Saturday, January 15, 2022

Knoxville woman charged with crimes against the elderly

Constance Porter

A Knoxville woman has been arrested and charged with theft and willful abuse and neglect of her 81-year-old Clarksville uncle.

Constance Porter, 56, who was entrusted with the man’s finances and personal care, reportedly had been making charges and transactions with her uncle’s personal account without permission prior to abandoning his care.

An agent with the Adult Protective Services Association alerted Clarksville Police to the alleged exploitation of the man’s bank account, according to the affidavit.

Porter was the authorized user for the victim’s bank account, but was to use the account specifically to benefit him.

An investigation revealed the man’s bank account had been charged several times by Clarksville Enterprise Rent-A-Car, according to court records.

Porter reportedly rented a vehicle in September 2019 making approximately $2,469 worth of transactions from the same account.

After a trip to Knoxville, Porter allegedly abandoned her duty as caretaker, but other family members stepped in and were able to replace her.

On Wednesday, Jan. 5, Porter was arrested and booked into the Montgomery County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

She’s been charged with auto theft and willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly.

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AG Ferguson lawsuit nets $45M in debt relief, payments from Navient

Jan 13 2022

Debt relief, restitution, will go to Washington borrowers impacted by Navient’s deceptive practices

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that, as a result of his lawsuit, student loan servicer Navient will provide nearly $45 million in debt relief, restitution and costs to resolve Washington’s lawsuit. Ferguson asserted Navient, the Sallie Mae offshoot that was then the nation’s largest student loan servicer, engaged in numerous unfair and deceptive practices harming Washington student loan borrowers.

Washington was the first state, along with Illinois, to file a lawsuit against Navient, and the first to obtain a judgment stating Navient broke the law.

The student loan giant will:

  • Extend more than $35 million in debt relief, erasing the remaining debt of more than 1,400 Washingtonians who took out certain private student loans between 2002 and 2014 — an average of about $25,000 per person;
  • Pay $2.3 million in restitution to approximately 8,900 Washington borrowers enrolled in forbearance for an extended period of time between 2009 and 2017; and
  • Pay $7 million to Washington to cover costs from the complex, multiyear investigation and litigation, along with future enforcement of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

Washingtonians do not need to take any action to receive these benefits. Borrowers receiving private loan debt cancellation will receive a notice from Navient, and they will receive refunds of any payments made on those loans after June 30, 2021. Washingtonians who are eligible for a restitution payment will receive a postcard in the mail from the Attorney General’s settlement administrator in the next several months. Federal student loan borrowers who may be eligible for a restitution payment are encouraged to update their contact information in their account or create an account if they do not already have one.

For more details and the most up-to-date information, please visit

Borrowers who will receive restitution or debt relief span all generations: Navient’s harmful conduct impacted everyone from students who enrolled in colleges and universities immediately after high school to mid-career students who dropped out after enrolling in a for-profit school in the early 2000s.

“Higher education should not equal a lifelong debt sentence — and student loan corporations do not have the right to deceive Washingtonians in order to maximize their profits,” Ferguson said. “We are holding the country’s largest student loan servicer accountable, achieving hard-fought corporate reforms, and helping repair the damage they did to Washington borrowers. We will continue fighting to prevent the financial abuse of Washington students overburdened with debt.”

Forbearance was easy for Navient, bad for borrowers

Navient will pay restitution to Washington students it enrolled in forbearance instead of fully explaining the benefits of income-driven repayment plans. Navient unfairly pushed borrowers into forbearance, which was good for the company because it was simple and cheap, but resulted in long-term harm to most borrowers. Forbearance allowed borrowers to suspend payments temporarily, but their interest continued to accumulate. When repayment resumed, the accumulated interest would be added to the loan principal, meaning borrowers ended up paying interest on their initial interest. Unlike forbearance, income-driven plans offer the possibility of loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments, and can provide valuable interest subsidies. Under income-driven plans, payments can be as low as $0 per month. 

Resolution details

Ferguson submitted the proposed consent decree for entry today in King County Superior Court. The consent decree still requires court approval.

Today’s consent decree will apply to thousands of Washingtonians:

  • Approximately 847 Washingtonians who, from 2002 to 2014, took out subprime private student loans, and had delinquent payments for more than seven consecutive months prior to June 30, 2021. Any remaining balances on these loans will be canceled.
  • Approximately 717 Washingtonians who, from 2002 to 2014, took out non-subprime private student loans to attend certain private, for-profit colleges (including ITT, DeVry, Corinthian Colleges and University of Phoenix), and who had delinquent payments for more than seven consecutive months prior to June 30, 2021. Any remaining balances on these loans will be canceled.
  • Washingtonians who contacted Navient due to long-term financial hardships with their non-Parent PLUS federal student loans, and were enrolled into forbearance for an extended period of time. The approximately 8,900 eligible student borrowers can expect to receive a check of around $260 in the coming months.

Today’s consent decree also contains extensive injunctive terms to prevent Navient from engaging in similar harmful conduct in the future.

It also requires Navient to notify borrowers of the U.S. Department of Education’s important recent changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which offers millions of qualifying public employees a waiver that may count past payments or periods of repayment toward loan forgiveness.

Ferguson encourages all Washington residents who work in the government or non-profit sectors to review the PSLF website or consult the Washington Student Loan Advocate’s website to determine whether they might qualify for loan forgiveness.

Student loan borrowers with questions or complaints about their student loans can contact the office of the Washington’s Student Loan Advocate by using the Washington student complaint portal at

On Oct. 20, 2021, Navient transferred its servicing of 5.6 million loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education to a company named Maximus, which will service loans under the brand name AidVantage. Following completion of this transfer, Navient will continue to service its existing portfolio of private student loans and legacy Federal Family Education Loans issued before the program ended in 2010.

Nationwide relief

Ferguson, along with the Attorneys General for Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, Ohio and North Carolina, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), led an investigation into Navient’s business practices. Ferguson, the Illinois Attorney General and the CFPB filed the initial lawsuits against Navient on the same day in January 2017, then other states followed.

