Saturday, August 21, 2021

Britney Spears case isn’t illustrative of much

Britney Spears. (Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr by Rhys Adams)

by  David Kassel

THE UNFORTUNATE experience Britney Spears has had under guardianship should not be construed to imply that all guardianship arrangements are abusive or exploitative.

And the Spears case should not be used, in particular, to advocate for legislation that could make it more difficult for family members to become or remain as guardians of persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

Those, however, are implications that we think can be drawn from an opinion piece by Scott Harshbarger and Paul Lanzikos in CommonWealth. Citing the Spears case, the piece states that Harshbarger’s and Lanzikos’ organization, The Massachusetts Guardianship Policy Institute, is seeking better oversight “to prevent overreaching by guardians or conservators…”

The article specifically calls for legislation to create a state Office of Adult Decisional Support Services (H.1898 and S.974). According to the piece, the office would “improve oversight and best-practices in guardianship and conservatorship, as well as support alternatives to guardianship—such as supported decision-making—statewide.” (Emphasis mine.) More about supported decision-making in a moment.

Certainly, there are compelling questions as to why someone like Britney Spears remains under guardianship, also known in some states as conservatorship. She is a hugely talented singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress who we assume is cognitively normal, and who appears to be involuntarily trapped under the guardianship of her father. She appears to be capable of making her own life choices.

But not all guardianship arrangements are like Spears’ relationship with her father, and not all persons under guardianship are capable of making their own life choices. Yet that is one of a number of distinctions that appear to be lost or glossed over in Harshbarger’s and Lansikos’ piece, and are glossed over as well by the supported decision-making movement.

Guardianship is under attack, and the Spears case, in particular, is being used by anti-guardianship activists around the country and even by some members of Congress to justify the elimination of guardianship.

We are concerned that the Guardianship Policy Institute may be proposing the Office of Adult Decisional Support as a backdoor means of instituting supported decision-making in Massachusetts as an “alternative to guardianship.”  Supported decision making is an arrangement in which individual guardians are replaced by teams or “network supporters,” who enter into written agreements with disabled individuals to help them make decisions about their care, finances, and living arrangements, and in other areas. Supported decision making proponents maintain that guardianship unduly restricts the rights of disabled individuals to make those decisions.

We think supported decision-making can hold promise for some high-functioning individuals; and we would support its adoption with adequate safeguards, particularly safeguards against the potential marginalization of family members. The problem with proposed legislation to implement supported decision-making in Massachusetts (H.272 and S.124) is that, as with earlier versions of the measure, there appear to be few, if any, such safeguards in it. The bills still provide no standard for determining who might be eligible for supported decision-making.

The legislation continues to avoid the question whether everyone is really capable of making their own decisions in those very important areas. Supported decision making proponents need to recognize that there are some individuals who do not have the cognitive skills necessary to make reasonable decisions. Those people need guardians – preferably guardians who are family members.

The legislation that would create the Office of Adult Decisional Support Services is, moreover, vague as to the duties of the proposed agency; and “decisional support services” are not even defined in the legislation. The Office would be tasked with “developing oversight and accountability procedures to prevent potential errors or abuses by decisional fiduciaries.”  We think better oversight and more accountability are needed in the probate system; but it is unclear what the proposed Office would consider to be abuses.

We have identified what we think are abuses, including the incentives the probate court system in Massachusetts gives to professional guardians to acquire as many wards as possible while doing little to represent them. This raises another distinction that Harshbarger and Lanzikos appear to have failed to make. In our experience, the overreaching that they refer to applies much more commonly to professionals hired to serve as guardians than it does to family members.

Professional guardians of persons with development disabilities are paid by the state Department of Developmental Services, a situation that appears to interfere with their legal obligation to act in the best interest of their disabled clients. Family members are not paid for serving as guardians of their loved ones. We have found in a number of cases that professional guardians of disabled clients have sided with the Department of Developmental Services when family members have gotten into disputes with the agency over the care of those clients.

We think reform of the probate system in Massachusetts is needed, and a first step would be passage of H.1733, a bill which would require that probate court judges consider parents of individuals in the DDS system to be suitable guardians for them. In too many instances, Department of Development Services officials, clinicians, providers, and probate judges dismiss families as uninformed or meddlesome. But we have seen time after time that it is family members who not only have their loved ones’ best interest at heart, but are often the ones most intimately knowledgeable about their physical and emotional conditions.

A serious discussion of guardianship reform is sorely needed. But the proposal from Harshbarger and Lansikos appears to be one-sided. Basing their proposal on the Britney Spears case is a key indication of that.

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Topeka lawyer disbarred after hit-and-run crash conviction

A Topeka attorney who was convicted in a fatal hit-and-run crash has been disbarred.

The Kansas Supreme Court revoked Roy Artman's law license because of his role in the fatal 2016 crash that killed 29-year-old Anthony Espinoza. He was found guilty in 2019 of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

According to court records, Artman struck two people who were changing a tire on their vehicle while he was driving on Interstate 70 between Topeka and Lawrence. Espinoza was killed and the other person was injured.

Artman testified he had a couple alcoholic drinks at a restaurant before the crash and that he didn’t know what he hit that night, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The Kansas Supreme Court said Artman’s testimony about the crash wasn’t consistent with the evidence.

Read more here:
Artman was sentenced to 24 months of probation after he was convicted in November more
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Federal Elder Abuse Prevention Bill Introduced in Congress

Image credit: © Andrey Prilutskiy |

by John Sullivan

The Elder Justice Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2021 would add significant muscle to state programs to investigate elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, according to the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI).

The much-needed increase in federal assistance under the legislation recently introduced in Congress dedicates funding to vital programs to address vulnerable seniors’ needs. The measure is one of several priority items advocated by IRI, which called for the passage of this legislation in its 2021 Federal Retirement Security Blueprint.

“In addition to advocating for expanded retirement savings opportunities and lifetime income options for workers and retirees, IRI supports increased protection to safeguard our elderly population from fraud, abuse, and exploitation,” Paul Richman, IRI Chief Government and Political Affairs Officer, said in a statement. “IRI commends and strongly supports the work and leadership of the House and Senate bill sponsors, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and Sen. Robert Casey, Jr., D-Penn.

