Saturday, September 30, 2023

Guardianship reform bills would put Office of State Guardian into place in Michigan

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — The 7 Investigators have been exposing problems in Michigan’s guardianship system for six years. Today new plans were announced to bring additional oversight to the probate court system that many advocates say can hurt families and cost people their life savings.

We first told you about the idea for the Office of State Guardian back in April. Now that bill has been officially introduced and more details are emerging about the oversight it will potentially bring to a system many families complain about.

Currently in Michigan, if you’re having problems with a court-appointed guardian there’s no agency with oversight where you can file a complaint. If the new law passes, that could change.

Since 2017, the 7 Investigators have been exposing abuses in Michigan’s guardianship system. In one brief court hearing, with very little evidence, you can be declared legally incapacitated, and all your rights can vanish.

In response to our years of reporting, several bills have been introduced in Lansing to bring reforms.

“This is a bi-partisan package. It is a clear example of how government can be an instrument of good,” said House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) during testimony Wednesday.

“The more common sense guardrails that we put around the system, the more vulnerable or elderly folks we protect,” said Rep. Graham Filler (R-St. Johns) while testifying in front of the committee Wednesday.

If passed, the package of five bills will do everything from requiring guardians to visit their wards more often, to making sure you have the right to an attorney if you’re being put under guardianship.

The newest change is a bill that would establish the Office of State Guardian.

“This Office of State Guardian would be responsible for receiving complaints and investigating them against guardians and conservators who are believed to be enacting financial or other abuses on their wards. The goal is that the OSG would then work with the Attorney General’s office on complaints that did involve improper criminal conduct,” said Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City).

Other changes proposed: certification and a way to compensate professional guardians for their work – but also consequences if they break the rules.

“It’s basic stuff, that says ‘okay we’re going to make sure you’re not a criminal before we turn over somebody else’s life into your hands.’ I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we have the same level of supervision for someone who takes over another human being’s life than we have for someone who deals potatoes in the state of Michigan. That’s a licensed profession in our state,” said Scott Teter, the Division Chief of the Financial Crimes Division at the Attorney General’s office and head of the AG’s Elder Abuse Task Force.

Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force has worked for 4 years on the legislation. She testified Wednesday that during her state-wide listening tour, she heard dozens of horror stories about probate court guardianships.

“Guardians moving someone from their home, sticking them in a nursing home, cleaning out their house, and throwing away all of their belongings-- tossing them in a dumpster-- and then immediately putting the house up for sale with no appraisal,” said Nessel. “The solution to these 73,000 incidences of elder abuse, neglect, and economic exploitation every year, the response should not be doing nothing.”

“We have in the lobby a freedom shrine, and it shows the Declaration of Independence. And I re-read it [today]: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they’re endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. And there’s no qualifiers in there: ‘unless you get old, frail or your disabled,’” said Teter during the testimony.

The Michigan Guardianship Association still opposes the changes to the laws. There will be additional hearings on the bills in the coming weeks.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship reform bills would put Office of State Guardian into place in Michigan

Conservatorship: Inside California’s System of Coercion and Care for Mental Illness

by Alex V. Barnard

In New York City and California, politicians have been pushing to expand involuntary psychiatric care to deal with their communities’ abysmal street conditions. No one believes that allowing those with untreated psychosis to suffer in public is anything other than disgraceful. But definitive solutions have proved elusive because, many assume, policymakers can’t agree on when it is acceptable to force people to accept treatment.

In his new book on mental-health care in California, Conservatorship, Alex V. Barnard suggests a different explanation. “Abdicated authority,” he says, better explains the street chaos than poorly designed civil commitment laws. California persistently fails to make progress on serious mental illness because no one’s in charge.

Barnard is a sociologist, based at New York University, but his book may best be understood as a study of public administration. Conservatorship takes readers, step by step, through the process by which Californians with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses “fall through the cracks” of their state’s generously funded but fragmented “nonsystem of care.”

Readers meet several mentally ill Californians who are homeless, floridly psychotic; who have taken a pass on all treatment offers; who are socially isolated, decompensating, and nearly certain to be incarcerated or victimized if not stabilized soon. Barnard then goes through every mental-health system stakeholder’s incentives not to intervene. Police are often reluctant to make an arrest or apply a “5150 hold,” to evaluate someone for psychiatric hospitalization, because the mentally ill person will likely wind up back on the street in no time; drug-treatment programs, shelters, and private housing providers will say that those with serious mental illness require a “higher level of care” than their program can provide; state and county government see no point in civilly committing someone to a hospital bed that doesn’t exist. Thus, Barnard’s “abdicated authority”: everyone is profuse with reasons about why their responsibilities don’t extend to someone with untreated serious mental illness. “[N]egative discretion, exercised in inconsistent ways, is king.”