Under the terms of the settlement, Navient will cancel the remaining balance on nearly $1.7 billion in certain private student loan balances owed by 66,000 borrowers nationwide in 39 states. In addition, Navient will pay $142.5 million to 32 state attorneys general. In addition, Navient will alert consumer credit bureaus to reflect the debt cancellation on the borrowers’ and co-signers’ credit reports, and refund certain payments sent after June 30, 2021.

Ferguson’s lawsuit first to result in a judge ruling against Navient

Ferguson’s lawsuit asserted that Navient deceptively promoted a “co-signer release” feature of private loans to entice family and friends to co-sign loans. However, Navient put up barriers to obtaining co-signer release without informing consumers in advance, and failed to disclose that very few borrowers ever achieved co-signer release.

In March 2021, King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Galván ruled that Navient violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act with its unfair and deceptive conduct related to this program. It was the first time a judge ruled that Navient broke a consumer protection law in a student loan servicing lawsuit filed by a state’s Attorney General or federal consumer protection agency.

The lawsuit also asserted Navient engaged in additional illegal business practices:

  • Made subprime, predatory loans to students attending for-profit colleges with low graduation rates, despite its own expectations that a very high percentage of borrowers would not be able to repay those loans;
  • Committed unfair and deceptive acts by offering financially distressed student borrowers a forbearance instead of informing them of the terms and benefits of federal income-driven repayment plans;
  • Failed to inform those borrowers who chose repayment programs based on their income that they had a yearly obligation to re-certify their income and family size;
  • Misapplied borrower payments, and failed to provide a way for borrowers to submit standing instructions for how to allocate excess payments; and
  • Trained its agents to deceptively ask borrowers to pay an amount that included the next upcoming regular payment, without clarifying this was not necessary to fix a delinquency.

Assistant Attorneys General Julia Doyle, Heidi Anderson, Craig Rader, Kathleen Box, Seann Colgan, Tad Robinson-O’Neill, Daniel Allen, Joe Kanada, Mina Shahin and Audrey Udashen; investigators Lourdes Fuentes, Victoria Suner, Rebecca Hartsock, Anton Forbes and Christopher Welch; paralegals Javier Trasvina, Kelli Goins and Amanda Bartling; and legal assistants Michelle Paules, Christopher Kiefer, Joshua Bennett, Kristina Winfield and Serina Clark handled the case for the Attorney General’s Office.

Former Senior Assistant Attorneys General Trisha McArdle and Shannon Smith, and former Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Roesch also worked on the case, but have since left the Attorney General’s Office.

Ferguson’s focus on reforming student borrowing

Ferguson proposed the Student Loan Transparency Act in 2017 as Attorney General-request legislation. The act requires schools to provide students basic information on their student loans. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House with a bipartisan vote and unanimously in the Senate.

In 2018, the Legislature passed the Student Loan Bill of Rights, which Ferguson requested to provide vital protections to Washington state’s student borrowers. The law created a dedicated student loan advocate to help students navigate the murky world of loan servicers and adopted standards for student loan servicers. The law also provided students with basic guarantees: Student loan servicers must credit borrowers’ payments within one business day, respond to requests for information promptly in writing and refund fees assessed in error, among other standards.

Ferguson has previously obtained millions of dollars in debt relief for thousands of student borrowers who attended for-profit colleges that used misleading and deceptive recruitment practices. He has also recovered almost $1.6 million cracking down on debt adjustment companies that charge fees to help borrowers consolidate their federal student loans and enroll in income-driven repayment plans — tasks that borrowers’ loan servicers can and should help them with free of charge.

To assist student loan borrowers in Washington, the Attorney General's Office has compiled a Student Loan Survival Guide. This guide provides tips and links to resources to help high school students thinking about attending college, former college students who are not able to keep up with their payments, parents of students and everyone in between. 

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Home health aide charged in $12K financial exploitation case

The Winona County Attorney's Office recently charged a 53-year-old Altura woman with four counts of financially exploiting a vulnerable adult. 

Jodi Marie Schilling allegedly received thousands of dollars in loans and checks from a Winona community member she provided services to as a home health care worker. According to the criminal complaint, Schilling started to provide services to the victim in 2018. She then repeatedly asked the victim to take out a loan for her, according to the complaint, and the victim did so as the victim “felt bad” for Schilling. The victim took out this loan at a bank in Winona around September 2018, investigators wrote. Schilling then allegedly asked the victim to take out several other loans, according to the complaint, and the victim ultimately did so and gave the money to her. 

Then, in May 2021, the victim received a $4,000 loan from another Winona bank, according to the complaint, and gave the money to Schilling after she asked for it. 

Meanwhile, the victim also wrote Schilling eight checks totaling $9,340 between January 2019 and July 2021, after Schilling asked for the funds, according to the complaint.

Full Article & Source:

Friday, January 14, 2022

Tonight on TS Radio with Marti and Coz: WHERE IS DAVID ITALIANO?

"Tonight on TS Radio (at 7:00 pm EST) we are asking that anyone who may have information on the whereabouts of David Italiano, resident of Pennsylvania, who has been seized in an unnecessary guardianship and disappeared in the system, please contact us. David has been isolated in an undisclosed location for unknown reasons.

Send info to

PA, like many states, is quick to rush to guardianship vs. less restrictive ways to support a person. We have worked with many groups to find assistance to help David Italiano.

We reached out to the local Ombudsman for help but were told that there was a guardian and there was little that the Ombudsman could do.

We escalated our conversation to Margaret Barajas, the PA State Long Term Care Ombudsman.
We had multiple meetings with her that went nowhere. We met with her supervisor, PA Sec. of Aging, Mr. Robert Torres, to request his office facilitate a meeting with the guardian.

We filed complaints with the PA Office of Civil Rights but with no signed release from David, they would not act.

We had the same response from the Federal Office of Civil Rights,

We have reached out to PA State Rep Jeff Wheeland for help. Like many of the others, he would not get involved due to their being a guardian.

