Saturday, September 16, 2023

Rights at Risk: Michael Oher, Britney Spears, and You

Guest Blogger: Jonathan Martinis, Esq., J.D., Rethinking Guardianship Consultant

What’s your favorite right?  What’s the right that makes you proudest, the one you’d fight for if someone tried to take it away? Is it freedom of speech? Voting? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

What do these and all our other basic and bedrock rights have in common? Choice. Without choice, we have no rights. Choice gives us the power to decide what to say and keep secret, who governs us, and how, where, and with whom we live, work, and play. By choosing – even when others may disagree with our decisions – we assert our independence and honor those who marched, fought, voted, and taught to ensure that we have choices to make.

Britney Spears and Michael Oher should make us think about how fragile our rights and choices are. Both were court-ordered into conservatorship (called “guardianship” in most states) and lost their right to make fundamental choices about their lives. They, like millions of others, became “wards,” with their appointed conservators given “substantial and often complete authority over [their] lives.”[1] Both have been in the news because, after more than a decade in conservatorship, they fought to regain the rights they lost, and made us wonder whether they should have lost their rights in the first place.

When people truly cannot make decisions and direct their lives, guardianship and conservatorship can be helpful or even life-saving. However, research and scholarship show that, if people can make choices, by themselves or with support, taking away their legal right to do so can cause “significant negative impacts on physical and mental health, longevity, ability to function, and reports of subjective well-being.” [2]

This is not a new concern. Decades before the #FreeBritney movement, Congress found that “the typical ward has fewer rights than the typical convicted felon” and called guardianship and conservatorship the “most punitive civil penalty that can be levied against an American citizen, with the exception . . . of the death penalty.”[3]  Since then, study after study has found that older adults and people with disabilities who make more decisions and exercise more control over their lives – who have more self-determination –  have a better quality of life.[4] A recent national study found that, among people with disabilities who had similar abilities and limitations, those that did not have guardians were more likely to live independently, work, have friends, and be active in their communities than those with guardians.[5] In just the last ten years, since I had the honor of representing a young Virginian named Jenny Hatch in the first trial holding that a person had the right to use an alternative called Supported Decision-Making instead of being ordered into a permanent guardianship,[6] over 20 states have changed their laws to recognize and prefer such alternatives, when appropriate, over guardianship and conservatorship.[7]

Even still, at a time when there are more laws, supports, services, and technology designed to enhance our independence than ever before, the estimated number of adults in guardianship and conservatorship has tripled since 1995.[8] And even though most state laws say that guardianships and conservatorships should be limited and remove only the rights that people cannot exercise, a study found that over 90% remove all rights.[9] Most disturbingly, research has documented a “school to guardianship pipeline” funneling young adults with disabilities into legal dependency and loss of rights from which the vast majority will never return.[10]

Why? Guardianship was originally envisioned as a last resort. Almost all state laws say that people should not be ordered into guardianship unless they are “unable” or “incapable” of making decisions and, even then, only if there are no less-restrictive alternatives available.[11]  Nevertheless, the sad but true fact remains: laws alone don’t and can’t change minds or behavior – if they did, no one would speed.

Despite laws and policy, research, best intentions and practices, people like Michael Oher, Britney Spears, and countless others who aren’t celebrities, will continue to be ordered into guardianship every day unless we ask ourselves the question I began with: what’s your favorite right?  Then, and only then, will we realize that we’re all only one accident, stroke, or diagnosis, and one well-meaning (or not) family member, friend, or stranger away from losing it, from having “fewer rights than a convicted felon.” Then we can begin asking questions before seeking guardianship or conservatorship like, “What else have we tried? What else could we try to help this person without taking away their rights?” Maybe alternatives like Supported Decision-Making, Powers of Attorney, or Psychiatric Advance Directives would work for the person and improve their quality of life. Maybe they won’t and guardianship or conservatorship will be appropriate.

If we don’t ask those questions now – if we don’t make sure that guardianship and conservatorship are the last resorts they’re meant to be – who is going to ask them when we need help?


[1] Judge David Hardy, Who Is Guarding the Guardians? A Localized Call for Improved Guardianship Systems and Monitoring, 4 NAELA J. 1, 7 (2008).

[2] Wright JL. Guardianship for your own good: Improving the well-being of respondents and wards in the USA. Int J Law Psychiatry. 2010 Nov-Dec;33(5-6):350-68.

[3] H.R. Rep. No. 100-641, at 1 (1987).

[4] E.g., g., Karrie A. Shogren et al., Relationships Between Self-Determination and Postschool Outcomes for Youth with Disabilities, 4 J. Special Educ. 256 (2015); Laurie Powers et al., My Life: Effects of a Longitudinal, Randomized Study of Self-Determination Enhancement on the Transition Outcomes of Youth in Foster Care and Special Education, 34 Child. & Youth Services Rev. 2179 (2012); Janette McDougall et al., The Importance of Self-Determination to Perceived Quality of Life for Youth and Young Adults with Chronic Conditions and Disabilities, 31 Remedial & Special Educ. 252 (2010); Ishita Khemka et al., Evaluation of a Decision-Making Curriculum Designed to Empower Women with Mental Retardation to Resist Abuse, 110 Am. J. Mental Retardation 193 (2005)

[5] Bradley, V. J., Hiersteiner, D., Li, H., Bonardi, A., & Vegas, L. (2020). What Do NCI Data Tell Us About the Characteristics and Outcomes of Older Adults with IDD? The Developmental Disabilities Network Journal, 2(2), 50–69.


[7] National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making (n.d.) In your state.

[8] See, Windsor C. Schmidt, Guardianship: Court of Last Resort for the Elderly and Disabled. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press (1995); Sandra L. Reynolds, Guardianship Primavera: A First Look at Factors Associated with Having a Legal Guardian Using a Nationally Representative Sample of Community-Dwelling Adults. 6 Aging and Ment. Health, 109-120 (2002); Brenda K. Uekert, Richard Van Duizend, R., Adult Guardianships: A “Best Guess” National Estimate and the Momentum for Reform. In Future Trends in State Courts 2011: Special Focus on Access to Justice (2011).
[9] Pamela Teaster, et al., Wards of the State: A National Study of Public Guardianship. Stetson Law Review, 37, 193-241 (2007).
[10] National Council on Disability. New Federal Research Examines Guardianships of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, finds School to Guardianship Pipeline. (2019) Available at:

[11] Martinis, J., Harris, J., Fox, D., & Blanck, P. (2023). State guardianship laws and supported decision-making in the United States after Ross and Ross v. Hatch: Analysis and implications for research, policy, education, and advocacy. Journal of Disability Policy Studies34(1), 8-16. 

