May 2022 be a year full of blessings and rightful wins!
Saturday, January 1, 2022
A total of 14 programs focused on victims of crime earned more than $40 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) last week as a means of culturally specific enhancement to help them better reflect and support their communities.
Of these, an award of nearly $2.9 million went to the Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) National Institute of Justice to support research, and another $2.1 million was given to the Bureau of Justice Statistics to support the National Census of Victim Service Providers. However, the bulk of the funding – approximately $38 million – was dispersed between 12 grant programs overseen by the OJP’s Office for Victims of Crime. These included:
- The Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime program, for strategies to create, expand or improve the use of technology to interact directly with crime victims and to provide information, referrals, crisis assistance, and long-term aid.
- The Expanding Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Services to Victims of Sexual Assault program, to create or expand sexual assault examination programs focused on improving sexual assault care through a community-based approach. This could help campus efforts, nonprofits, or even Tribe-affiliated providers.
- The Transforming America’s Response to Elder Abuse: Enhanced Multidisciplinary Teams (E-MDTs) for Older Victims of Financial Exploitation and Abuse program, to support multidisciplinary teams and strengthen their ability to identify and respond to cases of elder abuse and provide more comprehensive support for victims of financial exploitation.
- The National Center for Culturally Responsive Victim Services program, which will develop and maintain OVC’s National Center. This center will oversee national training and technical assistance for victim services and victim compensation among victims in historically underserved, marginalized, or other inequality-afflicted communities.
- The Building State Technology Capacity program, to enhance victims’ access to services while innovating the provision and quality of services, as well as improving the accessibility and responsiveness of victim service organizations.
- The Fostering Resilience and Hope: Bridging the Gap Between Law Enforcement and the Community program, will help law enforcement officers address trauma and adversity and rebuild relationships within their community.
- The Advancing Hospital-Based Victim Services program splits funding between four organizations and one technical assistance provider to improve links between victim services, hospitals, and other medical facilities that increase support for victims of crime and reduce the chances of future victimization.
- The Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program, supporting shelter and other assistance to victims of domestic violence and their pets.
- The Services to Support Victims of Hate Crime and Strengthen Communities programs, to support field-generated strategies, approaches, and models to support individuals, groups, and communities affected by hate crime.
- The Addressing Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting program, to halt female genital mutilation through education and community response.
- The National Joint Training Conference for VOCA Victim Assistance and Victim Compensation Administrators
- The National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Community Awareness Projects program, to increase public awareness of victims’ rights and services nationwide and strengthen agencies’ approach to develop collaborative community awareness during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
“The Department of Justice is committed to doing all it can to reduce violent crime, and supporting victims of crime is not only critical to those efforts but also central to our most fundamental responsibility: protecting our fellow citizens,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “The resources announced today will provide direct support to victims of crime as they recover and also bolster the important work of our state, local and Tribal partners who provide victims with comprehensive, high-quality victim services and care.”
Most funding for these awards was generated by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) of 1984 and the Crime Victims Fund it created, which uses fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders to aid victims.
Clover, SC - A former caregiver in South Carolina has been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from a 90-year-old woman in Clover, according to police and court records.
The Herald is not naming the victim or the street address. Clover police were told of the alleged thefts when a family member of the victim saw unauthorized account activity, according to a police report.
Clover police investigated and located bank statements and surveillance video from a financial institution that show withdrawals allegedly made by Douglas, McGarity said.
Friday, December 31, 2021
Readers respond to an article by Simon Hattenstone about finding the right care arrangements for his 93-year-old mother
Simon Hattenstone’s article (I didn’t want anyone else to look after Mum – until I realised what she wanted, 27 December) almost exactly mirrors my mother’s story. Aged 94, frail but still living independently in a small cottage in London, she fell in late November and spent much of one night on the floor, in pain and disorientated. Hospital followed for one week at St George’s, Tooting. There she received the most amazing care with the doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff all meeting my expectations of the amazing NHS at its very best, even during these trying times.
But it was evident that she couldn’t return to her house alone. Luck struck. A close friend had recently died and her carer was available to move in with my mother. Outcome? An elderly woman who seems more contented and at ease than previously, perhaps because the worry of living alone at a great age has now been taken away. She has support, friendship and the most amazing care, and she’s still “at home” – that being her greatest desire of all.
But here’s the bit that Hattenstone’s article doesn’t address: money. In my mother’s case, and I’m assuming in Hattenstone’s too, there is sufficient family income to cover the costs of a live-in carer. For most this simply wouldn’t be an option.
a system is devised, and funded, that would offer all people dignity
and independence in old age, we can’t rest easy. It’s so good that
Hattenstone’s mother and my mother are now thankfully content and well
cared for, but that should, in a civilised society, be the lot of all
older people. It clearly isn’t now.