According to the advocacy organization, the bill would ensure that the services and programs authorized under the Elder Justice Act (EJA) can continue to protect older and vulnerable Americans by authorizing $4 billion, including $1.4 billion to support state and local Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies.

Strengthening resources

Financial firms and professionals, law enforcement officials, policymakers, and others are also beefing up resources to help retirees avoid the devastating loss of retirement income as a result of scams or exploitation, especially by caregivers or family members. An IRI survey found that about 60 percent of financial professionals saw a confirmed case of financial abuse of elderly investors at least once over three years

“Financial abuse can erase a lifetime of savings and leave older workers and retirees in financial ruin,” Richman added. “With the population of older Americans expected to double in size to nearly 84 million citizens by 2050, there needs to be a concerted effort to combat financial exploitation.”

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Friday, August 20, 2021

Britney Spears’ case has shown why guardianship laws need to change

Assigning someone the legal power to make decisions for a vulnerable adult should always be a last resort
A #FreeBritney protest outside Spears’ conservatorship hearing in Los Angeles last month. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

by Nina A Kohn

Around the world, fans of pop star Britney Spears celebrated her father’s announcement last week that he would resign as her conservator. This development is welcome news for Spears and her supporters, dubbed the #FreeBritney movement. But it will not end Spears’ conservatorship, which has prevented her from making decisions about her own life since it was established shortly after she had a mental breakdown in 2008. Nor will it prevent others from finding themselves in similar situations. That will require changing the underlying legal systems that created Spears’ predicament.

While many have only recently learned of conservatorship thanks to the #FreeBritney movement, this legal process is neither new nor unique to the US. It is a common court proceeding in which the court appoints someone to make decisions for individuals the court has found cannot make decisions for themselves. California – where Spears lives – calls this proceeding conservatorship and calls the appointee a conservator. More commonly, it is called guardianship and the appointee is called a guardian. While Spears has drawn attention to guardianship, the process typically entangles those far less privileged. Changes in the pop star’s situation , as welcome as they may be, won’t themselves trigger the reform of a legal mechanism mainly experienced by people society has historically treated as expendable.

Since medieval times, English law has recognised the government’s power as parens patraie (or “parent of the people”) to manage the property and bodies of citizens with cognitive disabilities. The first guardianship statutes were adopted in England in the 1600s during the reign of Charles II. And countries around the world have parallel systems that enable courts to appoint others to make decisions for people determined unable to do so for themselves. In England and Wales, for example, the court of protection can appoint a deputy in such situations; in Scotland, sheriff courts can appoint a guardian.

Guardianship can provide valuable protection and assistance to those unable to care for themselves. Suppose an individual has a chronic illness but, due to advanced dementia, cannot understand the nature or consequences of that illness even with substantial help. If the person never executed a power of attorney appointing someone to make decisions for them, the best option may be for a court to appoint another person to make those decisions.

But – as the Spears case painfully illustrates – guardianship also has very real costs. Individuals subject to guardianship lose the right to make some or nearly all decisions for themselves. Guardianships can also undermine fundamental human rights –indeed, broad guardianships may run afoul of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The result is that guardianship can be stigmatising and traumatising for the very people it is designed to protect. Spears, for example, provided heart-wrenching testimony about the trauma of being prohibited from making basic choices about her life and body – including whether to remove an IUD preventing her from having further children.

Given the costs it poses, it is widely agreed that guardianship should only be used as a very last resort. And when guardians are appointed, they should be granted only those powers truly necessary to meet individuals’ identified needs. If a court finds a person lacks the ability to make major financial decisions, it does not mean the person should not be allowed to manage their own personal affairs or control smaller amounts of money.

Unfortunately, guardianship is often treated as a go-to intervention for individuals with cognitive disabilities or serious mental health problems, not a last resort. Research suggests guardianships in the US are routinely granted with minimal independent evaluation of the individual’s needs and abilities, and without full exploration of less restrictive alternatives. Indeed, they are so routinely granted over young adults with intellectual disabilities in the US that they are treated almost as a rite of passage. In addition, guardians are routinely granted very broad powers. Best evidence indicates that the vast majority of guardianships in the US are plenary – that is, they strip those subject to them of all rights that can be removed under state law.

Making matters worse, once granted, guardianships can be very hard to end. Individuals subject to guardianship often lack the awareness, resources and legal assistance needed to successfully challenge the appointment. This problem appears to be particularly acute in California, where courts have unconstitutionally denied individuals subject to conservatorship – including Spears – the right to choose an attorney to represent them in challenging their conservatorship.

For decades, advocates for older adults and individuals with disabilities have called for reforming guardianship laws around the world. In recent years, there has also been an explosion of interest in encouraging alternatives to guardianship – especially supported decision-making, a process by which individuals who might otherwise be unable to make their own decisions do so with help from people they trust.

In the US, the Uniform Law Commission created model legislation that, if adopted by states, could help prevent others from finding themselves in Spears’ predicament. The legislation would, for example, make it harder to impose guardianships and easier to terminate them, require courts to be more proactive in removing guardians and terminating guardianship, prohibit courts from denying individuals like Spears access to counsel of their own choosing, and limit the ability of unscrupulous guardians to drain assets by charging unreasonable fees.

But, although the US Special Committee on Aging and others have urged every state to adopt the model Act, only two – Washington and Maine – have. Instead, state legislatures have either ignored the problem or made piecemeal reforms.

What accounts for this tepid response to law reform efforts? Guardianship reform historically hasn’t been a “hot” political issue. Most people subject to guardianship are older adults or persons with substantial cognitive disabilities – groups too often treated as expendable. And reform efforts often face opposition from judges and attorneys who have grown comfortable with the status quo.

The good news is Britney Spears’ very public struggle with her conservatorship has the potential to spark the reform. Seeing a young, vibrant, working pop star who can clearly articulate her own wishes traumatised by the guardianship system may be the wake-up the world, and especially the US, needed. Perhaps now there will be the political will needed to ensure guardianship finally becomes the last resort it should always have been.

  • Nina A Kohn is the David M Levy professor of law at Syracuse University and the Solomon Center distinguished scholar in elder law at Yale Law School.

