Saturday, July 23, 2022

Artist Peter Max’s Daughter Sues N.Y. Judge Over Guardian Talks

Pop artist Peter Max poses in his New York studio on June 18, 2012 with seven portraits he created of Sir Paul McCartney to commemorate McCartney's 70th birthday.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

 by Holly Barker

TRACK DOCKET:1:22-cv-06156

Artist Peter Max’s daughter, Libra Max, has filed a lawsuit against Deborah Kaplan, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts, alleging systemic due process violations in the city’s guardianship courts.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Wednesday, claims state court judges routinely meet ex parte, or privately, with court-appointed guardians to discuss matters before them—even where the disputes concern adversarial petitions to remove the guardian.

Kaplan is named as a defendant in her official capacity.

The German-born Max, now 84 and suffering from dementia, has been in a guardianship since 2015. His bright, often psychedelic art, made him a 1960s pop culture icon.

Libra Max says that all of the judges presiding over her father’s guardianship have defended ex parte meetings with guardians as permissible, with one judge allegedly referring to ex parte meetings as a “right of the guardianship judge.”

The lawsuit acknowledges that ex parte communications are sometimes allowed, where, for example, the communications are made for scheduling or administrative purposes, but argues that the ex parte communications in Peter Max’s case have been substantive and prejudicial.

Consequently, his daughter claims, she has been deprived of “her ability to fairly advocate for her father’s freedom.”

Libra Max has been trying since 2019 to have her father’s personal needs guardian removed. After Max spoke publicly with media outlets about alleged abuse of her father, the guardian sued her for defamation.

‘Hotly Contested Matters’

Max says she is aware of at least four separate incidents where one of her father’s court-appointed guardians, either directly or through counsel, had ex parte communications on “hotly contested matters.”

One of the alleged ex parte meetings with the guardian occurred immediately prior to a hearing that would address Libra Max’s petition to remove the guardian.

According to Max, the guardian’s has a corresponding three-hour billing entry that referencing the conference with the judge, which states “Court will issue an Order to support Guardian.”

And the court did “support the guardian” in the matter, Max claims, by issuing an order declaring Libra Max’s petition to remove the guardian as moot, based on her father’s court-appointed counsel’s representation that he wasn’t seeking to terminate the guardianship.

Causes of Action: 18 USC §1983, alleging violations of the due process under the The Fourteenth Amendment

Relief: Injunctive relief requiring Kaplan, in her official capacity, to “take such steps to ensure that litigants and judges in the guardianship part in Supreme Court, New York County do not engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional ex parte communications;" attorneys’ fees.

Response: Judge Kaplan’s office did not immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Attorneys: Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP and Jonathan Gerald Martinis LLC.

The case is Max v. Kaplan, S.D.N.Y., No 1:22-cv-06156, complaint 7/21/22.

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Delaware County attorney suspended by Ohio Supreme Court for allegedly bilking clients

by Dean Narciso

The Ohio Supreme Court has suspended indefinitely a Delaware County attorney accused of bilking four of his clients and lying to them.

Robert M. Owens was accused of "deceitful and dishonest conduct, failing to communicate and failing to provide a timely refund to four separate clients." according to the complaint filed last year by the court-appointed Ohio Board of Professional Conduct.

The court issued its ruling Tuesday following several months of investigation, detailing four cases where the board determined that Owens' clients were strung along by false promises, questionable billing and outright theft.

Owens, 48, who could not be reached immediately for comment, is facing criminal investigations in at least two of the cases. Records show that Delaware police are investigating.

Robert M. Owens: What the attorney misconduct complaint says

The most egregious misconduct began in 2018 with a client seeking a divorce, according to the board's complaint.

Owens falsely told the man that he should deposit more than $60,000 in a special account, which would be controlled by the court. Owens told him that he could only gain access to the client funds if Owens proved he had earned it.

Client trust funds are commonly used by attorneys for retainers and other funds, but they are not controlled by the court.

Mismanagement of such trust accounts is "one of the most common ethical violations committed by lawyers," according to Investopedia, an online financial media company.

Owens also advised the man to leave him with additional funds "to shield it from bankruptcy action that (the client) was intending to file," according to the complaint.

The client eventually gave Owens payments totaling more than $150,000, only $46,000 of which Owens had earned by performing services. Much of the client's funds in Owens' account were depleted and shown to be used by Owens for personal expenses.

Three other similar cases involved smaller amounts but included clients who trusted Owens and became angry and desperate as their hearing dates approached and Owens failed to respond to them or return their money.

The suspension order noted that Owens must not provide any type of legal advice, must repay client debts, and must notify all parties that he had contact with that he is not permitted to practice law. He is eligible to petition for reconsideration at a later date if certain conditions are met. If he doesn't, he faces permanent disbarment.

Owens, whose billing rate was $300 per hour, last year closed his practice in downtown Delaware, telling some of his clients that he was dealing with "deep depression" following the death of his father, the complaint states. He began his law practice in 1998.

Owens faced a similar one-year suspension in 2018 for the same type of misconduct.

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Merced PD: Elder abuse suspect arrested after ‘stomping’ on elderly man

Steven Austin Jr.
by: Gabriela Garcia

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A 33-year-old man has been arrested and accused of felony elder abuse after a violent assault on a 67-year-old victim, according to the Merced Police Department.

Officials say on Thursday around 6:30 p.m. officers responded to the 2400 block of N Street for a fight in progress. When officers arrived, Steven Austin Jr., 33, was detained by a neighbor that intervened on behalf of the victim.

Upon arriving at the scene, officers located a 67-year-old victim who police say had been seriously assaulted by Austin. According to police, witnesses reported that Austin punched the victim in the face, stomped on him while on the ground, and used his forearm to choke him.