The conversations that followed were remarkable. They talked about the importance of family, people, relationships and love. Their view on life, as an elderly citizen with a lot of experience is truly an inspiration and motivation.
Thursday, December 30, 2021
After her parents divorced, her father, Jim, became her legal guardian.
Another attorney and a private investigator were acquitted in the case
Ravenell was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering but acquitted of racketeering-conspiracy and narcotics-conspiracy charges by the jury in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland. In addition, the office said, Ravenell, along with lawyer Joshua R. Treem, 73, of Columbia, Md., and private investigator Sean F. Gordon, 45, of Crownsville, Md., were found not guilty of falsifying documents, obstructing an official proceeding and conspiring to commit crimes against the federal government.
The charges were part of a long-running investigation tied to a multistate marijuana operation. Ravenell was first indicted in September 2019 and accused of coaching drug kingpin Richard Byrd, who was his client, and others about how to evade law enforcement. Prosecutors alleged that Ravenell used his law firm’s bank accounts to funnel and hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds and to make payments to lawyers retained by other members of the conspiracy.
Ravenell and Treem are experienced criminal defense attorneys. Treem, a former federal prosecutor, was an attorney for Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the shooters in the 2002 Washington-area sniper attacks. Treem and Ravenell practiced law at the same firm in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2016, Treem began representing Ravenell in connection with a federal grand jury investigation into Ravenell’s work.
As part of the investigation, federal agents searched the law offices of Ravenell and Treem’s firm, Brown, Goldstein & Levy.
“The jury’s unanimous verdict confirms that Joshua Treem did nothing wrong but rather acted as the superb defense attorney that he is,” lawyer Andrew E. Levy said in a statement Tuesday.
An indictment issued last December alleged that Ravenell, Treem and Gordon worked together to impede the federal grand jury investigation into Ravenell and one of his clients.
For instance, the indictment said, Treem and Gordon traveled to an Arizona jail in 2017 to meet with a former client of Ravenell’s who was a potential witness against him. The two allegedly presented the man with a document, prepared by Ravenell, containing false statements helpful to Ravenell. At the jailhouse meeting, in Phoenix, Treem and Gordon urged the inmate to sign the document, according to the indictment.
“Treem had in front of him a document that contained 53 statements which were, in effect, false denials about Ravenell’s involvement in criminal conduct,” the indictment alleged.
Prosecutors said Ravenell, Treem and Gordon then prepared documents, including an affidavit from Gordon that referred to the inmate’s false statements and a letter Treem wrote to a federal judge in February 2018 related to the inmate.
outrageous that the government used its tremendous resources to
prosecute Josh for doing his job — investigating leads and advocating
for his client,” Levy said. “The United States attorney’s office owes
our partner an apology.”
Manfred Steiner had a successful and productive career as a doctor, helping generations of medical students learn about hematology. But all along, he had a nagging feeling he should be doing something else: studying physics. At age 89, he has finally fulfilled that dream, earning his Ph.D. in physics from Brown University.
"It's my third doctorate, but this one I really cherish a lot. That I made it — and made it at this age," said Steiner, who is weeks from turning 90, in an interview with NPR.
"I am really on top of the world," Steiner said in a news release from the college, as it announced his successful defense of his dissertation (title: "Corrections to the Geometrical Interpretation of Bosonization").
Full Article and Source:
He always wanted a Ph.D. in physics. He finally earned it at 89
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – While some states are ill-equipped to deal with judges who are found to commit infractions, in November, the Louisiana Supreme Court Justices found a way to hold judges removed from the bench even more accountable.
After a years’ long investigation into the matter, the high court in November amended Article 5 of the Louisiana State Constitution that deals with the Judicial Branch of government.
Throughout history, when a complaint alleging disabilities, impairments or possible criminal conduct of a Louisiana municipal, district or appellate judge is submitted to the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, it has always been fully investigated. When found viable, the judge in question has been removed.
But on Nov. 19, the Louisiana Justices handed down an order that amended Article V by actually requiring judges disqualified or removed from the bench for cause to pay costs of the investigations of the complaints against them.
The Nov. 19 order also speeds up investigations, requiring the Judiciary Commission to investigate and either resolve the matter or file a recommendation within a year or receiving the complaint or report of judicial misconduct, and allows the Commission or hearing officer to shorten deadlines or delays in order to expedite the matter.
The new order was signed less than a month before the High Court officially opened an investigation into a racial slur-filled video involving Lafayette City Judge Michelle Odinet and suspended her.
In an order signed Thursday, Dec. 16, High Court officially placed Odinet on suspension without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
Although Odinet had requested a leave of absence without pay, the Court Order stated she was “disqualified from exercising judicial functions, without salary, during the pendency of further proceedings…”appointed Retired Opelousas City Court Judge Vanessa Harris and retired St. Landry Parish assistant district attorney to fill in for Odinet.