We contacted Senator Robert Casey’s office to request help. Both Senator Casey and his policy person for the Elderly and Disabled population, Michael Gamel-McCormick agree that the guardianship system is badly broken, there was nothing that they could offer in the way of help. Senator Casey is drafting legislation to be introduced to the 118th congress to address systemic changes that are needed to protect people from unnecessary guardianship."

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We need better data to improve Florida’s guardianship system | Column

There are glaring problems within the Florida guardianship system, and we must fix them.

by Ken Burke

Britney Spears supporters celebrate outside a hearing concerning the pop singer's conservatorship at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles judge ended the conservatorship that has controlled Spears' life and money for nearly 14 years. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) [ CHRIS PIZZELLO | AP ]

Ignited by the movement to free Britney Spears from her conservatorship, the issues and challenges within guardianship systems across the nation became uncharacteristically mainstream this past year. A week seldom passes without a new article highlighting the personal adversity of victims — both individuals under guardianship and their family members — who have suffered or are enduring hardships within the system.

Ken Burke
Ken Burke [ Provided ]

As Clerks of Court in Florida, we have a role in processing and auditing guardianships. The courts maintain oversight of guardianship proceedings to ensure the overall health, safety and well-being of individuals under guardianship, and clerks monitor these proceedings on behalf of the courts. As an administrative function, Clerks of Court also audit annual reporting on individuals under guardianship, which include any property submitted to the courts, and advise on the audit findings.

While most guardians work in good faith, there are far too many cases of guardians abusing their power. The most notorious example of abuse is the case of a former guardian in Central Florida named Rebecca Fierle.

Fierle oversaw hundreds of individuals who were entrusted by the court to her care. In 2019, she was arrested and charged with abuse and neglect related to the death of an individual under her guardianship for whom she had signed a Do Not Resuscitate order for without the court’s consent. It was later discovered she had collected $4 million in fees not approved by the court system and is accused of extravagantly overcharged clients for her guardianship services.

Rebecca Fierle
Rebecca Fierle 
[ Marion County jail ]

There are glaring problems within the Florida guardianship system that cause this unnecessary pain, and these challenges within the system need to be addressed. Last year, Clerks of Court and various stakeholder agencies and organizations with a direct interest or involvement with Florida’s guardianship system joined together to form the Guardianship Improvement Task Force to put forward recommendations for the Florida Legislature and Florida courts to consider as ways to improve the system. I served as the group’s chairperson.

Members drew upon their professional and personal life experiences to enrich the work of the task force, which facilitated meaningful discussion by membership and inspired passionate contributions from the public at each meeting. With the objective of providing effective feedback for the Legislature’s use prior to the 2022 session, the task force held to a quick timeline for completion. In less than four months, over the course of two in-person meetings and seven virtual meetings, we identified and discussed dozens of topics of concern involving Florida’s guardianship system.
Ultimately, the task force voted and agreed upon 10 specific recommendations for consideration by the Florida Legislature and Florida courts, which are elaborated on in the final report available at

Without question, the most significant issue this task force discussed and agreed upon was a means to improve what data is available to document problems within the guardianship system in Florida. Even basic information such as the number of people under guardianship, the number of guardians, how many cases each guardian has, how much money and property are under the control of guardians, and who the individuals are under guardianship, is not readily available.

I personally know of one egregious case where a guardian was removed from their eight guardianships in Pinellas County for misconduct, yet they were appointed to a guardianship examining committee in another circuit in the state. This happened because the judge had no way of knowing they were removed from their former role in Pinellas. Establishing a secure, transparent statewide database will help us uncover the flaws within the system, allow us to make better decisions, provide additional accountability, increase transparency, and lead to better protections for people within the guardianship system.

The recommendation for a statewide data collection system is captured in House Bill 1349 by Rep. Linda Chaney and Senate Bill 1710 by Sen. Jennifer Bradley. While we hope the other recommendations outlined in our report will lead to tangible future changes to the guardianship system, this legislation will have an immediate and substantial positive impact.

While there are many important issues for the Legislature to consider this session, few are more critical than improving protections for our most vulnerable populations. With the introduction of this bill, legislators can take the first steps in fixing Florida’s broken guardianship system. If you care about protecting individuals under guardianship and want to see Florida build a better system, I urge you to call, write or email your state senator and representative.

There’s a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “A society is judged not by how it takes care of its most gifted individuals, but those who are the most vulnerable.” The Guardianship Improvement Task Force has done a tremendous amount of legwork to get us here today, and we’ve provided a worthy roadmap for corrective action to take better care of children, seniors, and individuals with special needs. Please support this legislation because we know it will make a difference.

Ken Burke is the Pinellas County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller. He led Guardianship Improvement Task Force.

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Noted attorney's license suspended by New Mexico Supreme Court

By Phaedra Haywood

The state Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended the law license of former legislator Victor Marshall after finding he violated the judicial Code of Conduct by filing a frivolous charge, defaming a judge and engaging in conduct detrimental to the administration of justice.

“I’m sorry; I can’t talk to the press because of the court’s ruling,” Marshall, who practiced law for more than 45 years without previous sanction, said Thursday.

The Supreme Court’s ruling — announced by Chief Justice Michael Vigil following oral arguments Wednesday and formalized in writing Thursday — is in response to a motion the lawyer filed in a decadeslong dispute over water in the San Juan River basin and a related news release he sent to media.

In the motion, Marshall said a settlement in the case — which awarded more than 600,000 acre-feet of water in the basin to the Navajo Nation — should be set aside because, he alleged, now-retired Judge James Wechsler failed to disclose he had once worked for the Navajo Nation before approving the 2013 deal.

Wechsler had worked not for the Navajo Nation itself but for an outfit called DNA, a nonprofit legal aid organization, in the 1970s, according to information provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts in 2018.

Much of the discussion during oral arguments on the disciplinary action centered on the language Marshall used in his pleading.

“Our concern is not so much he made a claim that Wechsler had a conflict,” Supreme Court Justice Julie Vargas said, “but the way that he made it.”

