HOUSTON - A Texas physician executive has sued a Houston-area probate judge in federal court, alleging unlawful treatment, rascality, unfair judicial practices that violated her mother Hattie Owen’s final wishes before she died under court-appointed guardianship.
The plaintiff daughter, Dr. Sheila Owens Collins, named Harris County Probate Judge Michael Newman in her complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas.
“The court conspired and colluded in actions that caused the loss of life for Hattie Owens and loss of a mother for Dr. Sheila Owens-Collins,” the Oct. 22 federal complaint states.
As previously reported by the SE Texas Record, it is not uncommon for the elderly and people with disabilities to lose their individual rights around choice of meals, health insurance, marital status, medical care, medication, residence, visitation, assets and property once they become a ward of most American states under a court-ordered guardianship.
“Hon. Judge Newman declared that the plaintiff [Dr. Sheila Owens Collins] was unsuitable to serve as the first-named executor,” the opening brief states. “The stated reason of family discord is unreasonable and not substantiated by case law. The siblings have been disgruntled all of their lives. Their mother, Hattie Owens, was aware of this and named plaintiff, Dr. Owens Collins to carry out her last wishes. The Judge is arbitrarily non-compliant with her wish in favor of channeling more monies out of the estate to the detriment of the beneficiaries."
Dr. Owens-Collins, a neonatologist on staff at a Clearlake hospital and other hospitals nationwide, alleges in the complaint that the Honorable Judge Newman caused undue diminution of her mother's estate and ignored her mother’s wishes, which were stated in a will, accepting instead as truth the submission of unsubstantiated claims that slandered the doctor's character, according to a press release.
"This case highlights the failures of the public entity known as the Harris County Guardianship and Probate Court system, as well as the failures of the agents and appointees of the Harris County guardianship program under both Texas state law and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) for the acts and omissions of the Harris County guardianship program,” the pleading states.
After the plaintiff's mother died on Jan. 1, 2019, Dr. Owens Collins alleges that the Honorable Judge Newman abused his discretion by closing the guardianship prematurely before the estate was satisfactorily settled by all stakeholders.
“Defendant exploited Plaintiff by subjecting her to conditions and mistreatment that are nothing short of vile,” according to the complaint. “Hon. Judge Newman allowed a toxic environment in the court proceedings by allowing Guardian Ad Litem [Tim Berlinger] to spew inflammatory remarks about the plaintiff that were defaming, unprofessional, and totally unsubstantiated.”
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff daughter states she has filed a complaint against the Honorable Judge Newman with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The relief she seeks includes a jury trial, public injunctive relief as well as a declaration that reverses the alleged weaponization of the court system while enjoining the judiciary.
At a Nov. 9 probate court hearing, Judge Newman is scheduled to
consider the plaintiff’s son Dr. Roy Collins, a Yale graduate and
psychiatrist-in-training at Stanford University in California, as the
second executor. However, the federal complaint states, "Judge Newman
has already signaled that the second executor, who happens to be the
Plaintiff’s son and decedent’s grandson, will not be named executor,
which is an abuse of judicial discretion."