Saturday, June 10, 2023

State legislators host town hall on guardianship abuses and hear brutal realities of probate court

by Sophia Biazus  

PHOENIX – Health problems forced Bill Chalmers into a guardianship after he retired from Intel as a senior engineering director.

“I suffered from sleep deprivation, and I have something called nocturnal epilepsy,” Chalmers told a group of state legislators and disability advocates at a town hall Thursday at Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus. “It causes me to have disruptive sleep patterns that contributed to my erratic behavior.”

Deemed incapable of handling his own money, Chalmers’ attorney petitioned for an emergency conservatorship – a legal status in which a court appoints a person to manage the financial and personal affairs of an incapacitated person or a minor. Chalmers’ conservator charged him more than $400,000 over 13 months for services and withdrew $288,000 from his 401k account without paying taxes on the withdrawal, he said.

Chalmers shared his story as part of a town hall discussion on probate reform. His was one of nearly a dozen experiences that detailed abuses of conservatorships and the probate system. 

Gov. Katie Hobbs on May 8 signed Senate Bill 1038, which creates a probate advisory panel to identify abuses in the probate system.

But legislators and disability advocates said more work needs to be done.

SB 1291 is a reform bill that would bring sweeping changes to Arizona Revised Statutes Title 14 guardianship and conservatorship laws. If signed into law, it would ensure people are kept out of isolation from their loved ones, given the right to a jury trial and guarantee that they are informed about any details or pending action pertaining to themselves and their case.

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who sponsored SB 1291, said the bill adds supported decision-making, which allows a person to decide who will help them make decisions. It is an alternative to guardianship where a conservator is appointed for them. Legislation enabling supported decision-making has passed in 20 states.

“The whole philosophy behind supported decision-making is that it’s not a binary world,” Kavanagh said. “In the world of logic, there’s something that’s called a false dichotomy where you say to somebody, ‘Should we do this or that’ or ‘Are you this or that’ because the person who frames the question controls the debate. In a false dichotomy, they structure the debate so that you can only choose between two things, when in reality there could be a third, a fourth or a fifth possibility that’s even more reasonable than the other two.”

Kavanagh said supported decision-making simply says that maybe there is something in between. The person makes their own decisions without any restriction, he said. The bill is moving through the Legislature. Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, who moderated the event, said she hopes the bill will be ready to go to the governor in the next few weeks. 

Sherry Lund, founder of 5-14 Protecting Liberty and a presenter at the town hall, said she has been involved in a probate case involving her son where a trustee took financial advantage of him when a probate court would not protect him or his assets.

“The truth is these abuses do happen and worse, every day,” she said. 5-14 Protecting Liberty is a grassroots coalition of residents who have experienced abuse, separation from loved ones, the loss of individual liberty, personal property, due process and finances in the probate system.

“My family and my son went through a living hell for over eight years in Arizona, fearing my son would lose his freedom, lose control of his assets and possibly not be allowed to see his family again,” Lund said. “Our family was attacked with horrible lies conjured up by attorneys who didn’t see any benefit in telling the truth or finding the truth. There was never any evidence submitted to the court to support the allegations of the petitioners.”

Wadsack said she plans to continue advocating for probate reform. She said she hopes to propose a bill of rights during the 2024 legislative session, which would protect the constitutional rights of vulnerable people, making sure they are informed about the probate process and that they are protected from unscrupulous, unethical and immoral predators.

The bill of rights would allow vulnerable people to live as independently as possible, have medical directives and durable power of attorney respected, preserve family relationships and give them the right to participate in developing an individualized plan for their care, she said.

Full Article & Source:
State legislators host town hall on guardianship abuses and hear brutal realities of probate court

DFPS hosts Crimes Against the Elderly Conference at EPCC

by Fallon Fischer

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) held its "14th annual Crimes Against the Elderly Conference” in El Paso on June 7, 2023, as part of Elder Abuse Awareness Month. (KFOX14/CBS4)

EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14/CBS4) — The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) held its "14th annual Crimes Against the Elderly Conference” in El Paso Wednesday as part of Elder Abuse Awareness Month.

The event at El Paso Community College aimed to help educate the public about the importance of keeping vulnerable seniors safe from abuse and or neglect.

"More and more we're seeing seniors in our community reach the age of 65, that third stage in their life, but so many are being abused, neglected and exploited and they don't know what to do about it, so we thought we'd hold a conference, raise awareness," Adult Protective Services Community Engagement Specialist Grace Ortiz said.

Ortiz said more than 3,000 cases of elderly abuse, neglect and exploitation in the El Paso area in 2022.

"I don't even think it's the tip of the iceberg," said Ortiz.

Ortiz said people can help by checking in on seniors in their life or who live nearby.

To learn more about signs of abuse of elderly individuals or people with disabilities, click here.

If you or someone you know are in need of adult protective services or to report abuse or neglect of the elderly, call 1-800-252-5400 or go to

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month! It's a good reminder for all Texans to look out for and help older adults in our communities.

Full Article & Source:
DFPS hosts Crimes Against the Elderly Conference at EPCC

Friday, June 9, 2023

Senate Judiciary Committee advances bill strengthening guardianship laws

By: Marley Parish

Pennsylvania lawmakers voted to strengthen the state’s guardianship laws, hoping to prevent exploitation when someone is legally appointed to make decisions on another’s behalf.

The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted in favor of legislation — authored by Sens. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, and Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia — creating more checks and balances in the system, which has more than 19,000 active guardianships across the commonwealth.

“Guardianship can be an essential and effective means for safeguarding the interests of people who suffer some incapacity, impairing their ability to make responsible decisions for themselves,” Baker, who chairs the committee, said Tuesday. “Some weaknesses in the system have become apparent, and some sad cases of financial exploitation make reform of the system imperative. This bill will ensure greater accountability in our state’s guardianship system.”

The bill requires the courts to automatically appoint counsel to those going through the guardianship process who don’t already have an attorney and to consider less restrictive options before enacting guardianship. The bill also proposed training, screening, and certification for professional guardians.

Cases such as Britney Spears’s conservatorship have demonstrated how the court-appointed representative’s control strips someone’s ability to make decisions for themselves. Even the Netflix thriller “I Care A Lot” highlighted how the guardianship system can take advantage of older adults.

The legislation was drafted after Haywood’s neighbor, Mark Frisby, was taken advantage of by a guardian and was forced to sell his home in Montgomery County.

Full Article & Source:
Senate Judiciary Committee advances bill strengthening guardianship laws

Supreme Court clears way for family of Medicaid recipient to sue state-owned nursing home

By Ariane de Vogue

CNN  — The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the family of a Medicaid recipient who seeks to file a civil rights lawsuit against a state-owned nursing home, arguing that it violated the rights of their relative who has since died of dementia.