Vargas said Marshall implied Wechsler intentionally concealed his relationship with the Navajo Nation, ignored the law and “fixed” the case in favor of his former clients.

The Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Panel stated in written findings, adopted by the court, Marshall’s conduct “was intentional and threatened serious harm to the integrity of the legal system” as well as causing a distraction and delay in the case.

Marshall’s attorney Jeff Baker told the court his client’s word choice may have been poor, but he was merely being a zealous advocate on behalf of his clients — a group of Northern New Mexico water districts — and shouldn’t be disciplined for asking for the case to be stayed while he investigated “rumors” he’d heard around the Legislature about Wechsler’s previously undisclosed relationship with the Navajo Nation.

“It all goes back to Mr. Marshall’s unfortunate use of the word ‘fixed,’ ” Baker argued. “That was too harsh of a word … but it’s not the kind of thing that ought to result in a lawyer losing his license for an indefinite period of time.”

Marshall said his words — particularly a passage in which he said the public might wonder whether Wechsler had fixed the case — were being misconstrued and he’d carefully chosen the language to comport with a rule that requires judges to disqualify themselves when their impartiality might “reasonably” be questioned.

“I do know how to accuse a judge of actually fixing a case if I wanted to,” Marshall told the court. “But I didn’t.”

The disciplinary panel disagreed, noting in written findings “an objectively reasonable person would not ‘wonder whether’ Judge Wechsler ‘fixed the case’ in favor of the Navajo Nation based upon his work as a staff attorney for DNA legal Services roughly forty-five years prior.”

The panel had originally contemplated disciplining Marshall via a public censure, according to written findings, but decided his lack of contrition warranted a harsher penalty.

“The panel has substantial concern [because (Marshall) continues to deny that he did anything improper and displays no remorse and] that [Marshall] could engage in similar conduct in the future unless [his] conduct has serious repercussions,” according to panel.

Former Foundation for Open Government executive board member Susan Boe said Thursday the group did not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We’re disappointed on both a policy level and certainly personally for Victor,” Boe said. “It’s a pretty harsh punishment.”

Marshall — who has represented The New Mexican — will be eligible to request reinstatement of his license after one year, according to the Supreme Court’s order. But he first must complete four hours of continuing education credits and take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination and pass with a score of at least 80 before doing so, according to the order.

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Warehousing disabled people in long-term care homes needs to stop. Instead, nationalize home care.

Jonathan Marchand, a 43-year-old man living with muscular dystrophy, protested in a cage near the Québec legislature, in Québec City, on Aug. 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger

The failures in both private and publicly funded long-term care (LTC) homes in Canada have led to 15,000 COVID-19 deaths. Calls to reform LTC through nationalization have become widespread, garnering support from unions, national advocacy organizations and political parties.

While LTC is often considered to be a necessary institution to support the complex medical care needs of seniors, LTC facilities are used to warehouse disabled people who require 24-hour care, regardless of age. And nationalizing LTC fails to adequately resolve the ableism of warehousing disabled people, ultimately maintaining the unjust and inadequate structures of care.

LTC is debilitating for disabled people who are forced to rely on institutionalized daily care. It is time to abolish LTC in Canada.

It’s time to dismantle and replace the LTC system with deinstitutional options that prioritize the flourishing of disabled people and meet the complex care needs of older and younger disabled people outside the confines of institutions. 

Warehousing disabled people

At the forefront of the call to abolish LTC facilities in Canada is the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, a disability-run organization based out of Hamilton that advocates for accessible and fulfilling living conditions for disabled people.

Its most recent campaign to abolish LTC seeks legislative action to deinstitutionalize the nearly 200,000 disabled people (including 260 children under the age of 18) living in LTC and begin closing all institutions with records of harm and violence.

They are also calling on leaders to support the nationalization of home care, palliative care, pharmacare and accessible housing that would give disabled younger and older people the option to choose where and how to live in the community with fully funded supports. 

The government’s ongoing reliance to confine intellectually, developmentally and physically disabled young people in LTC facilities has been met with protest by the system’s young disabled occupants who demand deinstitutionalization — like Jonathan Marchand in Québec, Vicky Levack in Nova Scotia and Tyson Sylvester in Manitoba.

In June 2018, Sylvester constructed a prison cell in downtown Winnipeg to protest the way in which the Manitoba care system “locked him out of his own life.”

Marchand similarly camped out in a makeshift cage on the lawn of Québec’s National Assembly in August 2020, and in August 2021 was able to move into his own apartment after receiving in-home support.

A woman wears a pink shirt and looks at the camera. She has purple glasses.
Vicky Levack is a spokeswoman for the Disability Rights Coalition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Tutton

In addition to the urgent calls for change coming from young disabled people caged in LTC institutions, the deplorable living and working conditions of LTC facilities in Canada has also been well documented in over 150 scathing reports.

The scope of death recorded in LTC facilities during the pandemic is yet another marker of the system’s inability to provide the necessary care and support for its wide-ranging clients. However, the harm experienced by older and younger disabled people who continue to live in these spaces deserves action as much as condemnation.

Prisons by a different name

Nationalizing LTC, sometimes referred to as publicizing the system, would undoubtedly take profits out of LTC and may create system-wide changes to improve residents’ conditions. However, these calls ignore the fundamental character of LTC facilities as an extension of the carceral state, essentially prisons by a different name.

For example, LTC facilities frequently use carceral mechanisms of control such as the use of psychotropic medication, locking residents in their rooms and the use of physical restraints.

Residents are not able to choose what and when they eat, when they wake up or bathe, or when they can have visitors. LTC institutions seek to maximize resident surveillance and control while minimizing staffing costs.

In order to create a national home care program, workers need higher pay, job security and robust benefits. When working conditions are poor, staff shortages will occur whether due to low pay, precarious hours and physically demanding work, or because of workplace injury or illness (as with workplace COVID-19 exposure).

Staffing shortages mean that disabled people do not receive adequate or consistent care, resulting in malnutrition, dehydration or untreated bed sores. Abolishing LTC is about establishing better working and living conditions for both care workers and disabled people.