Full Article & Source:
Rights at Risk: Michael Oher, Britney Spears, and You

Idaho Department of Finance to bring Fraud and Senior Financial Exploitation and Prevention Roadshow to Idaho Falls


The Idaho Department of Finance is hosting a roadshow with the goal of raising more awareness of fraud and senior financial exploitation.

The Fraud and Senior Financial Exploitation and Prevention Roadshow aims to offer educational materials and resources to seniors, caregivers and family members. This free event will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Westbank Convention Center in Idaho Falls.

In 2022, there were 88,262 fraud victims, all over the age of 60, resulting in over $3.1 billion dollars lost, according to a report from the FBI Elder Fraud Report 2022. The most common type of fraud is tech support scams, resulting in 17,810 victims.

“Ensuring Idahoans have the information, tools, and resources to protect themselves and their loved ones from becoming victims of fraud and senior financial exploitation is very important to the IDOF and to me personally,” Patricia Perkins, director of the Idaho Department of Finance, said in a news release.

The Department of Finance also will be joined by AARP of Idaho and the Idaho Commission of Aging to provide more resources.

Those interested in the event can register at

Full Article & Source:
Idaho Department of Finance to bring Fraud and Senior Financial Exploitation and Prevention Roadshow to Idaho Falls

Friday, September 15, 2023

Feinstein’s financial elder abuse lawsuit heads into mediation

by Eden Villalovas

A San Francisco judge sent Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) lawsuit against the trustees of her late husband's estate into mediation on Monday, hoping to resolve the three legal cases filed by her daughter over the summer.

Katherine Feinstein, who has power of attorney in her mother's legal affairs, filed three lawsuits in recent months alleging the managers of Richard Blum's estate, the senator's husband who died in February 2022, committed "financial elder abuse."

Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet urged the parties to privately conclude the matters through a dispute resolution process. While open to negotiations, Blum trustees have denied any wrongdoings.

"I'm looking for a global outcome if we can get it," Picquet said in a hearing, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

Katherine Feinstein alleged her mother is being stiffed on payments for large medical bills, which she hoped to pay through reimbursement from the marital trust.

The Blum trustees' attorney, Steven Braccini, raised doubts multiple times about whether Katherine Feinstein has power of attorney over her mother and stated his clients have "never denied any disbursement to Sen. Feinstein, let alone for medical expenses" in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. Michael Klein and Marc Scholvinck are the two main trustees, but Katherine Feinstein alleged they were not properly appointed by Blum or the senator. Dianne Feinstein appointed her daughter as a co-trustee of the estate in August 2022.

In the latest court filing, Klein and Scholvinck, both longtime business affiliates of Blum, point to Dianne Feinstein's high income, claiming her net worth is more than $50 million.

The remainder of the trust is expected to go to Blum's three daughters from a prior marriage, Annette, Heidi, and Eileen Blum. A June lawsuit indicates a rift between Katherine Feinstein and her stepsisters, as the three women want to continue using the estate.

Full Article & Source:
Feinstein’s financial elder abuse lawsuit heads into mediation

Former Delaware County attorney guilty of stealing more than $100,000 from clients

by Dean Narciso

A Delaware County attorney was sentenced Monday to 2½ years of community control and ordered to repay his former clients more than $100,000 for work he never completed.

The Ohio Supreme Court last year suspended Robert M. Owens indefinitely, after evidence showed that he had bilked clients out of thousands of dollars and lied to them about work promised to them. He was accused of "deceitful and dishonest conduct, failing to communicate and failing to provide a timely refund to four separate clients," according to the complaint filed by the court-appointed Ohio Board of Professional Conduct.

He was later indicted in Delaware County on five theft charges, fourth and fifth-degree felonies.

In May, Owens pleaded guilty to each of the counts. But that was after he told The New America conservative podcast host that charges were fabricated in part due to his unsuccessful 2010 bid for Ohio Attorney General in which now Gov. Mike DeWine defeated him.

"Ever since then, he's used his pressure to come after me and constantly harass me ... tens of thousands of dollars in fees to fight off all kinds of spurious charges."

Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge David M. Gormley rejected Owens' excuses and suggested he find a good job in order to pay restitution of almost $122,000 to six victims. He also denied a motion for intervention in lieu of conviction that would have prevented Owens from having a felony record.

Client trust funds are commonly used by attorneys for retainers and to manage cash flow, and help firms avoid mingling client funds with law firm funds. They are not controlled by the court.

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

Owens, whose billing rate was $300 per hour, in 2021 closed his practice in downtown Delaware, telling some of his clients that he was dealing with "deep depression" following the death of his father, court records state. He began his law practice in 1998.

In a 2015 story about attorneys use of polygraphs in weeding out clients who might lie, Owens said of the practice: "Usually, we’re talking about very serious crimes where the client’s entire life is going to be in the balance."

Full Article & Source:
Former Delaware County attorney guilty of stealing more than $100,000 from clients

Murfreesboro caregiver accused of defrauding elderly patient

by Erin McCullough

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Murfreesboro woman faces financial exploitation and theft charges following an investigation by special agents assigned to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division.

According to the TBI, special agents began investigating allegations surrounding paid caregiver Teresa Ann Smith, 61, in early May on information from the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

During the investigation, agents learned Smith instructed an elderly, vulnerable man in her care to withdraw money from his bank account for her benefit and additionally used the victim’s debit card for unauthorized purchases.

Agents secured warrants last Wednesday charging Smith with one count each of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and theft. Agents subsequently arrested Smith and booked her into the Rutherford County Jail on a $35,000 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Murfreesboro caregiver accused of defrauding elderly patient

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Signs of Diminished Financial Capacity in Older Adults

by Karen Reimers MD

Significant lapses in financial judgment can raise the suspicion of dementia.

