Saturday, October 8, 2022

FRANK IN CRISIS American Pickers star Frank Fritz’s friend files for conservatorship after stroke left him ‘unable to care for himself’

by Teresa Roca  

AMERICAN Pickers star Frank Fritz’s friend has filed for an emergency conservatorship after a stroke left him “so impaired” he is “unable to care for himself.”

Frank, 58, was hospitalized for a stroke on July 14 after a friend found him on the floor of his Iowa home. 

Frank Fritz's friend has filed for an emergency conservatorship
Frank Fritz's friend has filed for an emergency conservatorshipCredit: Coleman-Rayner
The TV star is 'impaired' after suffering a stroke
The TV star is 'impaired' after suffering a strokeCredit: Coleman-Rayner

The U.S. Sun can exclusively reveal Frank’s “longtime friend” filed an emergency appointment of temporary guardian and conservator for the star on August 18. 

In Iowa court papers obtained by The U.S. Sun, Frank remained hospitalized for a month after suffering the stroke, as he was expected to be released to a nursing facility on August 19. 

The documents read: “Because of his stroke, Mr. Fritz’s decision­-making capacity is so impaired that he is unable to care for his own safety, or to provide for necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical care without which physical injury or illness may occur.

“Mr. Fritz’s decision­making capacity is so impaired that he is unable to make, communicate, or carry out important decisions concerning his own financial affairs.”

An exhibit was mentioned in the court papers from a doctor, confirming Frank “does not have decisional capacity.”

The legal papers continued: “Decisions must be made for Mr. Fritz’s care and placement while he continues to recover and receive treatment for his injuries. 

“Appointment of a guardian and conservator is necessary to avoid immediate harm to him.”

The Petitioner requested a separate “longtime friend” of Frank’s, who “has been assisting him in decision-making since the stroke,” be his guardian.  (Continue reading)

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FRANK IN CRISIS American Pickers star Frank Fritz’s friend files for conservatorship after stroke left him ‘unable to care for himself’

After $8 million judgment and contempt findings, lawyer’s license is suspended

By: Clark Kauffman

The Iowa Supreme Court has refused to reinstate the law license of a lawyer who was successfully sued for $8 million and recently held in contempt of court. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Attorney General's Office.)

The Iowa Supreme Court has refused to reinstate the law license of a lawyer who was successfully sued for $8 million and recently held in contempt of court.

In June 2021, a Polk County judge awarded $8 million to a Polk County man and his daughter in a defamation case against Des Moines lawyer Jaysen McCleary.

The plaintiffs in that case had sued for defamation, alleging McCleary had wrongfully claimed the man sexually molested his own daughter. After McCleary failed to appear for the trial, he was found in default.

Since then, the plaintiffs in the case have been unable to collect the $8 million in damages they were awarded. On more than one occasion, McCleary was ordered to sit for a debtor’s examination intended to determine the nature and location of his assets, but failed to appear, according to court records.

According to a court filing by Polk County District Judge Scott Beattie, McCleary has avoided sitting for the examination while citing a “multitude of reasons, such as trips to the emergency room, broken ribs, having other scheduled hearings, being on pain narcotics, father’s death, and weather conditions.”

In July of this year, Beattie ordered McCleary to pay $1,000 in fines and serve 30 days in jail for willful contempt of court but stayed the jail sentence and said the contempt finding would be purged if McCleary completed a debtor’s examination by Sept. 25.

The plaintiffs have since asked the court to order McCleary to appear for the exam on Oct. 24.

While that case has proceeded in Polk County District Court, McCleary has been dealing with Iowa’s Attorney Disciplinary Board on a separate matter. Court filings indicate the board has considered at least nine complaints filed against McCleary between 2019 and 2022.

In May, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order temporarily suspending McCleary’s license due to disability, not misconduct, stating that the Attorney Disciplinary Board had determined he was “unable to discharge his professional duties associated with the practice of law.”

McCleary then filed a motion to have the court immediately rescind the license suspension, at least until a hearing could be scheduled on the matter.

In a publicly filed motion, McCleary cited the opinion of clinicians who, he said, had determined he had no “cognitive or medical problems that are disabling.” In his motion, McCleary detailed the recommendations of the clinicians, which he said included psychotherapy, psychiatric oversight and the use of a professional coach. He noted that those were considered mere “recommendations for optimal performance,” rather than requirements to safely practice law.

“A vegan diet would also be optimal for all attorneys, given that heart disease — cholesterol — is the number one killer of humans, including attorneys,” McCleary told the court.

Referring to himself in the third person, McCleary told the court that in January the board had tried to have him voluntarily suspend his license after he “suffered six fractured ribs when a bison tried to kill him.”

The court agreed to hold a June 8 hearing on the license suspension, at which point McCleary filed a motion asking for a continuance, citing shoulder surgery that “requires the use of strong prescribed pain killers that make it difficult if not impossible to think clearly.”

The court agreed to delay the hearing until “McCleary informs the court that he is able to proceed,” but ordered that the license suspension remain in effect.

McCleary, who apparently splits his time between Iowa and Montana, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Angela Campbell, declined to comment.

Editor’s note:  Jaysen McCleary filed a defamation suit against Clark Kauffman, currently Iowa Capital Dispatch deputy editor, and his former employer, The Des Moines Register, related to a story the Register published in 2017. The case was dismissed by the court.

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After $8 million judgment and contempt findings, lawyer’s license is suspended

Courts: Couple bilked elderly people out of more than $18K – mainly for Door Dash

by: Jeff Wiehe

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Fort Wayne couple is accused of using access to elderly people’s checking accounts to bilk them out of more than $18,000 – most of which was spent on Door Dash orders.

Allen County Prosecutors charged 22-year-old Eleza L. Rodriguez and 23-year-old Herman L. Tinker III with felony counts of corrupt business influence and theft on Thursday.

Rodriguez is accused of getting to the checking accounts of people through her job with a placement agency which provides workers to retirement and assisted living homes, according to Allen Superior Court documents.

Then she and Tinker would use those accounts to fix their car or order food or buy items online, court documents said.

From a 97-year-old man and his 92-year-old wife, they are accused of taking $18,669 in a span from October to December last year, according to the court documents.