Philosopher Shelley Tremain refers to publicly owned nursing homes as the “window-dressing” of the nursing home industrial complex that “operates in the service of ableism, ageism and racism.”

It is clear that regardless of ownership — by private corporations or public agencies — the warehousing, caging and incarcerating of older and younger disabled people is an act of violence.

In Canada, solidarity is building between prison abolitionist movements and disability justice over the shared injustices of incarceration in prisons and disabled people’s institutional confinement. These movements help us build the political will necessary to move toward a world with no more LTC institutions.

We must support disabled people’s call to abolish LTC and develop a national home care, palliative care and pharmacare system that robustly funds and prioritizes disabled older and younger people’s desire to live in community.

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Thursday, January 13, 2022

AG Nessel's Elder Abuse Task Force Releases Jan. 2022 Newsletter

Attorney General

Media contact: Lynsey Mukomel 517-599-2746
Public inquiries: 517-335-7622

January 12, 2022

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released the Elder Abuse Task Force's latest newsletter this morning, which highlights the important work that continues to protect our elderly. 

The three-page update is now available on the Department of Attorney General's website. 

"The continued work of the Elder Abuse Task Force is bettering the lives of seniors across the state," Nessel said. "I'm proud of what this group has accomplished thus far and know their steadfast focus will lead to additional protections for our most vulnerable." 

Michigan's Elder Abuse Task Force launched in 2019 and consists of more than 55 different organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sections - all working together to combat elder abuse. 

Since the last newsletter was issued in July, the group has focused on accomplishing the Task Force's Second Set of Initiatives

The Financial Exploitation Prevention Act (FEPA) took effect Sept. 26. Its passage last year was part of the Task Force's First Set of Initiatives, while providing comprehensive training to implement the Act is part of the second set. 

The Act requires financial institutions to report suspected or detected covered financial exploitation of vulnerable adults to adult protective services or law enforcement.  FEPA also requires financial institutions to implement training for employees to recognize common types and signs of financial exploitation.  

  • subject line that states "FEPA Presentation Request"; 
  • a brief description of the professional background of potential attendees; 
  • the number of people likely to attend; 
  • potential dates and times that will work well for the group (flexibility is encouraged); and 
  • the format of the presentation (virtual presentations are recommended). 

If the group is below 50 attendees, the Department of Attorney General asks, to preserve time and resources, that the interested group allow another group to join their event upon request. 

Eligible groups include but are not limited to elder abuse coalitions, area agencies on aging, law enforcement, and financial institution professionals. 

The latest newsletter also provides an update on a bipartisan package of bills introduced in June. The legislation would implement fundamental reforms impacting guardians and conservators-individuals appointed by probate courts to act in the best interests of vulnerable individuals. It is now up to the legislature to move the bills forward. 

A recent criminal case of interest is People v. Haynes, decided August 12, 2021 (docket no. 350125). Gary Haynes' conviction came after he stole over $300,000 from a widow in her 90's while serving as her financial advisor. One of Haynes' arguments on appeal was that there was insufficient evidence that the victim was a vulnerable adult, arguing, in part, because she was mentally capable of handling her own affairs. In affirming the defendant's conviction, the Court of Appeals found that there was strong evidence by which a jury could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the victim was a vulnerable adult because she walked with a cane, needed help buying groceries, getting to appointments, doing chores around the house, and needed help paying her bills online because she was not familiar with computers. 

The case signifies why it is critical to continue to provide training to police and prosecutors on how to investigate and prosecute those who financially exploit vulnerable adults. 


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State warns of scam attempts with upcoming auto insurance refunds

By: Ryan Jeltema

LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - State officials are warning Michigan drivers to be on alert for scammers trying to get their auto insurance refunds later this year.

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services did not mention any specific scams circulating around the state. But officials say scammers likely will try to capitalize on the $400 per vehicle refunds coming this spring.

“Whenever there is a widespread distribution of funds to consumers, inevitably there will be bad actors who attempt to take advantage of the situation in order to steal personal information or money from consumers,” said Director Anita Fox.

The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, which reimburses insurance companies for crash claims exceeding $600,000, will be issuing the $400 per vehicle refunds to insurers by March 9.

Insurance companies have until May 9 to forward the refunds to their customers, who had valid auto insurance policies on Oct. 31, 2021. The refunds must be provided as a direct deposit into customers' bank accounts or in the form of a paper check.

Fox said all Michigan drivers should be wary of anyone requesting an application for the money or offering to provide it earlier than their insurance company.

“Your refund check or ACH deposit will come directly from your insurer, and you will not have to take any action to receive it," she said. "Never give out personal information to a caller claiming to be from your insurance company.”

Anyone who receives an unsolicited call about their auto insurance refund should hang up immediate should hang up immediately and contact their insurance company using a phone number on their policy documents.

Full Article & Source: 

Probation granted woman who financially exploited her mother

by Jeff Lehr

Jan. 12—A Carl Junction woman received a suspended sentence and probation when she pleaded guilty this week to financial exploitation of her mother.

Brittney M. Clark-Haag, 21, pleaded guilty Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court to financial exploitation of an elderly person in a plea agreement capping the sentence she might be assessed at no more than five years and promising that the prosecutor's office would not oppose the possibility of a suspended sentence and probation.

Circuit Judge Gayle Crane accepted the plea deal and assessed Clark-Haag five years on the conviction, with execution of the sentence suspended and the defendant placed on supervised probation for five years. The judge further ordered that she is to pay $2,271 in restitution to her mother.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, the defendant used her 75-year-old mother's bank card to make purchases from various local and online businesses between Oct. 21 and Nov. 26, 2019. The expenditures included two wire transfers totaling $1,019,98 and $739.65 worth of transactions at local restaurants.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Wyoming Supreme Court Upholds Dismissal In Disney Heir Lawsuit

By Jim Angell

A lawsuit filed by the grandson of Walt Disney over the disposition of land in Teton County should be decided in California, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.

The court on Wednesday turned down Brad Lund in his attempt to have a lawsuit over the sale of a plot of land known as Eagle South Fork Ranch near Wilson heard in Teton County.

