos together provide information to support caregivers and loved ones of children with special needs.

Guardian training is mandated by the Ohio Supreme Court. Summit County Probate Court created the first comprehensive video training in Ohio.

There are 18 videos available for online viewing through the Probate Court's website that cover issues ranging from advanced directives to marriage licenses. They can be viewed at

Full Article & Source:
Summit County Probate Court helping developmentally disabled children transition to adulthood with new video

Monday, May 8, 2017

Milton attorney reprimanded for charging exorbitant fees

The Florida Supreme Court has ordered that Milton attorney Jennifer Byrom be publicly reprimanded after it found the attorney charged excessive fees for a 10-year-long probate case.

The matter began in 1998 when Byrom’s future client, a widow, consulted her on her husband’s estate, requesting assistance with handling the $1.5 million estate. In July 1998, Byrom took guardianship, but she did not extend guardianship to the widow in petitions filed with the courts.

It was at this time when the attorney began to charge exorbitant hourly rates. According to court documents, Byrom charged between $60 and $85 per hour for any work performed by her staff and between $180 and $250 per hour for work she completed done. She charged the widow for both guardianship and legal services, even though she was only entitled to charge for performing the latter.

Additionally, Byrom charged incidentals to the account such as her food and travel expenses. All of her expenses were approved by the courts.

After 10.5 years of service, the widow’s daughter filed for and was granted guardianship, but Byrom had already racked up charges totaling $400,000 during her time as guardian.

After reviewing the facts of the case, including the court approvals and signatures from the widow and her children approving the activities charged, the Supreme Court determined that discipline was warranted. Byrom will to be publicly reprimanded in the Referee and will be required to take 15 hours of continuing legal education in guardianship and 15 hours in guardianship, probate and/or estate planning.

The family law attorney was admitted to the Florida State Bar in 1985 and is a graduate of the Samford University Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. She had no prior record of discipline in the state.

Full Article & Source:
Milton attorney reprimanded for charging exorbitant fees

Deputies searching for woman accused of exploiting elderly person

Christy Lynn Parks
The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office is casting an online drag net for a 39-year-old woman accused of preying on a senior citizen.

Christy Lynn Parks is wanted for burglary in the second degree, forgery and exploitation of an elderly person, according to a post on the sheriff’s office facebook page.

Parks, who is about 5 feet 1 and 120 pounds, could be driving a black GMC Yukon.

Anyone with information is urged to call Investigator Kenneth Hester at 478-951-7659 or the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office at 478-751-7500.

Full Article & Source:
Deputies searching for woman accused of exploiting elderly person

Man who scammed Volusia County elderly residents arrested, deputies say

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - A man who is accused of targeting senior victims and overcharging them for construction costs has been arrested, Volusia County deputies said.

Gary Mitchell, 29, was arrested Thursday in Broward County and taken to the Volusia County Jail.

Deputies said Mitchell specifically targets older residents.

Mitchell is accused of going to a 90-year-old DeBary woman’s home and telling her that she needed her driveway resurfaced, deputies said.

The woman initially declined, but later let the man fix her driveway for $3,000, investigators said.

The woman told deputies that she thought that was too much, but did it anyway. She said she tried to have the bank cancel the check, but Mitchell had already cashed the check, investigators said.

Detectives later learned that Mitchell didn’t resurface the woman’s driveway, but painted over it with a watered-down concrete mix, deputies said.

Deputies said Mitchell also tried to get $3,200 from an 88-year-old DeBary man for work on his driveway, but, accepted $40 after the man complained to Mitchell that the price was too high.

Mitchell was previously convicted in Arizona of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, deputies said.

Mitchell is charged with elderly exploitation and scheme to defraud.

He’s being held on $50,000 bail.

Full Article & Source:
Man who scammed Volusia County elderly residents arrested, deputies say

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Judicial Discipline Among Highlights of Harrisburg Arguments

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to convene in Harrisburg on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear argument on a variety of issues, including right to counsel during psychological exams, the role of stare decisis in judicial discipline cases and the statute of limitations in underinsured motorist cases.

Right to Counsel

One of the first cases the court will hear is an appeal from a March 2016 Superior Court ruling that a litigant does not have an absolute right to the presence of counsel during an independent psychological evaluation.

In a March 9 opinion in Shearer v. Hafer, a unanimous three-judge panel of the court held in an apparent issue of first impression that Pennsylvania's Rules of Civil Procedure allow a trial court to issue protective orders expressly prohibiting the presence of third-party observers during the standardized portion of an evaluation. The psychologist conducting the evaluation at issue had said counsel's presence could threaten the validity of data gathered during the test.

The decision affirmed a ruling of the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas, which granted Scott Hafer and Paulette Ford's motion for a protective order in a case involving a car accident.

Judicial Discipline

The court will also hear argument in the disciplinary cases of two suspended Philadelphia judges who were removed from office for ethics violations.

The question before the justices is whether, when imposing sanctions on a judge, the Court of Judicial Discipline is bound to follow the doctrine of stare decisis, requiring it to follow its prior decisions.
In separate sanctions rulings issued Dec. 16, the CJD removed both judges from the bench and barred them from holding public office in the future.

Both judges have already appealed the sanctions rulings to the state Supreme Court.

The decisions came after Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Angeles Roca and Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Dawn Segal were found earlier this year to have violated the state constitution and the Code of Judicial Conduct by engaging in ex parte contact with former Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr., who was later charged criminally and sentenced to 24 months in prison for fixing cases of political donors.

UM Arbitration Preservation

Is an unopposed demand for arbitration enough to toll the statute of limitations for bringing an uninsured motorist claim that is subject to mandatory arbitration, or does an arbitration petition need to be filed with a court?

That is the question the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to consider. Both sides said they are looking forward to a clear rule from the Supreme Court on the issue.

In late December 2016, the justices took up an appeal in Erie Insurance Exchange v. Bristol. The court specifically agreed to hear arguments about whether the statute of limitations in uninsured motorist claims subject to mandatory arbitration is "tolled only by the commencement of an official judicial action, or may extrajudicial actions also toll the statute of limitations."

A three-judge panel of the state Superior Court in May 2016 ruled that the statute of limitations on an uninsured motorist claim had not been tolled despite the parties corresponding about the mandatory arbitration and even selecting arbitrators. The decision upheld a ruling from the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which had granted summary judgment for the insurance carrier.

Full Article & Source:
Judicial Discipline Among Highlights of Harrisburg Arguments