The court’s ruling reaffirmed that individuals can bring such civil rights challenges and will come as a relief to those who feared the conservative-leaning court was poised to overturn precedent and say that state-owned facilities – that accept federal funds in exchange to agreeing to various conditions – are immune from such lawsuits.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Full Article & Source:
Supreme Court clears way for family of Medicaid recipient to sue state-owned nursing home

Adelanto man arrested for elder abuse after punching 75-year-old father

by Victor Valley News Group

ADELANTO, Calif. (
Alexander Torres, a 37-year-old resident of Adelanto, was arrested for elder abuse and resisting an officer, officials said.

On Wednesday, May 31, 2023, at 11:07 a.m., deputies responded to the report of elder abuse in the 18400 block of Thomas Ct.

According to witnesses, Alexander Torres punched his 75-year-old father and then fled the residence. Deputy J. Delano located Torres near Chamberlain Street and Stevens Street. Torres resisted arrest and fought with deputies. After a short foot pursuit, Torres was taken into custody.  

Alexander Torres was arrested for elder abuse and resisting an executive officer. He is currently being held at High Desert Detention Center in lieu of $40,000.00 bail. 

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact Deputy J. Delano, at Victor Valley Sheriff’s Station, 760-552-6800. Callers can remain anonymous and contact We-Tip at 800-78CRIME or

Full Article & Source:
Adelanto man arrested for elder abuse after punching 75-year-old father

Thursday, June 8, 2023

CONSERVATOR CHAOS American Pickers star Frank Fritz’s conservator at risk of removal by judge after star suffers debilitating stroke

by Teresa Roca  

AMERICAN Pickers star Frank Fritz’s conservator is at risk of removal by a judge after the star suffered a debilitating stroke, The U.S. Sun has exclusively learned. 

Frank’s friends filed an emergency appointment of a temporary guardian and conservator for the star on August 18, claiming his decision­-making capacity is impaired after the July stroke at his home in Iowa.

Frank Fritz's conservator is at risk of removal by an Iowa judgeCredit: Coleman-Rayner
An inventory report was not filed by the due date
An inventory report was not filed by the due dateCredit: History Channel

The U.S. Sun has exclusively obtained court papers that reveal a “Notice of Delinquency for Conservatorships" was filed on June 2.

An inventory report was not filed by the due date of December 12, 2022. 

The court papers read: “Failure to file the same within sixty (60) days from the date hereof will result in: (1) a report being made to the presiding judge (2) the fiduciary(ies) being subject to removal (3) a report being made to the Chief Judge of the Judicial District and the Administrator of the Judicial Branch, and (4) a report being made to the Committee on Professional Ethics and Conduct (which may result in disciplinary action being taken).”

According to the court filing, MidWestOne Bank is the conservator, while Frank’s friend, Chris Davis, is the guardian.


The U.S. Sun broke the news that the conservatorship was filed in August 2022. 

The documents obtained by The U.S. Sun 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 decision­-making 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, allegedly 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. 

The guardian will help Frank with his Crohn's disease treatment and continued physical therapy. 

He will also help the former American Pickers star grocery shop, cook, and get him to any activity he feels up to doing.


MidWestOne Bank filed an Initial Plan that revealed Frank’s monthly expenses.

Frank spends $28,292 monthly on expenses, including $22,832 on in-home health care.

The health care alone will cost $273,984 yearly for the star.

The U.S. Sun recently obtained new photos of Frank’s property that show a wheelchair ramp has been built for him.

The wheelchair ramp could be seen around the back of the Le Claire, Iowa, house.


Frank has struggled with his health in recent months as The U.S. Sun has exclusively obtained four 911 calls placed from the house, resulting in Frank being rushed to the hospital. 

On November 17, Frank’s caregiver called 911 because he was having a seizure.

She told the operator: “He just came home from inpatient rehab for a stroke. He just had a full-blown seizure, maybe more than one… He's been shaking.”

She then asked the operator if there is anything she can do to help him, as she was transferred to medical. 

On December 7, another caregiver called 911 for elevated blood pressure. 

She said on the call: “I have a 59-year-old stroke victim with elevated blood pressure.”

You could hear Frank moan in the background, as she could be heard telling him: “You have to go because your blood pressure is too high."

He responded: "Oh."

In the final two calls, another caregiver called 911 on December 21 for possible pneumonia.

Frank’s guardian then called the next day. 

He said in the call: "I'm going to need an ambulance to take someone to the hospital because I think they have pneumonia. I'm the guardian. He's handicapped. He's wheelchair bound."


Frank last appeared on American Pickers during a March 2020 episode, as he took time off to recover from back surgery, which left him with 185 stitches and two rods in his spine. 

During his time off the show, Frank lost 65 pounds.

He also told The U.S. Sun that he entered rehab for alcohol addiction in Iowa for 77 days.

Frank revealed his feud with co-star Mike during the 2021 interview with The U.S. Sun.

Frank said: “I haven’t talked to Mike in two years. He knew my back was messed up, but he didn’t call me up and ask how I was doing. That’s just how it is.

"The show is tilted towards him 1,000 percent. I can’t even bend that far down to show you how much.

"That’s fine. It’s like you’ve got Aerosmith and there’s Steven Tyler and he’s the frontman. I found my spot, I’m second and he’s number one on the show. That’s no problem with me, maybe he does have a problem.”

He even admitted: “I think Mike wants to get his brother Robbie in there to replace me. I don’t know why he’s behaving like that towards me."


But a friend told The Quad-City Times that Frank and Mike had a tearful reunion over Memorial Day Weekend. 

The pal said: "This was not a feud between Mike and Frank at all. They were not feuding. They needed separation to appreciate each other."

The friend explained that the longtime buddies' relationship became tense after 11 seasons of working 10-hour days, seven days a week on the reality TV show.

She informed the newspaper that Mike and Frank were both in tears during their long-awaited reunion.

The friend disclosed: "Both were crying," before adding that: “Mike brought up how nervous they both were to be going on David Letterman, which was one of their first big appearances."

Mike told his former co-star: "Nobody can replace you, Frank," while admitting that it was Frank’s "uniquely funny personality" that contributed to them working so well together for the 11 years they spent making the show.

The arrangements were made after Frank told the friend: "I need to talk to Mike,” so she called the TV personality on Mother's Day to make the plans.

The insider ended: "Mike really stressed all the good times they had before the show and during the show.

"Mike did say he’d like Frank back on the show, but Frank is focused on his health."

Frank suffered a stroke in July
Frank suffered a stroke in JulyCredit: Coleman-Rayner
His conservator and guardian made changes to his Iowa home, including adding a wheelchair ramp
His conservator and guardian made changes to his Iowa home, including adding a wheelchair rampCredit: The US Sun
Frank and his former co-star Mike Wolfe recently had a tearful reunion after years of feuding
Frank and his former co-star Mike Wolfe recently had a tearful reunion after years of feuding

Full Article & Source:
CONSERVATOR CHAOS American Pickers star Frank Fritz’s conservator at risk of removal by judge after star suffers debilitating stroke

See Also:
PAY UP American Pickers alum Frank Fritz’s conservatorship lawyer demands to be paid $2K for his services in tragic case

Frank Fritz, of 'American Pickers,' under guardianship after stroke

FRANK'S FATE American Pickers alum Frank Fritz’s judge makes major ruling in conservatorship case after star suffers from stroke

Lincolnshire nursing home faces violations from fall caught on camera

By Jason Knowles

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (WLS) -- A Lincolnshire nursing home is facing violations for an incident caught on camera, and numerous complaints.