 Key points

  • Family members may notice early “red flags” or warning signs of diminished financial capacity.
  • Dementia is the most important risk factor for diminished financial capacity.
  • In older people, early cognitive impairment can show up as diminished executive functioning.
  • If needed, consider having someone help oversee the older person’s financial transactions.

Family members and caregivers can be on the lookout for the following early “red flags” or warning signs of diminished financial capacity, particularly when the changes are clearly different from the older person’s prior baseline financial skills:

  • Forgetfulness and memory lapses related to finances, such as mismanagement of accounts, forgetting to open and pay bills, paying bills twice, or forgetting to deposit checks, leading to late payments or other problems
  • Poor judgment about finances, such as extreme unwarranted anxiety about money or a new interest in lotteries or get-rich-quick schemes in an individual who would not previously have considered the scheme
  • Struggling with simple math calculations and everyday financial tasks, such as figuring out a tip, balancing a checkbook, or interpreting a bank statement, for example
  • Disorganization and confusion about money, such as getting overwhelmed with financial decision-making and discussions, deterioration in a person’s ability to understand basic financial concepts
  • Significant changes in an older adult’s spending habits, such as uncharacteristic major purchases, gifts, or donations

Normal cognitive changes do occur as we age, often starting around age 50. Most of these changes are not precursors of dementia. Normal cognitive changes due to aging include difficulties with word finding and taking a longer time to process and digest new information. Some aspects of thinking, such as vocabulary, can actually improve as we age. At the same time, in an older person, significant lapses in financial judgment and uncharacteristic poor financial decision-making may raise the suspicion of dementia.


Dementia is the most important risk factor for diminished financial capacity. Dementia typically develops gradually over several years. The onset of dementia is usually insidious, with cognitive changes happening gradually over time. Many individuals with early cognitive decline have no awareness there is a problem and don’t appreciate what their deficits are.

Problems with financial decision-making increase the risk of an older adult becoming a victim of financial exploitation. As cognitive abilities decline, older adults are much more susceptible to scams, manipulative tactics, high-pressure sales pitches, fraud, identity theft, abuse of family agreements or power of attorney, exploiting money arrangements, and emotional blackmail.

Elder financial abuse affects millions of families worldwide each year.

Cognitive losses often decline from different causes and at different rates. For some individuals, particularly with Alzheimer’s, memory decline happens first, with language and social skills relatively preserved. In older people, early cognitive impairment can show up as diminished executive functioning, which includes the capacity to plan ahead and meet goals (e.g., making and following a budget and setting financial goals), control impulses (e.g., deciding when to buy and when to save), weigh and analyze multiple factors in financial decision-making (e.g., compare features and costs on big purchases, search for sales and deals), handle unanticipated financial challenges, follow multiple-step directions even when interrupted, and stay focused on financial tasks despite distractions.

Warning Signs

Early warning signs of cognitive problems due to dementia can include getting lost on familiar routes, missing or forgetting appointments, having difficulty cooking, not paying bills, and having trouble with appliances. Early dementia may present as significantly poor judgment in decision-making, such as suddenly gifting the family vehicle to the mail carrier. These are people who may have increased anxiety in unfamiliar situations and be much more easily overwhelmed. They may rely much more on family members for guidance or to answer questions for them.

Distinguishing what might be normal aging from early dementia is sometimes a matter of degree. Spouses often compensate for these early deficits.

What a Family Can Do

To summarize, potential indicators of diminished financial capacity include difficulty in handling routine financial tasks, impulsive decisions, changes in organizational skills, and unusual behavior surrounding money.

In response to these changes, families and caregivers can consider having someone help oversee the older person’s financial transactions, such as a trusted family member or professional fiduciary money manager. It may be helpful to communicate with the bank, which may detect unusual activity and transactions, and to consider online banking and bill payments.

Recognizing and responding to early warning signs of diminished financial capacity can help protect elders from financial exploitation and families from its consequences.

Full Article & Source:
Signs of Diminished Financial Capacity in Older Adults

Minimizing the risk of financial abuse for people living with dementia

According to the Social Security Administration, financial crime against older Americans is a growing problem, with people who have dementia at an especially high risk.

As their memory and other thinking skills decline, people with dementia may struggle to make financial decisions, the SSA said. They may not remember or report the abuse — or understand that someone is taking advantage of them. This abuse can occur anywhere, including at home or in care settings.

According to the SSA, victims of fraud who are 80 years and older lose an average of $39,200 every year. Financial exploitation is reportedly the most common form of elder abuse. However, only a small fraction of these incidents are reported.

If people recognize the common signs of financial exploitation and abuse, they may be able to step in and help. According to the SAA, those signs may include:

  • Unopened bills.
  • Unusual or large purchases.
  • Utilities being shut off due to unpaid bills.
  • Money given to telemarketers or soliciting companies.
  • Unexplained withdrawals from the person’s bank account.

The SSA said there are things caregivers can do to reduce the risk of financial abuse for people with dementia and similar conditions — like Alzheimer’s — but stress that it’s important to make sure the person being cared for is involved in deciding which safety measures to put into place, when possible.

Some safety measures include:

  • Agreeing to spending limits on credit cards.
  • Signing up for the “Do Not Call” list at
  • Setting up auto-pay for bills instead of paying by check.
  • Signing up to receive automatic notifications for withdrawals from bank accounts or large charges to credit cards.
  • Requesting electronic bank and credit card statements and watching for unusual purchases or changes in how the person typically spends money.
  • Asking credit card companies to stop sending balance transfer checks and opting out of future solicitations.
  • Creating a separate account to keep a small, agreed-upon amount of money that the person can use for recreational activities, like meals with friends.

Full Article & Source:
Minimizing the risk of financial abuse for people living with dementia

Two family members charged with scamming elderly Fairhope relative out of thousands of dollars

By Hal Scheurich

FAIRHOPE, Ala. (WALA) - Fairhope Police said two family members, related by marriage, plotted and stole thousands of dollars from another elderly family member. It allegedly happened over several months. Both were arrested Monday, September 11, 2023. One is charged with financial exploitation of the elderly and the other with impersonating a peace officer.