In the span of one month – Nov. 4 to Dec. 2 – the couple is accused of ordering more than $13,500 worth of Door Dash orders from places such as Rally’s, Mr. Beast Burger, Papa John’s and Lewis Street Grille, court documents said. 

In 59 transactions, Rodriguez and Tinker are accused of transferring $1,500 of that couple’s money to a Cash App account and they are also accused of using about $1,000 to fix the windows of a Nissan Altima that they drove, court documents said.

Rodriguez is also accused of using an 85-year-old man’s checking account to also order food at least once, even though that man told investigators in court documents he does not have a computer, a cell phone or an email address to do so.

Warrants for both Tinker and Rodriguez have been issued, but it’s not clear if they’ve been booked into Allen County Jail.

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Courts: Couple bilked elderly people out of more than $18K – mainly for Door Dash

Friday, October 7, 2022

Watchdog says Glastonbury lawyer may be incapacitated

by Alex Wood

Oct. 5—The office that prosecutes disciplinary cases against Connecticut lawyers says it has "information and belief" that Glastonbury lawyer Wesley S. Spears "is incapacitated from continuing to practice law by reason of physical and/or mental illness."


LAWYER: Wesley S. Spears, who practices from his Glastonbury apartment

ALLEGATION: That Spears may be unable to continue to practice law as a result of "physical and/or mental illness"

STATUS: Case is pending in Hartford Superior Court, where Spears is vigorously disputing the allegation and charging that it stems from a conspiracy against him involving judges, prosecutors, and Glastonbury police

The chief disciplinary counsel's office has filed a petition in Hartford Superior Court asking a judge to place Spears on "inactive status." But first, the office wants the judge to order an examination of Spears "by a qualified medical expert or experts" to help determine whether Spears is incapacitated.

The "presentment" doesn't detail the basis for the office's belief that Spears is incapacitated, and Chief Disciplinary Counsel Brian B. Staines said Tuesday that the office doesn't comment on its cases.

Spears is vigorously opposing the petition. He has said in a motion that he is planning to arrange for testimony by at least six judges, five state's attorneys, and more than 25 lay witnesses, including incarcerated defendants.

Spears, 68, who practices law from his apartment in One Glastonbury Place at 32 House St., represents defendants in 137 criminal and motor vehicle cases in addition to parties in 15 pending civil lawsuits, according to the state Judicial Department website.

If a judge finds Spears incapacitated and places him on inactive status, another lawyer would be appointed as "trustee" to protect his clients' interests.

Judge Susan Quinn Cobb has scheduled a "trial management conference" for Oct. 11 in the disciplinary counsel's case.

Glastonbury police searched Spears' apartment July 29 after obtaining authorization from Judge Sheila M. Prats. The basis for the search was evidence that a gun may have been fired in the apartment that month, possibly on July 16, with the bullet piercing a wall and coming to rest in a next-door neighbor's apartment. No arrest has been made in the incident.

Spears filed a motion this week saying that Glastonbury police had filed papers prohibiting him from obtaining a firearm for self-protection. The result, he said, was that he was denied the right to buy a gun on Saturday at Hoffman's Gun Center in Newington.

The motion asks the judge to prohibit Glastonbury police from preventing Spears from obtaining a gun to replace the one they seized. Neither the Glastonbury Police Department nor any of its officers is a party in the disciplinary counsel's case, however.

Spears alleges in a motion that the disciplinary counsel's petition is part of "a broad-ranging conspiracy that has continued for years, involving judges, States Attorneys and the Glastonbury Police department against the defendant, Wesley Spears."

In another motion, Spears says he has filed a "Judicial Complaint" against Judge Laura F. Baldini alleging "bias and prejudice" against him. He adds that it is the only judicial complaint he has filed in 43 years of law practice. Spears says in the motion that he has proof that Prats was aware of his complaint against Baldini when Prats signed the warrant authorizing the search of his apartment.

Kevin J. Dunn, the executive director of the state Judicial Review Council, said he couldn't confirm or deny the existence of a complaint by Spears, explaining that state law bars him from doing so unless the council initiates a hearing on a complaint.

Spears also alleges that he accidentally discovered personal misconduct by two judges.

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Watchdog says Glastonbury lawyer may be incapacitated

Texas City PD launches investigation into nursing home at center of elderly abuse video

In 2020, more than 80 people at this facility tested positive for COVID-19 and some were treated with hydroxychloroquine. 

By Chaz Miller

TEXAS CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas City police confirm they're investigating a potential case of elderly abuse at Solidago Health and Rehabilitation.

No charges have been filed to this point against the workers seen jerking and kicking an 86-year-old man on camera, but ABC13 can confirm they are no longer employed at the facility.

The man's granddaughter, who spoke only with us on Monday, said she couldn't believe what she witnessed when she pulled up the footage.

"I was just speechless," his granddaughter, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, said. "I know it does happen, but I didn't think it would happen to my grandfather."

According to the Medicare website, the most recent health inspection of Solidago Health and Rehabilitation was done by state officials in July 2021.

It found violations related to the grooming of residents, the storage and usage of medication, and issues with sanitation, but none of those were deemed serious. In fact, each of the eight violations listed were labeled as containing a "minimal level of harm or potential of actual harm" based on federal standards.

With that being said, the Medicare website uses state data from multiple years to give nursing homes a five-star rating, and Solidago Health and Rehabilitation has one star.

Texas Health and Human Services is working to provide us with additional inspection reports of the facility.

"I know some people don't believe that elderly should be put in nursing homes, but it doesn't mean for the people who should be put in nursing homes should be mistreated," the man's granddaughter said.

Solidago Health and Rehabilitation was previously in the news when it was known as The Resort at Texas City. In April 2020, more than 80 individuals inside the facility tested positive for COVID-19, and some were controversially treated with hydroxychloroquine.

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Texas City PD launches investigation into nursing home at center of elderly abuse video

Sheriff: Woman covered in feces; caregiver charged with elder abuse

A 32-year-old woman has been charged with elder abuse after her patient was taken to a hospital covered in fecal matter.