Family members said the fall that was caught on camera shouldn't have happened. The Wellshire Warren Barr nursing home Is now under new management, but that change may have caused another set of problems.

In the video, an 87-year-old resident falls face-first to the ground.

"It kills me inside because you don't want to see your family member go through this," said Andrea Contreras.

Contreras said she was called to Wellshire Warren Barr nursing home after her mother, Marilyn Glass, fell out of her wheelchair in April of 2022.

"There was no foot petals on my mother's wheelchair. They actually pulled the wheelchair from the front and jerked enough, where she just went flying forward and landed on her face," Contreras said.

When Contreras arrived, she said she was told a doctor had not yet seen her mother. So she asked employees to call 911 and she called the police.

"It's horrible that should never happen to any family members of yours ever or anybody that you know. You expect people to take care of your family," she said.

Lincolnshire police made a report and obtained the video of Glass's fall. The Illinois Department of Public Health investigated and found the facility "failed to ensure a wheelbound resident was transported in a safe manner."

Glass's care plan states she is at high risk for falls and is "to have leg rests on at all times during transport," and while she is "in her wheelchair, to make sure her footrests are on for safety."

IDPH found Wellshire in violation of Improper Nursing Care and Resident Injury, and fined them $1,100.

The ABC7 I-Team contacted the nursing home, which recently changed ownership. The new owners declined to comment. The previous owners, who were in charge during Glass's fall, did not reply to the I-Team's request for comment.

As the nursing home changed ownership on May 1, there was also a scare for patients' family members. Families of residents called police and state officials saying there was not enough medical staff onsite to care for patients

"They were calling 911 just to get their parents out because they needed care," said Ceil Barrie.

"You have a responsibility, licensed by the state, to provide care, and you didn't do it," said David Blair, who had his mother moved from the nursing home.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the I-Team obtained the IDPH investigation reporting the day of staff absence at the facility, which is now called Wealshire Center of Excellence.

While the incident is "still under review," the report states that for the 108 residents there was no medical director on staff, there were no licensed nurses in the building from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., multiple residents were taken to the hospital or home by family, due to lack of care patients did not receive their morning medications and due to lack of staff patients did not get out of bed.

A spokesperson for the new owners sent a statement, saying, "The Wealshire in Lincolnshire has been under new management and is cooperating with the Illinois Department of Public Health's review. The facility is fully staffed and meets all state requirements for care."

Contreras said she's upset over the absence of sufficient staff during the transition, and about her mother's wheelchair fall.

"I have to be strong for her. She can't do that, and she would want me to do the right thing for her and for others," she said.

Contreras said her mother is still in the same nursing home facility, but she is looking at options to possibly move her. However, there are challenges with finding her mother a new home because she lives out of state.

Full Article & Source:
Lincolnshire nursing home faces violations from fall caught on camera

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Wendy Williams' Son Comes Forward To Say She's Being Exploited In Bombshell First Interview

From Perez Hilton's site:

Wendy Williams
‘ son is relaying serious concerns about his beloved mother’s health and well-being.

For the first time in his life, Kevin Hunter Jr. has come forward to deliver a new interview about his world-famous mother. The 22-year-old man spoke to the US Sun in a feature published early on Monday morning. In it, the 58-year-old star’s grown child expressed explicit concerns about his mother’s safety.

Kevin — who Wendy shares with her ex, Kevin Hunter Sr. — spoke about quite a few aspects of her life, her behind-the-scenes connections, and some of her recent issues. Here are all the shocking and heartbreaking highlights from the longform feature on what’s been going on with the Wendy Williams Show alum…

Left In The Dark

For one, Kevin slammed the people in Wendy’s inner circle. Specifically, Kevin called out three people on the matter. The first is Will Selby, Wendy’s “jeweler-turned-manager,” as noted by the daytime TV star’s concerned son. The second is Wendy’s PR rep Shawn Zanotti, and the third is Wendy’s legal guardian Sabrina Morrissey, who took over the star’s financial affairs in May of last year. Explaining his concerns, he said:

“I know there are all sorts of things happening that I know in her right mind she would never agree to. As hard as it is seeing her being taken advantage of, I know that if I’m making sure she, as a person, is OK, that is the important thing. Because eventually, she’s going to realize the craziness that’s been going on.”

As of Monday morning’s interview, Kevin claimed none of the three had told him Wendy had been released from the hospital after her most recent health scares. Nor had they allegedly indicated to the star’s son that she was apparently moved out of New York during that process.

Kevin is now worried that the group around Wendy is keeping him in the dark in order to profit off the star power of the longtime television host and former radio shock jock:

“What’s been made more important by the people around her is that while her health may not be great, she needs to keep on earning income, and in my opinion that should not be a priority at all. And whoever has been hired — they are taking advantage of someone who needs to get better.”

Alcohol Issues

Chief among Kevin’s concerns is the persistent issue of his mom’s alcohol use. He plainly told the US Sun on Monday that he is worried about Wendy’s inability to cut off her drinking at this point in her life:

“I know the rate that she uses alcohol isn’t like a normal person — and we’ve spoken about it. I’ve said, ‘this is one thing where you don’t know how to approach it normally, and that’s fine.’ And it’s gotten to a point where yes, it could have that effect that it might be fatal because it affects her way worse than a normal person since it stays in her system.”

So scary…

He brought it back to the people who are allegedly in control of Wendy’s life and career, too:

“There are a lot of people who are very aware that there is an issue with her drinking, and how that issue may be helped, but I think these people are taking advantage of it while allowing it to play out to make it look like they aren’t causing the issue.”

Of course, Wendy spent almost three months in a rehab facility in Malibu, California last fall. As far as Kevin is concerned, though, that nearly 90-day stay didn’t do all it needed to for his embattled mother.

‘Taking Advantage’

Regarding said rehab stay, Kevin claims his mom allegedly signed contracts “either during or immediately after her stay” to take on Selby as her manager. That worries the young man, who believes his mom was put in a difficult position during a tough time:

“They had her in a position where she was agreeing to a lot that she shouldn’t have. When I heard that, that turned me off. In trying to attempt to know what everyone’s intention is around her, at first, I was like, okay this is the team she wants to have around. But once I heard that she was agreeing to stuff around her rehab, I thought, ‘well OK, they are taking advantage.'”

Kevin is also incensed at what he feels are Wendy’s team members encouraging and emboldening her drinking.

Back in the spring, Wendy was shown out at a bar in social media clips. After those snaps were published, Zanotti released a statement calling the night out a “celebration” for the daytime TV legend. Kevin is concerned about that angle on Wendy’s drinking, and believes it is too permissive:

“If they aren’t providing it, they are definitely enabling a type of personality and giving her the green light to drink. They’re just putting their hands up. When someone’s hired help, it’s very easy to just allow certain things to play out. As much as someone may try to say that they’re there for somebody if you’re being hired to be there, there is only so much you could say.”