The victim was transported to an area trauma center for medical treatment and is listed as stable condition.

Officials say they suspect alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor to the assault. Austin was arrested and booked into custody at the Merced County Jail for felony elder abuse and battery causing serious bodily injury, according to police.

Merced Police are asking anyone with any information regarding this crime to contact Officer Alejandro Arias at (209) 385-6905 or by email at

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Friday, July 22, 2022

When Is a Nursing Home Eviction Legal, and What Can I Do?

Nursing home evictions, or involuntary discharges or transfers, disrupt the lives of residents, leading to homelessness, separation from familial support systems, and loss of care. As federal law covers all federally funded nursing home residents, nursing home evictions are legal only in particular instances, such as:
  • The nursing home can no longer provide for a resident's needs.
  • The resident does not pay for care after "reasonable and appropriate notice," which varies by state.
  • The resident no longer needs care.
  • The resident jeopardizes the health or safety of other residents.
  • The nursing home closes.

Causes of illegal nursing home evictions

Financial motives are a significant cause of illegal nursing home evictions. When residents can no longer pay for nursing home care, some nursing homes evict residents without providing sufficient notice and time to apply for Medicaid.

Additionally, some nursing homes discharge residents early to avoid financial risks. For instance, some nursing homes remove residents transitioning from higher-paying Medicare to lower-paying Medicaid.

Other nursing homes discharge residents prematurely, suspecting residents will not pay for their stays. Medicare covers the initial 20 days of care. After 20 days, residents are responsible for copayments. A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine found that nursing homes more often discharged Medicare recipients on the final day of full coverage than before or after, suggesting that some nursing homes prioritize financial considerations over resident care.

"Hospital dumping," where individuals returning from hospitalizations may find their beds taken, is another illegal practice, according to the American Council on Aging. State laws require that nursing homes hold beds open for hospitalized residents for one to two weeks. Residents receiving Medicaid are also entitled to available Medicaid-certified beds.

Other nursing homes may attempt to remove residents they perceive as disruptive or challenging, such as individuals with dementia. These facilities claim that they cannot meet the resident’s needs as a pretense for evicting them. Yet once nursing homes open their doors to residents, they have already determined they can meet residents' needs. According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, discharging residents because nursing homes cannot provide for their needs should not be a common practice.

Dynamics between residents and nursing homes

Residents facing involuntary discharges or transfers from nursing homes may be hesitant to speak up and may not know their rights under federal law. They may feel pressure to accept discharges, even when they are not ready to go home.

If you or your loved one are facing a nursing home eviction, keep the following in mind:

  • Nursing homes must provide 30-day notices of discharges. Residents do not need to depart immediately.
  • In addition, residents have the right to appeal a release. They may remain in the nursing home during the appeal process unless doing so would endanger the health and safety of themselves or others.
  • Nursing homes claiming to be unable to provide for a resident's needs must document why they can no longer assist the resident. Similarly, nursing homes must tell residents their reasons for discharging residents and provide these reasons in writing. Residents may request explanations of their discharges.
  • A long-term care ombudsman is an official who advocates for people in nursing homes. You may contact your ombudsman through the Department of Aging in your state for assistance with nursing home evictions.
  • The national nonprofit Justice in Aging provides a useful resource on resolving common problems with nursing homes.

For further insight and support, be sure to consult a qualified elder law attorney in your area as well.

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Top Michigan Democrat Allegedly Used Brain-Damaged Old Lady To Defraud Insurance

Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

by Mary Rooke

The treasurer for the Michigan Democratic Party allegedly falsified records connected to the care of an elderly woman with brain damage to bill an insurance company improperly.

Traci Kornak, a licensed attorney, is being accused of intimidating employees at a Michigan nursing home into using her brain-damaged client’s account to help her allegedly commit insurance fraud, the Detroit News reported.

Chief executive of The Village of Heather Hills Joe LeBlanc told the outlet that he has documents that show Kornak used her powerful connections to allegedly create a new employee paper trail using the nursing home’s invoicing services.

LeBlanc said that Kornak, acting as the woman’s guardian, allegedly sent these invoices, along with other correspondence, to State Farm, the woman’s insurance company, claiming the additional care for her client costs almost $50,000 over two years, the outlet reported.

“What would you call it? Kornak used our tax ID number. She used someone else’s billing system. She told the insurance company that her handpicked caregiver was our employee when she wasn’t,” LeBlanc told the Detroit News.

LeBlanc said a letter he obtained a letter from Kornak to State Farm, where she claims to have hired the extra caregiver through Heather Hills after another health care provider, Best Care Nursing, was experiencing a staffing shortage, the outlet reported.

Marc Kidder, a lawyer for Heather Hills, told the outlet the nursing home never gave Kornak permission to use its tax ID number. Kidder also denies hiring the extra attendant in Kornak’s letter, the Detroit News reported.

LeBlanc became concerned something wasn’t right in November 2021 after he questioned Kornak over Heather Hills receiving a $23,401.05 check from State Farm, according to the outlet. 

“I asked Kornak, ‘What was the meaning of all this?’ She asked me to just cash it, and then she said she’d pay us a little money for the trouble,” LeBlanc told the Detroit News.

The Federal Election Commission found Kornak, in her official capacity as treasurer of the Michigan Democratic Party, guilty in Oct. 2021 of failing to disclose over $25,000 sent to the party from the Slotkin Victory Fund.

The FEC imposed a $19,000 fine on the state Democratic Party for the violation.