Sheriff: Woman covered in feces; caregiver charged with elder abuse

Thursday, October 6, 2022

In SF and Across California, People With Severe Mental Illness Languish Untreated in Jails, Hospitals

Written by David Sjostedt

San Francisco Fire Department ambulances outside of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on August 22, 2022. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

As public pressure mounts on San Francisco and other cities to force people who are mentally ill and homeless into treatment programs, many of those already confined under what’s known as “conservatorship” have no place to go.

There are at least 56 people in regular short-term treatment hospitals such as Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, as well as six people in the city’s jails, who are under a San Francisco court-ordered mental health conservatorship but are waiting for a long-term treatment bed to open up.

One individual in a local jail has been waiting for a treatment bed for nearly 1,200 days, according to Kara Chien, managing attorney of the SF Public Defender’s Mental Health Unit. 

The problem extends far beyond SF: In a statement, the California Department of State Hospitals said that it is currently 99 people over its contracted bed allotment for individuals under conservatorship. 

“Even though conservatorship is the last level of care, there’s no care available,” Chien said.

Conservatorships grant the courts or other guardians legal authority over a person who has been deemed unable to care for themselves. They have gained new attention as the homelessness crisis explodes, with many calling for more aggressive use of conservatorship for people struggling with drug addiction and mental illness.

A new state program called CARE Court—created by the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act—could end up bringing even more people into conservatorship and worsening the backlog.

Health care providers, advocates and local leaders are blaming a shortage of intensive mental health facilities at the state level, as well as a lack of services to help people avoid conservatorship altogether.

“Nobody at the state level is taking responsibility for these problems,” said SF Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who has advocated for increased conservatorship. “We need another state mental hospital […] and that wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the need.”

SF Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, at a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

San Francisco primarily sends people to Napa State Hospital, one of the state’s six mental hospitals, which has approximately 1,255 beds. In SF, there are 94 city-contracted treatment beds for people under mental health conservatorship. Yet currently, the city conserves nearly 600 people in various types of mental health conservatorship, which are assigned based on a patient’s diagnosis and propensity for violence.  

At a recent hearing, nurses from SF General Hospital described dangerous conditions in the city’s emergency units thanks to a revolving door of patients in severe mental health crises. The Department of Public Health acknowledged in a statement to The Standard that the city’s long-term mental health facilities are usually at capacity, leaving mentally ill patients waiting in regular hospitals while competing for a limited number of beds at the state level. 

The California Department of State Hospitals pointed to investments by Gov. Gavin Newsom intended to help localities build more mental health infrastructure, including $2.2 billion in grants for new behavioral health facilities and $1.5 billion for “bridge housing” for homeless individuals with behavioral health conditions.

Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Oakland, Calif.. | Aric Crabb/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Alex Barnard, a sociology professor at New York University who has written extensively about conservatorships in California, said that the state needs to improve coordination among counties that are fighting for treatment spots. 

In a general hospital setting, conserved patients run the risk of infection, and nurses that are trained in providing stabilizing care are unequipped to provide long-term mental health rehabilitation. 

“An acute care hospital is not a place for people to live,” Barnard said. “It’s demoralizing for the staff. Your training is to deal with acute crises and instead you have somebody who’s just lingering.”

Several nurses at SF General Hospital declined to be interviewed for this story due to the sensitivity of the issue. Dignity Health, a nonprofit that operates two hospitals in San Francisco, said in a statement that they have seven conserved patients this month.

“These patients typically stay with us for long periods of time as finding a safe destination is difficult due to the shortage of long-term custodial and psychiatric care facilities,” the statement read. “When conserved patients are boarded at acute care hospitals but do not need acute care services, we lose the opportunity to help another patient in crisis.”

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In SF and Across California, People With Severe Mental Illness Languish Untreated in Jails, Hospitals

U.S. Attorney's Office For The Western District of North Carolina Takes Part In Department's Wide-Ranging Efforts To Protect Older Adults

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

U.S. Attorney's Office For The Western District of North Carolina Takes Part In Department's Wide-Ranging Efforts To Protect Older Adults

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – U.S. Attorney Dena J. King joins the Justice Department in announcing today the results of the Department’s efforts over the past year to protect older adults from fraud and exploitation. During the past year, the Department and its law enforcement partners tackled matters that ranged from mass-marketing scams that impacted thousands of victims to bad actors scamming their neighbors. Substantial efforts were also made over the last year to return money to fraud victims. Today, the Department also announced it is expanding its Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to amplify efforts to combat scams originating overseas.

“We are intensifying our efforts nationwide to protect older adults, including by more than tripling the number of U.S. Attorneys’ offices participating in our Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force dedicated to disrupting, dismantling and prosecuting foreign-based fraud schemes that target American seniors,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This expansion builds on the Justice Department’s existing work to hold accountable those who steal funds from older adults, including by returning those funds to the victims where possible.”

“Financial predators view older adults as a target rich environment,” said U.S. Attorney King. “The increased presence of elderly individuals online offers ample opportunities for fraudsters to perpetrate financial scams on older victims and steal their hard-earned money. Investigating and prosecuting bad actors who engage in the financial exploitation of older Americans is a priority for my office. I also urge older adults, family members, and caretakers to be on the lookout for schemes targeting the elderly. Prevention and education is the best way to ensure older adults are protected from this appalling criminal activity. Reporting financial scams is equally important. If you are the victim of a scam or suspect an older individual is being financially victimized take action and report the fraud,” King added.  

During the period from September 2021 to September 2022, Department personnel and its law enforcement partners pursued approximately 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants, both bringing new cases and advancing those previously charged. During that time frame, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of North Carolina has taken federal action through the filing of criminal or civil cases involving financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors.

In August 2022, a Liberian national was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in an online romance scam that targeted older adults. In June 2022, a home health provider was ordered to serve 45 months in prison for stealing more than $1 million from two elderly clients. In March 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the successful forfeiture and return of stolen cryptocurrency to an elderly individual victimized by a government imposter scam.  Additionally, in May 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained a final forfeiture order for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, which will be returned to an elderly victim of a romance/investment scheme. Furthermore, in December 2021, the Court ordered the forfeiture of a property purchased with the fraud proceeds perpetrated by the purported caregivers of an elderly victim. In addition to securing prison sentences for the perpetrators of the fraud, the Justice Department agreed to return the forfeited assets to the victim’s estate.