He went on to add:

“I never want to shame anybody, but in terms of asking if that person is there so that my mom can be the healthiest person and have a long career, stuff like that, they aren’t in it for that. They are just there for the here and now.”

He’s clearly put a lot of consideration into this, as he concluded:

“I don’t want any of this to come across that I am mad at anyone. They don’t know the situation fully and there are times when she does talk that she may sound coherent enough, and they may think, ‘OK, she just wants to have fun.’ And for that reason, I will never have hate — even with the hired help — everyone is just trying to take care of themselves- it is what it is.”

Pursuing New Projects?

At the very end of last year, Kevin says Selby — who the young man calls “the jeweler” — came to him about appearing in an “unscripted project” Wendy was set to film.

Kevin balked at that idea at the time, as he explained:

“The jeweler reached out to me last year and he basically said, ‘we are planning on this [project] being a way that would tell the public about what’s happening.’ I was opposed to it. I felt like, and I still feel like, she shouldn’t be doing anything that involves putting herself in front of the camera. It goes back to putting working first, and herself second. I was then reapproached by the production, not by Will directly, a second time, and I just said, ‘no.'”

Kevin went on to explain that he was cut off from his mother’s funds after Morrissey took over as the star’s financial guardian back in May of last year. So, it seemed Selby was dangling the carrot to get Kevin to be involved in the unscripted project for a much-needed payday:

“They tried to offer me $25,000 to appear [in the project] with an Executive Producer credit. And I chose to not do it for the simple fact that I just felt like however this came about was under a contract she shouldn’t have agreed to, for a project that wouldn’t paint her in a good light.”

For his part, Selby denies the allegations made by Kevin regarding this project, though. When contacted by the US Sun, the jeweler-turned-manager first said:

“No comment because half of this stuff isn’t even true, majority of this is false.”

Then, when asked for clarification, Will insisted he was with Kevin in Miami back in April, and the pair spoke about the proposed project then:

“I was in Miami with Kevin. I forced him to have a conversation because he seemed a little disgruntled. I spoke to him face to face, 1000%. I was like, ‘if there’s a problem, let’s talk. If there’s an issue, let’s have a conversation.'”

But when the outlet made “yet another request for comment” about what Kevin was being untruthful about, Selby again turned down laying out his side of the story:

“There is so much here that is inaccurate it’s really not worth me commenting.”

As for Zanotti, BTW, the publicist reportedly declined to comment “multiple times” on this article.


Guardian Woes

Kevin also spoke about Morrissey’s role in Wendy’s life, too. The concerned son referenced the time Wendy’s bank accounts were frozen by Wells Fargo, and lamented how she’s allegedly being influenced:

“It’s been really sad what’s been allowed to happen, and ever since the court hearings ended, something just has to be brought to light about what’s going on and how much people are taking in this situation. In terms of who is there now, people have put other things in front of her actually healing and getting better, and unfortunately, unlike many other alcoholics, she is worth a lot more money.”

He went on to add this allegation specifically about Morrissey’s financial role in Wendy’s life:

“I know that Sabrina has a relationship with the jeweler, and I would assume though that they are cool with each other. This is how this was created. And it seems like it’s more about making sure he is OK. I don’t know what the ultimate goal is for [Sabrina] as the person in charge of stuff, but there have never been articles put out saying [Wendy] isn’t OK.”

And Kevin also slammed the financial guardian for her “really vague” updates about his mother:

“I don’t feel like Sabrina has done a great job at all. I think that based on her actions, I’d have to assume something is going on that she’s not telling me. Whether it be that she is receiving income on the side or what, but there is a lot of her pushing away of myself and everybody down here, and saying that she’s not going give updates. She’s really vague with updates.”


Per the US Sun, Morrissey also did not respond to a request for comment on the piece.

Hoping For The Best

At the end of the day, Kevin is hopeful things can soon make a turn for the better.

He wants his mom to “prioritize her health first,” as he explained:

“I think that it’s best for her to have to prioritize her health first. Nobody around her will tell her this, but she doesn’t have to be working. She needs to take a break from trying to progress her career and just be proud of what she’s accomplished. … I am hoping and praying that the people who are up there [in New York] with her right now don’t lead her down the path to where something can’t happen to help her. If there was a way or if there was a plan I could think of I wouldn’t be here doing this interview. I would be doing something that I could do.”

And he concluded with a hopeful but concerning refrain:

“I’m praying that whoever is in control now doesn’t ruin whatever hope there is for her to get back up again.”


There’s a lot to take in here, no doubt. You can read the full interview HERE.

Full Article & Source:
Wendy Williams' Son Comes Forward To Say She's Being Exploited In Bombshell First Interview

Nursing home with history of problems once again under microscope after resident dies

Source: WBRZ
By: Chris Nakamoto 

NEW ROADS — A nursing home with a history of problems is once again at the center of controversy after a family alleges their loved one died due to the neglect she endured there.

Brad Guerin said he began documenting problem after problem at Pointe Coupee Healthcare, after visiting his 96-year-old grandmother every day.

"She had several issues," Guerin said. "They were leaving her with vomit covered in her bed. They would drop her food trays. They didn't replace them when they dropped them. They would bring food in and not feed her and even after she had a stroke. They would leave it out of her reach."

Guerin said after being in the facility for a few days, Ruby Guerin developed a large bed sore on her foot, deep into her flesh. Her fingernails looked like she had been playing in the dirt. He even captured videos of flies on her face.

"Every time I met with the administrator, initially, it was 'We are sorry,'" Guerin said. "We are trying to educate our staff. That led to meetings with the director and finally the regional director. Then they said, yeah, we know we have a bad reputation here and said it's a chicken-and-an-egg problem. They told me they don't know how to get a good reputation without good nurses, and don't know how to get good nurses with a bad reputation ... like I'm supposed to answer that problem."

In 2020, the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed a number of problems at the facility.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit found the facility has a history of problems. According to inspection reports available for public viewing then, Pointe Coupee Healthcare had had 13 recent violations, and the facility was fined in August 2019, $36,000 for failing to timely report suspected abuse and neglect. In 2018, the home was also cited for violating federal standards protecting residents from the spread of infections.

As of June 2023, the number of deficiencies have increased to 35.

Due to the problems, Guerin said he filed complaints with the Louisiana Department of Health, which confirmed its investigating.

"We deserve better for our seniors here, and this place should be shut down," Guerin said. "Hopefully our local leaders will look into this seriously this time ... more seriously than 2020 because three years later nothing has changed."

WBRZ reached out to the facility for a response to this story. We did not hear back.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home with history of problems once again under microscope after resident dies

Lake County Sheriff's deputies save elderly heart attack victim

 Two Lake County Sheriff's deputies are being lauded as heroes after providing life-saving aid to an elderly man who had a heart attack. 