In appointing Harris, the Justices also appointed Lafayette’s first Black city judge. She will serve as District A judge while Odinet is under investigation.
In Louisiana cities of more than 100,000 population, municipal judges earn the same as state district judges, which in 2021 was somewhere in between $155,000 and $160,000, after adding the 2.5% raise the 2019 state Legislature tacked on to the $153,143 they earned in 2019.
Lafayette’s population in 2021 is 125,813, based on US Census projections.
TOP STORIES OF 2021: From his arrest to election as St. Clairsville councilman, Mark Thomas made headlines this year
Thomas is facing four charges of felony mail fraud stemming from allegations that he abused his status as power of attorney and stole more than $500,000 from an elderly client with dementia.
Thomas, 61, was arrested during a traffic stop in the alley behind the St. Clairsville Public Library.
He was transported to the Belmont County Jail on a federal warrant and held there without bond until federal authorities arrived to transport him to another location.
If convicted of all four mail fraud charges, Thomas could serve 20 years in prison.
Jennifer Thornton, spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Justice office in Columbus, said Thomas made an initial appearance in federal court in early October. He appeared before Magistrate Judge Chelsey Vascura.
Chief Judge Algenon Marbley is assigned to Thomas’ case.
According to the indictment, Thomas is accused of defrauding a client from 2012 through August 2019 while serving as her power of attorney. It is alleged that Thomas took the victim’s money without her knowledge or permission to use for his own benefit.
The woman was 85 years old at the time the alleged crimes began. The indictment states that Thomas improperly used the victim’s power of attorney and his status as a lawyer — even after his law license was revoked in 2015 — to convince various entities, including banks and life insurance companies, to transfer the victim’s money for his use.
Since that first court appearance, Thomas’ trial date in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio has been scheduled for July 11.
Thomas is being represented by attorney Andy Avellano. According to court documents, Thomas had hoped to represent himself, but Marbley ruled against self-representation.
David Twombly with the Columbus-based U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting.
Avellano said he has not completed reviewing the discovery and requested eight months to prepare for trial.
“There’s several gigabytes of data that needs to be reviewed and the case will probably be considered complex, due to the nature of the allegations of financial fraud,” Avellano said. “We’d probably be moving the court for an expert to review the financial documents. It’s not an area that I’m well-versed in, so I’d need assistance there.”
Marbley said he expects the trial to last a month. He asked Avellano to submit his requests for assistance before the close of the year.
In November, Thomas ran an uncontested campaign for the 3rd Ward seat on St. CLairsville City Council. Since Thomas met all eligibility requirements and has not been convicted of a crime, he was elected to the post. Elections officials said should Thomas be convicted, it would be up to council to remove him from office.
The city charter — under Article III Council, Section 4. Vacancy-Creation of. — states that “Once elected and sworn in, a member of Council shall vacate his office … By conviction while in office of a crime involving moral turpitude. …”
Thomas is expected to take his seat on council next month. He has not responded to calls seeking comment about the charges.
by ROBYN OGUINYE
SAN ANTONIO (KABB/WOAI) — A Texas man hospitalized for about 10 months due to COVID complications faces yet another hurdle.
When KABB first met Mark Miranda six months ago, he was barely able to speak.
Three months later, the husband and father of two was making slow, but steady progress on a ventilator.
Today, he's talking and moving on his own.
But that's been overshadowed by an ongoing legal fight for Mark's rights to make decisions on his behalf.
In September, Christus Santa Rosa served the Miranda family papers, asking that Mark be stripped of rights to make his own decisions and forfeit them to a group called Angel Guardians LLC.
After appearing in court, it was determined that Mark would not be appointed a guardian.
"I do not need a guardian to make my decisions," says Mark.
But in October, the court appointed Mark a temporary guardian despite protests from Mark and his wife Kim.
Now, Mark is no longer at Christus Santa Rosa, but in another hospital in San Antonio recovering from pneumonia.
Just two days ago they were served papers yet again requesting permanent guardianship from Christus Santa Rosa, stating Mark is "incapacitated".
"I don’t think it’s right for them to serve us again," says Mark.
"If he’s able to demonstrate that he is of sound mind, capable of making decisions, has a sense of awareness, then it would be completely inappropriate for a guardianship to be appointed," says personal injury attorney Erica Maloney.
When KABB spoke to Maloney about the Mirandas in September, she said Christus would have to prove Mark was incapacitated.
KABB asked Christus Santa Rosa why they wanted to pursue permanent guardianship since Mark is no longer a patient there.
A statement says in part:
Any decision that is made about the care of our patients is carefully made and only in the best interest of our patients. This is an ongoing legal matter and we can’t speak about specifics.
