Saturday, July 10, 2021

Hunting the Elderly: The Purging Continues


“Of all that happens in probate tribunals, the most disgusting has to be the forcing of the victim to pay for the actions of the predators. Everyone who comes against the victim is allowed to bill the estate for the attack.”


This is no time to grow old in this country, especially if you have property and other liquid assets. Roaming freely in the general population are predators whose only purpose is preying upon elderly individuals who can then be abducted, isolated and robbed blind.

Trafficking the elderly for profit is far more lucrative than working a regular old job. You simply have to have a lack of morals, integrity, sympathy, empathy and any sense of decency and you too can be a professional guardian.

It is estimated that 1.5 million individuals have currently fallen victim to this predatory system here in the U.S.. This number of victims has been chronically sighted as far back as 2015 by numerous sources, but I personally believe todays number of wards is far, far higher. The intentional refusal of state and federal agencies to admit and/or collect these statistics is to facilitate the ongoing attacks on the elderly in the hopes of reducing their numbers significantly. It is also a massive transfer of wealth from the vulnerable to predators who refer to themselves as professional guardians and attorneys, but who are, in fact, nothing more than professional parasites.

The National Center for State Courts estimates that only 1.3 million adults currently live under this legal and abusive system with guardians controlling an estimated $50 billion in assets that will all be transferred from the victims to the guardians and attorneys. This transfer of assets will continue until the estate is totally drained. The Government Accountability Office [GAO] has put a few programs in place to help track the financial exploitation taking place, but GAO steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the proliferation of professional guardians who most often are the perpetrators of exploitation. Instead they focus on family or community members who, while at times are the perpetrators, are far, far fewer in numbers than the professionals who stalk the system.

Each year it is estimated that $50 to $100 billion in assets are seized using the guardianship/conservator system.

As a way of creating plausible deniability, the federal government claims that guardianship is state’s business and therefore they do not collect stats or other information regarding guardianships. I find this strange as they have their tennacles in most everything else in the states. Within the states, many claim they do not have the funds to collect statistics. They do however have funds for any number of idiotic ideas that seem to always benefit those precious “stakeholders”. You know…those corporate interests who plan to profit at the expense of the public.

How to abduct the elderly

Guardianship/conservatorship is used to strip an individual of their legal capacity. Legal capacity is literally, the right to your own identity as a living and breathing human being. The predator now assumes the identity and is allowed to transact all business using the victims name; using the assumed name and presenting themselves as the victim. The right to contract (legal agency) is attached to legal capacity. Without any Constitutional protections, the victim is subjected to extreme inhumane tribunal ordered abuse. They are not allowed to speak (after all, they no longer exist under the law). These tribunals were established specifically to allow the predators to engage in human trafficking, operating under an unconstitutional construct meant to deprive them not only of their identity and assets, but also their humanity.

This is the definition of human bondage and servitude.

While this predatory system runs in full view of the public, state and federal representatives and senators turn a blind eye to it. The silence from government, both state and federal is a testament to their complicity. As long as they do not interfer in the ongoing abductions and estate thefts, the “donations” to their re-election campaigns can be counted on. These come from various BAR associations, professional guardian groups, and others who hide their insidious activity behind ubiquitous sounding names meant to make the viewer believe they are of good purpose.

While our elected officials refuse to take action to not only limit or fully stop this system, they do however on occasion, promote bills with wonderful sounding titles that would make one think they are sincere in their efforts. And, while there may be a few things in the bills that would benefit the abductees, hidden in the lengthy texts is language that will not only further harm them, but will also exacerbate the issues. But you aren’t supposed to actually read the bill; at least they hope you don’t.

Of Human Servitude and Bondage

There is little in probate tribunals that could be described as due process. Many times hearings are held and plenary guardianships are granted with out the victim even being notified of the hearing, much less allowed to attend. They only find out after the fact. To further cement the theft of their life and assets, the examiner fires any personal attorneys and doctors, and assigns attorneys and doctors who routinely work with that tribunal. Every unconstitutional predatory act is facilitated and implemented by the hearing examiners. Every possible thing that transpires does so only because the examiner orders it. In addition to the lack of due process, probate tribunals do not have to adhere to the rules of evidence nor the code of civil procedures. These are not civil or criminal courts supposedly ruled by the law. These are tribunals especially created to remove the victim from the protection of the law and subject them to statutes, codes and regulations erected by the very people preying on them.

Of all that happens in probate tribunals, the most disgusting has to be the forcing of the victim to pay for the actions of the predators. Everyone who comes against the victim is allowed to bill the estate for the attack. Even the hearing examiner receives from 2-6% of the value of the estate each and every time a motion is brought before the tribunal. The percentage is based upon specific state allowances.

Once a hearing examiner or ministerial clerk masquerading as “judge” grants the petition for guardianship, any pre-existing legal instruments such as estate planning, trusts, wills or other preparations, are routinely “set aside”. This means that they are discarded to allow the guardian to plunder the estate at will. Probate examiners do not have to have a law back ground in most cases.

I firmly believe that every single attorney or law firm selling estate planning to avoid guardianship or conservatorship, should be sued for fraud. Each and every one of them knows that the estate plans are worthless once in probate, but the database they create selling these fraudulent set-ups is worth its weight in gold.

Through probate tribunals and what is euphemistically referred to as “family” court, we have been com modified. Victims are many times referred to as “units”, “merchandise” or other inanimate objects.

We are bought, sold and traded for profit, our state and federal governments fully aware of the abusive system of bondage in place. The silence from these elected individuals is deafening. Far worse than the silence is the behind the scenes efforts to keep the system operating, unimpeded by those elected to represent the public.


Definition of bondage

1 : the tenure or service of a villein, a serf, or an enslaved person

2 : a state of being bound usually by compulsion (as of law or mastery): such as

a : captivity, serfdom

b : servitude or subjugation to a controlling person or force

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Eastern Cape attorney accused of fraud after losing case released on warning

By ANA Reporter

Cape Town - An Eastern Cape attorney has been released on a warning after appearing in the new law court in Gqeberha on allegations of fraud, says the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks).

Chantal Arlene du Plessis, 46, faces charges involving over R158 000 in civil claim costs, Hawks provincial spokesperson Captain Yolisa Mgolodela said in a statement.

Du Plessis was allegedly representing a client when she lost the case, resulting in the client paying R150 000 as per the court order into Du Plessis’ trust account on March 12, 2018. Du Plessis, however, did not pay the costs as per the order, but instead allegedly redirected the money for personal use.