The book’s title refers to a legal mechanism by which government may assume control over mentally ill Californians’ care. A conservatorship was what, during the 2021 #FreeBritney public controversy, pop singer Britney Spears successfully sought to be freed from. Her legal status was not, strictly speaking, the same as the form of conservatorship used for the mentally ill, which confers stronger powers. Barnard explains that those powers should be plenty strong enough to stabilize even the hardest cases. Why they can’t be effectively brought to bear owes mainly to decentralization.

Scholars have always understood that decentralized government, though a cherished American principle, sometimes has trouble managing crises. Compared with, say, Hurricane Katrina, mental-health crises are more complicated in two respects. First, in addition to confusion among federal, state, and local authorities, roles must be assigned to a wide array of private-sector players, such as insurers, hospitals, and landlords. Second, for someone with a chronic and serious mental illness, life is a permanent crisis, a daily Katrina for him and his family.

California began deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill in earnest with the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. That law passed the state legislature overwhelmingly and was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan. Barnard compares “LPS” to the Magna Carta for its liberating thrust and landmark status. It promised more accountability for public mental health. Pre-LPS, California’s mental-health agency, responsible for running the old asylum programs, was the second-largest agency in the state. Audits found it wasteful and incompetent. Republicans and Democrats alike reasoned that a less centralized system, one more reliant on private entities, would deliver better care and show more sensitivity to civil rights. The real result was extreme unaccountability: “an absence of government leadership, coordination, and regulation creates the readily apparent failings of California’s mental health system.”

Conservatorship makes for an interesting read during our populist moment. Barnard interviewed more than 250 people involved in some way in California’s mental-health crisis. Among his more sympathetic subjects are parents of mentally ill adults. However they vote, parents code as “conservative” in the mental-health context, but they are not localists. They want a more assertive central government, one empowered to force local governments and private entities to serve the seriously mentally ill, even when disinclined to do so, and to force the mentally ill adults to accept that care. Parental deference in mental health thus points in the opposite direction as in the public education debate, in which school reformers are pushing for extreme decentralization.

Barnard refutes several myths that stymie clear thinking about mental-health policy, such as that Reagan is to blame for everything that’s gone wrong over the past half century, or that deinstitutionalization phased out the use of involuntary treatment. Involuntary treatment may not now be standard psychiatric practice as it was in the 1950s, but it’s used more commonly than the conventional wisdom assumes and certainly feels like a common experience for the most seriously mentally ill Californians. The threat of it looms constantly as a way to compel medication adherence. Barnard is sympathetic to pushes to expand the use of conservatorship. But he urges more attention to the quality of involuntary care over the sheer quantity of how many people are sent into it.

Conservatorship delivers the kind of critical analysis that, given its force and sweep, must almost of necessity turn anticlimactic when the author turns to prescription. Barnard concludes with a call for more “engaged authority” on the part of state government. That would entail a certain restoration of the status quo ante deinstitutionalization, when the state called all the shots on mental health in California. It would require California politicians, more comfortable with increasing budgets than investigating outcomes, to expose themselves to more blame. More engaged authority seems a bit wishful, in light of everything Barnard shows about the current order’s tolerance for dysfunction and tragedy.  

Full Article & Source:
Conservatorship: Inside California’s System of Coercion and Care for Mental Illness

Shelbyville homeless shelter director pleads guilty to theft, exploitation charges

By: Jennifer Kraus

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The director of a homeless shelter in Shelbyville pleaded guilty Thursday to taking advantage of the vulnerable people she was supposed to be helping.

Back in June, NewsChannel 5 Investigates first told you about Brenda Knight, the founder of Castle Ministries. She was first arrested and charged with theft and financial exploitation of the elderly. Two weeks later, police added food stamp trafficking charges.

The charges all stem from her work with her organization, which ran at one point the Open Hands shelter for men, a separate shelter for women, a thrift store and Bible classes — all in Shelbyville.