Gerald Anderson and uncle by marriage, Jerry Ward arrested and accused of scamming elderly...
Gerald Anderson and uncle by marriage, Jerry Ward arrested and accused of scamming elderly relative out of thousands over several months(Baldwin County Sheriff's Office)

Investigators said one of the men would call the elderly victim and pretend to be a law enforcement officer. He would tell her that the other family member was an undercover drug buyer for the department and needed money, which would later be reimbursed.

Fairhope Police started looking into the case less than a week ago when other family members of the alleged victim noticed several discrepancies in the victim’s accounts. Police said more than $5,000 turned up missing since January.

It didn’t take long for police to figure out where it was allegedly going. Investigators said 27-year-old Gerald Anderson came up with a scheme and his uncle, by marriage, 50-year-old Jerry Ward helped him pull it off.

“Jerry was calling our victim in this case and asking for money for Gerald to make drug buys with because Gerald was supposedly working for Jerry as an undercover, you know, drug person to buy drugs, so Gerald was supposedly needing this money to make those purchases, so our victim in this case was sending the money to Gerald to make these drug buys with,” explained Lt. Shane Nolte with Fairhope Police.

Police said the victim had supported Anderson financially for quite some time, but that support had dwindled. They said that’s why Anderson came up with the scheme and involved Ward. While Ward is only charged with impersonating a peace officer at this point, investigators said they believe he may have also been getting a cut of the money.

“They both can face many more additional charges, depending on what else we found,” Nolte said. “I know right now I can remember like eight transactions in that January to August timeframe, so I don’t know how many more she’s going to find at this point.”

Police said scams against the elderly are all too common but when it comes from inside the family, it makes it an even harder pill to swallow.

“It’s bad to take advantage of your family like that, you know… How are you hurting them? Is that money they’re going to need further down the line for their own care? It…it does make it worse,” Nolte said.

Gerald Anderson was released from the Baldwin County Jail after posting a bond of $13,500. Jerry Ward also made bail. His bond was set at $5,000 for the impersonating a peace officer.

Full Article & Source:
Two family members charged with scamming elderly Fairhope relative out of thousands of dollars

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Beth's story: She says being a 'non-speaker' shouldn't mean losing her right to decide for herself

By Kirsten Dorman

Many of us take the decisions we make for ourselves everyday – from where we live and work to who we vote for or marry – for granted. But for an unknown number of people across the country, those rights were legally taken away.

Stories of conservatorship and legal guardianship for “pop princess” Britney Spears and football star Michael Oher have gripped the nation. Many other stories have gone largely untold.

A 'non-speaker' finds her voice

Two women stand in front of the Arizona Cardinals stadium in Glendale
Becky King
Beth Papp (left) and Emily Ulan attended Taylor Swift's Eras Tour together in March 2023 in Glendale.

Mesa resident Beth Papp is like many other 22-year-olds. She’s opinionated, funny and a huge fan of Taylor Swift. She loves watching shows like "Survivor" and trips to Target.

Papp refers to herself as a "non-speaker."

“I want everyone to know I’m in here!” Papp said.

To communicate, Papp uses boards with letters and some symbols to spell out phrases. This one is like a tablet. When Papp indicates a phrase is complete, it’s read out loud.

Sometimes, she uses a board made of plastic or laminated paper, pointing to each letter.

Then her communication partner, Emily Ulan, reads them out.

Ulan has helped Papp learn how to do this over the past year. She also holds the boards up for Papp to access better.

“We have a lot in common,” Ulan said. “It’s crazy because I do this for a living, but she’s my first client. And I consider her more of a friend than a client.”

'It's guardianship, or not.'

Baby wearing blue outfit with floral background
Becky King
Becky King, Beth Papp's mom, said that Papp began producing some words around a year old like most other babies do.

Papp’s mom, Becky King, said that like other babies, Papp began saying a few words at around a year old.

“And then at 18 months, it just … stopped,” she recalled.

A checkup soon after that produced an initial diagnosis.

“PDD-NOS,” said King. “Which is Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. And my understanding is they don’t actually use that anymore because now autism has become a broader spectrum.”

Then at 5 years old, Papp was officially diagnosed with autism. King said that as her daughter grew closer to adulthood, knowing that services would begin to change or even disappear was stressful.

“What are we supposed to do next?” said King. “She still has no way to reliably communicate.”

So, she began looking into their options.

“Honestly back then there wasn’t a lot of options,” King said. “It’s guardianship, or not.”

King remembers the intense pressure, and scary impressions about what could happen if she didn’t act as Papp’s 18th birthday approached.

“Everyone including the doctors said ‘Well of course, it’s gotta be a full guardianship. Like, clearly she can’t possibly take care of herself or have an opinion about things. So this is the way you guys should do it,’” King recounted. “So we just kind of did it that way.”

“It is unfortunately really common that parents of young adults with– especially with intellectual developmental disabilities are told by schools, by doctors, by everyone around them, that guardianship is something they should seek as a matter of course,” said Zoe Brennan-Krohn, an attorney with the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program.

According to Brennan-Krohn that advice isn’t just incorrect, but harmful.

“There are a lot of alternative ways that people, young adults, adults with disabilities, can get support and help without losing all of their rights,” Brennan-Krohn said. “Guardianship is very hard to undo and is very often permanent.”

A new option: Supported decision making 

Baby in polka dot outfit on light purple background
Becky King
Around 18 months old, Becky King said daughter Beth Papp completely stopped producing any language.

“Guardianship at its core means the court is removing someone’s right to act for themself,” said Morgan Whitlatch, the director of Supported Decision Making Initiatives at the Center for Public Representation in Washington, D.C. “It’s been called a kind of civil death, a non-personhood.”

You might be thinking: ‘I’ve heard of that! It’s like what Britney Spears went through, or what Michael Oher is petitioning for release from.’

“In some states they might call a decision-making authority a conservatorship,” said Meagham Kramer, an attorney who works with the Arizona Disability Law Center. “In Arizona, conservatorship really has to do more with money and guardianship has to do more with general decision-making.”

In June, supported decision making was signed into Arizona law as an alternative to guardianship. Whitlatch says it’s something everyone uses, regardless of their disability status or age.

“Every day we all use the advice and we get advice from people we trust,” said Whitlatch. “We have people help us weigh the pros and cons.”