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Calvert Jury Convict Caregiver Of Abusing Elderly Patient

by Calvert County State's Attorney's Office

Ilene B. Claggett-Hurley

On June 30, 2022, a Calvert County jury convicted Ilene B. Claggett-Hurley of Owings of 2 counts of Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult, Second Degree Assault, and Reckless Endangerment. 

The jury deliberated a mere 44 minutes before returning its verdict. 

The Defendant was the primary caregiver for the bedridden, elderly victim.  On December 21, 2021, the Defendant was recorded on nanny-cam video cursing and berating the victim, pulling her forcibly from the bed, and physically abusing her. 

Because of her condition, the victim was unable to defend herself or call for help. 

After the verdict, Claggett-Hurley’s bond was revoked and she was remanded to the Calvert County Detention Center. 

Sentencing is scheduled in October before Judge Andrew S. Rappaport.  The Defendant is facing a total of 25 years incarceration. 

Calvert County State’s Attorney Robert Harvey wishes to commend the family of the victim for reporting this matter to the police and for assisting in the prosecution of this case. 

He also wishes to commend Assistant State’s Attorney Benjamin G. Lerner for his outstanding work on the case. 

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Thursday, July 21, 2022

‘Kafka would blush’: artist Peter Max caught in legal guardianship lawsuit

by Ed Pilkington

The daughter of the celebrated artist is suing the New York courts over claims that he is being mistreated in a case that could affect the entire system

The daughter of celebrated pop artist Peter Max, seen here in 2017, is suing the New York court system. Photograph: Julie Jacobson/AP

The daughter of a celebrated pop artist who created famous images of the “cosmic sixties” is suing the New York court system over what she claims are secretive communications between her father’s court-appointed guardian and judges that drastically affect his life and violate her basic rights.

Libra Max lodged a federal lawsuit on Wednesday in which she alleges that her father, Peter Max, 84, is being held in virtual isolation by a court-appointed guardian. She claims multiple judges have allowed the guardian to communicate with them behind closed doors, without the family’s knowledge, leading to one-sided decisions that profoundly affect his life and that constitute a gross distortion of justice.

The lawsuit says “Kafka would blush” were he to review the case.

“This case is about the denial of one of the most fundamental federal rights in the American justice system – to hear and respond to all evidence your adversary presents to the court.”

The multi-millionaire artist, best known for his psychedelic posters from the 1960s and 70s, still lives in the family home and art studio in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He has been under a court-appointed guardianship since 2015, having suffered from Alzheimer’s and advanced dementia for many years.

He is in failing health, by some accounts approaching the end of his life.

The terms under which Max is being kept a ward of court have become the subject of intense disputes, between the guardian and individual members of the Max family, as well as between Libra Max and her brother Adam Max. For the past three years, Libra Max has been attempting to persuade the courts to set her father free of the guardianship on grounds that the court-appointed lawyer who controls his personal affairs, Barbara Lissner, has allegedly cut him off from his loved ones.

A portrait of Peter Max, an elderly man with gray hair and a mustache, at a gala in 2014.
Peter Max has been under a court-appointed guardianship since 2015. Photograph: 
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

The lawsuit, lodged with the civil division of the southern district of New York, claims Lissner tightly restricts visits to Max from family and friends including Libra, who is only able to visit her father – in the home in which she was born and raised – on very proscribed terms. It also alleges the guardian refuses to disclose to the family the artist’s medical condition or even the identity of the doctors treating him, and has installed video cameras in his apartment as a form of surveillance.

In the latest twist, Libra Max claims judges in the New York court system are effectively in cahoots with Lissner. The defendant in the case is Deborah Kaplan, the administrative judge responsible for the section of the New York supreme court that covers guardianships in Manhattan.

It says Kaplan has presided over an arrangement that has allowed judges sitting in guardianship courts to communicate directly with Lissner in total secrecy. Libra Max says she knew nothing about the exchanges, and as a result had no way to correct the record or respond to allegations raised against her.

Such secretive communications have left Libra Max legally “blindfolded and thus blindsided”, the lawsuit says, “robbed her of her ability to fairly advocate for her father’s freedom … and ultimately robbed Peter of precious years with his loved ones”.

The exclusion from court proceedings of one party to a dispute is known in legal parlance as ex parte communications, which are normally strictly forbidden. Such one-sided contact appears to be almost routine practice for guardianship judges in New York, a state of affairs Wednesday’s lawsuit now challenges.

“This case is so critical because the constitutional right at stake is so basic: to hear and respond to all of the evidence that your adversary presents to the court,” said Andrew Celli, of the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, the lead attorney in the case.

Celli added: “This is the bedrock of our justice system and it ensures fairness. This emblematic case is the first of its kind but it won’t be the last. The shroud of secrecy over the guardianship system must be lifted.”

Libra Max and Peter Max in 2019.
Photograph: The Max family
Neither Lissner nor the office of court administration that oversees New York’s guardianship courts immediately responded to a request for a comment on the lawsuit. Lissner, Max’s guardian since 2019, has denied the allegations and is suing Libra Max for defamation.

In the defamation suit, Lissner rebuts the claims made against her and says: “Mr Max has never been isolated from friends and loved ones; requests to see Peter Max by friends and loved ones are always accommodated.”

The legal battles now engulfing Max form a bitter end to a life as colourful as the artist’s creations. The New York Times has written that his posters “became wallpaper for the turn on, tune in, drop out generation”.

He was born Peter Max Finkelstein in 1937 in Berlin, to German Jewish parents. He grew up in Shanghai, Haifa and Paris before moving to Brooklyn at 16.

His work took off with a famous poster collection that he labelled Cosmic ’60s. He became a figure in the counterculture, designing leaflets for “Be In” hippie gatherings in Central Park.

Success in the counterculture gained him attention in the mainstream culture. Appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, in which he drew live in front of the camera, and album covers for bands including Yes followed.