As part of its efforts to stem the tide of elder financial fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to engage in outreach to the community to raise awareness about financial scams. Last week, U.S. Attorney King hosted a scam alert seminar at the Rutherford County Senior Center, during which participants were presented important information about financial fraud. Following the presentation, the participants engaged in a game of “Fraud Bingo,” a fun activity designed to deliver information and practical tips on how to prevent the financial exploitation and victimization of older adults by scammers.

The Department also highlighted three other efforts: expansion of the Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force, success in returning money to victims and efforts to combat grandparent scams. 

The Department announced that as part of its continuing efforts to protect older adults and bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice it is expanding the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, adding 14 new U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Expansion of the Strike Force will help to coordinate the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat largest and most harmful fraud schemes that target or disproportionately impact older adults.

In the past year, the Department has notified over 550,000 people that they may be eligible for remission payments. Notifications were made to consumers whose information was sold by one of three data companies prosecuted by the Department and were later victims of “sweepstakes” or “astrology” solicitations that falsely promised prizes or individualized services in return for a fee. More than 150,000 of those victims cashed checks totaling $52 million, and thousands more are eligible to receive checks. Also notified were consumers who paid fraudsters perpetrating person-in-need scams and job scams via Western Union. In the past year, the Department has identified and contacted over 300,000 consumers who may be eligible for remission. Since March of 2020 more than 148,000 victims have received more than $366 million as a result of a 2017 criminal resolution with Western Union for the company’s willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and its aiding and abetting of wire fraud.

Over the past year, the Department pursued cases against the perpetrators of “grandparent scams,” otherwise known as “person-in-need scams.” These scams typically begin when a fraudster, often based overseas, contacts an older adult and poses as either a grandchild, other family member or someone calling on behalf of a family member. Call recipients are told that their family member is in jeopardy and is urgently in need of money. When recently sentencing one of eight perpetrators of a grandparent scam indicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal judge described such scams “heartbreakingly evil.” The Department is working with government partners and others to raise awareness about these schemes.

Reporting from consumers about fraud and fraud attempts is critical to law enforcements efforts to investigate and prosecute schemes targeting older adults. If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-866 FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Department of Justice Hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting or connect them with agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available. More information about the Department’s elder justice efforts can be found on the Department’s Elder Justice website,

Some of the cases that comprise today’s announcement are charges, which are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

U.S. Attorney's Office For The Western District of North Carolina Takes Part In Department's Wide-Ranging Efforts To Protect Older Adults


Former B.C. nurse accused of $25,000 in financial exploitation

A disciplinary hearing for a former B.C. practical nurse accused of financial exploitation has been scheduled for December 2022. (Credit: Pixabay)

Disciplinary hearing for Mateaki Hammond to begin Dec. 8

by Jane Skrypnek

A former B.C. practical nurse will face a 10-day disciplinary hearing in December over accusations that they exploited a woman out of $25,000.

The British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives accuses Mateaki Hammond of fostering a relationship with a woman known as “BB,” alienating her from her friends and family and then exploiting her out of thousands of dollars over a four-year period.

Between Aug. 1, 2014 and July 22, 2016, Hammond received six deposits or bank drafts from BB’s bank accounts, each ranging between $1,000 and $12,000, according to the college. Four came from BB’s line of credit, one came from her Visa account and one came from her chequing account, the college alleges. In total, they amounted to $25,000.

In October 2016, Hammond then attended BB’s bank with her to seek a $100,000 increase to BB’s line of credit, the college says. Finally, on June 29, 2017, the college says Hammond returned to BB’s bank with her, seeking to withdraw BB’s personal funds.

In each instance, the college says Hammond failed to properly regard BB’s best interests and contravened professional standards of ethical practice and conflict of interest.

The college says the alleged misconduct occurred while Hammond was a registrant with a predecessor college known as the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of B.C. Hammond, who goes by “Matty” according the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives’ online registry, hasn’t been allowed to practise since Jan. 1, 2019, when their license was cancelled.

The hearing is set to run from Dec. 8-9, Dec. 12-16 and Dec. 19-21, beginning at 10 a.m. each day.

Full Article & Source:
Former B.C. nurse accused of $25,000 in financial exploitation

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Family says special needs man at risk of losing childhood home in guardianship battle

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — A local family is fighting to keep their special needs brother in the only home he’s ever known.

They say he’s at risk of losing the house because of the actions of someone else’s court-appointed guardian.

Christian Chambers loves golf, football and Clarkston.

The 50-year-old has cerebral palsy, but is more than able to live independently in his childhood home.

And the house is close to Clarkston High School where Christian volunteers as an assistant coach for the football team. But instead of enjoying this year’s football season, Christian is extremely upset.

That’s because someone wants to sell the only home Christian has ever known.

“He's been here 50 years. And this is where he wants to stay,” said John Chambers, one of Christian’s four older brothers who help with Christian’s care.

"It's horrible to do this to anybody, but it's horrible to do it to Christian because of his heart,” said John. “He doesn't have the ability to go just get an apartment.”

Back in 2014, Christian’s mom and dad created a special needs trust for him, leaving Christian the family home. They also made family friend Ron Dunlap a trustee to look out for Christian’s welfare.

“It reads that it's going to be Christian's house forever. That was their full intent,” said Dunlap about the Trust.

In 2016, Christian’s mom started having health issues and his dad later passed away. The Oakland County Probate Court determined Doreen Chambers was legally incapacitated and appointed a professional guardian. The guardian has total say over Doreen’s life, and Doreen was moved to a nursing home.

Attorney Jennifer Carney is Doreen’s guardian. Her Birmingham-based guardianship company is called Advocates for Independence and Self-Reliance.

The Chambers say the family and Carney recently learned the deed for the house was still technically in Doreen’s name, and not in Christian’s trust as it should have been. And that’s when things got messy.

“She wanted to meet us here at the house with her supervisor. And I'm thinking to myself, how does she have a supervisor? I mean -- she owns this law firm,” said Dunlap.