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Long-term care patient visitation bill clears state House

by Richard Craver
Sen. Joyce Krawiec
The state House fulfilled Wednesday its part of a legislative deal addressing patient visitation bills.

The House voted 88-14 to approve Senate Bill 191, titled “The No Patient Left Alone Act,” which sends it to the House Rules and Operations committee.

The bill was rushed to the House floor after clearing the House Rules and Operations committee earlier Wednesday.

Because of an amendment added to the bill on the House floor, SB191 goes back to the Senate to approve or reject the change.

SB191 cleared the Senate by a 40-9 vote May 6. Among its primary sponsors is Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth.

Krawiec said Wednesday that the House changes "should be acceptable."

The bill was placed in House Rules on May 10.

Bills from the other chamber typically are placed directly into Rules if the intent is putting the legislation in a holding pattern or to shelve it altogether.

SB191 was removed from Rules to Health on Aug. 4, where it sat until being addressed Wednesday.

On July 22, the Senate Judiciary committee inserted language from SB191 into Republican-sponsored House Bill 351, which has as its purpose securing visitation for hospital patients and long-term care residents during a state public-health emergency.

On Aug. 9, the Senate Judiciary committee agreed to remove language from SB191.

In exchange, Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, told the Senate Judiciary committee that the House would proceed on addressing SB191 in a timely fashion.

The compromise enabled HB351 to advance out of Judiciary on Aug. 10 and to the Senate Rules committee.

Bill differences

SB191 affects hospitals, nursing homes, Hospice care, residential treatment facilities and other long-term care facilities.

Meanwhile, the initial and now current version of HB351, titled “Clifford’s Law,” would direct the state’s health secretary to also establish visitation protocols for long-term care and Hospice care facilities during declared disasters and emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Triad long-term care facilities has declined significantly in recent months.

However, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services recently reported The Citadel at Winston-Salem with an outbreak of at least 139 cases comprised of 102 residents, including five related deaths, and 37 staff.

That outbreak was dropped from the long-term care facility COVID-19 dashboard on Aug. 10.

“We must make sure that no patient in North Carolina is ever left alone in a hospital or nursing home while their spouse or family members are forced to wait at home or in the parking lot while their loved one is receiving care,” said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, and co-primary sponsor, during the Senate’s floor debate on SB191.

“A video call to a hospitalized patient, many who don’t know how to use a computer, cannot become a substitute for having a family member present during potentially life-and-death health care situations.”


The latest version of SB191 has been broadened to apply the same patient’s rights protections to most long-term care facilities, Hospice facilities and certain residential treatment facilities.

Krawiec has said that non-COVID-19 patients are being adversely affected by the visitor restriction as well.

“There are a multitude of cases where residents are still not allowed to have visitors,” Krawiec said. “It should never happen again where patients are dying alone in facilities.

“There are also those who have diminished cognitive abilities who don’t understand why they are abandoned without loved ones or caregivers being allowed to visit them.”

“Isolation is a reason many residents in facilities ‘fail to thrive,’” she said.

SB191’s primary focus remains on concerns that emergency visitor restrictions can keep family members from being with loved ones and hampering their ability to serve as an advocate with hospital staff.

Family members are defined as a spouse, child, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse of an immediate family member, stepparent, stepchildren, stepsiblings and adoptive relationships.

The patient can designate the visitor “if they have the capacity to make decisions.”

On March 12, DHHS issued an order that long-term care facilities can allow in-person visitations — indoor and outdoor — “in most circumstances” based on changes made by the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those agencies cited “rapidly improving trends in long-term care facilities” for allowing more visitations.

DHHS cautioned in its updated guidance that outdoor visitations still remain the best option.

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Fargo Caregiver Arrested for Assault

(Fargo, ND) -- A Fargo caregiver is being charged for assault involving the person they were looking after.

On August 3rd, Fargo Police officers were sent to Maple View Memory Care off 36 Ave. S., for a report of an assault of a patient by a care giver which occurred earlier that day.

Late Wednesday, officers arrested 59-year-old Rachel Cooper at her residence in Fargo for Endangering a Vulnerable Adult. Cooper had been under investigation since the incident in early August.

Thursday morning, authorities were notified the victim had died. An autopsy will be completed to determine whether or not the injuries they sustained on August 3rd contributed to their death.

Any change in charges will be determined by the State’s Attorney’s Office.

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Thursday, August 19, 2021

‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols caught in conservatorship battle

by Biba Adams

Nichols’ son, her former manager and a good friend appear to be waging a fight to oversee the finances of the aging actress.

Legendary actress Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, is caught in the middle of what has been a years-long conservatorship battle.

Nichols’ only child Kyle Johnson won a petition for conservatorship of the actress — who is suffering from dementia — in 2018. He alleged that her former manager, Gilbert Bell, had been living in Nichols’ guest home taking advantage of her finances and personal affairs.

Legendary “Star Trek” actress Nichelle Nichols is shown accepting an Inkpot Award onstage at the “From The Bridge” panel during Comic-Con International 2018 in San Diego. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

A third party is involved in the case, a close friend whom Nichols named as her successor, Angelique Fawcette. She is pushing back against the conservatorship, saying that Nichols can manage her affairs.

The 88-year-old no longer lives in Los Angeles, where the case is playing out and where the actual home in question is located. She moved to New Mexico with her son and his wife amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A recent exploration in The Los Angeles Times compared Nichols’ case to that of singer Britney Spears, who remains under conservatorship, although her father, Jamie Spears, who was her estate’s previous conservator, has stepped down.

The #FreeBritney movement has raised awareness about conservatorship, which has long been used in cases like Nichols’ of those who are elderly and struggling with health problems.

Nichols was one of the first Black women on television to play a non-stereotypical role. Lt. Nyota Uhura was beautiful, well-spoken and a knowledgeable communications officer on Star Trek. Nichols appeared in the series and a string of feature films, plus lent her voice to an animated show.

Her character was beloved by Star Trek fans, and for years, Nichols traveled and attended conventions greeting admirers. She was able to book such events with the support of Bell, who helped grow her income.