The opposing attorneys reportedly secured a default judgment against du Plessis’s client for failure to comply with the court order, with the client’s assets set to be attached to defray costs.

“Du Plessis then used another client’s money in order to stop the execution on the existing attachment order,” Mgolodela said.

She said a complaint was then made to the Hawks’ serious commercial crime investigation team in Gqeberha, leading to a probe and Du Plessis’ arrest. The court then released her on warning with conditions, while the matter was postponed to August 2.

In a separate incident, the Hawks’ Queenstown serious organised crime investigation unit was involved in the arrest of a 21-year-old man on suspicion of copper cable theft and damage to infrastructure on Monday morning, Mgolodela said.

Cala police were conducting routine patrols when they noticed a suspicious bakkie loaded with copper cables, whose driver sped off when he saw the officers. The driver lost control of his vehicle and crashed into another one, before fleeing on foot.

He was subsequently identified by another motorist and an investigation linked the suspect to the bakkie and a scrapyard where stolen cables were often sold.

According to Mgolodela, the company responsible for erecting power poles for network signals around the Cala area, Sentech, identified the recovered cables and the value of the damage to infrastructure and stolen cables was estimated at more than R2.5 million.

The suspect will appear soon in the Cala Magistrate’s Court.

African News Agency (ANA)

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Boca Raton caregiver charged with stealing $75K from elderly woman

by Ana Espinosa

A Boca Raton caregiver is behind bars Wednesday after allegedly stealing more than $75,000 from an 87-year-old woman.

Boca Raton Police said Maria Soriano worked as a live-in health aid for the victim for over a year.


According to court documents, back in March, the victim’s family fired Soriano because they believed she was stealing and fraudulently cashing checks.

After months of investigating, Boca Raton Police said they have video surveillance and bank documents linking her to the case.

“You’ve got some serious charges,” said Judge Charles Burton. “Exploitation of elderly, $50,000 dollar bond.”

The investigating officer said Soriano stole more than $78,400.

Checks dated between December 2019 and February 15, 2021, were made out to ‘cash.’

In April, police failed to locate Soriano, but she was extradited from California yesterday.

“Ten-thousand dollar extradition fees -- so how long have you been here? You just got booked in from California?” asked Burton.

“Yesterday,” Soriano responded.

Soriano is facing four charges, including money laundering, organized scheme to defraud, fraudulent use of personal identification information and exploitation of an elderly person.

She is due back in court on July 15.

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Friday, July 9, 2021

Detroit man who is Deaf-Blind freed after spending more than 2 years under guardianship

A Detroit man is finally free tonight after spending more than 2½ years under guardianship because a judge declared him legally incapacitated. Rodrick Gordon is Deaf-Blind but that doesn’t mean he needs to have a guardian in charge of every decision in his life. 

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — A Detroit man is finally free tonight after spending more than 2½ years under guardianship because a judge declared him legally incapacitated. Rodrick Gordon is Deaf-Blind but that doesn’t mean he needs to have a guardian in charge of every decision in his life.

“I’ve been living independently for 30 years,” said Gordon.

The 69-year-old may be Deaf-Blind, but all you have to do is spend five minutes with him to know he is not mentally incapacitated.

“Do you consider yourself incapacitated,” asked 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

“No! Absolutely not,” said Gordon.

In his 20s and 30s, Gordon became Deaf-Blind after complications from a brain tumor. But after training at the Helen Keller Center for the Deaf-Blind, he learned to use Tactile American Sign Language to communicate. Here’s the problem: no one properly communicated with him when his civil rights were on the line back in 2018.

That’s when Gordon was assaulted outside his Detroit apartment. His lawyer says after he was released from the hospital he no longer had the same in-home services that had previously helped him live independently.

So an Adult Protective Services worker filed a petition with the Wayne County Probate Court to place Rodrick under guardianship.

“Do you need a guardian,” asked Catallo.

“No! That is saying that I do not have the capability to do the things that I’ve been trained to do and take care of my own personal life,” said Gordon. “I was utterly surprised that I’d been taken into a home and been deprived of my independence … So I was deprived of my independent living and the court denied me of being back independently on my own again.”

Before you’re placed under guardianship, a judge appoints someone called a Guardian ad Litem to visit with you and explain your rights under the law. The Guardian ad Litem is often a lawyer, but they’re not your lawyer. And they’re not a doctor. They are there to report back to the judge about whether they believe you need a guardian, and whether you they believe you are mentally incapacitated.

In Rodrick Gordon’s case, his Guardian ad Litem did not have a Deaf-Blind interpreter with him, and said in his report to the judge: “The ward was not responsive when discussing guardianship and could not hear… the nature and purpose of having a guardian.” Yet he still recommended to the judge that Gordon be placed under guardianship.

“It’s really tragic,” said Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Charlene Gordon (no relation). She has worked with Rodrick Gordon for years.

“What do you think about the failure to make sure he had the proper interpreters at the initial stages of this case,” asked Catallo.

“It was a power move. That was a move by the professionals to say we don’t want you to know what’s going on. We want to take control of this.”

She’s appalled that Gordon was placed under a guardianship and then moved to a group home against his will.

“They said, oh he’s Deaf-Blind, we don’t know how to help him coordinate services. So therefore they put him up under guardianship,” said Charlene Gordon.

So Rodrick appealed the guardianship.

“Because if these things can be done, it can happen to other people too,” said Gordon.

Michigan Elder Justice Initiative attorney Nicole Shannon argued Rodrick Gordon’s case in front of the Michigan Court of Appeals and won. That set an important precedent.

“It serves as case law for every guardianship case going forward across the state of Michigan. It’s not just a suggestion: because it is published, this is binding law in the same way that a statute would be” said Shannon. “It reminds courts they do have to apply the correct standard in these cases. It means that if you’re subject to a guardianship like Mr. Gordon is, it’s not his job to show he’s not incapacitated – it’s somebody else’s job to show that he is incapacitated … He’s a brilliant man who is absolutely in control of his life and should have never been in this situation in the first place.”

Shannon says a key issue on appeal was how the Wayne County Probate Court relied on a note from an internal medicine doctor for the group home, even though the doctor also did not use an interpreter to properly communicate with Rodrick.

Shannon is on Michigan’s Elder Abuse Task Force and says too often the courts rely on inadequate medical notes to declare people incapacitated. That will change under new legislation just introduced in the Michigan House and Senate to improve the information from medical and psychological professionals in guardianship cases.