Mark and Kim continue to advocate for Mark's independence and warn others if this could happen to them, it can happen to you.
"If you’re going into the hospital, make sure you make your wishes known, tell somebody what you want to have done with you," says Kim. "If not, things like this can happen to you."
A court date has not been set
for the Mirandas yet, but Mark says he's going to tell the judge he's
making progress and can make his own decisions.
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Thousands of complaints are filed against judges every year, but very few result in discipline. Ethics experts say the time for states to transform the judiciary is now.
When litigants anger Michael F. McGuire, the county judge in New York state’s Catskills region, he might hit them with “judicial contempt” and order them handcuffed or, in extreme cases, jailed for 30 days.
McGuire, who was elected in Sullivan County in 2011, did it several times over the years without warning: to a man who asked him to recuse himself because, he said, McGuire knew his son, to a mother who had an outburst when she felt ridiculed by McGuire and to a grandmother who contested turning over her grandson to his allegedly abusive father.
That wasn’t his only concerning behavior, according to an ethics complaint filed in 2018 by a state watchdog agency, which accused McGuire of berating court staff members; making “undignified” comments, such as suggesting that people in his court would date a “drug dealer” or a “slut”; presiding over cases in which his impartiality could be called into question; and representing family members and friends in personal cases. The watchdog agency, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, said he “lacked candor” during its investigation.agreed last year that McGuire — who earned a salary of $210,161 a year — be removed from the bench, the harshest sanction a judge can face. The public, however, had learned about the ethics charges only months before, in March 2020, more than a year and a half after McGuire was first served with the ethics complaint and when the appeals court said he had been notified of the commission’s unanimous recommendation to punish him.
McGuire ended up resigning in May 2020, but with another job already lined up — as Sullivan County’s head attorney, a position he still holds.
McGuire did not respond to requests for comment. In his resignation letter last year, he wrote that “I am quite proud of our achievements” on the bench and “deeply regret the issues that brought me before this Court.”
Joseph LaPiana, who went before McGuire in a family court case last year and is unable to see his 1-year-old daughter as a result, said, “Judges work for the public — we should know if they are being investigated for any misconduct.”
If McGuire’s misconduct violations had happened in a neighboring state, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Vermont, the public would have been alerted earlier — at the outset of the filing of ethics charges.
The timing in when the public is allowed to know about allegations against judges can differ broadly among states. Some allow judges to go months or years before even credible complaints are in the open. As more than 100 million cases are filed in local and state courts every year and as judges exert near-absolute power in deciding who wins custody of children to who can get married to whether people go to jail, the public’s ability to scrutinize judicial conduct is crucial for transparency’s sake, and it deserves as much attention as recent calls for policing and prosecutorial overhauls, judicial ethics experts argue.
Judicial misconduct “undermines confidence in our justice system,” said Susan Saab Fortney, the director of the Program for the Advancement of Legal Ethics at Texas A&M University School of Law.
Misconduct findings are rare in the judicial complaint process. Legal ethics experts say the minuscule share of judges punished every year isn’t necessarily indicative that all is well in the judiciary — it suggests a lack of accountability.
Each state has a form of a judicial conduct commission to which the public can file misconduct allegations against judges. Generally, it’s up to that body, which can be made up of fellow judges, lawyers and laypeople, to determine whether complaints violate a state’s code of judicial conduct — guidelines for judges to act with independence, integrity and impartiality. A judge’s conduct inside a courtroom as well as outside, including on social media, can be subject to discipline.
NBC News’ review of various states’ judicial conduct commission data from 2016 to 2020 indicates that thousands of complaints are filed across the country every year but that about 1 percent of them result in judges’ being publicly disciplined or stepping down after investigations are opened.
While the commissions maintain that most complaints are frivolous — for instance, a litigant is merely disgruntled over how a judge ruled — for a state to typically record zero public sanctions against judges sounds incredible, said Robert Tembeckjian, the administrator and counsel of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“It’s highly unlikely that any state would have a judiciary that is so above reproach that year after year no one gets disciplined,” Tembeckjian said. “Even in places like New York, where we have very sophisticated judicial education programs, there are numerous cases every year.”
New York’s commission, which oversees about 3,500 state and local judges, has received upward of 2,000 complaints annually in the past five years, and each year, the state has sanctioned a judge or one has resigned for misconduct in one to two dozen cases. Other large states, such as California and Texas, sanction multiple judges every year.
The level of transparency around misconduct cases varies by state. Some that have reported that no or few judges were publicly sanctioned in recent years, such as Iowa, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming, don’t make cases public until the court or panel that decides discipline gets involved. And in three states — Delaware, Hawaii and North Carolina — misconduct cases are made public only in the final stages of investigations when judges are to be punished.
In about two-thirds of states, however, the public can learn much sooner, such as when judicial conduct commissions first charge judges with misconduct or when the judges respond to the allegations.