In 2013, after a pancreatitis diagnosis due to heavy alcohol use, Nichols was admitted to a hospital. She later moved to a nursing facility, where she signed an advance health care directive and a general power of attorney naming Bell as her primary agent and Fawcette as her successor.

According to Fawcette, Johnson and Nichols’ other family members rarely engaged in her life.

All three parties — Johnson, Bell and Fawcette — may ultimately meet in court to decide Nichol’s fate, but for now, the pioneering actress remains in New Mexico with her kin, where her son says she lives in a rental home, and he is her primary caregiver.

A $200,000 GoFundMe effort has been established to help support the star, one started by her sister, Marian Nichols Smothers. It has raised just over $148,000.

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Convicted former Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman disbarred

by Jeff Smith

Former Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman, who pleaded guilty in early May to promoting prostitution, obstruction of law and witness intimidation, was disbarred Tuesday by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.  

Salsman, who was accused by several former clients of sexual assault and other crimes, pleaded guilty to three lesser charges in Bradford County Court.  

The plea agreement reached between Salsman and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office also required Salsman to resign from his elected position, officials said. He was admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in October 2001. 

Salsman initially faced multiple counts of sexual assault, indecent assault, intimidation of a witness or victim, obstruction of justice, and prostitution resulting from complaints filed by five female clients of his former law practice. 

"Chad Salsman used his position as a private attorney, and then as the district attorney, to intimidate and silence his victims and interfere with our investigation," state Attorney General Todd Shapiro said following the plea. "Today is a powerful reminder that no one is above the law." 

Salsman, who was elected district attorney in November 2019 and took office in January 2020, was arrested in early February of this year following a year-long investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police.

The investigation was prompted by complaints from several former clients of Salsman's private practice that he had touched them inappropriately, forced them to have sexual relations in his office, and other accusations.

Former Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett, who retired at the end of 2019, referred the case to the Attorney General's Office to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

Salsman, a Bradford County native and graduate of Wyalusing High School, went on to defeat then-Assistant District Attorney Albert Ondrey in both a primary and the general election.

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Bride Goes Viral After Banning Groom's 98-Year-Old Grandmother From Wedding Reception

A Reddit post has gone viral after a bride asked if she was wrong for not wanting her partner's grandmother at the wedding reception. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

By Catherine Ferris
One bride's recent post on the Subreddit "Am I the A**hole?" about a disagreement between herself and her fiancé caused online discourse in regards to proper wedding etiquette.

The poster said she did not want the groom's grandmother at the reception because she would be too out of place due to "the dancing, loud music and an open bar."

"We've agreed to not have kids at our wedding, as we want the reception to be a huge party for your adult friends and family with dancing, loud music and an open bar," the user, Legitimate_Scar_8747 wrote. "However, for precisely the same reasons that we don't want kids there, I don't want his elderly grandmother at our wedding either."

The Reddit user explained that her fiancé's grandmother was invited to the ceremony, but did not want her at the reception because she envisioned it would be a "party atmosphere, and she will be extremely out of place."

Wedding etiquette can vary, but when building a guestlist, WeddingWire recommended some of the first people to include on the list are immediate family. That means parents, siblings, grandparents, as well as siblings' spouses and children.

The article noted that relationships between family and friends are different for everyone and it's important to be surrounded by the people who love and support the couple on their wedding day.

The post did not imply a strenuous relationship, and the bride wrote that her fiancé's grandmother said, "she always dreamed about being at her grandson's wedding."

"I said that she's more than welcome at the ceremony, but she will just be too out of place at the reception," the bride wrote.

Kim Forrest, the senior editor at WeddingWire, said part of wedding planning is about showing gratitude and appreciation for family members and friends.

"Instead of being concerned that Grandma will 'kill the vibe,' try reframing the situation," Forrest told Newsweek. "You're so fortunate that your spouse's grandmother is able to attend your big day; there are many couples that would give anything to have that privilege with their beloved grandparents."

She said it was also important to remember that this is a time for partners to build a solid relationship with their future in-laws. In addition to having the groom's grandmother at the wedding, Forrest said the couple should make sure she's comfortable.

(Click to continue reading)
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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Drew Barrymore shares Britney Spears support amid her conservatorship battle

Barrymore was herself raised in the sometimes volatile Hollywood sportlight

 By Tyler McCarthy

Drew Barrymore spoke out in support of Britney Spears amid her conservatorship battle. (Getty Images)

Drew Barrymore
is speaking out in support of Britany Spears as the pop star finally receives some good news in her ongoing conservatorship battle.

After years under a conservatorship, Spears has only just been speaking out publicly as she takes to the courts to try and end what she says is an oppressive deal that leaves her with precious little legal control over decisions in her life that most people take for granted.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Barrymore, 46, noted that she’s been trying her best to stay out of the #FreeBritney movement since she doesn’t know the singer personally. However, that has changed for her in recent weeks as it became clear that Spears needed as many voices as possible to champion her cause. 

"I feel that there's a human being at the core of this. But since she put herself out there more... she's the key to her freedom," Barrymore said. "This is about her and her life and everybody deserves the freedom to make mistakes or a success of their life and everything in between. That is what a life is."

The talk show host added: "So whether it's about her or anyone else, I want people to have their civil liberties; to have the freedom to live their lives."

Barrymore’s comments come months after she lightly touched upon the Spears drama during an appearance on Howard Stern's SiriusXM show, where she likened the situation to her own wild days that led to an involuntary psychiatric ward stay when she was 13 years old.

"My mom put me in a place that was like a full psychiatric ward. I used to laugh at those, like Malibu 30-day places. They talked about things that p---d me off. I was just like... A little spa vacation for 30 days in Malibu was sort of the opposite of the experience I had," she explained. "I was in a place for a year and a half called Van Nuys Psychiatric and you couldn’t mess around in there. If you did, you’d get thrown either in the padded room or get put in stretcher restraints and tied up."

As a result of her experience, she noted at the time that she sees stories of Hollywood "privileged" girls and often finds people forget the human element underneath it all. 

Barrymore noted to Entertainment Tonight that she believed not posting about Spears was an exercise in giving her privacy as a human being. However, she also admits that the "Toxic" singer may not have needed silence at the time.