Police in Shelbyville began investigating after getting complaints from both current and former residents of the shelters who told police that before they could move in, Knight required them to clear out their bank accounts and give her all of their money supposedly so she could manage it. However, residents claimed she did not always give it all back.

Knight also reportedly charged what she called "bed fees" to stay in the shelters. Police told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that she charged as much as $640 a month and that records showed her nonprofit took more than $35,000 in bed fees last year.

Additionally, Knight was accused of requiring residents to spend their monthly food stamp money on food for the shelters. Residents said they were told to hand over their food stamp cards or were sent to the store with a list from Knight of things to buy.

Shortly after her initial arrest, NewsChannel 5 Investigates talked with Knight on the porch of the women's shelter about the various allegations. Knight insisted it was all a misunderstanding.

"We are all volunteers. We are just a small ministry. We are serving the Lord. We are just trying to show compassion and help the ones that are transitioning to a housing program," she told us.

But, in court Thursday morning where she was set to be arraigned, Knight pleaded guilty to two of the three charges. She insisted on representing herself, maintaining that hiring an attorney went against her religious beliefs. The D.A. agreed to drop the food stamp trafficking charges in exchange for the guilty pleas on the other counts.

Knight was then sentenced to three years probation along with a nine-month suspended sentence. The judge said she cannot work in or operate a homeless shelter again, and her name will be on the elderly abuse register for the rest of her life. She was also ordered to pay restitution to one of the shelter residents whose money she had taken.

Since her arrest earlier this summer, all of the Castle Ministries entities in Shelbyville have closed.

Shortly after she was first arrested, Shelbyville Police Detective Samuel Campbell told NewsChannel 5 Investigates: "We don’t take pride in taking down a homeless shelter and its director. That’s not what we come to work to do, but if they’re taking advantage of the vulnerable, the homeless and elderly, I think we have a responsibility to them to make sure that they have justice."

Full Article & Source:
Shelbyville homeless shelter director pleads guilty to theft, exploitation charges

Friday, September 29, 2023

Genesis HealthCare Has History of Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits and Other Legal Troubles

The ratings and quality of care at nursing homes in the United States dramatically vary. While many facilities receive five-star ratings from Medicare, far too many others fall well below the standard of care its residents are entitled to.

Risks to the health and safety of residents are higher at facilities with low ratings and citations and violations from inspections. Insufficient staff training for care and safety, understaffed, and inadequate monitoring of residents and patients often are the cause of nursing home injuries and deaths.

lonely elderly man looks sad in the retirement home while sitting in the wheelchair

In several states, nearly half of all nursing homes have a below-average Medicare rating, many of which are owned by Genesis HealthCare. As one of the largest long-term care companies in the country, Genesis HealthCare has a long history of nursing home abuse lawsuits, among other legal troubles.

Genesis HealthCare has paid multimillion-dollar settlements for cases of residents who were not properly monitored, treated, or cared for, resulting in serious, and sometimes fatal, infections and accidents.

Nursing home neglect and elder abuse victims at the company’s facilities have recounted horrifying experiences. One Genesis HealthCare facility patient who didn’t receive daily care for open sores developed maggots in one of her wounds. Unfortunately, this is just one case of a patient not receiving adequate care. There are countless others.

Genesis HealthCare has over 250 nursing homes and rehabilitation centers in the U.S., including in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, North Carolina, California, New Jersey, and Kentucky. They offer short- and long-term care, senior living services, dialysis care, Alzheimer’s care, orthopedic rehabilitation, and ventilator care.

Citations and Lawsuits Against Genesis HealthCare for Nursing Home Abuse

There’s been a steady influx of wrongful death and nursing home abuse lawsuits against Genesis HealthCare for over a decade. Inspections by the Department of Health and Medicare ratings have shown their facilities frequently fail in their responsibility to provide the standard of care they’re supposed to.

These failures have caused severe injuries, illnesses, and emotional distress. Sadly, they’ve also led to several unnecessary deaths.

Some of the common allegations in state, federal, and personal injury claims against nursing homes and rehabilitation centers owned by Genesis HealthCare include:

  • Improper care of ulcers, wounds, and bed sores
  • Failure to diagnose and treat illnesses and infections
  • Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse
  • Inadequate staff training
  • Unsafe and unsanitary conditions
  • Medication errors
  • Fractures and breaks from falls

The history of nursing home lawsuits and other legal troubles that Genesis HealthCare has faced is extensive. The following are just a few cases of neglect and abuse that residents have unfairly endured.