In 1974 he designed a US postage stamp that is credited as one of the first environmentalist stamps. Its message: “Preserve the environment.” His pop art images gained an increasingly commercial following, with one of his main sources of income becoming auctions on sea cruises.

The Norwegian Cruise Line commissioned him to paint the hull of one its ships in his trademark brilliant colours. In 1969, Life Magazine put him on its front cover with the headline: Peter Max: portrait of the artist as a very rich man.

Max’s estate by some estimates continues to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His financial affairs are now also in the control of court-appointed guardians.

Peter Max
Peter Max Photograph: The Max family

As the legal fight over Peter Max’s life reaches fever pitch, it forms part of growing concern across the US about how older people and people in vulnerable physical or mental health are being trapped in allegedly overbearing and abusive guardianship programmes. Public attention was drawn to the problem by the singer Britney Spears, who was held in what she claimed was an “abusive conservatorship” for 14 years until it was dissolved last year.

There are about 1.3 million adults under the care of guardians who in many cases have great power, including control over access by family and friends, medical treatment, and financial affairs, with guardians collectively managing about $50bn of assets.

Keeping track of the programmes is virtually impossible as they are regulated by the 50 states, many of which do not keep public data. A 2017 study by the American Bar Association found that “an unknown number of adults languish under guardianship beyond the point of need … Adult guardianship is generally viewed as permanent. With the stroke of a judge’s pen, rights are lost and are seldom regained over an individual’s remaining lifetime.”

A report from the US Government Accountability Office identified hundreds of allegations of “physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians” in 45 states between 1990 and 2010.

The Peter Max lawsuit chronicles what it claims were improper ex parte communications between Lissner and four unidentified New York judges in the past three years. It notes that Lissner obtained an ethics opinion from a specialist, regarding whether her decision personally to sue Libra Max for defamation amounted to a conflict of interest.

The conclusions reached by the ethics specialist are unknown, as the opinion has not been disclosed to the Max family.

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Hospital leaders call on state to help with ‘unprecedented’ capacity crisis

MultiCare Deaconess Hospital in Spokane. Many hospitals statewide, including most on the west side, are over 100% capacity. Although hospitals in Eastern Washington have not reached the same levels yet, hospital leaders say they could soon, with many currently around 95% capacity. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

By Laurel Demkovich

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Hospital Association is asking the state for help in addressing “unprecedented” capacity issues at hospitals.

Many hospitals statewide, including most on the west side, are over 100% capacity. Although hospitals in Eastern Washington have not reached the same levels yet, hospital leaders say they could soon, with many currently around 95% capacity.

The issue isn’t COVID, at least not directly. What’s causing the back up is a mixture of lack of staff and available beds and the continued challenge to transition patients into long-term care facilities. Current guardianship law in Washington requires a family member with legal guardianship to sign off before moving a patient out of a hospital. If no family member is available, the patient can use a court-appointed guardian, but that can take time as there are only so many guardians available in the state.

“We have solutions that we know will decant the system, and we need to make sure those strategies are being deployed as quickly as they can be,” said Taya Briley, the association’s executive vice president.

The hospital association is again urging state leaders to change guardianship requirements for those needing to move to long-term care, fund bed readiness programs statewide, expand rapid response teams for long-term care facilities and increase support for child and adult respite services.

Briley said there are indications that progress may be made on the capacity issues “in the days and weeks ahead.”

Mike Faulk, spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, said additional steps to address capacity likely will take legislative action.

“The governor’s office has been working on a number of these issues for a long time,” Faulk wrote in an email.

He said the governor’s office is actively engaged with legislators on the issue of bed readiness, incentives for discharging challenging patients and rapid response teams. He said their data does not point to a lack of guardianship as a significant barrier.

While the problem is not directly linked to COVID, already full hospitals are not helped by an increase of COVID cases, said Dr. Steve Mitchell, medical director of the Washington Medical Coordination Center.

“Many of our hospitals, especially on the West Side, are more strained today than really at any other point since the pandemic began,” Mitchell said.

When large hospitals in the state experience overcapacity, it hurts rural hospitals because their patients can’t be transferred to larger hospitals, Mitchell said.

Though there is some COVID-19 element, Dr. David O’Brien, at MultiCare South Sound Region, said it’s mostly caused by a demand for general medical care and a lack of beds and staff for those people.

Many hospitals have patients they could discharge to long-term care facilities or adult family homes but cannot because finding a guardian for patients can take time.

Kristy Carrington, regional chief nursing officer at Providence Swedish, said about 17% of their patients no longer require hospital care but can’t be transferred to a long-term care facility.

The hospital association has continued to ask the state to change its interpretation of the guardianship law to allow family members who are not guardians to make decisions, which could make the process move more quickly.

“We are unique in the nation in taking this position,” Briley said. “And we are feeling that pain across our health care system.”

The change in the guardianship process could come from the state reviewing legal briefings and changing its interpretation, or it could mean a legislative change, which likely couldn’t happen until the Legislature is back in session in January.

The hospital association supported a bill last session that would have eased the guardianship process some, but it did not pass.

In January, Inslee said he did not have the authority alone to change the law. Instead, he brought in another 75 guardians to help patients who may need someone to sign off to their moving to a different facility.

In addition to the guardianship issue, both hospitals and long-term care facilities are experiencing staffing shortages and a lack of funding, making it harder to transition patients to those facilities.

The state hospital association is asking for funding to allow hospitals and long-term care facilities to stand up programs to help patients who need long-term care beds.

It helps the post-acute care facilities get a bit more reimbursement for patients that need a bit more help, Briley said.