"I think one of the things I thought that I could [do to] respect her the most is not Instagram about it, and not talk on social media. This is too big for that," the actress explained. "But I also think on the other side of the coin, the noise had to be made in order to start to have change here. Social media is a very tricky animal. It can lead to great outcry and people listening, and it can also be a place that has a little bit of empty calories."

Fortunately, regardless of Barrymore’s involvement, Spears was able to take a positive step forward in her conservatorship battle. Last week, after more than a decade of legal strife, her father, Jamie P. Spears, agreed to step down as her conservator once a proper plan is in place. According to a court filing, Jamie hopes to work with the court and his daughter's attorney, Mathew Rosengart, to resolve pending matters related to his job as he passes the torch in order to facilitate a "smooth transition."

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Gov. Pritzker Signs Package Of Legislation To Further Protect Older Illinoisans

PRINGFIELD — Joined by legislators, advocates, and the Illinois Department of Aging (IDoA) on Senior Day at the Illinois State Fair, Governor JB Pritzker today signed legislation that reflects the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The four pieces of bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 677, House Bill 848, House Bill 2570, and House Bill 3147 expand equitable access to healthcare for Illinois’ aging population. The legislation also makes Illinois the first nation to require regular Alzheimer’s Disease training for all licensed healthcare professionals serving adults.

“I am excited to sign four pieces of legislation that will make Illinois an even safer state for seniors,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’d like to thank IDoA for hosting a spectacular Senior Day at the fair, the elected officials in attendance for spearheading these important bills, and to all the care providers who support our seniors every day. Together, the steps we’re taking today mark a bipartisan commitment to ensuring that Illinois seniors can live their best lives.”

“The past year has been challenging for all of us, but especially for older adults,”said Paula Basta, Director of the Illinois Department of Aging.“So, this legislation reflects the administration’s continued commitment to providing critical services to older Illinoisans above the age of 60. I would like to thank Governor Pritzker for his leadership throughout the pandemic. And I would also like to thank the Alzheimer’s Association, stakeholders, and our legislators for their work to expand Alzheimer’s care, support, awareness and education. This package of legislation is about respecting yesterday, supporting today, and planning for tomorrow.”

Senate Bill 677

Individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias deserve to receive an accurate diagnosis to be able to plan for the future; however, the disease is too often under diagnosed. As part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to combat Alzheimer’s, SB 677 requires licensed health care professionals, who have direct patient interaction with adults age 26 and older, to complete at least a one-hour course in diagnosis, treatment, and care on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The curriculum will include content on how to identify and diagnose Alzheimer’s, effective communication strategies, and management and care planning.

To accurately and effectively provide care and guidance to individuals living with Alzheimer’s, the legislation better equips healthcare professionals, including those serving residents in historically underserved communities, with the tools they need to continue their medical education. This legislation advances Illinois’ national leadership in expanding Alzheimer’s awareness.

“These bills reflect our commitment to ensuring our seniors get the best resources and care the state has to offer,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. “I’m especially proud of the groundbreaking SB 677 which makes Illinois the first state in the nation to require Alzheimer’s diagnosis training for healthcare professionals. I know from personal experience this will improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones.”

“Diagnosing Alzheimer’s early is essential for receiving the best treatment possible,” said State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). “This new law will better enable healthcare professionals to identify and recommend resources for patients showing signs of dementia.”

“230,000 Illinois residents are living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said State Representative Kathleen Willis (D-Northlake). “Early detection is key to treatment. By working with all healthcare professionals on increasing their training for early screening we hope to see better outcomes for families impacted by this disease. I am extremely proud to have worked with the Lt. Governor and the Alzheimer’s’ Association to pass SB 677.”

SB 677 is effective January 1, 2023.

House Bill 848

HB 848 extends the Alzheimer’s scratch-off ticket from January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2025. Amending the Illinois Lottery Law will continue the sale of the special instant scratch-off game to benefit Alzheimer's care, support, education, and awareness in Illinois by three additional years.

"To ensure that no one is left without the medical care that they need, it is important that we are providing ample resources to organizations that help those with Alzheimer's," said Assistant Majority Natalie Manley (D-Romeoville)."I would like to thank Gov. Pritzker for signing this legislation and ensuring those suffering from Alzheimer’s are able to receive the care they deserve."

“Alzheimer’s Disease claims the lives of thousands every year. It’s vital that we find ways to support efforts to educate the public and bring awareness to this devastating disease,” said State Senator Melinda Bush (D - Grayslake).“I commend the governor for signing this legislation and making awareness a priority.”

HB 848 is effective immediately.

HB 3147

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for older Illinoisans, who have suffered from the lack of personal connection that is so critical to mental health. HB 3147 addresses this need by requiring long-term care facilities to ensure virtual communication is facilitated among residents and family during a public health emergency.

The legislation adds a new section the Nursing Home Care Act and the Hospital Licensing Act relating to communication methods between doctors and patients during a pandemic. Upon request, long-term care facilities and hospitals must facilitate at least one daily phone or video call between a resident or patient and their family member during a public health emergency.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how being able to virtually connect with loved ones is an important part of many people’s lives,” said Assistant Majority Leader Natalie Manley (D-Romeoville).“Unfortunately, seniors in nursing homes and other facilities haven’t always had the resources necessary to virtually connect with their family and friends, causing many to be isolated. This law ensures that seniors in long-term living facilities will no longer be cut off from communicating with theirloved ones during emergencies such as the current pandemic.”

“Social isolation during the pandemic, especially those first few months, was detrimental to the mental well-being of a lot of our long-term care residents,” said State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park). “Should the state ever face a disaster like that again, this new law will ensure those residents have a line of contact to their loved ones, whether it be a phone call or a video call.”

HB 3147 is effective immediately.

House Bill 2570

During the pandemic, vulnerable and older Illinoisans benefited from the convenience of eLearning courses. Therefore, SB 2570 ensures that individuals 55 and older who complete an online defensive driving course, compared to an in-person option, may still be eligible for an auto insurance discount.

“The new law opens up access to driver training to more mature drivers in Illinois,” said Deputy Republican Leader Dan Brady (R-Bloomington). “Through eLearning, Illinoisans 55 and older can easily access to the instruction they need to not to only stay safe on the roadways but also reduce their vehicle insurance premiums.”