States where information is kept under wraps argue that confidentiality is necessary for as long as possible to protect judges should they ultimately be cleared. But it turns out that in some cases, depending on the type of transgression, judges can be privately admonished by other judges or sent warning letters, meant to jolt them into correcting their behavior.
NBC News found that many states opt to reprimand judges privately more often than publicly. For instance, Pennsylvania filed formal charges against judges 17 times but issued private letters of warning or reprimand 172 times from 2016 to 2020.
A sweeping Reuters analysis last year of judicial misconduct, which examined thousands of discipline cases over a dozen years, determined that 9 out of 10 sanctioned judges were allowed to return to the bench.
“We have to recognize that oftentimes we have judges judging judges, and they’re ultimately in control and judging their own,” said Charles Gardner Geyh, an Indiana University law professor who studies judicial conduct.
Tembeckjian believes that states, including New York, should be as transparent as possible once there’s sufficient evidence to back up allegations against judges, similar to how grand jury investigations are made public when indictments are unsealed.
Tembeckjian said he’d like his judicial conduct commission to have the authority to suspend judges during investigations, as other states’ commissions can do, and to continue investigating cases even after judges resign. Such changes, however, would require the approval of the New York Legislature.
Ultimately, ensuring that judges are being rightfully held accountable is essential, because guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court allows them to be largely immune from lawsuits for acts done in their official capacity, Tembeckjian said.
“If there’s no sense that you can get a fair shake by going into a court of law and have confidence that the judge is going to be neutral and fair and apply the law honestly and responsibly, it’s ultimately going to lead to anarchy,” he said. “Then why not just settle our disputes in the streets rather than a court of law?”
Making them pay
Efforts are underway to enact meaningful judicial reforms at various levels. On Dec. 1, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation to require federal judges to report their financial holdings in response to a Wall Street Journal investigation. The Journal found that 131 federal judges had broken the law and violated judicial ethics by hearing cases in which they had financial interests. A similar bipartisan bill is pending in the Senate.
On the state side, the Louisiana Supreme Court last month expanded its rules about errant judges when it tacked financial burdens onto the disciplinary process. Not only can judges be made to pay for the costs of investigations if discipline is recommended, but they can also be ordered to repay the costs of installing replacement judges. And if judges decide to retire or resign before formal disciplinary processes conclude, they can still be required to pay investigative costs.
The state’s chief justice, John Weimer, said in a statement that the updated rules ensure that even retiring judges are “held accountable” and that Louisiana taxpayers aren’t on the hook for costs, which in recent investigations have been about $2,000 to $3,000.
About a dozen other states, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and South Dakota, fine judges or have similar cost recovery rules, according to the Center for Judicial Ethics at the National Center for State Courts, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the judiciary.
Marni Bryson, a judge in Palm Beach County, Florida, faces a public reprimand, an unpaid suspension for 10 days and a fine of $37,500 after the state judicial conduct commission said she was excessively absent from her duties over a four-year period, records show.
In New Hampshire, former Circuit Judge Julie Introcaso was ordered to pay her investigation’s costs, almost $75,000. Introcaso pleaded guilty last month to two counts of tampering with public records and submitting false statements in connection with a child custody case in which she was friends with a lawyer.
Janine Geske, a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice in the 1990s, said she’d like the state to implement similar penalties, which might “encourage judges to take responsibility early on” if their violations are tethered to their finances.
Another option, Geyh said, is to make the payout of judges’ pensions contractually contingent on good behavior.
Ethics experts say that citizen judicial watchdog programs known as court watchers could be effective but that it’s also incumbent upon other courtroom staff members and officials who witness judges’ poor conduct, particularly lawyers, to speak up. They may be reluctant to file complaints, however, because they’re afraid of retaliation if judges learn they were behind the allegations, said Fortney, the legal ethics expert at Texas A&M.
“A large percentage of states require that the complaining party be identified,” she said. “This clearly chills reporting.”
‘I don’t trust any judge’
But there have been cases in which lawyers and court staff members haven’t been afraid to stand up to jurists.
Ohio’s highest court last month suspended a 19-year municipal court judge, Mark Repp, for one year without pay after prosecutors in Seneca County relayed how he had ordered a 20-year-old woman who was sitting quietly in the back of his courtroom to watch her boyfriend’s hearing to get tested for drugs. When she refused, he sentenced her to 10 days in jail.
An investigation found that the woman was forced to take pregnancy tests and undergo full-body scans for contraband; none was detected. And while Repp assumed the woman was under the influence of narcotics, there was no evidence indicating that she was, and she had never been charged with drug-related offenses.
In a recent interview, Repp said that he has been concerned by the growing rate of overdose deaths in his community and that, in dealing with thousands of cases every year, he must “come up with some kind of decision that follows the law and also is appropriate under the circumstances.”