The association is also asking the state to expand rapid response teams to help provide extra staffing to long-term care facilities, which Briley said have experienced significant staffing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lastly, the association is asking the state to expand support for child and adult respite services, which Briley said is a population that can be challenging to care for and often needs additional staffing and funding.

The requests from the hospital association are immediate fixes, said Alyssa Odegaard, of LeadingAge Washington, which helps organizations dedicated to aging individuals. But there are long-term solutions that are needed as well, such as increasing wages and expanding training for those at skilled nursing facilities.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Washington hospitals over capacity due to patient discharging woes

By AP staff

Washington’s hospitals are again “dramatically over capacity,” as challenges discharging patients worsen and staff shortages continue, the state’s health care leaders said Monday.

In a news briefing, leaders from the Washington State Hospital Association said many health care facilities are 120% to 130% full, leading to long wait times in emergency departments, declining patient care and disruptions in ambulance services throughout the state, The Seattle Times reported. The high patient loads aren't directly because of COVID-19 cases, although they are increasing, but due to delayed procedures and difficulties discharging hospital patients.

“We are doing our best, but many of our hospitals — especially in the west side of our state in the populated areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties — are more strained today than really at any other point since the pandemic began,” said Dr. Steve Mitchell, medical director of Harborview Medical Center’s emergency department and the Washington Medical Coordination Center.

Some patients remaining in hospitals are better suited to continue recovering at post-acute care facilities, like skilled nursing homes, Mitchell said. Those types of facilities, however, are experiencing staffing shortages and are often unable to take more patients.

As a result, some of these post-acute patients stay in the hospital for months, Carrington said.

And while COVID-19 has had less of direct impact on hospital capacity recently, infections and hospitalizations keep rising as the highly transmissible BA.5 variant continues to spread. COVID patients make up about 12% of the state's hospital beds, a jump from about 3.5% in early April, according to the state's COVID-19 data dashboard.

Washington state’s guardianship laws also complicate discharges, barring a family member or close friend from consenting on a patient’s behalf (if the patient is incapacitated or unable to consent) to move them from a hospital to another facility. If the patient hasn’t appointed a decision maker in a power of attorney document, state law requires a court-appointed guardian, which is a lengthy process, said WSHA vice president Taya Briley.

Hospital leaders have long asked state officials to address discharge and staffing issues with measures like reconsidering interpretation of the state’s guardianship laws, but change has been slow-moving, Briley said.

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Former North Carolina district attorney indicted on bribery charge, reports say

by: Steve Doyle

ROXBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Wallace Bradsher, the former district attorney in Person County who went to prison for conspiring to “swap wives” in a payment scheme with former Rockingham County District Attorney Craig Blitzer, apparently is headed for more legal trouble.

Bradsher on Monday was indicted by a grand jury in Person County on charges of accepting a bribe and obstructing justice, WRAL-TV in Raleigh reported.

WRAL reviewed search warrants involving Bettie Yarboro-Jackson, who was arrested Monday and charged with offering a bribe and obstruction of justice in an effort to get drug charges dropped against her son by Bradsher, then the district attorney.

Bradsher has not been arrested, WRAL reported.

These charges are another remarkable twist in the demise of a man who as chief prosecutor was known to proselytize his Christianity in his office and even wrote a book about Christian life.

In 2018 he was sent to prison after he was convicted of falsifying time cards and other information to pay Blitzer’s wife, Cindy, for hours she didn’t work in his office. Blitzer had hired Bradsher’s wife, Pamela, as well, but she resigned after a short period. Cindy Blitzer, though, was paid thousands even though she didn’t go to work.

Craig Blitzer resigned as the DA in Rockingham County, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and then testified against Bradsher.

The case, uncovered by the News & Record, involved a court-ordered investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation after a whistleblower came forward, a special prosecutor and a trial in Wake County Superior Court in which Bradsher defended himself.

On June 19, 2018, Bradsher was found guilty on three counts and was sentenced to prison. He served five months, but the NC Court of Appeals in 2020 threw out two of the convictions. Both he and Blitzer were stripped of their law licenses.

After his time in prison, Bradsher returned to private life in Person County. Blitzer, 57, of Reidsville last summer regained his law license, although it’s unclear whether he is practicing. He had been a pilot for American Eagle.

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Newry couple charged with bilking family member

Dickmans allegedly took more than $500,000, home from elderly woman

David Dickman
A Newry couple face charges after police said they bilked an elderly family member out of more than a half million dollars and her home.

David Scott Dickman, 45, and his wife, Melissa Marie Dickman, 44, each face felony charges of theft by unlawful taking-movable property, theft by unlawful taking-immovable property, theft by deception and endangering the welfare of a care-dependent person for whom they are responsible.

The two were arraigned Monday in front of Magisterial District Judge Paula M. Aigner and remanded to the Blair County Prison after each failed to post 10% of $50,000 bail. They are scheduled for preliminary hearings July 26 in front of Aigner.

Court documents describe a lengthy investigation initiated by Blair Senior Services on March 21, 2019, when the organization contacted the Blair Township Police Department regarding a client who was a suspected victim of theft by appointed power of attorneys.

Information provided at that time showed suspected illegal activity in Blair, Freedom and Allegheny townships, and police officers from all three jurisdictions participated in the investigation, court documents state.

Melissa Dickman
The victim and her husband lived along Robin Lane in Duncansville for many years, police reported, with the victim being the primary caregiver for her husband and managing the family finances.

After she suffered a stroke in April 2014 and needed help in the home, the Dickmans and their daughter moved in to help.

The victim said she accepted the need for help around the house, but was able to continue the financial matters such as writing checks and paying the bills; however, the Dickmans insisted they take over the finances as well, according to court documents.