“Safer drivers deserve better deals with their car insurance providers. Insurance policies are set based on risk. Therefore, older adults over the age of 55, who completed at least 8 hours of defensive driving training, overseen by the Secretary of State, deserve to see benefits from improving their skills,” said State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago). “I applaud Governor J.B. Pritzker for supporting responsible drivers.”

HB2570 is effective upon becoming law

This package of legislation builds upon the administration’s commitment to serve and advocating for older Illinoisans. In 2019, Governor Pritzker created the Elder Abuse Task Force to investigate current protective practices and ways to raise public awareness to combat elder abuse. During the pandemic, the administration protected older Illinoisans by expanding meal delivery programs for seniors, increasing funding for the Department on Aging's Community Care Program, and working with grocers to set aside designated shopping hours for vulnerable older residents.

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Bradenton woman hired to care for elderly woman. She stole thousands from her, police say

By Mark Young

A 34-year-old Bradenton caregiver was arrested over the weekend after a lengthy investigation revealed she stole thousands of dollars from her elderly client, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Heather Jurek has been charged with one count of elderly exploitation.

Deputies say Jurek was originally hired by a licensed caregiver company to care for the 80-year-old victim, but had left the company to contract on her own, signing with the victim’s power of attorney to perform specific tasks for the victim.

Among those tasks were to pay basic bills and purchase groceries, giving Jurek access to the victim’s bank accounts, according to the arrest affidavit.

Deputies began investigating in the summer of 2020 when the victim’s power of attorney began noticing more money was being taken out of the victim’s account that is normally needed to pay the victim’s bills.

Investigators looked into the banking activities and said Jurek began to steadily increase the amount of money she would withdraw, while also increasing the number of times a week she was taking money from the account, according to the arrest documents.

Deputies said as Jurek, “became more comfortable working for the victim, it is apparent she began utilizing the victim’s debit card and pin number as her own.”

Jurek is believed to have stolen at least $4,500 from the victim, according to the arrest report.

An arrest warrant was issued for Jurek on Aug. 3 and she was taken into custody on Aug. 14. According to jail records, Jurek posted a $1,500 bond the same day of her arrest and was released pending a future court date.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, faces heartbreaking conservatorship fight

MANHATTAN BEACH, CA - MARCH 05: Actress and Original Star Trek cast member Nichelle Nichols films her final performance for "Renegades: Ominara" at Northrop Grumman on March 5, 2021 in Manhattan Beach, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)Getty Images

By Makeda Easter
Tucked away at the end of a secluded cul-de-sac, Nichelle Nichols’ Woodland Hills home was a testament to her boundary-breaking career spanning more than 70 years. Nichols lined walls and shelves with photos of herself as Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” series, memorabilia from her legions of fans and documentation of her contributions to NASA’s recruitment of women and people of color in the 1970s.

The home was Nichols’ pride and joy, say those close to the star. She purchased it in 1982 for $12,000 and meticulously planned its details, from her plush, oversize furniture to the garden where she planted roses to the neighboring property she purchased in 1994 to use as a guesthouse and workspace for projects.

Questions around the fate of Nichols’ home — who lives in it and what happens to it — have been central to an ongoing, years-long legal battle over the finances and care of the beloved TV star, who friends and family say is financially drained and struggling with dementia.

A three-way fight over Nichols’ fate involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette.

In 2018, Johnson filed a petition for conservatorship, arguing that his mother’s dementia made her susceptible to exploitation. In 2019, Bell filed a lawsuit against Johnson, alleging attempts to remove him from Nichols’ guest home, where he has lived since 2010, and “aggressive and combative behavior.”

Bell says that while living in close proximity to Nichols, he helped to restore her career and financial well-being. According to Johnson, who filed a countersuit against Bell in 2020, Nichols’ home was the place where her former manager “exerted his undue influence and took control over Ms. Nichols’ assets and personal affairs,” misappropriating the star’s income as her health deteriorated and memory faded.

Fawcette, a producer and actress who met Nichols in 2012, entered the legal fight opposing Johnson’s conservatorship petition. Fawcette pushed for visitation rights to spend time with her friend, and she argued for Nichols to stay in Woodland Hills — a scenario that has looked increasingly improbable.

At 88, Nichols no longer occupies the house. Last year, Johnson moved her to New Mexico, where he and his wife live. Johnson declined The Times’ requests to speak with Nichols directly.

Against the backdrop of the #FreeBritney movement around Britney Spears raising public consciousness about conservatorships, Nichols’ former agent and friend have launched court battles to intervene, they said in interviews. Their fear: Nichols is being denied a chance to live out her remaining years as she wants.

° ° °

Born in Robbins, Ill., Grace Nichols was renamed Nichelle as a teenager moving into the world of professional entertainment. She sang and danced through the Chicago club circuit in the 1940s and 1950s, and after her brief marriage to fellow dancer Foster Johnson and the birth of son Kyle, she moved to L.A. to focus on film and television.

In 1959, Nichols had a small role in the Samuel Goldwyn production of “Porgy and Bess,” which brought her together with some of the most successful Black stars of the day, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Dorothy Dandridge. Nichols met “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry in 1963 after being cast in an episode of his TV series “The Lieutenant,” and in 1966 she made her debut as communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura in “Star Trek.”

Frustrated with the lack of depth in her role, Nichols considered leaving “Star Trek” during the first season. A chance encounter with Martin Luther King Jr., a Trekker, changed her mind. He told her she was a trailblazer — a Black woman on TV in a nonstereotypical role. Although the original “Star Trek” series was short-lived, running three years until 1969, Nichols became an icon, appearing in the many manifestations of the “Star Trek” franchise, including the animated show and a string of feature films.

In 1970, Nichols attended her first “Star Trek” convention, and at a 1975 event, NASA representative Jesco von Puttkamer sparked her relationship with the space agency. In 1977, NASA hired Nichols to help recruit astronauts for its space shuttle program.

Over four months, she appeared in TV public service announcements and traveled the country to speak at universities and professional science organizations to encourage women and people of color to apply. NASA credited Nichols for helping to attract astronauts including Sally Ride and Frederick Gregory.