Dunlap says he and Christian watched while Carney brought not a supervisor, but a real estate agent into the home.

“Starts just wandering around the house, taking pictures, measuring, and I'm going, What? What are you doing,” said Dunlap.

The Chambers brothers say they later got an email from Carney that says: “I need to manage the property in [Doreen’s] best interest, not Christian’s…. Christian will need to find other living arrangements.”

“I think it's totally unethical. I think she should be sanctioned,” said Dunlap.

Court records show Carney signed a purchase agreement for the home, even though guardians are not legally allowed to sell a ward’s property.

“That seems like they're putting the cart before the horse because a guardian doesn't have authority to sell that property,” said Nicole Shannon, the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative’s Systemic Litigation and Advocacy Attorney.

Shannon says even though the guardian is now asking the judge to become a conservator so she can sell the Chambers home, the court should take into account Doreen Chambers’ original plan for the home.

“It sounds as if this person took a lot of steps to make clear what it is that they wanted. They wanted to ensure that their son was going to be able to remain in this home long term,” Shannon told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

The 7 Investigators did contact Jennifer Carney to ask her why she wants to sell the house if Doreen is staying in a nursing home, but she would not agree to an interview and refused to answer questions.

Court records show, Carney already charges Doreen Chambers’ modest estate thousands of dollars. For 2021, even though Doreen only received $10,465.80 in Social Security income, Carney charged her $3064.50 in fiduciary and legal fees.

The Chambers family is now fighting in Oakland County Probate court to stop Carney from selling the family home. They say they’re also hoping Carney can see just how much pain she’s causing Christian.

“He may not be able to speak very well. He may have some disabilities. But I will tell you. His hear has a lot more ability,” said John Chambers. Judge Linda Hallmark set another hearing to determine what will happen with the house , but that won’t be for several weeks.

In the meantime the Chambers family has created this fund to help Christian try to stay in the home.

Full Article & Source:
Family says special needs man at risk of losing childhood home in guardianship battle

U.S. Attorney Romero Announces a Dozen Social Security Fraud Cases Charged as Part of Targeted Effort to Crack Down on Benefit Theft

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Monday, October 3, 2022

U.S. Attorney Romero Announces a Dozen Social Security Fraud Cases Charged as Part of Targeted Effort to Crack Down on Benefit Theft

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that so far this year, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has charged no less than a dozen cases involving Social Security fraud, either by Information or Indictment, with nine of those defendants pleading guilty to those charges. The charges are the result of a concerted effort to investigate, prosecute and deter theft of government funds, primarily by way of stealing the Social Security payments of a deceased beneficiary. Altogether, the fraud loss amount in these cases totals nearly $1 million.

Defendants charged and their status are:

  • Sloan Carter, 59, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on August 2, 2022, with theft of government funds; pleaded guilty on September 7, 2022;
  • Marcus Ecks, 38, of Langhorne, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on June 28, 2022, with theft of government funds; pleaded guilty on September 8, 2022;
  • Anthony Percell, 54, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; charged by Indictment on August 9, 2022, with social security fraud, passport fraud, identity theft, and related charges; scheduled for trial early next year;
  • Angel Guilbe, Jr., 53, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on August 17, 2022, with theft of government funds; pleaded guilty on September 19, 2022;
  • Stephanie Rudnick, 52, of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on May 19, 2022, with theft of government funds; pleaded guilty on June 7, 2022;
  • Lilian Rogers, 58, of Glenolden, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on March 4, 2022, with theft of government funds; pleaded guilty on April 27, 2022;
  • Dana Douglas-Rodriguez, 40, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; charged by Indictment on April 6, 2021, with wire fraud and social security fraud; pleaded guilty to social security fraud on May 3, 2022;
  • Paulette Tamburro, 55, of Collingswood Heights, New Jersey; charged by Information on December 15, 2021, with theft of government funds; pleaded guilty on May 4, 2022;
  • Michael Smith, 62, of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on September 2, 2022, with theft of government funds;
  • Aracelis Quinones-Martinez, 52, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on August 24, 2022, with theft of government funds;
  • Ivan Wallace, 60, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; charged by Indictment on September 16, 2021, with wire fraud and social security fraud; pleaded guilty to social security fraud on September 28, 2022;
  • Christopher Miller, 59, of Wernersville, Pennsylvania; charged by Information on September 20, 2022, with theft of government funds.

As an initiative to increase federal Social Security fraud prosecutions, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides DOJ with attorneys who are sworn in and serve as Special Assistant United States Attorneys (SAUSA) in multiple U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country. The SAUSA’s focus is solely to prosecute Social Security fraud. The goal of this initiative is to increase the number of prosecutions for fraud involving Social Security programs.  

“Social Security benefits are intended to help Americans who have worked hard and need some extra help making ends meet,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “Thieves who take these funds fraudulently are taking advantage of American workers and taxpayers who fund these programs. Thanks to our partnership with SSA, our Office has dedicated prosecutors who are making a difference bringing these fraudsters to justice.”

“Our work to protect Social Security programs and taxpayers’ funds from criminals is one of our highest priorities. We will continue to pursue those who seek to defraud SSA, and we rely heavily on the SAUSAs to prosecute Social Security fraud, which is a federal crime,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and SAUSAs Laura Bradbury and Megan Curran for their efforts in prosecuting these cases and holding these persons accountable for their criminal actions.”  

These cases were investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and are being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorneys Laura Bradbury and Megan Curran.

U.S. Attorney Romero Announces a Dozen Social Security Fraud Cases Charged as Part of Targeted Effort to Crack Down on Benefit Theft

Kile and Debora Madsen Sentenced to State Prison for Stealing from Elderly Relative

News Release
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2022

Concord, NH – Attorney General John M. Formella announces that on Friday, September 29, 2022, Kile Madsen, 56, and Debora Madsen, 53, both of Potsdam, New York, were each sentenced in the Hillsborough County Superior Court – Southern District, on one class A felony count of theft by unauthorized taking and one class A felony count of conspiracy to commit theft by unauthorized taking.