“Under the proposed legislation we’re going to require that its [notes/records] type written, to ensure that we know who wrote it, so we can talk to that doctor, potentially have them come testify and gather more information along the way,” said Shannon.

The new legislation also improves the rules that Guardians Ad Litem have to follow.

“It would focus on ensuring that Guardians ad Litem are giving the courts all the information that they really need, and ensuring that the individuals rights are preserved,” said Shannon. “That’s going to mean explaining how long they met with the person, because it’s going to be important to know whether they talked with somebody for 5 minutes or for an hour.”

After 2 ½ years, the probate judge terminated Rodrick Gordon’s guardianship in May. Now he wants others to know the laws must change.

“I do want to see others who are capable and want to continue their lives given appropriate access and given the correct chance of living independently. And not just be picked up and dumped into homes where they are not supposed to be,” said Gordon.

A spokesman for Adult Protective Services said they legally can’t discuss the specifics of this case.

But in a statement, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (which oversees APS) Director Elizabeth Hertel said:

“It is important to the department that we ensure everyone we interact with is treated with dignity and respect. That includes ensuring that the people we serve are able to communicate with us properly and accurately.”

Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Charlene Gordon thanked the Greater Detroit Area Agency for the Blind and Visually Impaired, PsyGenics Inc., and Deaf C.A.N. for all of their support for Rodrick Gordon throughout his legal battle and guardianship.

Now that Rodrick Gordon has his freedom back, he plans to keep attending his beloved church, and says, “I will continue to live the life that God wants me to do, to go out and give thanks and praise with my other brothers and sisters.”

Full Article & Source:

Collins, Gillibrand Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Seniors and Caregivers Against Financial Fraud

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Rome Man Jailed for Theft, Forgery and Elderly Abuse

Justin Tylor Huie, 22 of Rome, was arrested this week after reports said he stole a disabled adults cellphone and over $475 from the victims bank account.

Police added that Huie took the money by using the victims bank card without permission.

He is also accused of repeatedly going to the victims home without permission with the intent to harass and intimate.

Huie is charged with two counts theft by taking, forgery of a financial transaction card, financial transaction card theft, exploitation and intimidation of the elderly, stalking and criminal trespass.

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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Conservator Will Be Held Accountable for Depleting Elderly Woman's Life Savings

July 6, 2021- Middletown Connecticut

Conservator Will Be Held Accountable for Depleting Elderly Woman's Life Savings

Judge Cesar Noble of the Hartford Superior Court issued a decision in consolidated probate appeals for 77 year-old Ruth Strong,that holds her former conservator, Attorney Lisa Foy, accountable for failing to spend down Strong's savings in a way that would have sheltered them, and for exposing Strong to liability for an unpaid bill to the nursing home.

Newington Probate Court Judge Robert Randich issued a decision in July 2019 approving the financial accounting submitted by Foy. A second decision a few months later left Strong with a bill for just under $2,000.00. Ms. Strong appealed both decisions to the Superior Court to recover her lost savings. The Superior Court reversed the probate court decision and held the former conservator accountable for not considering a special needs trust to protect Ms. Strong's savings. The Superior Court judge also said that the conservator could not delegate her responsibilities for protecting Ms. Strong's assets to others without following up. The Superior Court ruled that Judge Randich had made findings and conclusions which were "not fairly and reasonably drawn from the facts." The probate court judge had ignored expert testimony and drawn unsupported conclusions to rule that the conservator did nothing wrong.

The Superior Court's decision allows Strong's action for damages against the former conservator to proceed. This decision denies immunity to Foy for those parts of the probate court decision that were reversed.

Attorney Marilyn Denny, who represented Ms. Strong in the Probate Court action for accounting said, "Foy's actions resulted in the financial ruin of the woman she (and the probate court) were charged with protecting. It was troubling that the probate court judge sought to protect the conservator rather than Ruth. It is good that Ruth will be able to sue for damages in Superior Court. It has been especially distressing for Ruth to have her conservator pay her entire life savings over to the nursing home and leave her with a debt to the nursing home."

Connecticut Legal Rights Project is a non-profit Connecticut corporation providing high quality legal services to low income persons with mental health conditions, who reside in hospitals or the community, on matters related to their treatment, recovery, and civil rights.CLRP represents clients in accordance with their expressed preferences in administrative, judicial, and legislative venues to enforce their legal rights and assure that personal choices are respected and individual self-determination is protected.

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Louisiana Supreme Court justice admits misconduct; here's how his colleagues disciplined him


2012 File photo of Jeff Hughes.

Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes III has admitted he committed judicial misconduct and agreed to pay more than $2,000 over a visit in 2019 to the home of a Hammond political operative who said Hughes offered him money to switch allegiances in the race for another seat on the state’s highest court.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday endorsed an agreement between Hughes and the Louisiana Judiciary Commission to publicly censure him over violations of several judicial canons. A Supreme Court spokesman said he was unaware of any previous public discipline against a justice sitting on the state’s top court.

Hughes, the court’s second-longest serving jurist, admitted bringing disrepute on the judiciary when he met with former Hammond City Councilman Johnny Blount on Oct. 30, 2019.

Blount was supporting Will Crain in a runoff against 5th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Hans Liljeberg for an open seat alongside Hughes on the high court.

In an affidavit, Blount said Hughes offered him $5,000 to switch his support to Liljeberg. He left this business card, saying “to call him if I decided to accept his offer.”

Hughes denied offering Blount a payoff, though he acknowledged he told Blount that he might find it more financially rewarding to back Liljeberg.

The agreement between Hughes and the commission states that the payoff allegation was “unsubstantiated.”

Crain won the race. He and Hughes both were recused from the court’s vote to censure Hughes.

The Supreme Court said Hughes “acknowledges that his conduct and subsequent events flowing from it undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the judiciary and brought the judiciary into disrepute.”

Hughes “accordingly acknowledges the imposition of discipline is appropriate,” Justice Scott Crichton wrote. Justices James Genovese, Jay McCallum and Piper Griffin agreed.

Chief Justice John Weimer dissented, though he didn’t necessarily disagree with the discipline. He argued in a separate opinion that the court should put on a public hearing to air the allegations against Hughes.

Crichton's opinion noted that Hughes, a Republican, has been a state judge since 1991. He rose from district judge in Livingston Parish to the First Circuit Court of Appeal in 2004 and then the Supreme Court in 2012.