On Monday, May 22, deputies Dustin Majewski and Bucyrus Palo were on patrol near the area of the Cambridge Condominiums on Mentor Avenue in Painesville Township when they responded to a 911 call. 

The elderly man had collapsed outside of his residence and was found unresponsive. The deputies worked together to administer CPR until the man started breathing again. 

Shortly after his breathing started, the Painesville Township Fire Department took over aiding the man and transported him to the Tri-Point hospital. 

A doctor at the hospital later spoke to the deputies, telling them that had they not been at the scene to begin CPR, the man would not have survived. 

He is currently listed in critical condition. 

Lake County Sheriff's deputies save elderly heart attack victim

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Calls to overhaul Maine probate courts have stalled for half a century. The most vulnerable people may be at risk.

By Samantha Hogan

Some probate courts say they don’t know how many adults are in guardianships or whether they’re still alive.

Judge David Paris runs the Sagadahoc County Probate Court without a permanent courtroom. Paris wasn't even provided a robe, his wife ordered him a set online. He holds hearings in the county commissioners’ room, grand jury room or even the lunchroom. Still, he says, he runs his court like any other judge and as professionally as he can. Photo by Fred J. Field.

Norman Fisher’s enemy lived within him.

If he didn’t properly mix two medications each day, his diabetes would attack his body and mind. Once, his out-of-control blood sugar left him so delirious that he drove his car into a ditch.

For two decades, support staffers defended Fisher against the disease by helping him organize his medications and buying his groceries. But in late 2014, the people assisting the Biddeford man, who was mentally disabled, said he needed more help than they could provide.

With none of Fisher’s family able to step in as his caretaker, the York County Probate Court turned to the program of “last resort,” a public guardianship administered by the state. The state assigned him two public guardians at different times during the next four years, and they were responsible for making all medical and housing decisions for him.

Those guardians submitted one-page reports once a year to the probate judge overseeing Fisher’s case, but the reports offer little detail of his care: How often the guardians went to see him. If they talked to Fisher about his medications. Whether they knew his needs and wants.

There’s also no evidence in the court records that the probate judge raised questions, even after each guardian submitted virtually identical reports two years in a row.

Then, in August 2019, Fisher was taken to a hospital and released to a home for adults with disabilities, one run by Residential and Community Support Services (RCSS), where the workers didn’t properly administer his medications, according to court records.

Within 72 hours, Fisher was dead.

“Norman’s death was the type of death that you really hope won’t ever happen,” said Rory Robb, a now-retired director of Community Partners, which ran an independent living program that supported Fisher.

Two RCSS workers were charged in Fisher’s death and their cases are pending, but little attention has been paid to the probate court system that oversaw his guardianship.

The tragedy was yet another blemish in a decades-long history of Maine’s probate courts — a collection of 16 part-time county judges whose independent operations are unique in Maine’s judiciary. 

For nearly 56 years, state lawmakers, county officials and probate judges have rejected plans to overhaul the structure of and increase funding for Maine’s county probate courts. Legal experts say the probate courts need to become part of the state’s judicial branch to protect Maine’s most vulnerable residents — people like Fisher.

State law gives county probate judges the authority to approve adult guardianships, handing them the responsibility to select the people who will decide about the care of seniors deemed incapacitated, adults with disabilities and people with debilitating mental illness.

Yet probate courts don’t have sufficient budgets or employees to consistently screen, train or monitor the guardians they appoint, the Monitor found.

There is such a lack of oversight that multiple probate courts don’t know how many guardianships they have approved, or even whether the people they are responsible for are still alive, an ongoing investigation by The Maine Monitor found.

Nor do the courts employ full-time investigators whose sole job would be to follow up on guardianships to make sure the individuals are being treated well.

Lawmakers tried to improve oversight by revising the state’s probate laws in 2019. The new law reflects the conclusion of experts nationally who said probate courts need to pay closer attention to guardianships, said Deirdre Smith, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law and former director of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, which helps people navigate the probate courts.

“There needs to be very robust oversight by the judge to make sure people aren’t exploited,” Smith said. “We certainly heard plenty of instances of that kind of exploitation with guardianship appointments.”

Robb, whose career for decades centered on working with vulnerable people and their guardians, added: “There’s no real oversight of guardians.”

A unique system

Maine’s probate courts stand alone. They are not a part of the state judicial branch. Their judges are part-time and elected, which bypasses the state’s review and appointment process for all other judges. They operate largely autonomously from each other and the state supreme court. County-funded and county-run, probate courts operate on shoestring budgets, with judges paid as little as $25,000 a year and few court administrators.

Every state has a probate system, and in Maine it has growing importance: The state of nearly 1.4 million people has the oldest population in the country and the highest percentage of people over age 65. Beyond guardianships, Maine’s probate courts also oversee estates, wills and name changes.

A diagram that shows the set up of Maine's court system. The Superior Court Chief Justice, the District Court Chief Judge and Deputy Chief Judge, and the Administrative Court Judge all report to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice. County probate judges are shown in the diagram as being off on their own, not reporting to the Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice.
Maine’s county-run probate courts are the only courts that are not a part of the state judicial branch. A 1986 illustration in the Commission to Study Family Matters in Court report shows the separation of the state courts and county probate courts.

Guardianship is the most intrusive arrangement the probate court can order. It restricts an adult’s right to make choices about where to live, medications to take, friends to visit or how money is spent, and instead delegates those decisions to another person. Guardians are an unpaid position but they can get reimbursed for fees.

Approximately 1,200 adults are currently subject to a public guardianship through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Like Fisher, they have no family willing or able to manage their medical, financial or social needs as they age or because of disability. 

In addition, hundreds if not thousands more adults are under the guardianship of family members or friends appointed by probate courts. The exact number of adults in guardianships in Maine is unknown because several probate courts said they don’t track it. 

A top court administrator in Androscoggin County said there were simply “thousands” of guardianships in the county. An administrator in Piscataquis County said she had “no idea.” 

The Cumberland County Probate Court acknowledged it has lost track of an unknown number — potentially thousands — of incapacitated adults and doesn’t know whether some are still alive. 

The change to state law in 2019 required new guardians to file a report each year with the probate court to update the judge on the well-being of the adult in their care. Guardians appointed before the law change also are encouraged to check in periodically but are not required to update the court.

“Unfortunately, without them staying in contact with the court, there’s no way of knowing where they’re living or if they’re alive or dead,” said Erica Rickards, deputy register at the Cumberland County Probate Court.

Kennebec, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties are exceptions and were able to provide a count of active guardianships when asked by the Monitor. On Friday, workers at the York County Probate Court said they had learned how to close guardianship cases. It would take a manual review of files, however, to determine what cases were still active.

Smith pointed to the new requirement for guardians to file an annual report as as step forward, but that doesn’t mean the standards are being implemented consistently across the state.

“We need to make sure that we have someone who’s available to actually read (guardian reports) and to take steps if something concerning is raised. I don’t see how our probate judges possibly have time to do that,” Smith said.