The victim’s husband passed away in June 2015, and the victim estimated their combined liquid assets were more than $600,000. They also owned their home and a 2011 Ford Edge. She and her husband had several joint accounts, police reported, including a CD and investment and brokerage accounts. The victim told police she was confident her financial assets would be sufficient to last for her lifetime.

Shortly after the victim’s husband passed away, the Dickmans were adamant they would be her power of attorney, she told police.

Court documents state that the victim’s accounts “contained substantial amounts” of money when the power of attorney was obtained on July 8, 2015.

According to the victim, the Dickmans had total control over her finances and would not tell her how the money was managed or spent and she had to rely on them to take care of her. In March 2019, the victim realized that her previously substantial finances were depleted.

The victim told police the Dickmans left her broke, court records show.

Police traced the activity on all the accounts and found that the victim’s assets from other accounts were transferred periodically to the primary account, and that primary account showed a zero balance as of Dec. 28, 2018, when the account was closed.

The total amount of money that passed through that primary account was about $919,049, police reported. While some transactions were for legitimate purposes, the victim, who worked with police to review the accounts statements, had no knowledge why or for what purpose a substantial majority of the checks/automatic payments had been written to individuals or entities, court documents state.

Additional investigation into the account activity showed 172 checks payable to Melissa Dickman for a total of $137,451; 119 checks payable to David Dickman for a total of $67,347; 148 checks made payable to a second male for a total of $60,671; 53 checks made payable to a caregiver for a total of $9,088; and 410 checks payable to CASH for a total of $356,660. Police reported there were no records given for the checks made out to cash and “sales slips” documented the other expenditures.

Police said further investigation revealed into the victim’s account activity showed checks written/money disbursed for the purchase of two RV travel trailers, one for David Dickman, $4,381.70, and one for the second man, $5,000, as well as lot payments for where the campers were parked; the purchase of at least three motor vehicles and auto insurance; and the purchase of two homes deeded to the second man and located along Dunnings Highway in Blair Township, with a total purchase price of $130,000.

In addition, police found a mortgage for $71,225 was placed on the victim’s home by Melissa Dickman in December 2017. The victim had no knowledge of the mortgage, police said.

On March 29, 2018, the Dickmans sold the victim’s home for $210,504 with $72,356 of that amount used to pay off the mortgage by Melissa Dickman, police reported. That left $108,461 from the sale of the home, with records indicating $20,871 was transferred to an attorney’s account the same day the Dickmans used the funds as a down payment to purchase an East Freedom home in their names only from Melissa Dickman’s relatives, court records state.

Police said records show the Dickmans used the victim’s money to make monthly payments on the home. In addition, police said records indicate the home was sold back to Melissa Dickman’s relatives on April 5, 2019, for $1.

The victim and the Dickmans lived at the East Freedom home for about a year before Blair Senior Services removed the victim from the home.

As police continued to investigate the victim’s accounts, they found a new checking account in the victim’s name, with Melissa Dickman as the power of attorney. The account, opened in January 2019, included Social Security deposits for the victim. Account activity, though, showed the money being spent for trash billing for the second man and Melissa Dickman, AAA membership for Melissa Dickman, Atlantic Broadband payments for a third man, a FirstEnergy payment for Melissa Dickman, a credit acceptance loan payment for the second man, and a payment for a bill in Melissa Dickman’s name. Other debits to the account were for cash, police reported. The account was overdrawn and closed, and the victim was not aware of its existence, police said.

In addition to the loss of funds, police said the victim told officers that she was seldom taken to doctors appointments, even though before the Dickmans became her power of attorneys she saw her physicians/specialists, physical therapists and dentist regularly.

The victim also learned that the Dickmans had not filled out the required tax returns for 2016-18 and she now owes back taxes for those years.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, the information gathered from the investigation indicates the Dickmans spent the victim’s money and disbursed her assets “to their own benefit and to the benefit of others.”

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A 25-year-old in Boston pays just $700 in rent in exchange for helping her 64-year-old roommate around the house as multigenerational living is on the rise: she 'has become like my family'

About 18 percent of Americans live in multigenerational households, according to Pew Research Center.
Lucy Lambriex/Getty Images

by Jason Lalljee

A new kind of roommate dynamic is becoming more common. 

It's the multigenerational kind: as Gen Z and millennials find it increasingly difficult to keep up with skyrocketing rent, more of them have begun to cohabitate with people closer in age to their grandparents. 

Nadia Abdullah, 25, and a recent graduate of Tufts University, told The Washington Post's Cathy Free that her post-college apartment hunt was "a little frustrating because I couldn't find anything in my budget."

She had trouble finding an apartment in the Boston area after finishing school, where rents have surged over the past few years. Through the website Nesterly, a home-sharing agency that matches young adults with older homeowners with room to spare, Abdullah eventually connected with Judith Allonby, 64, an attorney from whom she now rents. 

"It was perfect — Judith has become like my family," said Abdullah. 

Nesterly doesn't have specific age guidelines about who can rent a space or host one, but its website encourages users to "create a mutually beneficial connection that ranges across generations, cultures and lived experiences." 

Before meeting Abdullah through Nesterly, Allonby was debating whether she should move out of her family's home in Malden, Massachusetts, The Washington Post reported. She said that the upkeep seemed unmanageable for just herself. But living with Abdullah means she has help with housework, gardening, and groceries, which Abdullah offers in exchange for $700 a month in rent. 

"It's really nice to have somebody else around, and Nadia brings a different atmosphere and energy than I had with my 88-year-old mother," Allonby said. "Nadia is definitely not listening to Frank Sinatra."