Hughes was reelected without opposition in 2018 and under state law will be too old to seek reelection following his 10-year term. He did not return a message Wednesday, nor did the Baton Rouge attorney who represented him before the Judiciary Commission, John H. Smith.

Hughes and the commission agreed that he “did not engage in a pattern of misconduct” and that he wasn’t acting in his official capacity when he showed up at Blount’s house.

Days after that encounter, Hughes insisted in an interview that his actions didn’t amount to the kind of “inappropriate political and campaign activity” that judicial canons prohibit.

Hughes described his appeal to Blount, whom he hadn’t seen in years, as a private conversation. He denied offering Blount money, saying that “to suggest that I would personally pay out of my own pocket for any amount to any of these guys was a joke, really.”

Hughes, a self-described “political junkie,” said he had looked at street-level “get-out-the-vote” efforts and noticed that Crain’s campaign was underpaying Blount, who had worked on judicial campaigns for Hughes in the past.

“I did mention that the Liljeberg campaign would probably be interested in his services, but you know, that was his choice,” Hughes said then.

“I think I have free-speech rights like everybody else. If I want to go talk to somebody one-on-one and ask questions, they don’t have to talk back to me.”

In accepting discipline, however, Hughes admitted he engaged in “unauthorized partisan political activity” and failed to uphold the integrity of the judiciary.

“He is remorseful and has accepted responsibility for the negative light his conduct brought upon the judiciary, and he has committed to refrain from such conduct in the future,” the court opinion states.

Judiciary Commission records released after Wednesday’s ruling show that Hughes acknowledged that if the commission filed a disciplinary case against him, “he could not successfully defend against it.”

Crain said Wednesday that he considered the matter “appropriately closed” and insisted it hadn’t affected his work on the court.

“I have worked effectively, openly, professionally and collegially with all of my colleagues, and I will continue to do so, and they with me as well,” Crain said. “I have full confidence in the work of the Judiciary Commission and I know that they fully investigate whatever matters are before them, and I’m confident that they have arrived at an appropriate end to this matter.”

Crain was recused at the request of the commission, which said he was a witness in the case against Hughes.

The complaint against Hughes was filed by another rival candidate, Richard Ducote, who lost in the primary. Ducote, who has fought the Judiciary Commission over its lack of transparency, called it encouraging that the commission and the Supreme Court brought the complaint against Hughes into the open.

“I hope the fact that something came of this would encourage attorneys to report judicial misconduct,” Ducote said.

“I’m always happy when anybody who is in a compromised position takes full responsibility for what they did, and that seems to be what happened here.”

Liljeberg did not respond to a message seeking comment. Crain beat Liljeberg handily in the runoff for the Supreme Court seat, taking 57% of the vote.

The court filings make no mention of previous Judiciary Commission and FBI investigations into Hughes, which wrapped in 2004.

The outcome of those investigations remained hidden from public view for almost two decades.

The feds would drop their investigation after five years. Soon after, Hughes wrote a series of secret apology letters to people who had appeared years earlier in his Livingston Parish courtroom over family law cases.

Hughes professed sorrow over how he had treated their cases in the letters, which The Advocate | The Times-Picayune reported on in 2019.

Hughes penned one to Brenda Nicholson, a grandmother who was fighting over custody of her grandson amid a child abuse case involving the stepfather.

Hughes had been in a romantic relationship with the attorney who represented the boy’s stepfather and mother. Nicholson accused Hughes of jailing her for 11 days out of personal interest in the custody case; Hughes has defended himself by saying that the attorney left the case before he ruled over custody.

“I am writing to apologize to you for my actions,” Hughes later wrote to Nicholson. “I have come to the conclusion that my actions were inimical to the pursuit of the truth and that, because of my actions, justice suffered. For this I am deeply remorseful.”

Hughes wrote a second apology letter to David Fleming and a third to Fleming’s attorney in 2004, after Fleming fought for custody of his sons in Hughes’ courtroom. Fleming tried to have Hughes recused from the case, but the judge fought to remain over the custody case.

“I am writing to apologize to you for any inconvenience, aggravation, extra work, or costs caused to you by my actions,” Hughes later wrote to Fleming. “I made mistakes in the way I handled the case of Fleming v. Fleming and for this I am deeply sorry.”

The outcome of the past Judiciary Commission investigation into Hughes has remained walled off in secrecy, despite the Supreme Court adopting a rule change last year that allows discussion of commission cases once files have closed.

Though Hughes wrote the apology letters, it remains unclear whether he did so under orders of the Judiciary Commission, and whether he received any additional consequences. Voters had no way of knowing about Hughes’ past apology letters when they elevated him first to the appeals court and then elected him to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004, or to the Louisiana Supreme Court for the first time in 2012.

Those who received them were ordered to stay quiet about their Judiciary Commission complaints.

Hughes filed a lawsuit last year against The Advocate | The Times-Picayune over an editorial that criticized his handling of the Nicholson case. He also sued the executive director of a legal watchdog group over a 2019 letter to the editor. Neither lawsuit has been resolved.

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Pop star inspires Silicon Valley lawmaker’s conservatorship reform

by Katie King

State Assemblyman Evan Low on the Assembly floor on June 14. Photo courtesy of the California Assembly Democratic Caucus.

A Silicon Valley lawmaker is vowing to continue his fight for conservatorship reform after pop icon Britney Spears recently slammed California for allegedly failing to protect her from abuse and exploitation.

“We need to close loopholes and create accountability and transparency,” state Assemblyman Evan Low said in a statement. “I will continue to fight for Ms. Spears and others who have been let down by California’s failed conservatorship system.”

Conservatorships, which are governed by state law, are intended to protect adults who can no longer care for themselves. A court judge appoints a person or professional organization to serve as a conservator for the incapacitated person and make decisions on their behalf.

Conservators are supposed to act in the best interest of their wards. But Spears, who testified virtually in Los Angeles Superior Court last month, alleged that everyone involved with her conservatorship abused and exploited her for their own financial gain. The pop star has released four albums, toured globally and completed a four-year Las Vegas residency since being placed in the conservatorship in 2008.

Low, who researched conservatorships earlier this year after watching a documentary about Spears, said the system’s failings are widespread. In response, the Silicon Valley Democrat introduced a bill in February intended to help protect conservatees from abuse and fraud.

AB 1194 passed the state Assembly with a vote of 76-0 on May 28 and is under review in the state Senate. Legislators recently referred the bill to the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.