Whitlatch added that supported decision making could be argued for as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Kramer said that while that’s true, having supported decision making specifically signed into law bolsters chances of properly implementing it.

“We’ve now passed the thing, and we need everyone to understand the thing so it’s more than just a piece of paper,” Kramer said, “[so] it actually allows people to use these supported decision making agreements to make decisions in their lives.”

'I want to be my own guardian.'

Girl with dark hair and white shirt point to letters on spelling board
Becky King
The opportunity for Beth Papp to learn how to use her communication method came from her Empowerment Scholarship Account, which is paid for through the state.

King said now that Papp can communicate, it’s like she’s finally been able to get to know her daughter. And Papp said that even though she wants to walk back her guardianship, the two remain close.

“Spending time with her is my fav,” Papp said. “She gets me.”

But Papp’s communication method isn’t recognized by the court system, King said.

Some consider it controversial due to concerns surrounding authorship – or who’s crafting and influencing the messages.

But one message is clear: “I want to be my own guardian. I want to make decisions for myself,” Papp said.

Whitlatch said this isn’t uncommon for people like Papp. There’s a wide range of communication methods and experiences. But according to Whitlatch, for the most part “people who don't speak to communicate or have other mechanisms for communication are those that are probably most impacted by guardianship and are less likely to have their "voice" heard in court.”

A protected person’s condition and circumstances can change. But no matter what, the evidence for whether the law considers someone ‘incapacitated’ has to be ‘clear and convincing.’

“Frequently, there is a tendency by society to infantilize people with developmental disabilities, to assume that their capacity or their abilities are somehow static,” Whitlatch said, “that they won’t change over time. And that’s not accurate.”

Guardianship courts fall short on accessibility 

Woman wears headphones while watching concert
Becky King
Beth Papp attended Taylor Swift's Eras Tour in March 2023 when the artist performed in Glendale. Papp says she loves Swift's "Red" album.

Brennan-Krohn said it’s important to reconsider the ways we consider and interact with people with disabilities at all levels. It’s about “being aware of where this very deep-seated sense of paternalism crops up, and how we can try to challenge that,” she said.

Which Brennan-Krohn said means treating people with disabilities as adults, with their own preferences and wishes.

“It is striking and troubling that the court systems that you go through to get into a guardianship or to get out of a guardianship are very, very inaccessible to people with disabilities,” said Brennan-Krohn.

The ADA requires courts to make reasonable accommodations for people but, Brennan-Krohn said, “it’s very rare that courts slow that process down in a way that can make it actually accessible to someone with a disability.”

Kramer said that in Arizona courts, an ADA coordinator works to ensure accommodation requests are met.

“Often a big part of the labor in getting an accommodation granted is educating the people who you need an accommodation from or the system or entity that you need an accommodation from about your disability,” said Kramer.

Which includes accommodations for how someone communicates. But according to Kramer, sometimes logistics – like not enough certified interpreters or scheduling issues – get in the way.

In Papp’s case: Her communication method is so new that there’s little research on it.

King compares it to driving a car: Starting off with an instructor to give pointers, help you focus and learn, until you’re ready to hit the road on your own.

'Music is my voice'

With the lengthy, uphill legal battle she’s facing, Papp’s taking a breather.

“It’s an incredibly intense experience for a completely verbal, non-autistic person,” King said. “But she said that she was not up to a day-long hearing. And her direct quote to me was: ‘I didn’t realize my spelling would be on trial. … I can’t do this right now.’”

But Papp isn’t giving up.

“I’m trying to open the doors that were closed for me!” said Papp. “Ever since I started spelling this has been my goal!”

To express her feelings, Papp wrote a song.

“I had a dream where I was heard, where people listened to my words” the lyrics read. “Hear me, listen to my voice. I am here inside.”

The song closes out with the lines: “I have no more to give. I have tried and tried. And now, it’s your turn.”

Papp said it's a direct message, to those who have been in her life "but also the world!"

“Music is my voice,” she said. “It’s how I’ve always communicated, even before I started spelling.”

Papp said she wants to advocate for other non-speakers, too.

“I want people to presume competence in everyone,” said Papp.

Papp said she hopes change will come with time.

“OMG,” she said, “I hope it’s a totally different conversation where we are not questioning validity. Instead, we incorporate non-speakers into any decision making regarding us.”

Despite legal difficulties, her vision for the future remains.

“Having the chance to make my own decisions about life is the dream,” Papp said. “It is as simple as deciding where I want to live and how I want to spend my time.”

But outside of all that, Papp is just focused on "feeling 22," as her favorite artist might say.

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Beth's story: She says being a 'non-speaker' shouldn't mean losing her right to decide for herself

Caregiver charged with stealing from older man, Denver DA searches for more victims

By Staff

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann has charged Stefanie Lea Scott with theft from an at-risk person, financial exploitation of an at-risk person and caretaker neglect. The DA is asking for help from others who believe they have been a victim of theft from Scott. 

  Stefanie Lea Scott Denver DA

According to investigators, Scott began working as an in-home caregiver for an older Denver man. On April 5, Scott assumed power of attorney for the mean and she retained power of attorney until June 20. During that time, prosecutors allege Scott stole $49,829 by writing checks to herself and transferring money from the man's bank account without his knowledge. Scott is also the "Senior Light LLC" agent, registered with the Colorado Secretary of State.   

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of financial exploitation by Scott should call Det. Dalton Montgomery at 720-913-6870.

"We must hold people accountable for preying on society's vulnerable, and that's exactly what we intend to do in this case.  We are also hoping that anyone else who Stefanie Scott may have victimized will now come forward," said McCann in a statement. 

Full Article & Source:
Caregiver charged with stealing from older man, Denver DA searches for more victims

Editorial: Targeting seniors

This is what The Boston Globe had to say about scammers who target elders:

Making banks and brokers partners in the effort will help.

The fact pattern is now so well established that it’s referred to as the “grandparent scam.”

Someone purporting to be the grandchild in trouble calls granny needing bail money or money for a lawyer, who then gets on the phone to confirm the “crisis.” Grandma rushes off to the bank to get the required cash, packs it up as told to hand to a courier or Uber driver sent to pick it up. Then it’s usually gone forever.