Justices unanimously upheld a state district court’s ruling that justice would be better served if Lund’s challenge was heard in a California court rather than one in Wyoming.

“The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the California court was an available and adequate alternate forum,” said the ruling written by Chief Justice Kate Fox.

The ruling is the latest in a long series of legal battles between Lund, his sister Michelle Lund and the trustees for both of the trusts maintained for the two.

Brad and Michelle Lund are the children of Sharon Disney-Lund, the daughter of Walt Disney.

Their father bought the 110-acre ranch and after their mother’s death, the ranch was placed in residuary trusts for the two children, with each trust owning 50% of the land.

According to the ruling, since 2009, Brad Lund and the trustees have been involved in a lawsuit in California probate court over numerous elements of the trust, including ways assets should be divided between the trusts of Brad and Michelle.

In 2019, trustees agreed to let Bradford buy his sister’s interest in the Eagle South Fork Ranch for $9.7 million rather than sell the land to an outside party.

In September 2020, the trustees announced they had received an offer of $35 million for the property, which they intended to accept. Michelle withdrew her consent to her brother’s purchase of the land.

Brad then filed a complaint against his sister and the trustees in state district court in Teton County, saying they breached the terms of an agreement for the purchase of the land.

The trustees and Michelle asked that the lawsuit be dismissed because all of the other legal actions surrounding the trusts were taking part in California.

The state district court granted the request and Brad challenged it to the Wyoming Supreme Court, saying the action involved a Wyoming property, so it made sense to hear the challenge in Wyoming.

But the Supreme Court which agreed it made more sense to pursue legal action in California because it was actually part of a larger probate case in that state.

“The California court has an extensive history with these parties and their trust disputes, and the district court reasonably concluded that the more efficient course was to have that court preside over this dispute as well,” the ruling said.

In addition, all of the parties, witnesses and evidence in the case are located outside of Wyoming, the ruling said.

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Matthew Clason From LPL Financial Gets 2.5 Years In Prison For Theft From Elderly Client

By Harion Camargo

Matthew Clason, a one-time LPL Financial FA (financial advisor), has got 30 months behind bars, against a possible 20 years, for stealing several hundred thousand dollars from an elderly client. The sentence was announced by U.S. District Judge Michael Shea in Hartford, Connecticut, and also requires him to pay restitution of $639,580.

Clason, based in Cheshire, Connecticut, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in May. He admitted to stealing over $600K from an elderly client who was not named. Currently, out on bond, Clason is required to report to prison on the 28th of February, 2022, as per the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Matthew Clason (LPL Financial)

Financial Elder Abuse

Financial abuse is a common problem with elderly people for many reasons. Sometimes, elder abusers may be suffering from mental impairments such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. These health issues can be exploited by the perpetrator to take control of their finances and then use them for their own gain.

Even if victims are in good health with no mental impairments they can still be targeted for financial exploitation, often from their closest friends.

Elder financial abuse most commonly occurs from adult children. However, it can also happen in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and from financial caregivers such as a power-of-attorney, trustee, guardian, conservator, or other financial caretakers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises you to watch out for any new friends who seem to be controlling and possessive of your loved one. This could be a sign that there is elder financial abuse.

Nursing staff or caregivers may take a resident’s credit cards or checkbooks in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Sometimes they may do other things that are harder to spot. For example, they might trick a resident into signing forms that transfer ownership in cars, homes, or bank accounts without their consent or knowledge. Or, pressure them into writing a new will.

When it comes to financial abuse, race is a significant risk factor. In 2010, a study showed that elderly African Americans were more likely to be exploited than non-African American residents (23.0% vs. 9.4%).

Matthew Clason’s Modus Operandi

According to information made available by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, Clason opened a joint bank account with the client (victim). Then he transferred over $668K from the client’s investment accounts to this joint account, from which he withdrew over $621K in cash apart from transferring money into his credit card as well as personal bank accounts, thus draining it out.

Clason’s History

Clason has been in the securities industry from 2004 onwards. He registered with Lincoln Financial in 2007 and left them for LPL Financial in 2016, as per information available on his BrokerCheck record.

He was discharged by LPL in August last year on suspicion of maintaining a joint account with an LPL customer and that he “engaged in liquidations of securities in customer’s Firm account, transferred funds to joint bank account, and withdrew funds.”

In September 2020, he was barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

It was also in September 2020 that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) initiated action against him in the current case of theft from an elderly client. In view of the guilty plea in May, he was also barred by the SEC.

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Ken Musante: My son needed a conservatorship. Here's how it worked.

Every Christmas Eve for the past two decades, my son would relentlessly wake me in order to check if Santa had arrived. This year, I told my wife and daughter, the first time he wakes up, we will all open gifts and then go back to a sound sleep without fear of interruption. 

Moving forward

Elliott is 24 and a resident of Moving Forward Towards Independence. My wife and I relocated to Napa so we could remain close to him.

Elliott is conserved with a Limited Conservatorship. Limited Conservatorships differ from General Conservatorships which allow the conservator broad discretion. (There are also other types of Conservatorships. Britney Spears, for example, was subject to a Probate Conservatorship.)

A Limited Conservator is typically for adults with an intellectual disability and may provide the following powers over the Conservatee:

1. Housing

2. Access to confidential records

3. Marriage

4. Contract/financial

5. Medical consent

6. Social relationships

7. Education

We wanted to be sure we had access to Elliott’s medical records. We also have the ability to direct his medical care.

Ironically, an individual’s reproductive rights may not be conserved. Elliott had to consent for his vasectomy. I’ve never been so simultaneously proud and sad. He was awake. I held his hand. I cried afterward.

Credit freeze

We purposely did not financially conserve Elliott. He has very limited resources. Anyone lending him money does so at their own risk. To further assist in keeping him out of financial harm, I placed a credit “‘freeze” on his file. A credit or security freeze prevents lenders from accessing your credit file. Businesses typically will not extend credit if they are not able to view your credit profile.