Among other provisions, the bill would increase transparency by requiring all professional conservators with websites to post a range of their fees online. It would allow any interested person with personal knowledge of a conservatee to petition the court to investigate allegations of abuse—and it would require the court to investigate those claims.

The bill would additionally require a court investigator to gather and review relevant medical reports about a proposed conservatee, including reports from their primary care physician.

More than a million people are under conservatorships in the United States. In Santa Clara County, 1,067 residents are under conservatorships, according to data San José Spotlight obtained from the county Social Services Agency.

Of those conservatees, 847 are in mental health conservatorships for adults with severe mental illness. The other 220 residents are in probate conservatorships due to dementia, brain injuries or other developmental disorders that leave them susceptible to undue influences.

In terms of gender, 578 local conservatees are male, 466 are female, three identify as transgender and 20 are unspecified. Ages vary, with 199 conservatees between ages 18-35, 260 between ages 36-55, 239 between 56-65 and 365 are age 66 or older. Four conservatee’s ages are unlisted.

Kathy Forward, a consultant and former executive director for NAMI Santa Clara County, said more oversight would be beneficial within the conservatorship system. NAMI is a nonprofit that supports and advocates for those with mental illnesses.

“We hear mixed stories about how it goes,” she told San José Spotlight. “I think it depends on the conservators.”

Some conservators readily take into consideration a conservatee’s wishes and keep them informed about major decisions, Forward explained. Others leave them out of the loop entirely.

“Some conservatees don’t have a clue about what’s going on in their life and they get very upset about that,” she said.

Claudia Harty, program manager at Parents Helping Parents, said it’s important to keep in mind that many people seeking conservatorships are just trying to protect a vulnerable family member. Parents Helping Parents is a local nonprofit that supports children and adults with special needs.

Harty explained many parents who come to her organization are used to caring for a child with disabilities. But once those children turn 18 their parents can no longer legally act on their behalf.

“They need a conservatorship to continue advocating for their loved ones in the best way possible,” she said.

According to the Judicial Branch of California, a conservatorship should only be established if there is no other way to meet a person’s needs. Less restrictive alternatives should be considered, including an informal personal care arrangement or a court authorization for medical treatment.

As for Spears’ case, it’s unclear what steps the court will take next. But the pop star made her voice heard.

“I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people,” Spears said during her testimony. “It makes no sense. The laws need to change.”

Full Article & Source:

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Britney Spears' attorney to resign from conservatorship case

Samuel D. Ingham III asked the court for permission to resign two weeks after Spears testified that she wanted to find her own attorney.
Click to Watch Video

By Doha Madani

Britney Spears' attorney filed a motion to resign as her counsel Tuesday, almost two weeks after Spears testified that she wanted to choose her own attorney in her conservatorship.

Samuel D. Ingham III, who was appointed to Spears' case in 2008, said in documents filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court that he will resign as soon as a new counsel is selected. In her testimony June 23, Spears told Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny that she wanted the right to pick her own attorney.

Spears said Ingham advised her against speaking out about her feelings regarding the 13-year conservatorship, which she described as abusive and isolating. She also testified that she was unaware that she was allowed to petition the court to end the conservatorship.

"I know I've grown with a personal relationship with Sam, my lawyer. I've been talking to him, like, three times a week now," Spears said June 23. "We've kind of built a relationship, but I haven't really had the opportunity — by my own self — to actually handpick my own lawyer by myself. And I would like to be able to do that."

Ingham's is the third resignation from Spears' team in the last week. Her longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, sent a letter to Spears' co-conservators James "Jamie" Spears, her father, and Jodi Montgomery announcing his departure from her team.

The letter, first reported Monday by Deadline and later confirmed by NBC News, said Rudolph last communicated with Spears over 2½ years ago, when she told him she planned to take an indefinite work hiatus.

"I believe it is in Britney's best interest for me to resign from her team as my professional services are no longer needed," Rudolph's letter said.

IMAGE: Britney Spears in New York in 2016
Britney Spears arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York in August 2016.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters file

Bessemer Trust, the financial and wealth management group appointed as co-conservator in Spears' case, also filed a petition asking to resign. The motion, filed Thursday, cited Spears' testimony that she wanted to have control over her life again.

Bessemer said it entered into the conservatorship because it "relied on the representations of the parties that the ongoing Conservatorship was voluntary." But Bessemer is now aware that Spears "objects to the continuance of her Conservatorship and desires to terminate the Conservatorship," and the company respects her wishes, the filing said.

Spears began the process to remove her father from her conservatorship last year, when Ingham said she was afraid of her father and would refuse to perform if he was in control of her guardianship. The court denied Spears' request but assigned Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator.

Montgomery was appointed as Spears' temporary conservator-of-the-person in September 2019.

Jamie Spears has repeatedly denied any allegations of abuse. He also filed a request to the court last week asking for an investigation into his daughter's allegations of mistreatment, saying Montgomery was the sole conservator who oversaw the decisions related to her personal life and medical treatment since Montgomery was appointed.

In a statement, Montgomery's attorney said Montgomery "has been a tireless advocate for Britney and for her well-being," adding that if Spears wants to bring up any issue in court, Montgomery "is and has always been ready, willing, and able to do so."

Montgomery's attorney, Lauriann Wright, also said in a statement Tuesday that Montgomery has no plans to step down as conservator-of-the-person.

"She remains committed to steadfastly supporting Ms. Spears in every way she can within the scope of her duties as a conservator of the person," Wright said. "Ms. Spears as recently as yesterday has asked Ms. Montgomery to continue to serve. Ms. Montgomery will continue to serve as a conservator for as long as Ms. Spears and the Court desire her to do so."

Fans have raised questions about Spears' conservatorship, culminating in the #FreeBritney movement that picked up national attention in 2019. Fans have worried that what was meant to be a temporary guardianship arrangement for Spears after her breakdown in 2007 has been prolonged for the profit of others, such as her father.

In Spears' conservatorship, which some states call a guardianship, she pays the salaries of her conservators and all of the attorneys involved.

Two documentaries were released this year examining Spears' life and the circumstances of her case — The New York Times' "Framing Britney Spears" and the BBC's "The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship." Both projects scrutinize her rise to fame, the media attention surrounding her personal life and her conservatorship battle, but without Spears' participation.

She had made few public comments about her views on her conservatorship until her testimony June 23, when she said she wanted to end the arrangement without further evaluations.

"I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive and that we can sit here all day and say, oh, conservatorships are here to help people. But ma'am, there's a thousand conservatorships that are abusive, as well," she said. "I don't feel like I can live a full life I don't own."