“I knew what I did was wrong,” Repp said. “I’ll try to make amends on that, and I have a whole year to reflect and contemplate my actions.”
But it wasn’t the only time Repp, who is up for re-election in 2025, has faced criticism.
“Imagine someone sitting in court for the first time, and now they think it’s what the judicial system is like,” said John Kahler II, a lawyer who once accused Repp of being biased against a client and unsuccessfully tried to get him disqualified from the case.
A woman who appeared before Repp in August did file a complaint to say he had labeled her a “known meth user” in open court. She wrote that she was made to feel “very embarrassed by Repp’s conduct and false accusations.” Repp said the complaint process in Ohio is a “good one” because the public does learn about judges accused of misconduct early on.
But the woman, Ana Petro, who was in Repp’s court for a traffic violation this year, doesn’t believe his suspension can remedy how he made her and others feel: worthless. A reckoning throughout the judiciary is needed, she said.
“I understand it’s not a judge’s job to
be nice, but when he’s abusing his power to be a judge, that’s when I
have a problem,” Petro said. “And I don’t trust any judge at all because
Isobel Mackenzie says there is a clear five-year pattern of increasing reports of seniors abuse and neglect, but the fragmented reporting system suggests the problem could be more widespread.
"The challenge is that the system is not reliably effective, and many vulnerable seniors may be falling through the cracks," she says in her report released Wednesday.
Over the past three to five years, the report says there has been a 49 per cent increase in reports of abuse, neglect and self-neglect to designated agencies, or health authorities.
Complaints to RCMP of violent crime rose 69 per cent, while reports to Vancouver police of physical abuse was up 87 per cent and financial abuse up by 49 per cent, it says.
Among her recommendations, Mackenzie says a review of the Adult Guardianship Act should consider the need to legally report suspected abuse of vulnerable adults, similar to an existing legal requirement to report child abuse.
The report also calls for the implementation of a central contact with one phone number to call about concerns, to be managed by professionals trained in adult protection.
"We know that seniors abuse and neglect exists in our communities and there is growing concern that it's increasing yet remains hidden and invisible to most of us," Mackenzie said during a news conference.
The Health Ministry thanked the Office of the Seniors Advocate for the report in a statement.
"This report shows there is more that needs to be done to make it easier for people to report abuse and neglect and to make people more aware of the importance of it," the statement says.
The ministry says it is working with federal, provincial and territorial partners on a newly established elder abuse working group to ensure B.C. is implementing the most current and effective approaches.
In the coming weeks and months, it will also work with B.C. partners like the provincial guardian and trustee, health authorities and service providers to find solutions. It will use the advocate's report as a source, the ministry says.
RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It's not clear exactly why reports of senior abuse are rising, and whether that indicates increases in abuse or simply more reporting, Mackenzie said. However, she added that there are many potential contributing factors, such as the isolation and stress created by COVID-19, poverty and an aging population.
The fragmented reporting system means data is unreliable and it's difficult to assess patterns, identify gaps, make improvements and measure progress, the report says.
Mackenzie said a centralized reporting system would harness the strengths of agencies and the people already working on the issue.
"What we need is a cohesive system that brings that group together and communicates to the public with one voice: 'This is what seniors abuse and neglect looks like. If you see it, report it. And here's the number you should report it to,'" she said.
Once a centralized repository for reports is created, RCMP and municipal police would align their reporting and coding so that emergency calls that reach them first could be fed into the unified tracking system, she added.
The Adult Guardianship Act is largely responsible for protecting vulnerable seniors beyond the police protection offered under the Criminal Code.
The report says when the legislation was introduced 20 years ago, there were no provincial guidelines or standards followed, leaving a patchwork of implementation across health authorities and other organizations.
It recommends that provincial standards and front-line training be developed, that there be a provincewide public awareness campaign, consistent data collection, and that methods and definitions be developed to monitor cases.
— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.
Nebraska Health Care Association President and CEO Jalene Carpenter told KETV-TV that at least six facilities closed or had partial closures this year.
The closures are forcing families to find new homes for loved ones. Some say they are searching up to 100 miles away for care.
Arapahoe’s Good Samaritan Society will shut down on Dec. 31. Mayor John
Kollar says he is leaning on state lawmakers to take action.
Monday, December 27, 2021
Over the past year, dozens of people in New Mexico alleged to be incapacitated found themselves under the control of a corporate guardian – often a stranger – without prior notice or even a court hearing after a judge was told they were in danger of immediate and irreparable harm.
Permitting such temporary emergency guardianships is considered necessary in some cases. But advocates of guardianship reform, and a state Supreme Court justice, say the long-standing emergency process has been abused – sometimes to the detriment of so-called protected persons and their loved ones.