I discovered a person must first establish credit before a freeze can be secured. We promptly opened a student Visa account in his name; made a purchase and let it go delinquent. He then had credit. Bad credit, but credit nonetheless. To properly freeze credit, you need to do so on all three credit bureaus:

1. Equifax: 1-800-685-1111;

2. Experian: 1-888-397-3742;

3. TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872;

While employed and through Napa Valley PSI, Elliott assembled dog bowls for Lixit Corporation. He was paid based on a pro-rata share of the rate a neurotypical person would earn. He loved it! Unfortunately, Elliott’s employment was one of the many Covid casualties.

Sadly, with the signing of SB 639 (a bill that ends the practice of paying workers with disabilities less than minimum wage in California) I doubt he will again be offered paid employment.

I’m eating here!

Every couple of years a court-appointed Investigator meets with Elliott to ensure the Conservatorship is still in his best interest. One year the Investigator wrote, "It appears that Elliott has no understanding regarding the nature and effect of conservatorship. When given advisement, Elliott provided no response and merely continued eating." I thought the investigator needed perspective as his response (or lack thereof) seemed normal teenage behavior….

A country song

At Moving Forward Elliott lost a girlfriend, got laid off and had disagreements with his roommates over bathroom sanitation and missing food. He has also made wonderful friendships, developed newfound independence and found a home that will outlive his parents.

Yes Elliott, there is a Santa Claus!

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Alternatives to conservatorship: Available in some states, but widely unknown

by Carter Barrett

If a judge determines an adult is unable to make responsible choices, the person can be placed under a court-appointed guardianship or conservatorship. The system came under scrutiny after details about Britney Spears' conservatorship came to light.

Some states have less restrictive options but they're not always made available.

Carter Barrett of Side Effects Public Media reports.

This segment aired on January 10, 2022.


High-profile attorney faces suspension

By Colleen Heild
Victor Marshall

Over his 47-year career as a New Mexico attorney, former state legislator Victor Marshall has called out a state attorney general for alleged conflict of interest, filed a whistleblower lawsuit aimed at exposing state investment schemes and advocated for legislative ethics and campaign reform.

But his attempt to brand a respected pro tem judge as biased and unethical in presiding over a major water rights case may lead to the suspension of Marshall’s legal practice indefinitely.

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday is set to hear oral arguments as to whether Marshall should be disciplined for contending that now-retired Court of Appeals Judge James J. Wechsler was biased in favor of the Navajo Nation in approving a major water rights settlement in 2013.

Marshall, who represented non-Indian water users, wanted a new judge to be appointed to the case when he alleged that Wechsler had an undisclosed conflict of interest because he once worked for the Navajo Nation as a lawyer. Marshall also claimed in a court record that “the public might reasonably wonder whether the judge fixed this case for his former client.”

A state disciplinary board hearing committee found those assertions were false and were made with “reckless disregard” as to the truth.

Wechsler, who served 22 years on the state Court of Appeals before retiring in 2017, was appointed as a pro tem judge on the water case in 2009.

He worked on behalf of individual Navajos decades earlier when he was an attorney with a private nonprofit legal group, DNA Legal Services.

But the judge contended he had nothing to do with the water rights case during his time there in the early 1970s and didn’t know the organization gave legal advice to the Navajo Nation on its water claims. The disciplinary panel found no evidence Wechsler personally participated in the water case as a DNA attorney.

Wechsler’s ruling in 2013 recognized the Navajo Nation’s right to divert 635,729 acre-feet of water per year from the San Juan River. The settlement between the state and the Navajo Nation, approved by Wechsler, increased the nation’s share of New Mexico’s water from 6% to 10%, according to a Journal analysis.

In opposing the settlement, Marshall represented the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association, which includes small farmers. After losing appeals in state court, Marshall took the long-running legal battle over water rights adjudication in northwest New Mexico to U.S. District Court in a lawsuit filed in November.

Whether Marshall, 74, will be allowed to pursue that case and others is up to the state Supreme Court, which is being asked by a state disciplinary board panel to suspend Marshall’s license to practice law for an indefinite time. A disciplinary board panel wrote in 2019 that it had a “substantial concern” Marshall could engage in similar conduct in the future, given that he continues to deny he did anything improper and displays no remorse.

An attorney for the board recommended a lesser sanction – a public censure – while harshly criticizing Marshall’s actions.

“The reality is, the evidence is not just substantial that (Marshall) made false, derogatory, and frivolous allegations against a sitting Judge; the evidence is overwhelming,” wrote Jane Gagne, assistant disciplinary counsel.

‘Chilling effect’

In court filings, Marshall’s attorney Jeff Baker, said that suspension “is a draconian recommendation.”

Baker contends Marshall should face no discipline because he raised a legitimate question about whether Wechsler should have recused himself.

“If this Court sanctions Mr. Marshall for questioning the impartiality of a judge, it will have a serious chilling effect on all lawyers who practice before courts of this state,” Baker wrote in one motion, noting the impact on “any attorney who contemplates the filing of a motion based on concerns about the appearance of impropriety or lack of disclosure.”

Marshall’s attorney noted that the Navajo Nation asked Wechsler to sanction Marshall for making the conflict of interest allegations, but Wechsler decided not to.

“Suspension of Mr. Marshall’s law license is antithetical to the rules governing judicial disclosure and recusal,” Baker wrote in a court filing.

Wechsler did not mention his previous work for DNA before approving the settlement, leaving Marshall without ability to seek his recusal in advance, Baker added.

Wechsler did address a recusal request in early 2020, but in a 26-page ruling, the retired judge explained that his employment for less than three years with DNA “does not disqualify me from these proceedings.”

Another former DNA attorney, Robert N. Hilgendorf, said in a deposition that he questioned whether he could be fair as a judge on a Navajo water rights case.

But Wechsler noted Hilgendorf worked for DNA for more than seven years and performed research regarding, and spoke publicly about, Navajo water rights. Wechsler noted his stint was shorter and he “did not perform any work whatsoever regarding water rights.”