But for many years, conventions provided Nichols’ primary connection to the public. In her 1994 autobiography, she writes, “Star Trek” conventions “are unlike any other fan gathering, perhaps because a Trekker is unlike any other fan in the world. One would be hard-pressed to find such a large group of intelligent, sensitive, aware people.”

And fans loved Nichols, says Adam Malin, co-founder of Creation Entertainment, which has staged traveling fan conventions since 1971. Malin considers her “the ultimate ambassador for what we hope the future could be.”

The fan gatherings were a major source of income for Nichols, who commanded top dollar for her signature and photos. She drew lines that would last all day long, says Chase Masterson, a “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actor who appeared with Nichols at conventions.

But by the time Bell began working with Nichols — in 2009, according to court documents — the convention appearances had dried up, and Nichols was struggling financially, says Bell, 82.

The two had met earlier that year, hitting it off over lunch at P.F. Chang’s. Bell became Nichols’ manager, helping her book conventions, other appearances, films and TV projects.

After he sold his home in Studio City, Bell says, Nichols encouraged him to move into her guesthouse for free in 2010. (He began paying rent, $300 a month, after two years of living in the guesthouse.) Bell recalls her saying, “We’re only across the driveway from each other, and we’ll be able to develop these projects much faster.”

Under his guidance, Nichols began to recover financially, going from one or two convention bookings a year to at least three a month, Bell says. Nichols could earn $10,000 to $15,000 for attending a small convention and $40,000 to $50,000 participating in major conventions, he says.

While Bell was her manager, her annual income reached several hundred thousand dollars, he claimed, although her son Johnson disputes that number and characterizes Bell’s accounting records as “extremely deficient.”

In January 2013, Nichols collapsed in her living room and was taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with pancreatitis — attributed to alcohol, Johnson says. Johnson, 70, says he and other family members noticed an increase in her drinking over the years. Bell attributes Nichols’ struggles with convention bookings at the time to alcohol.

“She denied it,” Johnson says, “and did not want to do any kind of [ Alcoholics Anonymous], Betty Ford [Center] or any such alcohol treatment.”

While Nichols recovered in the hospital, Bell, Johnson and Fawcette crossed paths. Fawcette and her husband, writer-director Steven Fawcette, met Nichols while casting their “Star Trek” parody film “Unbelievable!!!!!” They describe Nichols at the time as gravely ill.

On a low point during her recovery, the couple say, they were the only two people by Nichols’ side.

“She was definitely gasping for breath,” Angelique Fawcette, 51, says. “She was calling out to her people who had passed away.”

After weeks in the hospital, Nichols moved into a nursing and rehabilitation facility. Nichols tried to leave the facility twice on her own, Bell says, so he took her home — against medical advice and without the consent of her family.

On the day Bell helped Nichols leave the rehabilitation facility, she signed an advance health care directive and a general power of attorney naming Bell as primary agent, allowing him to make healthcare decisions and to manage finances for her. Angelique Fawcette was named as a successor.

That night, Fawcette says, Nichols asked her to record a video about what she wanted in her later years. In the interview, titled “Nichelle’s Own Words,” Nichols responds to questions about her career and desire to work.

During an edited, hourlong interview posted over three videos, Nichols — then 80 — appears coherent at times but repeats herself at others. She says relatives, including Johnson, tried to convince her to work less.

“My son thinks that I should be letting up, you know. I say to him, ‘Kyle, when you pay my bills you’ll be able to tell me what to do.’”

Fawcette says Nichols told her that she would know when to release the video. And five years later, in 2018, Fawcette published it to YouTube during the conservatorship proceedings.

After the hospitalization, Nichols continued working, making the convention rounds and appearing in film and on TV, including on “The Young and the Restless” in 2016.

“It was because I got her off alcohol and turned her career around professionally that she was working,” Bell says.

With Bell and Nichols, the line blurred between manager, caregiver and friend, he says. Bell cooked meals every day. After Nichols had a mild stroke in 2015, she required more intense care. Bell arranged for physical therapists, caregivers and assistants.

“It was very, very close, as it often happens between managers and their clients in Los Angeles, because it’s intensely personal work,” says Bell’s attorney, William Bowen.

Fawcette says her bond with Nichols also deepened, as she came to view the star as a family member. She describes Bell as Nichols’ “gatekeeper,” controlling who had access to the performer. “I never really liked the guy. ... I had to deal with him in order to see my friend.”

Fawcette says Nichols’ home fell into a state of disrepair. Before Nichols’ 85th birthday celebration, she found the performer’s closet empty. At one point, she reached out to Nichols’ younger sister, Marian Nichols Smothers, for help.

“It was just getting to be too much, where the family was not intervening in the manner in which they should,” Fawcette says.

Johnson says he came to L.A. intermittently to help Nichols with tasks around the home, but Bell and Fawcette say Johnson was a rare presence in Nichols’ life in the years leading up to the conservatorship.

Then Bell reached out to Steven Fawcette with a surprise: Bell wanted to marry Nichols. Bell says he and Nichols talked about marriage as a business partnership, a way to ensure that she was protected financially.

The Fawcettes called Smothers and Johnson in a state of panic. That was around early 2018.

In May 2018, Johnson petitioned for conservatorship, known in other states as a legal guardianship, nominating a team of licensed professional fiduciaries to temporarily control Nichols’ person — including healthcare, food, clothing and housing — as well as her estate, the financial assets. In the petition, Johnson claimed Nichols has “severe short-term memory loss impacting her executive functioning. ... Certain individuals have unduly exerted themselves into Ms. Nichols’ life to her detriment.”

Johnson says the trigger for filing a conservatorship petition was learning that Bell in 2017 had transferred Nichols’ home into his name as power of attorney. The petition kicked off three years of legal proceedings — with objections and battles over the cost of legal representation.

In 2019 court documents, Johnson indicated that for one 144-day period, Nichols’ temporary conservator had requested nearly $115,000 to cover fiduciary and attorney fees. Fighting over conservatorship can be so costly it often hurts the conservatee, says Kurt Eggert, director of the Elder Law Center at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law. “It’s a tragedy if fighting over who gets to control the estate chews up too much of that estate; the conservatee is powerless to stop that.”