A new state Supreme Court-appointed study group hopes lawmakers in January will put more legal protections in place for people who end up in a temporary guardianship or conservatorship.
That legal action typically results in the immediate loss of many of the protected person’s rights and autonomy, and has made it difficult for families or loved ones to undo or modify once in place.
“We want to have a lot of extra safeguards in place so that it cannot be abused by anybody, recognizing that there still needs to be a path for that which is a true emergency,” state Supreme Court Justice Shannon Bacon told a legislative committee last August.
The proposed legislative changes were recommended earlier this month by the new 24-member guardianship study group that includes attorneys, guardians and judges. The group is called WINGS, for working interdisciplinary network of guardianship stakeholders.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would have to place the proposed legislation on her agenda for the 30-day session that begins Jan. 18, which is uncertain. Given the recent record revenue projections, legislators will already have a “weighty agenda” to address, a governor’s spokeswoman said last week.
“That being said, we are reviewing proposals on the issue of guardianship and are engaged in conversations with stakeholders and legislative leadership,” said spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett.
The proposed legislation would require more court oversight at the onset of a temporary guardianship, and more reporting by an appointed guardian.
Currently, there is “little to no oversight at the beginning of any particular case and it leads to potentially bad outcomes,” Bacon said during a recent WINGS meeting.
The proposed amendments to state law would require a judge to hold a hearing within 10 days after a temporary guardianship is granted by a court. The hearing is to decide whether the temporary guardianship should continue and all interested parties could attend.
Currently, the law sets no deadline for the initial hearing and months can elapse before an alleged incapacitated person appears before a judge.
The proposed reform also would shorten the length of a temporary guardianship or conservatorship to a maximum of 30 days. If a hearing is held and there is good cause, a 60-day extension can be granted.
Current law states that a temporary guardianship shall not exceed 60 days, except that upon order of the court, the temporary guardianship may be extended for not more than 30 days.
Temporary guardians or conservators, who are appointed to oversee the finances of an alleged incapacitated person, would be barred from selling or disposing of that person’s property without specific authorization from the court.
Bacon, a former state district judge in Albuquerque, said in the past “I would get an emergency petition (that) would allege that Mom is in a nursing home and her son has gotten a hold of her debit card and is withdrawing funds as fast as he can. So let’s put a stop to that through an emergency petition, and that’s appropriate.”
But there have been inappropriate uses, she added.
“Attorneys will file for emergency guardianship and it may be legitimate, the need, but they’re just not doing their job and they’ll say, give me another 30 days, give me another 60 days, and the judge will kick the can down the road and not be presented with the proof that is necessary, the clear and convincing evidence that the individual is in need of a guardianship or conservatorship,” Bacon told the legislative committee last August.
Under state law, any interested person can petition a court to place someone under temporary guardianship. Often times, such petitions allege the person is unable to handle their own affairs and need immediate protection for their own safety or to prevent financial exploitation.
That process, according to Bacon, “allows somebody on a very bare bones petition to assert that a guardian needs to be appointed immediately and we’ll come back to you later and prove it up.”
Judges aren’t required to hold a hearing or notify the person or that person’s family members before granting an emergency petition, which has resulted in alleged incapacitated people being removed from their homes, their bank accounts frozen or transferred and their belongings seized.
The Journal in recent years has reported on cases in which close family members learned after the fact that their loved one had been placed under a temporary guardianship with a professional guardianship company and have had to wait months to appear before a judge to contest the guardianship, its conditions or the specific guardian or conservator appointed.
One such recent case involved a retired educator from Las Cruces, Dorris Hamilton, whose son spent nearly two years trying to convince a judge to permit him, rather than a professional guardian firm, to become his mother’s guardian.
An attorney had filed a petition contending Hamilton needed an emergency guardianship because she had memory loss, vascular dementia, exhibited hoarding behaviors and “may” have been the subject of financial exploitation. Hamilton’s son, who lived out of state at the time, contended he learned several weeks later about what had occurred and never sanctioned the petition.
By law, those appointed to advise the judge on whether a person should be placed under a guardianship can collect fees for their service from the protected person’s estate.
The state Administrative Office of the Courts, which had identified about 6,000 adults living under a guardianship statewide as of last summer, had no data on the number of temporary emergency guardianships granted each year.
But a Journal review of online court docket sheets identified more than 60 guardianship cases filed over the past year involving the appointment of professional, nonfamily guardians.
Of those cases, the vast majority originated as temporary guardianships. And more often than not, an initial hearing in the case wasn’t held for several months. Docket sheets for cases involving nonprofessional guardians aren’t readily accessible on the state judiciary’s website.
Corporate guardians can end up being appointed in temporary emergency guardianship cases because the alleged incapacitated person has no family living close by or the person’s family members aren’t considered suitable to become guardians.