About 18 percent of Americans live in multigenerational households like Allonby and Abdullah's — households with two or more adult generations — according to Pew Research Center. The number of these households have quadrupled in the United States in the last five decades, with about 60 million US residents now living with adults who are of a different generation, according to Pew. 

The Washington Post also highlighted that although some May-December roommate setups are unplanned, several North American universities actively foster such relationships as a part of their housing programs. At Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, for instance, music students can opt to live rent-free at a local senior living center in exchange for performing regularly for residents. 

In the last few years, Simon Fraser University in Canada launched an intergenerational housing program with Canada HomeShare, a program similar to Nesterly. Michael Wortis, 85, a retired physics professor, matched with Siobhan Ennis, 27, a graduate student, who is now his roommate, according to The Washington Post. 

Ennis pays $400 a month in rent, they do chores together, and even have dinners and movie nights. 

Although such living arrangements begin out of convenience for a lot of young adults, several shared that they opened up important connections with generations they might not have otherwise had such close contact with. 

And research supports that: a Stanford University study from 2016 found that when older adults contribute mentorship and support to younger people, it creates a "sense of purpose" and generates benefits for both parties, such as fewer mental health problems and improved well-being. 

"Michael is such a great person — I love having him as my roommate," Ennis said. "There is always something to talk about and he's always direct and thoughtful. We'll be friends for life."

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Kentucky prosecutor may get suspended for promising a defendant favors for nude images

by Andrew Wolfson

Ronnie Goldy Jr.
Citing The Courier Journal’s story that a Kentucky prosecutor promised to do favors for a defendant in exchange for nude images of her, an inquiry commission has asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to temporarily suspend Ronnie Goldy Jr. from practicing law.

“He has abused his office, abused the trust of the public and brought the legal system of Kentucky into disrepute,” said the petition, filed July 14 at the court.

“His conduct shows a clear lack of fitness to practice law in Kentucky, much less represent the commonwealth in serious criminal matters,” says the pleading, filed by the Kentucky Bar Association’s chief bar counsel Jane Herrick.

The inquiry commission said it found probable cause to believe Goldy poses a substantial threat of harm to the public.

It asked the court as soon as possible to order him to show cause why he should not be temporarily suspended.
Facebook messages between Commonwealth's Attorney Ronny Goldy and a defendant.

An inquiry commission initiates disciplinary charges against attorneys.

The Courier Journal reported July 12 that in 230 pages of Facebook messages from 2018 to 2020, Goldy, the elected prosecutor for Bath, Menifee, Montgomery and Rowan counties, told defendant Misty Helton if she sent him the nude images, he would talk to judges about continuing her cases and setting aside warrants.

The petition incorporates the Courier Journal’s story and six of the messages excerpted by the newspaper.

It says that in addition to moving for the temporary suspension, the inquiry panel also has initiated disciplinary proceedings against Goldy. If they are sustained, Goldy could be reprimanded, suspended or disbarred.

Neither Goldy nor his lawyer, James Davis, responded to a request for comment.

Goldy has denied he did favors for Helton but declined to offer any explanation for the messages, which emerged in an unrelated criminal case against a former judge.

The inquiry panel said the messages demonstrate Goldy’s “quid pro quo expectation on multiple occasions” that he get photos or videos for his “intervention in her interest.”

The president of the Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Association and all three commonwealth’s attorneys on the state Prosecutors Advisory Council have said Goldy should resign if the allegations are true.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a question about who would appoint Goldy’s temporary successor.

R. Michael Cassidy, the author of “Prosecutorial Ethics,” a leading work on the topic, was quoted in the story saying that “even a fifth-grader would know this is inappropriate and doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Former prosecutors said Goldy may have committed a crime.

In one of the messages, Goldy asked Helton, “When do I get to see a video?” and she replied, “When I do I not have a warrant hahaha.”

In another, she asked him, “What do I need to do to get that warrant taken care of — besides the obvious, lmao." Goldy responded, “Let me ask the judge tomorrow.”

Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represents former Judge Beth Maze in a criminal case and who provided the messages to The Courier Journal, said the inquiry panel had taken "swift and appropriate measures to investigate the allegations against Mr. Goldy."

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Mom ravaged by ants before death in nursing home, family sues: ‘Horror story’

By Ben Cost

A Texas family has sued a nursing home after their relative was allegedly attacked by ants before her death. KXAN

A family is suing a Texas nursing home for negligence after their relative was reportedly ravaged by ants in the weeks leading up to her death.

“It’s something out of a horror story,” Lisa Howard told KXAN of the incident involving her mother, Kathleen Laurel, who had been living at Brush Country Nursing and Rehabilitation in Austin. Her beloved mom had allegedly passed away “peacefully” in her sleep Sept. 26, 2021, after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, per her obit.

However, her final days may not have been so peaceful. Two weeks before Laurel died, her family allegedly received word that their relative’s room had been infested with ants.

“I went there as soon as I found out that day, and I actually spoke to the nurse that found her the night before,” Howard recalled. She added that the nurse, who was pregnant, tearfully recounted how “she was the one taking the ants off my mother, and she was getting bitten as she was doing it.”

Accompanying photos taken by the family show Laurel’s body riddled with tiny red welts. Investigators have yet to identify the species of ant responsible for the attack, but the marks appear consistent with the stings of fire ants, an aggressive invasive species from South America that inhabits large swaths of the southern US, including Texas.

Two weeks before Kathleen Laurel (left) died, her family reportedly received word that their relative's room at the nursing home had been infested with ants.
Two weeks before Kathleen Laurel (left) died, her family reportedly received 
word that their relative’s room at the nursing home had been infested with ants.

Named after the burning pain they cause, fire ant venom can induce potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions similar to bees and wasps.