Mr. and Mrs. Madsen were convicted of these charges on July 13, 2022, following a jury trial. Mr. and Mrs. Madsen were convicted for conspiring and acting jointly, between December 10, 2015, and August 10, 2016, to unlawfully take $49,285.96 belonging to Mr. Madsen's elderly father, R.M., who suffered from dementia. Mr. and Mrs. Madsen used the funds at casinos and for Mrs. Madsen's business. The jury concluded that in committing their thefts, Mr. and Mrs. Madsen intentionally took advantage of R.M.'s age (65 or older) or condition (dementia) that impaired R.M.'s ability to manage R.M.'s property or financial resources or to protect R.M.'s rights or interests

On the theft convictions, the Court sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Madsen to each serve one to three years in the New Hampshire State Prison, stand committed.

On the conspiracy convictions, the Court sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Madsen to each serve 7 ½ to 15 years in the New Hampshire State Prison, all of which was suspended for 10 years after release from incarceration. As part of the suspended sentence, Mr. and Mrs. Madsen, among other things, may not serve as fiduciary for any elderly, disabled, or impaired adult. They are also prohibited from working or volunteering in assisting or caring for elderly, disabled, or impaired adults.

This case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant Attorney General Bryan Townsend, II; Senior Assistant Attorney General Brandon Garod; and Attorney Warren Cormack. The Hollis Police Department also assisted.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of elder abuse or financial exploitation, please contact your local police department or the Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (1-800-949-0470).

Kile and Debora Madsen Sentenced to State Prison for Stealing from Elderly Relative

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Conservatorships can trap families in a web of conflicting interests

by Dorothy Kupcha Leland

Deborah Findley’s son, Andrew, grew up with serious health problems, including autism, Lyme disease, and other conditions. Now 21, he is severely disabled and requires 24-hour care.

When he turned 18, his mother was advised to seek a conservatorship for him. That’s a way for someone to assume legal guardianship over an adult incapable of caring for themselves. Being his conservator would allow her to make medical decisions on his behalf, along with other choices regarding his care.

But when she and her husband petitioned the court to become Andrew’s conservators, they got a nasty surprise.

California’s Department of Developmental Services filed a competing petition. The department said that DDS should be Andrew’s conservator because of alleged abuse by his parents. The judge followed the agency’s recommendation and Andrew’s parents were shut out of his care.

As a result, they have been unable to visit Andrew in person for over three years, sometimes not even knowing where he was located.

There appears to be no legal avenue to challenge the court’s decision. Deborah says she has spent over $300,000 in legal fees fighting the state’s court-ordered conservatorship, trying to get access to her son. So far, she’s had no luck.

The issue of conservatorship is a complex one. You may remember news reports about pop star Brittany Spears and her years-long fight to regain control of her finances and personal life. A judge finally ended her 13-year conservatorship in 2021.

Investigative reporter Andie Judson, of ABC10 TV in Sacramento, examines Andrew’s case in a multi-part news series on conservatorship called “The Price of Care.” It is a complicated story with chilling implications.

Click below to watch the episode featuring Deborah and Andrew’s story.

This segment is part of Season 2 of Judson’s “Price of Care” series. Season 1 included five episodes that ran in 2021. Click here for more information about the whole series.

Full Article & Source:
Conservatorships can trap families in a web of conflicting interests

Rogue attorney sentenced to 37 months for defrauding clients with fake judgments

The lawyer told his clients he filed complaints and motions on their behalf while doing nothing of the kind.

by Edvard Pettersson

The United States courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. (Edvard Pettersson/Courthouse News)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A disbarred attorney was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to defrauding his clients through faked judgements with forged signatures.

Matthew Elstein formerly with national law firm Tressler LLP, was also ordered to pay $254,000 in restitution at his sentencing Monday in Los Angeles.

U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi wasn’t persuaded that a degenerative brain condition Elstein, 52, claims to suffer from was either at the root of his criminal conduct or a reason not to sent him to prison. Instead, the judge sentenced him to the prison term prosecutors had asked for.

Elstein admitted last year that over a four-year period he had told his clients that he filed complaints, motions and other pleadings in court when, in fact, he hadn’t done anything. He billed them from legal services that he never rendered and for expenses he never incurred. He would also send his clients fraudulent court orders, settlement agreements, and other documents to convince them he had resolved the cases in their favor.

In June 2016, Elstein lied to a corporate client that they had won a $52 million default judgment and sent them a fake court order with a forged signature from the judge even though he never even filed a lawsuit for them. He then doubled up on his bluff by telling the client that the case was under seal because of a federal investigation and presented them with a fake settlement agreement between with the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento. The company only discovered the fraud when they reached out to the U.S. attorney’s office to authenticate the settlement.

“Defendant caused irreparable financial, reputational and emotional damage to his victims that exceeds the mere monetary damage caused by a typical fraud,” prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in LA said in their sentencing memorandum. “Defendant’s motive appears fueled not only by greed but also malice.”

One of Elstein’s victims spoke in court and said he will never salvage his reputation, which Elstein destroyed.

“The damage he did is just incapable of ever being repaired,” the man said.

In a tearful bid for clemency, Elstein told the the judge that he understood the pain he had caused and said a degenerative condition of his frontal lobe may soon diminish his mental capacities. His lawyer told the judge that Elstein’s medical condition contributed to his behavior spinning out of control.

After he had already agreed to plead guilty, and his state bar license was inactive, Elstein accepted $3,500 from a new client to help him secure an inheritance. According to a Redondo Beach Police Department officer, who listened in on a call between Elstein and this person, Elstein appeared to be delaying and “scamming” the man.

Elstein’s lawyer, Candace Fields, argued that her client had already been punished enough for his malpractice by losing his law license and asked for a sentence of home confinement or, at most, just months in prison. She also pointed out that Elstein refunded the $3,500 he accepted even though his license was no longer active.

Full Article & Source:
Rogue attorney sentenced to 37 months for defrauding clients with fake judgments

Videos and pictures inside North Mobile Nursing home shows ants crawling on residents - NBC 15 WPMI

Videos and pictures inside North Mobile Nursing home shows ants crawling on residents - NBC 15 WPMI

Monday, October 3, 2022

Interlochen man beats the odds on guardianship

By Mardi Link

INTERLOCHEN — Cruise control, 82 mph, cut to black, then a fleeting image of a good Samaritan who stopped to help and called 911.