After filing the petition, the probate court suspended Bell’s power of attorney, and Nichols’ home was transferred back into her name. Johnson moved to L.A. to serve as Nichols’ sole caregiver and mapped out appearances at conventions, “which allowed us to pull her back from the brink, financially,” he says. “She was completely underwater at her own bank.”

In August 2018, Fawcette went to court to object to Johnson’s petition for conservatorship, arguing that Nichols was able to manage her personal and financial affairs with limited help from a caregiver or assistant. Fawcette accused Johnson of primarily wanting access to Nichols’ income and personal property. In a court response he filed to Fawcette’s petition to enforce visitation rights, Johnson accused the producer of wanting to profit from Nichols’ fame.

In January 2019, Johnson was appointed conservator of Nichols’ person and estate, but the battle continued.

In a video Bell recorded in April of that year, Nichols reads conservatorship documents in her guesthouse. “I didn’t give permission to have conservatorship over me,” she says to Bell. When Johnson enters and leads her back to her main house, she shrieks, “You get your hands off of me.”

The video, first reported by a CBS station in Atlanta, cast doubt not only on Johnson but also on Bell, criticized for releasing upsetting footage of a dementia patient who might not have had the capacity to approve of its public release.

People with dementia often “object to somebody else making decisions for them. Even if it’s necessary, even if they are no longer able to make their own decisions,” Eggert says. “You can imagine how frustrating it is to feel like your decision-making power is being taken away from you.”

A 2020 deposition of the former court-appointed temporary conservator of the estate, licensed professional fiduciary BJ Hawkins, shed additional light on the substantial financial difficulties Nichols faced. In an analysis, Hawkins cited money that couldn’t be accounted for, poorly written contracts and a significant amount of debt.

“It was clear that other people had handled her financial affairs and that there was no evidence that they handled them in a way that was to her best benefit,” Hawkins told The Times, echoing her court testimony.

In the deposition, Hawkins also said that in her experience with Johnson, he was prone to explosive outbursts of anger and that she had “areas of deep and grave concern that he would not be able to act in the best interest of the conservatee, despite the fact that it was his mother and despite the fact that it is my general position that a member of the family is in the best position to act in the role of conservatorship of the person.”

° ° °

What is Nichols’ condition these days? How exactly does the “Star Trek” legend want to live out her final years? And if her wish was to be cared for at home in Woodland Hills, as friends suggest, would that even be an option, given her financial problems and the high cost of in-home care?

The answers remain unclear. After initially talking with The Times, Johnson largely declined to respond to subsequent requests for comment.

For many people struggling with dementia — financially, logistically, emotionally — moving in with family or even into a care facility sometimes is the best choice, especially as needs increase. But while Johnson says the isolation in New Mexico protects Nichols from exploitation, others say she’s being deprived of the love and support of friends. Sci-fi magazine founder Kerry O’Quinn, who has been close with Nichols since they met 40 years ago at a “Star Trek” convention, hasn’t seen his friend in more than two years.

Fawcette, who last saw Nichols in mid-2019, is working with an attorney to win the right to visit in New Mexico.

Meanwhile the progression of Nichols’ dementia is unclear. Smothers says her sister has had considerable memory loss.

“I feel like I’ve already lost my sister in so many ways,” Smothers says. “She’s not the person she used to be, the vibrant, in-charge, take care of everything person.”

“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actor Nana Visitor, who last saw Nichols two years ago at a Las Vegas convention, says Nichols appeared frightened and confused at times. Even though they had appeared at conventions together for more than 20 years, Nichols didn’t recognize Visitor. “I would say something, and then she would ask immediately,” Visitor says. “It was as if I had not said it.”

What some are calling a farewell tour, organized by Johnson and agent Sky Conway, is moving forward despite Nichols’ condition. In March, Nichols visited L.A. to shoot a scene for the pilot “Renegades: Ominara,” billed on Kickstarter as her final performance. While shooting, Nichols needed a teleprompter to recite her lines.

“She likes attention, so when she was on set, she was fine,” producer Frank Zanca says.

Nichols was scheduled to sign autographs at a Creation Entertainment “Star Trek” convention running this weekend, along with fellow headliners William Shatner, George Takei and Walter Koenig, but she canceled her appearance for unknown reasons. The Times reached out to the original “Star Trek” actors for comment, but none responded.

Nichols was scheduled for a visit in September to the Ohio headquarters of the International Federation of Trekkers, a “Star Trek” fan club created in 1984. The live event, recently canceled because of the nationwide surge in COVID-19, was described as Nichols’ “last public appearance east of Los Angeles before she enters retirement.”

One year ago Smothers launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Johnson on behalf of Nichols’ family — including her sister Diane Robinson and older brother Samuel Nichols. The campaign has raised about $146,000.

Bell continued to live in Nichols’ neighboring property and last saw her about two years ago. In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges that in 2015, Bell “induced” Nichols to procure a reverse mortgage on the property for more than $400,000. Bell says that he had nothing to do with the reverse mortgage and that Nichols pursued it independently.

He denies the allegations that he mishandled Nichols’ income. And he says he misses her “tremendously.”

Fawcette is upset that Nichols is not in her own house.

“She’s not getting the life that she wished for,” Fawcette says. “She’s getting the life that other people have chosen for her.”

The quest to bring Nichols home to Woodland Hills appears to be futile, however. Property records show that her house and guesthouse were sold last week for nearly $2.2 million to Baron Construction & Remodeling Co. On Friday, Bell confirmed that he moved out two weeks prior; in a brief email Saturday, Johnson says proceeds from the sale were placed in his mother’s conservatorship account to ensure her continued care.

Johnson says Nichols is living in a rental house in an undisclosed New Mexico location, where he serves as the primary caregiver.

“There’s still some sensitive issues,” Johnson says, explaining why he is declining The Times’ request to speak with Nichols. He’s just trying to protect his mother’s privacy, he says.

“We have moved here, and we’re going to remain here,” Johnson says from New Mexico. Nichols still has “financial issues that need to be settled.”

In the meantime, he says, Nichols’ home in New Mexico is “a nice place. Smaller, a little more modest than being in Los Angeles, but meeting our needs.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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