A 93-year-old Pembroke grandmother is among those who have fallen for such a scam. But she has plenty of company here and around the country. Online and digital scammers cost Americans $10 billion last year, according to the FBI — about $3 billion of that was lost by seniors.

And only 1 in 44 incidents of elder financial exploitation is reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.

Seniors are often too embarrassed to tell even family members that they have been scammed.

“It’s a frequent enough problem that we really need to do something about it,” Secretary of State Bill Galvin told the editorial board. “The sophistication of the scammers has increased. And if an electronic transfer is used, once that money disappears, it’s gone.”

And so Galvin has filed a bill designed to put the brakes on a transaction if a bank teller, broker, or financial adviser suspects that an elder (defined as 60 and older) or disabled adult client is in danger of being exploited. It allows financial institutions to delay a disbursement and notify a relevant adult protective services agency and the secretary’s office if there is “reasonable cause” to believe financial exploitation has occurred or is being attempted.

“By and large these people (who are being scammed) are competent,” Galvin said. “But they need a little time, a little breathing room to reconsider.”

That’s Galvin’s aim with the bill — slow down the process that scammers have counted on to push panicked elders into making hasty decisions. The proposed state legislation pairs nicely with an ongoing federal effort — under the 2018 Senior Safe Act — that offers bank and financial services employees training on spotting potential victims and immunity when they report such incidents to authorities.

Galvin’s bill, filed in conjunction with Senator Paul Feeney and Representative James M. Murphy, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, would also provide immunity from civil liability for those bank employees trying to do the right thing.

Now, not all scammers are strangers. It’s not uncommon to have family members attempt to exploit elders, and a few of those cases have been reported to Galvin’s office by brokers and financial advisers. In fact, according to a 2019 study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “losses were greater when the older adult knew the suspect.”

Galvin’s bill deals with that possibility as well, including a provision designed to make sure that relatives or other third parties who might actually be engaged in the exploitation of elders themselves aren’t notified of a bank’s suspicions.

Federal efforts, including those of the Justice Department, have been largely aimed at spreading the word, educating people about each new scheme as it picks up speed. But for many that will come too late. States are now trying to close that gap — to take the more proactive slow-it-down approach.

A bill backed by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia and passed unanimously by both branches of the Georgia Legislature took exactly that approach. The Senior Protections from Exploitation Against Retirees Act was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp in May.

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill to give financial institutions the ability to suspend disbursements for up to 45 days if the exploitation of an elder is suspected. (The Massachusetts bill’s holds would expire after 15 days.) The Connecticut bill goes into effect July 2024. It, too, passed unanimously in both legislative branches.

Now Georgia, where Republicans hold both branches of the Legislature and the governorship, and Connecticut, where Democrats hold all three, would seem to have little in common — except perhaps their common-sense approach to doing the right thing by seniors — preventing their exploitation before it robs them of their savings.

The Galvin-Feeney-Murphy bill is all about doing the right thing by seniors here in Massachusetts. If Georgia and Connecticut can get it done, we can too.

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: Targeting seniors

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Eight deaths raise questions about oversight of Maine’s public guardianships

By Samantha Hogan

A state senator says the unexplained deaths are of “grave concern” and calls for greater accountability. 

Eight incapacitated people in the state’s care died during the past three years and authorities don’t know exactly how. 

The adults, all under public guardianship, died of what medical examiners described as “undetermined” circumstances, while noting that over-medication was the cause of several of those deaths. Among them is a woman whose death was deemed a “homicide” by medical examiners.

The attorney general’s office closed the homicide case without prosecution due to insufficient evidence, spokeswoman Danna Hayes said in late August. 

Hayes said that “due to a lack of evidence of criminal conduct,” several other cases “are not the subject of criminal investigations” by the office’s criminal division or Healthcare Crimes Unit, which is a specialized team that investigates abuse and neglect. 

Meanwhile, Maine State Police confirmed they have an open case for another of the eight, the death of Laurie Wall, 51, a non-verbal woman who used a wheelchair and had a developmental disability. Medical examiners said the circumstances of her death are “undetermined.”

A state legislator who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee said the deaths show the need for better oversight of the state’s public guardians, who are appointed and overseen by 16 part-time, elected probate judges. 

“It causes grave concern,” said state Sen. Joe Baldacci (D-Bangor). “And I do think that the Legislature needs to be brought in to correct what problems the (Attorney General’s) Healthcare Crimes Unit feels were evident in these situations and to make efforts to prevent them in the future.”

In Maine, at least a half-dozen agencies could investigate such deaths. Officials with the attorney general’s office refused to say how many of the eight cases were referred to the Healthcare Crimes Unit or its criminal division. 

The attorney general’s office said it inadvertently disclosed the eight cases in response to a public records request by The Maine Monitor earlier this summer. 

The unexplained deaths are the latest findings of an ongoing investigation into Maine’s part-time probate courts by the Monitor.

In June, the news outlet reported that the probate courts had no uniform way to keep track of vulnerable adults under public guardianship, and probate judges relied on once-a-year reports by guardians to oversee their care. The probate courts employ no independent investigators to verify the reports, the Monitor reported.

State medical examiners identified the eight cases while stepping up their review of deaths of adults with public guardians between 2018 and 2023. The Department of Health and Human Services, which employs the guardians, was reporting an increasing number of deaths at that time. Medical examiners deemed most of the more than 200 deaths in that period to be natural or accidental.

Public guardianship is the last resort for adults who can no longer safely make their own decisions. Probate judges appoint public guardians to make medical, housing and social decisions for incapacitated adults when no relatives are willing or able to help.

The Monitor reviewed 300 pages of reports submitted to the probate courts by public guardians, doctors, family members and court-appointed independent observers known as “visitors” that justified the state’s position that the Department of Health and Human Services needed to take over management of the eight adults’ lives.

Some lived a few months after being appointed a public guardian; others had their care managed by the department for decades.

The eight deaths, all in the past three years, include:

• Janice Sirois, 61, died in Fort Kent on Aug. 8, 2022, in what medical examiners say was a  homicide. The attorney general’s office decided not to prosecute the case.