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Britney Spears’ lawyer Sam Ingham asks to resign from conservatorship case

By Eileen Reslen and Nicholas Hautman

They are dropping like flies.

Britney Spears’ court-appointed attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, asked to resign from her conservatorship case — less than 24 hours after the pop star’s manager, Larry Rudolph, quit and less than a week after the co-conservator of her estate, Bessemer Trust, announced its exit.

Ingham said in court documents filed in Los Angeles on Tuesday and obtained by Page Six that he wishes to step down “upon the appointment of new court-appointed counsel.”

The law firm Loeb & Loeb LLP, which had recently been brought onto the case to assist Ingham in his duties, is also seeking to resign.

TMZ reported earlier on Tuesday that Ingham came to the decision after being “extremely upset” over claims that Spears, 39, made about him in her bombshell court hearing on June 23.

The “Toxic” singer told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny at the time, “Ma’am, I didn’t know I could petition the conservatorship to end. I honestly didn’t know that.”

Sources alleged to TMZ that Ingham “regularly” gave Britney options, including “requesting that the conservatorship should end.” However, the insiders claimed that the “Lucky” singer had only ever expressed her desire to remove her father, Jamie Spears, as one of her conservators and not to terminate the arrangement altogether.

Ingham previously said in a November 2020 court hearing that Britney is “afraid” of Jamie, who turned 69 Tuesday, and “will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.” He then filed a petition in March seeking to make licensed fiduciary Jodi Montgomery Britney’s permanent conservator of the person.

Sam Ingham has been Britney Spears’ court-appointed attorney for 13 years.
Shutterstock; Linkedin

Sources previously told Page Six that Britney had been feeling frustrated over Ingham’s failure to move to dissolve her conservatorship following her most recent hearing.

“Britney doesn’t understand what the holdup is,” the insider told us. “She feels she made it crystal clear in court that she wants the conservatorship terminated, but nearly two weeks later, she’s still waiting for the petition to be filed.”

A separate insider noted that Britney and Ingham had been in touch “multiple times” since her testimony, adding, “During those conversations, she has reiterated to him that she wants him to file the paperwork to end the conservatorship.”

Ingham was assigned to Britney’s case in 2008 at the onset of the conservatorship by Judge Reva Goetz. The appointment has been met with much criticism from legal experts, who have pointed out that conservatees are often given the option to choose their own counsel and questioned why the “Overprotected” singer was not.

Ingham did not immediately return Page Six’s request for comment.

Montgomery, for her part, told us via her attorney, Lauriann Wright, on Tuesday that she “has no plans to step down” as the conservator of Britney’s person.

“She remains committed to steadfastly supporting Ms. Spears in every way she can within the scope of her duties as a conservator of the person,” Wright said of Montgomery. “Ms. Spears as recently as yesterday has asked Ms. Montgomery to continue to serve. Ms. Montgomery will continue to serve as a conservator for as long as Ms. Spears and the Court desire her to do so.”

The next hearing in Britney’s conservatorship case is set for July 14.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Physician opposes dismissal of lawsuit against probate judge involving her elderly mom's guardianship

By David Yates

HOUSTON - A pediatrician has filed a brief in opposition to a federal magistrate’s recommendation to dismiss her lawsuit against a state judge alleging racketeering and estate trafficking of her 91-year-old mother who died under court-appointed guardianship.

Among Dr. Sheila Owens Collins’ objections to Southern District Magistrate Peter Bray’s June 17 Report and Recommendation is his depiction of her allegations as perceived wrongdoings, according to a press release.

“These wrongdoings were proven with exhibits in previous pleadings,” wrote Owens Collins in her July 1 reply in opposition. “These wrongdoings are not perceived. They are grossly negligent actions or non-actions that occurred in actuality.”

As previously reported in the SE Texas Record, Owens Collins sued Harris County Probate Judge Michael Newman, individually and in his official capacity, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 22, 2020, after her mother, Mrs. Hattie Owens died under court supervision in 2019.

“The Magistrate Judge Peter Bray erred in his innuendo that the court investigators and Adult Protective Services found Mrs. Owens to be incapacitated,” Owens Collins brief in opposition stated. “If the records are carefully reviewed and honestly reported, this honorable court will find that they found Mrs. Owens to be lucent, aware of what was happening to her, adamantly opposed to being guardianized and fervently advocating for her eldest daughter [Dr. Sheila Owens Collins] to continue providing for her.”

Owens Collins further alleges that Judge Newman abused his discretion in awarding fees to appointees and allowing opposing lawyers to make inflammatory, defamatory, and uncivil comments about her in open court.

But Judge Bray rebutted in his June 17 Report and Recommendation to the court that the complained-of actions are judicial in nature.

“Nothing in Owens Collins’ complaint can be construed as a judicial action taken in the complete absence of jurisdiction,” Bray stated. “Judicial immunity applies to all claims.”

However, according to Section 1201.003 of the Texas Estates Code, a judge is liable on their bond to those damaged if damage or loss results to a guardianship or ward because of the gross neglect of a judge.

“This immunity waiver permits recovery for losses directly tied to the judge’s duties, including the use of reasonable diligence to determine whether an appointed guardian performed the required duties,” Owens Collins’ reply states. “This language does not limit recovery to the guardian or the ward but makes the judge liable to anyone damaged by the judge’s harm to the ward.”

The term ‘ward’ is used legally to reference an individual who has been placed under court supervision, such as pop star Britney Spears.

“Judge Newman’s gross neglect and breach of duty of care resulted in the following losses and damages to the guardianship and Mrs. Hattie Owens: the unnecessary depletion of the estate of Mrs. Hattie Owens by $93,000,” Owens Collins wrote.

Judge Newman, a Democrat, has been the sitting judge in Court No. 2 of Harris County Probate Court in Houston since January 1, 2019. Unless re-elected, his term will end in 2022.

After graduating from Prairieview A&M University, Mrs. Hattie Owens and her husband Emiel Owens, who is also deceased, amassed a modest fortune that included two student housing properties in Prairie View, Texas, a 5,000 square foot home in Houston's medical center worth half a million dollars, two Mercedes Benz vehicles, and a Porsche.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, nominated to the federal bench by former President Ronald Reagan, is set to decide the case. 

The physician plaintiff further stated in her brief that Harris County officials were not immediately forthcoming in providing her with a copy of Judge Newman's bond.