Interest in transparency

Since filing his initial emergency motion seeking to vacate Wechsler’s rulings in the case, Marshall contends he found what he considers other evidence he says bolsters his argument. But the disciplinary panel opted against considering that information.

Marshall also asked the Supreme Court for permission to file an amicus curiae brief from Alan B. Morrison, of George Washington University Law School. But the Supreme Court declined to consider it.

Morrison wrote that “the real losers if the discipline is upheld will be clients, and not just those of Mr. Marshall who will lose almost 15 years of his efforts in the underlying case that precipitated the proposed discipline, but also the clients of other lawyers in other cases.”

Those other clients will be harmed because their lawyers “will hesitate to move to recuse a judge, or take other unpopular actions, for fear that they, like Mr. Marshall, will not only suffer defeat on the merits, but possibly lose their law licenses for zealously representing their clients,” Morrison wrote.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, citing the disciplinary panel’s mention that Marshall issued a press release alleging Wechsler had a conflict, has issued a letter urging the Supreme Court to “resolve this matter in a way that does not discourage attorneys from communicating with the media for fear of professional discipline.”

“The public has an interest in transparency of judicial proceedings, and limitations on the ability of attorneys to address cases in the media undermine that interest,” wrote Shannon E. Kunkel, executive director of FOG. A separate letter of support for Marshall was filed with the court by the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, which Marshall has represented.

Legal background

Marshall, a Republican who graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, served in the state Senate for eight years, where he co-sponsored the 1988 constitutional amendment on the merit selection of judges. He also sponsored a comprehensive campaign reform package supported by then-Gov. Garrey Carruthers and pushed for a ban on lawmakers soliciting or accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists during annual legislative sessions.

As an attorney, he represented anti-gambling interests opposed to Indian casino gambling. In 2011, he contended then-New Mexico Attorney General Gary King received campaign contributions of nearly $55,000 from former Gov. Bill Richardson, creating a conflict of interest that should disqualify King from pursuing a pay-to-play corruption case involving the Democrat’s administration. King denied any conflict.

Marshall at the time represented former state investment adviser Frank Foy in a long-running whistleblower suit over huge state investment losses. Most of Foy’s claims were dismissed after King’s office took over the case. Foy’s subsequent legal challenge to the $24 million settlement was rejected by the state Supreme Court in 2020.

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Guardianship Destroyed My Family

By Marian Kornicki 

November 12, 2021 was a great day for Britney Spears and a great day for justice when a judge freed her from a conservatorship that controlled every aspect of her life. It was definitely something to celebrate, but it was also a solemn day because Spears had had to endure a more than decade-long nightmare orchestrated by her father and others. It was a solemn day, because there are at least a million other, less famous, individuals who are still trapped in exactly this kind of arrangement.

Guardianship is an alarming threat to everyone’s health and welfare. In secret in a judge’s chambers, one’s rights to make personal and financial decisions can be stripped in moments. It is very widespread, but little known, although because of Britney Spears’ chilling testimony last summer and the persistence of the Free Britney Movement, this practice has been catapulted into the public’s consciousness.  (click to continue reading)

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Woman arrested for elder abuse, coroner investigating death of father

by: Ashlyn Williams

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – An Augusta man has died and his daughter is charged with neglect and exploitation.

Warrants reveal more information about allegations of severe abuse in case of 38-year-old Dianna Laws, charged with neglect and exploitation of her father, 62-year-old Bobby Laws, who died at Augusta University Medical Center yesterday, December 15th.

Included are allegations that the father lost more than 80 pounds in the past 5 months while in the care of his daughter and that money for food and care for the elderly man were used by his daughter to pay off personal debts.

Ten days prior to his death, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had begun an investigation into his treatment while in the care of his daughter after concerns were raised during his emergency treatment at Augusta University Medical Center.

Sheriff’s Office Deputies responded to the Emergency Room at AUMC Sunday, December 5th, in response to call for a suspicious situation concerning an elderly male subject, 62-year-old Bobby, who’d just been admitted.  At this point, the Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into the possibility that his welfare had been endangered.

Warrants in the arrest of the deceased’s daughter, 38-year-old Dianna, allege that Laws willingly deprived her father of healthcare and necessary nourishment, jeopardizing his health and wellbeing.

One of the factors of the elder Laws’ deprivation, according to arrest warrants in the case, include a massive weight loss of 88 pounds within a five-month time period, during which his daughter, Dianna, was his live-in caretaker at a home on the 3000 block of Deans Bridge Road.

Bobby Laws’ wounds included lacerations, exposed bones, maggot-infested cuts and sores, and stage 4 pressure ulcers, according to both the warrants for the younger Laws’ arrest and a report by the Richmond County Coroner’s Report, filed after the older Laws’ death.  

Coroner Mark Bowen’s report also states that Laws was admitted into the ER with electrical tape around his legs.

Further warrants for the arrest of the deceased’s daughter accuse her of profiting off checks intended for her father’s care. The 38-year-old is alleged to have been paying her own bills and debts using Bobby Laws’ social security checks during her nine years as Laws’ live-in caregiver.

Dianna Louise Laws is being held at Charles B. Webster Detention currently on charges of Exploitation of an Elderly or Disabled Person and Neglect of an Elderly or Disabled Person.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office tells WJBF that they are continuing to investigate and that further charges are pending autopsy results.

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Port Arthur lawyer is disbarred

By Dawn Burleigh

Attorney Gaylyn Leon Cooper, of Port Arthur, was disbarred on October 5, 2021 according to disciplinary actions reported in the Texas Bar Journal in January.

An evidentiary panel of the District 3 Grievance Committee found that, in representing four clients, Cooper neglected the legal matters entrusted to him and failed to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their legal matters and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. In three of those matters, Cooper, upon termination of representation, failed to refund advance payments of fees that had not been earned or failed to surrender papers and property to which they were entitled.

In two matters, Cooper failed to timely furnish to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel a response or other information as required by the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure.

Cooper violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.15(d), and 8.04(a)(8). He was ordered to pay $1,825 in restitution and $1,916.25 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

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