The Maine Monitor sent a survey to the 16 county probate courts and received responses from 10 that revealed some probate judges and registers do little to assess the fitness of a guardian before or after they are appointed. 

Only three probate courts that responded run background checks on prospective guardians to see whether they have been convicted of a crime. None of the responding probate courts run credit checks to see if the guardian filed for bankruptcy, which must be disclosed by the applicant. State law says guardians must have “regular” visits, although none of the probate courts that responded have policies about how frequent those visits should be.

The state doesn’t cap the number of adults a public guardian is responsible for at once. But generally public guardians employed by the Department of Health and Human Services are responsible for approximately 25 “clients,” adults subject to a guardianship order from a probate court, wrote Jackie Farwell, spokeswoman for the department in response to questions from the Monitor.

They must meet with their clients in-person at least once every 60 days, although the goal is to not go longer than a month, she said. Unlike family members who agree to be guardians and undergo no mandatory training, public guardians receive some training and have ongoing supervision from the state.

Although the department coordinates Maine’s public guardianship program, the regular oversight of guardianships is the court’s job, she said.

“The probate courts are responsible for oversight of all adult guardianships,” Farwell wrote.

Fewer than a dozen workers run each county probate court. Several counties reported having just three court employees, some part-time. 

Each probate court is supported by a handful of volunteers — typically retired social workers or lawyers — that the probate judges can assign for a small fee as “visitors” to evaluate whether a guardianship is appropriate. Each county also budgets money each year to appoint lawyers to represent adults at risk of losing their rights.

The Monitor spoke with eight county probate judges, who all said they believe they are doing a good job. They lauded their efficiency compared to the state courts, and while acknowledging they lacked money, many said being a judge was a public service they took seriously.

“At least in this county, we give people very good and quick service. I think if they got people in the state system, they wouldn’t be as quick and efficient,” said Judge Paul Aranson of Cumberland County.

Judge Paul Aranson is at the Cumberland County Probate Court in Portland, Maine three days a week as its part-time judge. Photo by Fred J. Field.

Probate courts are supposed to monitor reports by family and public guardians to ensure they are caring for the adult for whom they are responsible, according to state law. 

Yet Robb, who retired in 2018 before yearly guardian reports were required by the state, said oversight of guardianships was basically “non-existent.” As for the Fisher case, she said there were failures in several aspects of his care, even though the law enforcement investigation zeroed in on two care workers. 

Asked if probate courts have a responsibility to keep a closer watch on guardianship cases, she said:

“There is no follow-through. That’s why I can’t point the finger at the judge and say, ‘You are responsible,’ because it’s not built into the current system,” Robb said. “The system needs to be revamped to see what kind of oversight the court should be providing once they’ve awarded guardianship.”

A state review concluded that serious medical neglect by workers at RCSS led to Fisher’s death in August 2019. The state moved quickly to terminate its contract with the company.

A few weeks before his death, Fisher was already in a dire situation. His Biddeford apartment was infested with bed bugs, according to court records. The people who were supposed to help him refused to go inside, and the independent living program discharged him from its care before Fisher was moved to RCSS. For three weeks, Fisher’s blood sugar was erratic and his public guardian didn’t report the conditions to the probate court. Instead, on July 26, 2019, he filed the same report as the year before, which did not mention those issues.

The probate judge had the power to demand the guardian come into court and provide more detail about Fisher’s well being, but there is no evidence in the court file that he did so. And soon after, it was too late.

Carol Lovejoy has worked in the York County Probate Court for 43 years, including 19 as the elected register. After a Monitor reporter reviewed the details of Fisher’s case with her, Lovejoy said no one is assigned to check whether guardians are duplicating past reports. She added that the probate court plans to hire a paralegal whose duties may include checking for duplicate reports.

“We don’t necessarily read every report that comes in — the staff doesn’t,” Lovejoy said. “We give it to the judge, so I would hope that the judge would catch that.” 

The York County probate judge in Fisher’s guardianship, Bryan Chabot, declined to answer questions about the specifics of Fisher’s case, but said that he and the court staff had protocols in place if a guardian’s reporting seemed lacking. Chabot has not been accused of wrongdoing. The state investigation of Fisher’s death does not appear to have included a review of the judge’s role, and the state declined to comment further. 

Low pay, big responsibility

In Sagadahoc County, David Paris runs the probate court without a permanent courtroom. His office is on the third floor of the county building in Bath. The state courts lease a courtroom in the same building, but Paris isn’t allowed to use it, he said.

Sometimes, Paris presides over adoptions in the county commissioners’ meeting room downstairs. He holds hearings in the grand jury room when it’s available. If a virtual meeting needs to happen, he holds court from the lunchroom.

Paris didn’t even receive robes when he was elected in November 2020. His wife ordered him a set online for less than $100.

“I run it like any other judge would run their court. I run it as professionally as I can,” Paris said.

Probate judge candidates must be licensed to practice law and reside in the state. They are elected by county residents to serve four-year terms.

After 30 years of private practice doing criminal and civil litigation in the state’s district, superior and supreme courts, becoming a judge was on Paris’ bucket list. He said he didn’t believe he had the political connections to be appointed to the state courts, so he chose to campaign for probate judge.

“I’ve got to go out and beat the street and earn it from the people. I’ve got to tell the people, ‘This is why I can do the job.’ The other ones, a lot of times, people will be tapped on the shoulders,” Paris said. “You’ll see where judges go from never being in the courtroom to the law court.”

Paris is being paid approximately $37,500 this year. The median probate judge salary in Maine was approximately $36,200 in 2021, according to a state study commission that looked at moving probate courts into the state judicial branch.

Piscataquis County pays its probate judge the least, just $25,000 a year. Most counties also provide health insurance and retirement benefits to the elected, part-time officials, although Sagadahoc County doesn’t. 

Members of the 2021 study commission proposed that probate judges be made full-time and paid the same as a district court judge — currently $145,642 a year — if the probate courts were moved into the judicial branch. 

Their pay would be below the national median judge salary of $168,761, according to the National Center for State Courts. Maine consistently ranks among the lowest in the nation for judicial compensation, even without factoring in probate judges. 

“The salary of the probate (judge) can’t sustain a lawyer,” said Paris, who continues to work in private practice.

“They should stay on the bench”

No Maine law or rule of professional conduct requires elected judges to close their law offices or stop private practice. In fact, there is a special carveout in Maine’s judicial rules for probate judges to practice law. Critics say it creates, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Most probate judges in Maine have an active practice in criminal, civil, real estate or probate law, according to a review by the Monitor. Some probate judges have agreed not to appear in each other’s courtrooms to represent clients in contested probate cases, but the agreements are nonbinding and unenforceable. 

Practicing in the state court system also has never been off-limits to probate judges, creating situations that are, at the least, awkward for the attorneys involved, some lawyers said.

As a lawyer, Elizabeth Stout represented clients in state court and probate court in southern Maine for 30 years. During one case in the Biddeford District Court, her opposing counsel was Robert Nadeau, who was the York County probate judge. Nadeau and Stout heatedly argued in district court, and the case became more contentious than it needed to be, she said. Later, Stout found herself arguing on behalf of another client to the same man, but this time he was the judge.