Dwight Lewis remembers these scant details from March 2019, when he was driving on US-31 near Ludington, suffered an epileptic seizure and crashed his truck.

Twenty minutes, four broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a traumatic brain injury later, Lewis regained consciousness.

“I came to, I knew things weren’t right and I vaguely remember people coming up to my window with the Jaws of Life,” Lewis said. “Then nothing after that.”

Since the accident, Lewis has lived with his mother, Chris Lewis, in a house filled with art in the woods near Interlochen State Park.

When he smiles, the expression comes on quickly and envelopes his whole face.

A loud high-pitched “cuk-cuk-cuk” sound interrupts an interview with a reporter, Dwight stops mid-sentence, holding up an index finger.

“Pileated woodpecker,” he says, and there’s that smile.

The brain injury from the crash was actually Lewis’ second — multiple skull fractures in a 2011 skateboard accident not only caused the epilepsy, but put him into court-ordered guardianship — and working his way back to health and autonomy hasn’t been easy.

Lewis, 40, who’d trained as a chef, not only had to learn how to cook again, he had to re-learn how to drive, use a cell phone, handle his finances and get along with other people, including his mother.

“My injuries have caused me to burn some bridges between both my friends and my family,” Lewis says in a text, sent days after the interview. “My goal and mission now is to rebuild those bridges.”

Dwight moved in with Chris, and she became her son’s court-appointed guardian after the skateboard accident, but a few months after the highway crash, both agreed the arrangement was no longer working.

Traumatic brain injuries can result in something neurologists call “flooding,” in which a healing brain is overloaded by outside stimuli, making it physically impossible for a person to regulate their emotions and behavior.

“We argued a lot then,” Chris said. “He was often angry, which I understood, but it got to the point where we needed outside help.”

Court-appointed guardianships and conservatorships are a protective measure often associated with older adults, when a judge decides because of illness or memory loss, someone can no longer make their own decisions.

Younger people also can be appointed guardians by the court, often as the result of a catastrophic injury like Dwight’s.

Regardless of age or the reason for the guardianship, a review of probate court records by the Record-Eagle in more than a dozen Michigan counties shows court oversight often becomes permanent by default.

“Generally speaking, there’s an attitude that cognitive impairments don’t get better,” said Sheila Englehardt, a professional guardian in Roscommon County who is not connected to the Lewis case.

“Once someone is in the system,” Englehardt said, “it’s like this continuing rotation.”

Dwight committed himself to years of hard work — occupational, speech and ocular therapy, an in-patient stay at a neurorestorative program, months in a residential setting learning to live companionably alongside roommates, plus regular appointments with a psychiatrist.

“When he sets his mind to something, that’s it,” Chris said, “that’s Dwight.”

Earlier this month, his efforts paid off.

On Sept. 12, Dwight stepped off the “continuing rotation” of court oversight, after successfully petitioning Grand Traverse County Probate Court Judge Jennifer Whitten to terminate his guardianship.

Lee Storch of Guardian Services of Northwest Michigan, who succeeded Chris Lewis as Dwight’s guardian, told the judge she supported Dwight’s decision and helped him file the petition.

Both say Dwight’s abilities improved under guardianship.

“As skeptical as I was, it helped me and it helped my mom,” Dwight Lewis said of the time he spent as a ward of the court. “I do know that has not been everyone’s experience.”

Record-Eagle reporters in August 2021 began examining records in Michigan’s probate courts and have since reported a steady stream of worrisome accounts ranging from family isolation to outright theft.

These previous stories involved people of means and those on fixed incomes, people who live independently and those who require residential care, those with close family members and those without, but all had one thing in common: They began with a judicial decision meant to protect them by appointing a guardian or conservator.

Decades of reform attempts by governors, attorneys general and legislators have so far failed to alter the Michigan judiciary, which controls guardianship procedures and calls for probate courts to collect paperwork and keep records, but gives probate judges little enforcement power when things go awry.

Some familial and professional guardians in recent months have faced criminal charges after being accused of embezzling from clients.

In one recent case, a Macomb County woman, Lisa Ludy, was charged with nine felonies and could face up to 20 years in prison after being accused by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel of using Community Guardian Care, Inc., to conduct a criminal enterprise.

Nessel said in a press release that Ludy’s company was appointed guardian and conservator for an unnamed victim, then stole more than $100,000 from Social Security checks, an inheritance and proceeds from the sale of the victim’s home.

Thousands of guardians and conservators — acting as fiduciaries — serve in their roles without running afoul of the law. Professional guardians like Storch say it is hard to find qualified people, when guardians who serve those on Medicaid are paid less than $100 a month per client.

Storch said she is researching ways to turn her company into a nonprofit organization to seek alternative funding and have support from an advisory board.

“What we do is not all about the money,” Storch said.

Storch has more than 30 guardianship clients at any one time; she and her partner, Tracy McCain, provide limited and temporary services to as many as 50 others, she said.

Dwight is the only client she’s worked with who has “graduated” from guardianship, she said.

Once he began making — and keeping — medical appointments, working a part-time job at Oryana West, maintaining a good relationship with his mom and his girlfriend, and got his driver’s license reinstated, Storch said the court didn’t need to be involved in his life.

Dwight agreed.

“When all this started for me with the court, I had no hope,” Dwight said. “Then I began making some goals.”

Dwight said after the hearing, he and his girlfriend, Annette Abraham, went to Colorado for the weekend.

They toured Red Rocks amphitheater, where Dwight asked Annette to marry him.

She said yes.

Full Article & Source:
Interlochen man beats the odds on guardianship

After #FreeBritney, California to Limit Conservatorships

FILE - Britney Spears supporters celebrate following a hearing concerning the pop singer's conservatorship at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, legislation limiting conservatorships, a move that comes after Britney Spears' conservatorship case garnered national attention. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello,File)

By Sophie Austin

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill limiting conservatorships that grant legal guardianship over individuals, a move that comes after Britney Spears’ conservatorship case garnered national attention amid her attempts to regain control over her finances and livelihood.