"Owens Collins has made several attempts to obtain a copy of Judge Newman's bond and in the process has been sent on a wild goose chase," the brief in opposition states. "She was advised to order the bond online at the Harris County Clerk website however there is no form allowing for litigants to order a copy of a judge's bond through the website."

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Evictions lawyer used client trust funds to pay mortgage

The state bar found repeated misconduct by Brian Read, who practiced in Everett and represented landlords in rental disputes.  
by Ellen Dennis 

Brian Read
EVERETT — A lawyer who practiced in Everett has been disbarred for taking thousands of dollars out of a client trust account to pay his mortgage and showing indifference in repaying the money, among other financial misconduct.

Brian Read, 45, of Freeland, mostly represented landlords in evictions and other landlord-tenant cases. He worked as an attorney in Washington for nearly 20 years, and in 2020, he was outspoken about his opposition to the statewide eviction moratorium.

From 2015 to 2018, Read violated the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct by taking money from his client trust account at Chase Bank for personal use, according to his notice of disbarment released last week by the state bar association. A lawyer must maintain a trust account when holding money on behalf of clients or third parties, to ensure the trust is separate from the lawyer’s personal finances.

In those three years, Read withdrew more money from the client trust account than he deposited into it. The bar found he did not keep records required for the account, and when he did, they were often incorrect.

On July 2, 2018, Read tried to make a $300 transfer from the client trust account to his business account. The transfer was cancelled by the bank due to insufficient funds. Under state law, lawyers must report any client trust account overdrafts and provide an explanation to the Washington State Bar Association. Read did not.

Instead, he began depositing his own money into the account to replenish the funds. He didn’t do it quickly enough, and as of Dec. 11, 2018, the account was $12,000 in the red.

On July 12, 2018, the state Bar Association’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel sent Read a letter requesting an explanation for the overdraft, a statement about how it was corrected and records for the client trust account dating back two months.

Read requested an extension until Aug. 31, 2018. He missed the deadline.

In October 2018, the state bar served a subpoena on Read, requiring him to appear at a deposition. That month, Read hired another lawyer to reconstruct records for the client trust account.

At his deposition, Read reportedly told disciplinary personnel he felt “burdened by the demands of (his) law practice and family life,” and that his situation caused the financial misconduct.

He reportedly added that he was stressed, and the stress was exacerbated by marital problems and financial difficulties, according to court documents.

The state bar’s disciplinary board noted aggravating factors in the decision to disbar Read: a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses and an “indifference” to paying restitution.

Read was required to pay back thousands of dollars to the clients, though the exact amount still owed was kept confidential in the disciplinary paperwork.

The attorney had no prior record of misconduct.

Before his disbarment, Read went public with his opposition to the statewide eviction moratorium, talking to reporters from KING 5 and making posts on his law firm’s Facebook page.

The moratorium, he said, turned landlords into “economic hostages.”

On Read’s website, an information page said, “Brian appreciates and respects that for landlords, owning rental property is part of their ‘American Dream.’ Brian is proud to be a knowledgeable, affordable resource for property owners and managers looking to protect and maximize their returns.”

Court records show Read was still practicing law last month, weeks before his disbarment took effect in late June.

Reached by phone, Read declined to comment to a Daily Herald reporter. His law firm’s website was taken down shortly after the bar sent out a notice he could no longer practice.

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Inspired by #FreeBritney, Democrats and Republicans agree conservatorship is toxic

Lawmakers want court to end 13-year-long guardianship, leave Britney alone

Britney Spears arrives for the premiere of “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood” in 2019.  (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)
Britney Spears arrives for the premiere of “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood” in 2019. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)
 By Jim Saksa and Sandhya Raman

At times, Congress can seem hopelessly divided. But there is one issue uniting members from both parties and chambers. Just days before the Fourth of July, Americans of all political stripes are coming together for the cause of liberty: #FreeBritney.

Following a mental health crisis in 2008, pop star Britney Spears has lived under the strict confines of a conservatorship that gives her father, Jamie Spears, almost plenary control over her personal life and massive fortune. Last week, the singer petitioned a California court to end the conservatorship, telling Judge Brenda Penny, “I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m OK and I’m happy,” she said. “I’m in shock. I’m traumatized… I’m so angry it’s insane.”

Spears’ testimony has sparked conversations across the nation about mental health, treatment, recovery and where to draw the limit on paternalistic interventions. Members of Congress have also begun to weigh in, calling Spears’ treatment outrageous.

“It’s time we #FreeBritney and countless other Americans wrongfully subjected to predatory conservatorships,” tweeted Alabama Republican Rep. Barry Moore.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas simply tweeted “#FreeBritney,” as did House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Rep. Matt Gaetz has been the most vocal lawmaker calling for Spears’ release from conservatorship. The Florida Republican, who is attempting to weather allegations that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old, has tweeted multiple times about Spears, appeared on Fox News to discuss the matter and mentioned it at a House Judiciary Committee markup of antitrust legislation on Thursday. 

“I do believe the nation was quite taken with the control that the guardianship and conservatorship process has on far too many Americans,” Gaetz said. “I would reiterate the call that ranking member [Jim] Jordan and I made to Chairman [Jerrold] Nadler to allow us to hold hearings on conservatorship and guardianship and abuse, and I think the very first witness before the Judiciary Committee should be Britney Spears.” 

Jordan, R-Ohio, and Gaetz wrote a letter back in March to Nadler requesting a hearing on conservatorship abuse that pointed to Spears as the “most striking example” of the issue.

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton was a bit more circumspect when he tweeted Friday, admitting that conservatorship was “a word I didn’t know until yesterday” and asking his followers if Congress should investigate. The overwhelming majority said yes. 

Spears, 39, has spent the last 13 years under the court-ordered conservatorship while going on to record albums, tour the nation and appear as a talent judge on the TV show “The X Factor.” Her fans have argued that a temporary solution while the pop star recovered from mental health and substance use struggles has turned into a de facto prison.

Under the conservatorship, Spears has been prohibited from speaking out about her situation and has had limited access to her $60 million fortune earned as a multi-platinum recording artist. Jamie Spears receives a salary as her conservator and a large cut of his daughter’s earnings.

It can be extremely difficult for individuals under adult guardianship to end their supervision. Spears is petitioning the court using a lawyer she herself could not select, but who is being paid a stipend per the conservatorship’s terms. 

In February 2021, The New York Times released a documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” that examines her career and hardships in the entertainment industry that led to her public mental health struggles in 2008, including the conservatorship and losing custody of her two children with ex-husband Kevin Federline. 