“It’s just really uncomfortable,” Stout said.

Nadeau held a position of power as a judge, and Stout said she didn’t want to anger him in a way that could affect a future client. She said Nadeau appeared fair during her future cases, but his dual roles were a concern.

“Why are they appearing as litigants? They should stay on the bench if they’re on the bench,” Stout said.

Nadeau was suspended from practicing law by the state supreme court in 2017 for multiple violations of Maine’s judicial ethics rules while he was the county probate judge. He did not return a voicemail request for comment.

It doesn’t look good to lawyers or their clients when an elected probate judge appears as a lawyer in another county probate court, said retired state supreme court Associate Justice Ellen Gorman. 

When serving on the state supreme court from 2007 to 2022, Gorman saw instances in which a probate judge could have benefited from training. In some cases, probate judges failed or refused to create a complete record of what had happened in a case, or appeared unfamiliar with the probate code, she said. But because probate judges work as lawyers, the state courts did not think it was appropriate to train them alongside the other judges, she said. 

“When you are not devoting all of your time to being a judge, it is hard to maintain the level of professionalism and education of law that is necessary for the position. I have the utmost respect for the probate judges. It’s not that they are incapable of the work; it is that the time is not provided to them. The amount of time they have available to them to be judges is simply not sufficient,” Gorman said.

State considers consolidating probate courts

Maine voters passed a constitutional amendment in November 1967 to get rid of part-time probate judges and replace them with full-time judges, but the amendment never went into effect.

State lawmakers have disagreed about what to do for nearly 56 years. 

The studies they commissioned, including the most recent one in 2021, reach the same broad conclusion: Probate judges should be full-time to eliminate the appearance of a conflict that occurs because they are practicing lawyers. The recommendations also urge the probate courts to become part of the judicial branch.

A bill in 2022 to reduce the 16 part-time judges to nine full-time judges was passed by the House and Senate, but wasn’t funded and Gov. Janet Mills never signed it into law.

“Personally, I continue to feel that implementing the 2021 plan is a goal. I think the new system would both fulfill the constitutional amendment and benefit the people of Maine,” said Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cape Elizabeth), a chair of the legislative Judiciary Committee.

Consolidation of the probate courts under the most recent proposal would mean that several counties would no longer have a local probate court. Some say that would be a good thing, because it would even out the workload across counties with smaller populations.

“The volume of probate court work varies, and some counties do not have enough probate work to keep a full-time judge busy,” Carney said.

The price tag for the state to run the probate courts was estimated by legislative analysts to be $7.4 million annually, compared to the $5.1 million counties collectively spent to operate them in 2022. 

Counties have resisted moving the probate courts under the control of the state because of the increased cost and a fear of losing local control, said Michael Carpenter, a former state lawmaker and lawyer in Aroostook County who is a critic of the current set-up.

“Courts should be above local control. Local control is about electing your school board, electing your town council and that sort of thing. It’s not about, it shouldn’t be about, interpreting the law, in my opinion,” Carpenter said.

The debate over state control of probate courts re-emerges every few years, and the effort to move forward always has stalled because of money, said Peter Baldacci, who is in his 35th year as a Penobscot County commissioner. County leaders are skeptical of the strings that will come attached to any deal for the state to take over paying for probate judges, lawyers and visitors, he said.

“The more that the state pays, the more they have an ability to say how to operate,” Baldacci said.

The probate courts’ independence from state courts and each other has been criticized for creating a lack of uniformity among the probate courts. Processes vary county to county. There is no chief probate judge to set standards. There is no central administrative office and no collective money for the probate courts to use to implement systemic reforms.

An “assembly” of the state’s 16 probate judges does, however, meet twice a year to discuss policy and legal matters. 

The state government’s “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t address the counties’ differences, Baldacci said. There’s mistrust among county leaders that the state also will eventually seek control of the probate court’s top elected administrators, called registers. Or that the probate courts won’t be a permanent part of the judicial branch budget, and funding will become an annual fight between state leaders and county commissioners, he said.

The state court system has its own problems. Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill said earlier this year that Maine’s judicial branch was “frail” amid a record backlog of unresolved criminal and civil cases, and high turnover of judges. 

“They need to take care of their house before they expand into probate,” Baldacci said.

Counties go without resources

On a recent Wednesday morning, neat stacks of files sat on Judge Paul Aranson’s desk as he readied for a day of cases at the Cumberland County Probate Court.

Inside the files were doctor’s notes and guardianship plans submitted by family members seeking to take responsibility for a loved one’s care. Other files contained letters from parents seeking to regain guardianship of minor children, or adults asking to end the state’s control of their medical, financial and social decisions. 

Aranson’s mornings are scheduled in 20-minute increments. He checks the status of cases remotely on Google Meets or in person in his courtroom, a place with decorative ceilings, thick red curtains and a large wooden dais where he sits behind a wall of Plexiglass installed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many of the cases are confidential, there are rows of benches for observers.

During one of the morning’s cases, Aranson struck up a conversation with a man in his mid-20s about the man’s part-time job at Home Depot and why the Boston Celtics are doing so poorly. The man’s parents were petitioning to be appointed as his legal guardians. After a few minutes, Aranson decided to appoint a lawyer to represent the man before deciding the guardianship question.

At 72, Aranson is mostly retired from private practice and is several decades removed from being the county’s district attorney. He is at the courthouse three days a week, which is more often than most judges. 

Probate Judge Paul Aranson listens to justifications for why multiple adults are in need of guardianship in Cumberland County. He sits at his desk behind a Plexiglass wall that was installed during COVID-19. Photo by Fred J. Field.

Cumberland County’s probate court in downtown Portland has as many, if not more, resources than any other county in the state. And still, it’s not enough to ensure the court maintains contact with each incapacitated adult in its jurisdiction. 

Since September 2019, Aranson has authorized approximately 712 guardianships or conservatorships that provide financial oversight to individuals. But there are thousands more from before his time on the bench that court administrators said they do not track or have regular — or sometimes any — contact with the guardian or adult. 

The court workers often don’t even know whether those people are still alive. 

One Cumberland County worker keeps a spreadsheet of recent guardianships to track reports that guardians are supposed to submit, the deputy register said. If a guardian fails to file the annual report, they are scheduled for court to explain the deficiency and could be stripped of their guardianship.

Other courts also are dealing with a shortage of workers and money to handle the guardianships.

The York County Probate Court, for example, is not able to schedule all hearings within the 14 days required by law when an adult objects to an emergency guardianship, said Lovejoy, the county register. A shortage of court-appointed lawyers and visitors, and the time it takes to send everyone proper notice of a guardianship petition, are among the reasons the hearings do not happen in time, she said.

Penobscot County also frequently can’t find enough local lawyers willing to accept court appointments to probate cases, said Register RenĂ©e Stupak. 