The new law, authored by Democratic Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, will require that judges document all alternatives to a conservatorship before granting one. It aligns with similar legislation adopted in other states, following a push from advocates. In a statement, Newsom, a Democrat, said the state is committed to protecting the rights of Californians with disabilities.

People deemed to be unable to make certain life decisions for themselves can be placed into legal conservatorships in which a court-appointed conservator is given control over their finances and other critical aspects of their life, sometimes without their consent. They most often involve people with developmental or intellectual disabilities or those with age-related issues like dementia.

Advocacy groups contend that people like Spears, who was under a conservatorship for nearly 14 years, can become trapped in a system that removes their civil rights and the ability to advocate for themselves.

“This measure is an important step to empower Californians with disabilities to get needed support in caring for themselves and their finances, while maintaining control over their lives to the greatest extent possible,” Newsom wrote in a signing statement, calling the new law a "transformative reform to protect self-determination for all Californians.”

Spears, the pop singer and Mississippi native who has publicly struggled with her mental health, ended up at the center of a widespread #FreeBritney campaign aimed at regranting the pop singer authority over her medical, personal and financial decisions. She alleged she became a victim of misconduct at the hands of her father, James Spears, who was her conservator.

Fans and advocates rallied online and in person to bring attention to Spears' situation. Documentaries by The New York Times and Netflix on the effects of Spears' conservatorship brought renewed spotlight to the case and the conservatorship process more broadly. She was a 26-year-old new mother who had several public mental health struggles during the height of her career in 2008, when her father sought the conservatorship, at first on a temporary basis.

A Los Angeles judge ended Spears' conservatorship last year, a win followed by legislative proposals to protect the rights of conservatees and efforts to make it more difficult for people to end up in one.

Maienschein, who represents parts of San Diego, thanked the governor in a statement, noting the importance of ensuring the autonomy of people with disabilities.

The new law will give potential conservatees preference for selecting a conservator and make it easier to end probate conservatorships.

Disability rights organization Disability Voices United referred to news of Newsom's decision as historic.

“This law affirms that conservatorships should be rare and the last resort,” the group wrote. “The default should be that people with disabilities retain their rights and get support when they need it. ”

Full Article & Source:
After #FreeBritney, California to Limit Conservatorships

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Colorado lawmakers advance changes on disciplining judges

by David Migoya

The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in downtown Denver, home of the Colorado Supreme Court.

A special state legislative panel on Friday unanimously passed a pair of resolutions that would dramatically change how Colorado investigates and disciplines judges, one of them a Constitutional amendment voters would consider in 2024.

One resolution creates a three-member board to pass judgment in formal discipline cases. The other measure sets up anonymous reporting, requires comprehensive annual reports of how the process works and what it's done, and formally sets up the three-person board once it is approved by Constitutional amendment.

Left for additional legislative work, however, is a proposal to create an ombudsperson’s office within the Judicial Department to work with anyone considering filing a complaint of judicial misconduct. Legislators said there wasn’t enough time to make the proposal as comprehensive as needed but promised to press for a bill in the upcoming session.

The two approved proposals by the General Assembly Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline now head to the 18-member Legislative Council, a year-round committee of legislators that will decide whether to move the measures to the full House and Senate. The proposed bills will begin in the House, members of the interim committee agreed. The council next meets Oct. 14.

Although the proposals make substantive changes to the judicial discipline process, several key amendments were left for the broader legislative process to work out.

Two critical components not addressed in the proposals, but which the panel members insisted should be handled at the legislature, were the decriminalization of confidentiality breaches and the scope of subpoena authority for the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline during its initial investigations into a complaint of misconduct.

“There is an absolutely commitment (by the interim committee) on the necessity for those provisions,” Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, said. “We were not able to get fully vetted alternatives and believe it better to reserve the issues for the legislative session.”

Added to the proposals was a requirement for a public hearing and input in the rulemaking process for how the discipline commission and the three-person board will operate in its new iteration.

The proposals also add a legal requirement for the discipline commission to keep anyone who files a complaint about a judge fully informed. The committee heard testimony from women who said they were frequently left in the dark about the process and were often warned about the misdemeanor criminal penalties for talking about it.

“This was not a process that inspired confidence,” Carver said. “No more will we hear testimony or read in (a) report that someone files a complaint and months pass, they hear nothing and then hear something and then it’s silent all over again.”

Unchanged, however, is a provision in the proposals where a special panel of seven Court of Appeals judges would replace the Supreme Court should one of its justices be the subject of discipline or is a material witness in a case. The discipline commission voiced concern over that structure, saying the collegial atmosphere in the lower court has as much a potential conflict of interest and suggested the special panel include trial court judges.

Voters will specifically be asked to approve the creation of the three-person board to oversee the discipline process. The board – an attorney, a judge and a citizen not connected to either profession – would sit in judgment during a formal discipline hearing against a judge. It would also sit as the appellate body for any informal discipline the commission recommends. The Supreme Court would only be able to overrule any discipline if it determines the board had misused its discretion.

The measure that would have created an ombudsperson office was not approved but, according to the two committee members who worked on it, it will be offered as a primary bill in the upcoming legislative session. Committee members said they received numerous emails from people insisting on expanding the scope of the office.

“Between today and the end of session a year from now, much work needs to be done,” Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, said. “We have a year and cannot extend these issues any longer. The culture is critical and there will be a space for people to talk about the things that intimidate them.”

Rep. Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, said he saw that the proposal for an ombudsperson, no matter how important, required more work.

“We discovered through stakeholders that it needs to do much more,” Lynch said. “There needs to be more scope in the ombudsperson's office than initially thought.”

Seven of the committee members agreed to either sponsor or co-sponsor the proposals in the General Assembly. Carver did not because she is term-limited.

Carver summed up the committee’s work by noting how “Colorado was an outlier” in the judicial discipline process.

“What we are proposing is a drastically different system,” Carver said. “I hope, with these changes, the people of Colorado will see how we have done this in interest of public accountability.”

Committee chairman Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, pointed to the seriousness of their work.

“We are taking about our (state’s) foundational document, the separation of powers and trust in government,” he said.

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Colorado lawmakers advance changes on disciplining judges