The film spurred interest in the “Free Britney” movement, and supporters have argued that the conservatorship is unnecessary given her ability to continue to perform and work. 

That shift in tone is also mirrored in members of Congress speaking out, as lawmakers have historically used Spears and other celebrities as punching bags.

“Being lectured on fiscal irresponsibility by this Democratic Congress is like being lectured on parenting by Britney Spears. It makes no sense at all,” Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said in 2007 on the House floor.  

The late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also used photos of Spears in a presidential campaign ad in 2008, drawing comparisons between the singer and then-presidential candidate Barack Obama as celebrities who are unfit to lead.

‘I Wanna Go’ … hold a hearing

Given a number of competing issues, it is unclear what committee could have jurisdiction if the #FreeBritney movement is taken up by Congress.

Conservatorships are traditionally appointed for individuals who are very old or who may have a mental or physical disability that places limitations on their day-to-day activities. Long-term care falls under the umbrella of the House Ways and Means Committee, but that usually encompasses issues like nursing home care or Medicare.

But liberal women’s health groups have also seized on Spears’ comments about allegedly being prevented by the conservatorship from removing her intrauterine device, or IUD, which is a form of long-lasting birth control, so that she can become pregnant.

“Everyone deserves control over their own body. Period,” tweeted Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the fourth-ranking House Democrat.

The House and Senate Judiciary committees have previously held hearings on limits related to reproductive health, such as abortion bans. Advocacy organizations like Planned Parenthood have drawn parallels to what they call reproductive coercion — policies that restrict access to birth control or attempt to control pregnancy outcomes — and the limits that prevent Spears from attempting to become pregnant.

“If a celebrity like Britney Spears’ body can be legally controlled by outside individuals, then imagine what low-income women around the world have to deal with. Reproductive freedom is a basic human right,” said Paula Ávila-Guillén, executive director of the Women’s Equality Center.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has often taken the lead on issues related to mental health, meaning it could also fall under the jurisdiction of its Oversight subcommittee. Expanding access to a variety of treatments and reducing stigma for people living with a mental illness or substance use disorder have been bipartisan priorities for the committee in recent years.

The Twitter account for Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee also tweeted “#FreeBritney,” drawing comparisons between federal oversight of education and a conservatorship. But it is unclear how it could fit under the committee’s jurisdiction.

Celebrities often draw more attention to issues that affect them than the similarly afflicted but less famous. Spears is just one of 1.3 million Americans under adult guardianship, and her millions are just a drop in the $50 billion bucket under conservators’ control. Still, it is rare for any issue to so quickly draw bipartisan interest. But Spears’ situation unites reproductive rights activists with freedom-focused conservatives and an ecumenical distaste for seeing individuals exploited by those who are supposed to look after them. 

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Monday, July 5, 2021

Conservator who pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement to be sentenced July 19

By Mardi Link

PETOSKEY — A court-appointed conservator who pleaded guilty to two counts of felony embezzlement as part of a plea agreement with the Emmet County Prosecutor’s Office, is scheduled to be sentenced July 19 in 57th Circuit Court.

Elise Page of Harbor Springs is accused of embezzling more than $17,000 from bank accounts belonging to two vulnerable adults assigned to her by the Emmet County Probate Court.

The missing funds came to light last fall during a months-long investigation by the Harbor Springs Police Department and the Petoskey Department of Public Safety.

Page was arraigned May 3.

Funds went missing from the accounts of George Pappas, a 95-year-old World War II veteran of Harbor Springs and Isiah Gill of Petoskey, within months of Page being assigned to handle their finances, court records show.

Conservators are appointed by the probate court to administer a person’s financial affairs when, because of age, injury or illness, a judge decides they are no longer able to handle these tasks themselves.

A related court appointment, a guardianship, is made by the court when a judge determines someone cannot handle their own housing or medical decisions.

Both roles have long been the subject of scrutiny by Michigan officials — most recently in hearings before the state’s House Judiciary Committee, where Attorney General Dana Nessel and others gave testimony on proposed reforms.

Michigan law states a probate court judge can appoint anyone they like to be a conservator or a guardian, so long as the person is older than 18 and “competent,” though critics of the system say the term is not well defined.

Systemic oversight deficiencies of probate court appointments have been acknowledged by lawmakers for decades.

Each probate court sets many of its own procedural rules and there is no requirement that a guardian or conservator disclose whether they have appointments in other counties. Critics say this makes it more difficult to identify conservators and guardians unfit to serve.

Without such a requirement, Emmet County officials would have had no way of knowing that Page had been appointed to serve as guardian for at least two vulnerable adults in Cheboygan County.

Page was later removed from those cases by Cheboygan County Probate Court Judge Daryl P. Vizina following an alert from Harbor Springs Police Chief Kyle Knight.

“There’s no official protocol for (law enforcement) as far as letting another court know but once I got wind that she was a conservator over there, I called and shared my concerns,” Knight said.

Prosecutor James Linderman declined to discuss the Page case, citing the upcoming sentencing hearing, but said court staff and law enforcement officers do try to communicate with each other on possible criminality from county to county.

Linderman said the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan has a forum where prosecutors can communicate with each other and such alerts can also be shared there.

“We also might find something by running a CCH on LEIN,” Linderman said.

A CCH is computerized criminal history and LEIN is the Michigan Law Enforcement Information Network accessible only to criminal justice agencies.

Michigan does not require certification or background checks of guardians or conservators — an oversight that proposed legislation, if passed, might remedy but only if expanded to include civil litigation.

Emmet County Probate Register Deb Niswander did request a criminal background check on Page which returned no criminal convictions, records show.

An investigation by the Record-Eagle, however, revealed a history of financial lawsuits filed against Page in Emmet County’s 90th District Court going back to 2004.

Police documents show Page spent about $4,000 of Pappas’ money on retail purchases like electronic cigarettes and women’s clothing and withdrew another $10,000 in cash from his account just weeks after being named his conservator.

Approximately $4,000 was missing from Gill’s account, court records show.

Page has since pleaded guilty to two felony counts of embezzlement of more than $1,000 and less than $20,000, from a vulnerable adult, which each carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Page must also pay restitution of $17,333.88 as part of the plea deal, court records show.

In exchange for the plea agreement, several charges of embezzlement and using a computer to commit a crime were dismissed, records show.

Jonathan Steffy, listed in court records as Page’s attorney, did not return calls seeking comment.

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