Voluminous probate files are housed in the probate office in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, Maine. The court has approved at least 712 guardianships or conservatorships since September 2019. Photo by Fred J. Field.

Payment is a major reason. 

The county pays court-appointed lawyers $80 an hour, which used to match the wage paid by the state system to defense lawyers. But state lawmakers bumped those attorneys’ pay to $150 an hour in February, which not all of the probate courts have been able to match. Stupak said she plans to ask county commissioners to pay $100 an hour.

“If we can’t get attorneys, what are we going to do?” Stupak asked. “We can’t leave these people hanging.”

Another gap in the probate court system is people whose job is to check that a court order is being followed.

The county probate courts that responded to the Maine Monitor survey do not employ full-time investigators to check on cases. The only people who investigate guardianships are court-hired “visitors,” but they do only initial interviews with guardians and those needing guardians. They often don’t remain engaged.  

“I think a visitor is adequate. Some are better than others but they’re all pretty decent,” Aranson said. “It might be certainly worthwhile to have money for a visitor to go out on a spot-check investigation, but the reality is that most people under guardianship are in a state-licensed institution.”

That’s not how other states do it. In Ohio, for example, probate courts must employ or contract with investigators with a degree in social work, special education or psychology to do the initial review and also to read annual reports submitted by guardians and receive complaints.

“We do not have good oversight,” said Lyman Holmes, the Washington County probate judge for more than 30 years. “Certainly, in some states, the probate courts have investigators, and they can go around and investigate. They have full-time investigators on their staff but we certainly don’t.” 

Norman Fisher’s final days

Even though he was supported by direct support professionals for much of his life, Fisher guarded his independence.

His apartment was filled with treasures he found throughout his day — newspapers and items that most people would consider junk, said Rory Robb, the retired director at the independent living program that worked with Fisher for two decades. 

“He struggled with having to have any staff in his home and anybody that was going to touch his things,” Robb said. “He, unfortunately, was institutionalized earlier on in life, and that really sets people on a different path. You really care about your possessions because you didn’t have many things, or things were taken away from you. So we understood why he had this need to try to keep everything. We just tried to keep his apartment somewhat safe.”

Even so, food rotted in his fridge. He neglected his hygiene. And he stacked boxes against the door after a break-in, creating a personal safety hazard.

These parts of Fisher’s life were manageable. It was his worsening diabetes that concerned those who supported his independent life, Robb said. Fisher needed up to four insulin shots a day and had to determine the dosage based on a sliding scale to manage his blood sugar, court records show. His support team told the Monitor that Fisher couldn’t comprehend the severity of his diabetes or accurately describe doctor’s orders to his caregivers. 

In late 2014, the team decided that Fisher needed a guardian, Robb said. 

For 4 1/2 more years, with a guardian occasionally checking on his case, Fisher lived independently until his apartment in Biddeford became infested with bed bugs and caregivers would no longer enter. Instead they checked on him from his front porch. 

Fisher’s public guardian and case manager worried that for his health and safety, he couldn’t live alone, and they persuaded him to go to the emergency room for an evaluation in 2019, court records show. One of the last items his public guardian grabbed as they left Fisher’s apartment was a bag of medications near the door, but it was missing his insulin and glucometer, the machine used to measure his blood sugar, according to court records. 

At the hospital, they broke the news to Fisher: He couldn’t return to his home.

Fisher was discharged from the hospital directly to RCSS on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019. For three days no one checked his blood or gave him insulin, according to court records. When a nurse finally went to the house and tested him the following Tuesday, the meter read “high,” which meant Fisher’s blood sugar was too high for the glucometer to measure, according to court records. The nurse called 911, but Fisher stopped breathing before the ambulance arrived. 

Fisher died on the floor at age 62 of hyperglycemia with ketoacidosis, according to court records.

Two RCSS workers were criminally charged with endangering the welfare of a dependent person. Their cases are pending in Cumberland County Superior Court. One ex-worker declined an interview request through her lawyer. The other worker, through her own lawyer, said she is pleading not guilty to the charge.

Following a broader investigation, the state ordered RCSS to repay $30.2 million of MaineCare funds because it hadn’t performed required background checks on every employee or ensured they were properly trained in CPR and first aid, in violation of state rules. The company is appealing the state’s decision.

Fisher’s death was investigated by law enforcement and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. His public guardian, case manager and a member of the state’s crisis team were found not responsible for the death. The guardian has since died. The judge’s role is not mentioned. The department’s policies were not found to be a contributing factor to Fisher’s death, wrote the department spokeswoman Farwell in response to questions from the Monitor. 

Norman Fisher, 62, died in a home run by Residential and Community Support Services (RCSS) in August 2019. Two workers were substantiated by the state for abuse or neglect of Fisher, who was mentally disabled, after he went 72 hours without blood sugar tests or insulin for his diabetes. The superior court upheld the findings after appeal, as seen in court records. Photo by Samantha Hogan

Judge Bryan Chabot was in charge of the York County Probate Court in August 2019. 

There’s no indication in the court file that Chabot noticed that the report Fisher’s guardian filed was the same as the one submitted the year before. And Chabot didn’t flag the duplicated report for further review, probate court records show.

While he declined to comment on the specifics of Fisher’s case, he said that in general, the probate court’s role in monitoring guardianships is to see whether guardians have done their duties, if the guardianships should continue and if fees should be approved, Chabot wrote in an email.

Chabot resigned as probate judge in 2019 to accept a job in Portland as an administrative law judge with the state Workers’ Compensation Board.

The Monitor interviewed two dozen people for this article and they were unwilling to comment on the judge’s role in Fisher’s case. Instead they criticized broad issues with how probate courts are structured.

“Having a centralized system with centralized oversight, with clear expectations, with sufficient resources — all of those things are essential to ensure that the legislative intent behind regular reporting requirements are actually being fulfilled,” said Smith, the law professor.

Adult Protective Services would not release meeting notes or dates that Fisher’s guardians met with him between 2015 and 2019. The agency said in response to a public records request by the Monitor that all records created while an adult is under the jurisdiction of the department are confidential. 

Erin Salvo, associate director of Adult Protective Services, said in a written response denying access to the records that the guardians’ reports were in compliance with rules in place at the time.

A single page

The plain manila file for Norman Fisher, case number 2014-1050 in York County Probate Court, includes no mention of the investigations that followed his death. There’s nothing about the criminal charges against the two workers, or the termination of the home’s license, or the plans by York County to hire a paralegal who would keep a closer eye on the annual reports by guardians.

The last record filed by the Department of Health and Human Services is a notice dated Aug. 29, 2019, informing the court of Fisher’s death.

Typed onto it a few days later and signed by the judge is a brief message, “The incapacitated person’s death is noted. No further guardianship-related action is necessary.” 

This story is part of an ongoing series by The Maine Monitor about the county probate court system. If you have a tip or story to share, please email reporter Samantha Hogan at or anonymously fill out our contact form.

Full Article & Source:
Calls to overhaul Maine probate courts have stalled for half a century. The most vulnerable people may be at risk.