“It’s always important in the law to find an appropriate balance between those true emergency cases where an emergency temporary guardian is appointed for a very short period of time until the parties get the opportunity to go to court and discuss this in front of a judge,” said Brwyn Downing, executive director of the Senior Citizens Law Office in Albuquerque. “However, I believe it’s become more common knowledge that this has been abused in our current system.”
The fact that a family member or attorney can “go to a judge and have that judge issue an ex-parte emergency order without the person who is going to be placed under guardianship even having knowledge of this until they are served with that order is just … it can be shocking in certain cases, and totally inappropriate,” Downing told the Journal.
During the WINGS discussion on the proposed changes, Alice Liu McCoy, executive director of the state Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, supported the proposed changes.
The idea is to make a temporary guardianship “a rare instance,” she said. “This shouldn’t be a go-to proceeding.”
BY DIANE DIMOND / CRIME AND JUSTICE | DIANE@DIANEDIMOND.COM
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 24TH, 2021 AT 5:38AM
First, holiday greetings to all. Here’s hoping the joy of the season follows you into 2022!
For nearly 14 years, I have written this crime and justice column. I believe it is the only weekly column dedicated to those two issues, which affect all of us.
I write today to say so long, for now.
As many readers know, one of my longtime concerns has been the predatory guardianship system in this country. Called conservatorship in some states – think the Britney Spears case – it is a court-approved procedure whereby a judge, often on the flimsiest of evidence, can rule someone “incapacitated” and appoint a stranger to assume total personal and financial control of that person’s life.
I began investigating guardianship in 2015 and discovered it starts with a simple legal document, the Petition for Guardianship. It is designed to spell out, in detail, why the proposed “wards of the court” cannot care for themselves. Anyone can hire a lawyer to write this petition: an angry relative, an unrelated estate lawyer, a former lover, someone who is owed money or a scam artist posing as a caregiver. And, if a lawyer presents an Emergency Petition for Guardianship, it speeds up. Attorneys in this work are easy to find.
I also learned many petitions are exaggerated. They sometimes contain downright lies about the mental state of the prospective ward and the behavior of their family. For example, elders who simply have some memory issues are routinely declared as having dementia or Alzheimer’s. Adult children are regularly accused of physical, emotional or financial abuse of their aging parent. Fact checking of these petitions is often nonexistent. Many judges simply take the petitioning lawyer’s word as gospel, conducting secret sessions without even notifying the targeted ward or their family. Once ensnared in the system, it is virtually impossible to escape since a judge who initiates a guardianship rarely rules to undo his or her original judgment. And, now, it’s not just the elderly who are targets.
These days, younger people – those who received sizeable workmen’s comp settlements, won multimillion dollar medical malpractice suits, are veterans or intellectually or physically disabled with generous monthly government checks – have all fallen victim in states across the country.
While some states have begun to adopt laws to reform guardianship, this flawed system is the most crucial civil rights issue of our time. Millions are affected.
relationships sometimes work out well, especially if a loving relative
or friend is appointed. But, too often, the court capriciously decides
no one in the family is fit and a for-profit stranger is appointed. That
person can hire as many others as they like to care for the protected
person; the ward’s estate pays the bills.
A government estimate from 2018 put the number of Americans caught up in guardianship at 1.3 million. Activists in the field believe it could now be closer to 2 million, but no one knows for sure because there is no official state or federal tally kept. To give you an idea of how much money is at stake: It’s calculated at any given time the collective amount of wards’ assets is at least $50 billion. With that much money available is it any wonder such a legally sanctioned system would attract the criminal element? Informed critics estimate predatory players illegally divert multiple billions from this monstrous money cache every year.
Thanks to the Britney Spears conservatorship battle, my pet topic has finally made headlines. And I have been engaged to write a book about my deep-dive findings. A sabbatical is in order since I don’t think I can diligently write a weekly column and a book simultaneously.
I will miss writing this weekly offering and receiving your comments, pro and con. But wish me luck. I hope my book will enlighten and prompt serious reform laws.
The guardianship system was designed to help the most helpless Americans. It’s time to either return to that or scrap the system and come up with a new plan to help those who cannot fend for themselves.
According to reports, a Louisiana man was arrested for the second time after posing as a handicapped person and tricking caregivers into changing his diapers.
Rutledge Deas IV, 31, was arrested on Thursday at his home in Metairie, Louisiana after soliciting someone for "alternative therapy." Authorities also note that Deas tried to have the victim recruit other babysitters to care for him while posing as a person with special needs.
Deas was charged with one count of human trafficking and one count of attempted human trafficking.
Back in 2019, Deas was arrested for "hiring babysitters who he would
pay to change his diaper and treat him like a child." He was
subsequently placed on probation in December 2020 following a guilty
plea on four counts of human trafficking.