The red pests have been responsible for a spate of nursing home fatalities in the South over the years, including a 2020 incident in which a 56-year-old Arkansas nursing home resident died after fire ants were found swarming her body. Meanwhile, this past June, a Georgia court awarded $2.5 million to the family of a 92-year-old woman who died after getting stung repeatedly during an infestation at her assisted care center.

Laurel’s situation was especially heartbreaking, as her mental state reportedly rendered her unable to communicate the problem to staff.

The family says they hope that Laurel's plight will convince the state to impose minimum staffing requirements to ensure that this doesn't happen anywhere else.
The family said they hope that Laurel’s plight will convince the state to impose
minimum staffing requirements to ensure that this doesn’t happen anywhere else.

“She was completely helpless,” lamented Howard. “She couldn’t ask for help.”

When confronted about the alleged pestilence, Brush Country administrators chalked up the incident to a heat rash — an explanation Howard found “ludicrous” given the symptoms.

“Then, heat rash begs the question, ‘Well why — where was she in so much heat that she got a heat rash?’ ” Laurel’s distraught daughter added.

The family subsequently filed a lawsuit against Brush Country Nursing and Rehabilitation, as well as its parent company, Dynasty Healthcare Management, KXAN reported.

According to a verified Texas Health and Human Services Commission report submitted by the family’s attorney, the facility failed to ensure that a resident “with physical debilities and severe cognitive impairment” was attended to at regular intervals during the night shift.

“She was found with active ants crawling on her while she was in bed with ant bites throughout her body causing resident pain, red welts, and hives that required immediate medical intervention and treatment,” the report added.

In an interview with the surveyor, a nurse claimed she had attempted to brush all the insects off Laurel and moved her to a recliner but stated it was impossible to check on every resident every two hours. Meanwhile, Brush Country Nursing and Rehabilitation administrators claimed that the facility had “deep cleaned” Laurel’s room and exterminators had been contacted to spray her quarters. The report stated that the facility also assessed all residents’ skin for ants bites and inspected every room but didn’t find “additional ants.”

Attorneys for the nursing home company have since denied all allegations made by the family.

Photos taken by the family show Laurel's arm riddled with alleged ant bites.
Photos taken by the family show Laurel’s arm riddled with apparent ant bites.
Courtesy Lisa Howard
When confronted about the alleged pestilence, Brush County administrators chalked up the incident to a heat rash -- an explanation Howard found "ludicrous" given the symptoms.
When confronted about the alleged attack, Brush Country administrators chalked up the incident to a heat rash — an explanation Howard found “ludicrous” given the symptoms.
Courtesy Lisa Howard

Unfortunately, the ant attack was only one of the alleged examples of negligence detailed in the surveyor report. Brush Country was also cited for everything from resident falls to missed meals, which have been chalked up to staff shortages that have allegedly been plaguing the state’s assisted living facilities since before the coronavirus pandemic.

The family said they hope that Laurel’s plight will convince the state to impose minimum staffing requirements to ensure that this doesn’t happen anywhere else.

Kathleen's widower Joe Laurel reflects on his wife's passing.
Kathleen’s widower, Joe Laurel, reflects on his wife’s passing.

This past April, New York implemented a new law requiring the state’s more than 600 nursing homes to provide 3½ hours of care per resident per day. No fewer than 2.2 hours of that time must be given by a certified nursing assistant or nurse aide, while at least 1.1 hours must be provided by a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, per the mandate.

Perhaps they rolled it out just in time: Researchers believe that fire ants are now moving north and are establishing colonies in colder environments.

“We’re kind of shocked,” said Robert Warren, an associate professor of biology at Buffalo State College, who co-authored a recent paper on the infiltrating ants.

“As you go up the mountains in the southern Appalachians, they are showing higher and higher tolerance for cold temperature,” Warren said. “So they are absolutely adjusting physiologically to these colder temperatures.”

Laurel's obit states that she died "peacefully" in her sleep.
Laurel’s obit states that she died “peacefully” in her sleep.
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Monday, July 18, 2022

54-year-old woman says she's fighting 'tooth and nail' to break free from guardianship

By Derrick Lewis
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A woman has been taken to an elderly memory care facility against her will and now cannot access tens of millions of dollars she has in her bank.

This all happened after she was given a guardian, a man she says she doesn't even know.
A judge says anyone in Texas can file for guardianship in the interest of a person's well-being.

After someone made this request, doctors tested Monique Mandell and considered her incompetent.

Her lawyers say she's not and want her home.

"I just want this nightmare to be over," Mandell said.

Freedom and nearly $40 million are on the line for her.

Her lawyers say a Harris County probate court allowed her guardian and three police officers to show up at her home and get her while she was sleeping.
The 54-year-old has been at an assisted living facility for four months now.

Randall Kallinen has been working on getting Mandel back home.

"There's no reason for her to have a guardian. According to experts, there's nothing wrong with her," he said. "She's competent."

However, a court-appointed psychiatrist considered Mandell incompetent shortly after an inheritance case related to the death of her husband.

"She's the golden egg that they've been looking for," said U.A. Lewis, another attorney for Mandell. "She has multi-millions available for them to try to exhaust, and the only way they can do that is if they maintain possession of her."

Her guardian is an attorney appointed by the court.
"They want to fight, I'll fight them," Mandell said. "Tooth and nail. I won't give up. What they are doing is wrong. I don't know these people from Adam."

Eyewitness News briefly spoke to the judge, Jason Cox, over the phone.

He would not talk specifically about this case, but said the court is not motivated by money in any way.

He added that the sole concern of the court is what's in the best interest for people like Mandell.

"We are challenging this judge to issue an order and stop laying on the request to send her home," Lewis said. 

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