• Laurie Wall, 51, was in state care since she was 2½ years old and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She died of “acute intoxication” of multiple prescription medications at a foster home in Cornville on April 27, 2021, medical examiner records show.

• Donald Burpee, an 85-year-old from Durham who had a mental disability, died of “acute oxycodone over-medication for (the) treatment of pain,” on Sept. 20, 2021, medical examiner records show. He had prostate cancer that had attached to multiple organs.

• Dorothy Littlefield, 72, died in Portland from heart disease “in context of excessive medication for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.” Shortly before she died on May 23, 2022, Littlefield was receiving hospice care and declining both mentally and physically, her public guardian reported to the probate court.

• Eugene Strout, 77, died of “septic complications of prolonged immobilization” at a residential care facility in Hancock on July 28, 2020. Strout had Parkinson’s disease — a brain disease that causes uncontrollable movements, and trouble with balance and coordination — and “severe cognitive impairment” from Lewy Body Dementia.

• Jonas Miller, 80, died in a residential care facility in Canton of heart disease in October 2022. A medical examiner noted there was also “over-administration of morphine for pain control,” as well as a serious complication of diabetes, end-stage kidney disease and end-stage liver disease.

• Koren Velez, 68, died of a bleed around her brain and “blunt force trauma” on July 15, 2020, at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough. She was a Navy veteran and a victim of domestic violence, court records show.

• Richard Spencer, 87, was given “excessive medications for the treatment of multiple comorbidities,” according to a medical examiner. The cause of his death in Bangor on Jan. 14, 2023, was heart disease. The manner of Spencer’s death was “undetermined.”

U.S. medical examiners describe how deaths occur by using five broad categories: natural, accident, homicide, suicide and undetermined.

Maine’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner conducts physical examinations of bodies, toxicology or other tests to determine the cause and way a person died, office administrator Lindsey Chasteen wrote in response to questions from The Maine Monitor. The office also reviews information from law enforcement and health care facilities.

“When ‘undetermined’ is used, it means that all of the testing or results are completed and there still is not enough information for us to make a determination,” Chasteen wrote.

Exterior of the medical examiner's building.
The Office of Chief Medical Examiner determines the ways and causes of individuals’ deaths. State medical examiners identified seven “undetermined” cases and one “homicide” while stepping up their review of deaths of adults with public guardians between 2018 and 2023. Photo by Samantha Hogan.

The National Association of Medical Examiners, a professional organization in which Maine participates, recommends that a death be labeled “undetermined” when there is “less than 50% certainty” about how the individual died.

Only Maine’s chief and deputy chief medical examiners can classify a death as “undetermined,” and it’s rarely done. Between 1% and 2% of all deaths investigated in recent years were found to be undetermined, reports by the office show.

Usually, there is enough information about the circumstances of a death to make a determination other than “undetermined,” Chasteen wrote. An “undetermined” death is not automatically suspicious, she said.

The Department of Health and Human Services is supposed to tell lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee each time it reports a death to the medical examiner’s office, but that is not happening, said Baldacci, the committee chairman. He has instructed the department to review its procedures.

“The thing that needs to happen is we really need to have more oversight; we need to have better training of people that engage in this work for the state, and we need to have better reporting,” Baldacci said. “These are vulnerable people and the families are in difficult situations, often. And they need to have the state, at a minimum, be a competent advocate for them.”

Homicide in Aroostook County

Sirois’ death in 2022 was designated as a “homicide” by medical examiners. No one has been charged with killing her.

“The Sirois matter has been closed without prosecution due to insufficient evidence that a crime has occurred,” the attorney general’s spokeswoman Hayes wrote in response to questions from the Monitor. 

According to her obituary, Sirois died at a Fort Kent health care facility. She was under public guardianship for 12 years. 

Medical examiners have a different definition of “homicide” from prosecutors. “Homicide is a death that occurs at the hands of another person or as a result of an illegal act,” according to the Maine medical examiner’s office. The label does not mean there was criminal intent to kill the person.

The Healthcare Crimes Unit in the attorney general’s office is a federally funded team that investigates Medicaid fraud as well as abuse and neglect in MaineCare facilities.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Savage, who leads the Healthcare Crimes Unit, said prosecutors need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone intentionally committed murder or manslaughter.

“Not every homicide is a manslaughter or a murder,” Savage said.

Savage and Hayes would not answer the Monitor’s questions specific to Sirois’ death or the investigation, because they said her name and the details of her death should not have been made public.

Sirois died of the “combined toxic effects of ethanol, hydromorphone and paroxetine,” medical examiner records show. In layman’s terms: alcohol, an opioid and an oral medication that can be used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Sirois struggled to manage her PTSD and several chronic conditions later in life, her doctor reported to the probate court in June 2010 while the state was petitioning to be made her public guardian.

In Madawaska, a small community near the northern U.S.-Canadian border, Sirois lived close to a sister who helped Sirois manage her medications. More than once, Sirois did not take her medicine and ended up in the emergency room, probate records show. 

“Because of Ms. Sirois’s fragile hold on her mental and physical health, general guardianship powers will be required in order to better meet Ms. Sirois’ immediate and ongoing needs,” the state wrote at the time.

The plan was to keep Sirois in an apartment and have a case manager periodically visit to monitor her care, probate records show. Within a year, Sirois moved to an assisted living facility in Presque Isle, according to her public guardian’s report to the Aroostook County Probate Court in 2011. Sirois threatened to move out against her guardian’s advice. 

Sirois moved between multiple facilities, and her public guardian told the court through reports and updates that Sirois didn’t have the skills to live on her own.

The details about the end of Sirois’ life are hidden from public view. Darleen Guy, register of the Aroostook County Probate Court, said the Monitor would need to petition to join the case to view reports from Sirois’ public guardian that describe her whereabouts and care.

However, the records should be public because state lawmakers passed an emergency law this year to keep adult guardianship records public until at least April 2025.

The medical examiner’s office also denied the Monitor’s request for records detailing its findings in Sirois’ and the seven other deaths. Chasteen denied access, arguing that the details should not be public because the eight deaths “are still under investigation.”

The Monitor made multiple attempts by mail and social media to contact Sirois’ friends and family but did not receive responses.

State examines more deaths than before

The Office of Chief Medical Examiner rarely reviewed public guardianship deaths prior to 2021.

The office reviewed the deaths of four people who died while under public guardianship in 2018 and six deaths in 2019, according to data provided to the Monitor by the office. In 2020, the office examined 15 public guardianship deaths.

The medical examiner’s examinations of public guardianship deaths jumped to 66 death reviews in 2021 and 75 deaths reviews in 2022, after the office changed its policy in 2021. The change called for an external exam of anyone who dies while the state is their guardian or conservator, and resulted in a five-fold increase in reviews compared to prior years.

“The number of deaths reported by the Department of Health and Human Services increased, and the (Office of Chief Medical Examiner) determined that examinations or autopsies of public wards might determine if there is a need to protect any other persons within this vulnerable population,” Chasteen wrote in response to questions from the Monitor.

When a death is labeled undetermined, it is “not necessarily” suspicious, Chasteen wrote. 

“It simply means that (the Office of Chief Medical Examiner) could not determine the manner of death based on the information available about the circumstances of that death,” Chasteen wrote.

Incapacitated woman potentially over-administered meds

Police are looking deeper into one of the “undetermined” deaths flagged by the medical examiner’s office. 

The death of Laurie Wall, the woman with cerebral palsy and a mental disability who died from “acute intoxication” of the combined effects of three medications, has been an open case for more than two years. 

The Major Crimes Unit of the State Police investigated her death, said spokeswoman Shannon Moss.

A cruiser is parked outside a Maine State Police building.
The state police’s Major Crimes Unit is investigating the death of Laurie Wall, 51, a woman diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a mental disability who had been under public guardianship for 34 years. She died of “acute intoxication” of multiple prescription medications at a foster home in Cornville on April 27, 2021, medical examiner records show. Photo by Samantha Hogan.

Wall had been under public guardianship for 34 years when she died in 2021.

Wall had a “profound” mental disability and required hands-on care for dressing, bathing, toileting, eating and drinking. She was described around age 18 as being “non-verbal and has tremendous difficulty making even the simplest needs known.” Her condition did not improve.

Wall was born in Rockland and was placed in state care by her parents around age 2. Her needs were too extensive for the family to financially or mentally handle, said her sister, Stormie Hendrickson. 

Hendrickson was born a year before her younger sister. The state periodically brought Wall to visit her family until about age 13, and then several decades passed before the sisters saw each other again, said Hendrickson, who now lives in Waldoboro.

Out of the blue, around 2009, a case worker and a foster parent contacted Hendrickson to ask if she wanted to see Wall.

Wall lived in three adult foster homes — in Pittsfield, Skowhegan and finally, Cornville. Despite the high level of care Wall required, she went on camping trips, shopping and to football games with her foster families, her guardians reported to the Somerset County Probate Court.

Her last foster parents appeared to love and take good care of Wall, Hendrickson said. 

“Her complexion looked great, she was always clean and well dressed, they were very attentive to her, and they acted like … she knew everything that was going on,” Hendrickson said. “They treated her like she understood everything you said, and maybe she did. They would know her more than I did.”

The foster parents declined to speak with a Monitor reporter.

Wall died “unexpectedly but peacefully at home,” according to her obituary. The state medical examiners later determined that “the combined effects of levetiracetam, fluoxetine and lacosamide” — three prescription medications — had caused her death. 

Hendrickson said she was not contacted by state police about her sister’s death. She was unaware that an investigation had been ongoing in the more than two years since Wall died.

“I was just told she passed away in her sleep,” Hendrickson said.

The burial site of Laurie Wall surrounded in part by flowers.
Laurie Wall, 51, had cerebral palsy. She died of “acute intoxication” of multiple prescription medications at a foster home in Cornville on April 27, 2021, medical examiner records show. Wall is buried at East Ridge Cemetery in Cornville. A bouquet of purple fabric flowers is placed by her grave. Photo by Samantha Hogan.

Public guardians notify the medical examiner’s office when an adult under public guardianship dies. If abuse, neglect or exploitation is suspected, Adult Protective Services is contacted, said Jackie Farwell, a Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman. 

“The department is committed to the well-being of individuals subject to public guardianship and takes appropriate action to ensure caretakers are held to legal and regulatory standards,” Farwell wrote.

The department declined to answer questions about Wall or the seven other individuals. The department would not say if it had substantiated reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of any person connected to the seven undetermined deaths or the homicide because it said that information is confidential.

The attorney general’s office also declined to say how many of the seven “undetermined” public guardianship deaths were referred to and investigated by the Healthcare Crimes Unit or criminal division. 

Savage, the director of the unit, said it gets many referrals but that not every tip, allegation or death is a crime. And even when a crime is clear, prosecutors may lack evidence that proves who did the crime or the person’s state of mind when the crime was committed.

There are few in society more vulnerable than a non-verbal person, said Richard Estabrook.

Estabrook is Maine’s former Chief Advocate. His job included death investigations, and investigations of possible abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults with developmental disabilities living in the community or at the state’s institution for the disabled, Pineland, before it closed in 1996. His position and the entire Office of Advocacy was eliminated by then-Gov. Paul LePage in 2012.

“You want the public to be able to trust that your system of care is reasonably assessing risks, and reasonably taking care of people and not neglecting them,” Estabrook said. 

How the state will put the eight deaths to rest is unclear. State law requires the Department of Health and Human Services to share information about deaths that are reported to the medical examiner’s office with elected representatives. State lawmakers recently found out the law is not being followed.

Baldacci, the state senator, said he understands state prosecutors want to keep information in ongoing investigations confidential until the cases are resolved or go to court. But there’s a limit.

The probate courts need a more comprehensive system of oversight for public guardianships to prevent these kinds of deaths from happening, Baldacci said.

“The current system is not adequate in terms of oversight,” Baldacci said.

State regulators may need to assist with oversight because 16 independent probate courts cannot be expected to have a uniform system when each of the courts “have completely different budgets,” Baldacci said. He hoped the probate judges would be willing to engage with lawmakers about doing training and setting procedures that could be implemented statewide.

“In the next legislative session, we may need to consider additional legislation starting in January about addressing these issues and improving the system of oversight,” said Baldacci.

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Eight deaths raise questions about oversight of Maine’s public guardianships