2022: Quinnipiac Valley Center Nursing Home Deaths, Safety Violations

Genesis HealthCare’s Quinnipiac Valley Center nursing home was shut down due to safety concerns and the deaths of two residents. Following an investigation, the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced a mandated closure in March 2022, which required all 94 residents to be moved to other homes.

The investigation revealed that the Genesis HealthCare nursing home residents weren’t getting their medications on time or given the correct dosage or type, staff weren’t trained properly, and that neglect was occurring. One resident died of a heart attack after staff failed to give him his medication. They also discovered that infections at Quinnipiac Valley Center weren’t controlled how they should have been to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff.

There were seven findings of immediate jeopardy once the investigation was completed. According to the Department of Public Health, immediate jeopardy findings are issued when a nursing home’s health violation is so serious there’s a risk of imminent harm to life.

2022: Heritage Hall West and Heritage Hall North Neglect, Inadequate Care

In Massachusetts, two Genesis HealthCare facilities were fined for patient neglect and inadequate care of their residents. Settlement agreements were reached with Heritage Hall West and Heritage Hall North in 2022. Details of the claims include the reckless neglect of a patient recovering from surgery, resulting in serious nursing home injuries that should have never happened. North also failed to do any training for medical emergencies for over three years.

In addition to the nursing home neglect lawsuit settlements, nearly $90,000 was recovered by the Medicaid Fraud Division.

2016-2020: Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center Violations, Lawsuits

Owned by Genesis HealthCare, Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center has been sued at least 13 times for negligence, fraud, and wrongful death. The nursing home’s history of violations and lawsuits come as no surprise, given inspections at the facility have resulted in one-star ratings by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services for years.

The Genesis HealthCare rehabilitation center was found to have severe deficiencies that put its residents’ health at risk. Staff shortages, incompetence, and a lack of infection control are some of the main citations the facility has received. And yet, amidst the known dangers of neglect, safety violations, and nursing home injury and wrongful death lawsuits, the center was set up to intake residents from other facilities who tested positive for COVID-19.

2017: Eagle Crest Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

In California, the troubled Eagle Crest nursing home closed following inspections by the California DPH and the discovery of a resident sexually abused by another resident on several occasions. The poor quality of care by the Genesis HealthCare nursing home led to the facility being under scrutiny for years; it had a long history of state citations and fines and poor ratings for neglect and safety concerns. Eagle Crest had even been on the federal government’s consumer-beware list of troubled facilities for 37 months by the time the closure was announced.

While they voluntarily closed, the DPH had recommended Medicare drop the nursing home, a move that would have significantly impacted the facility owned by Genesis HealthCare. They stated Eagle Crest put all female residents at risk of sexual abuse because they failed to protect them by adequately monitoring the abuser. Inspectors also noted inadequate care and failure to report suspected abuse as some of the other issues.

2017: Federal Lawsuits Against Genesis HealthCare

Around the same time as the Eagle Crest closure, six different federal rehabilitation and nursing home lawsuits were settled with Genesis HealthCare. The lawsuits accused the company of fraudulent billing for false claims of unnecessary services or grossly substandard rehab care. Several whistleblowers were involved in the cases, and the settlements amounted to $54 million.

2016: Milford Center Negligent Care and Treatment

In 2016, Genesis HealthCare was sued by the surviving family of a former patient at one of the company’s long-term care facilities in Delaware. The lawsuit claimed the doctors and nurses at the Milford Center were negligent in their care and treatment of the patient, who had dementia, and that they ultimately caused her death. The nursing home neglect lawsuit against Genesis HealthCare stated the victim was prescribed an antipsychotic drug that poses risks to dementia patients and that they failed to get legal consent from the family to give the medication.

The medication’s packaging warned that elderly patients with dementia who are treated with antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death. The plaintiff’s lawyer stated they felt the drug was given to act as a form of restraint instead of having an actual medical reason to administer it.

These cases of nursing home abuse and neglect at Genesis HealthCare facilities are just a small sample of the legal troubles the company has faced due to their failures and subsequent harm residents have endured. Federal and state governments have repeatedly, including recently, spoken out about the despicable conditions and treatment of residents at their facilities across the country. It’s no surprise that nursing home injury and wrongful death lawsuits continue to plague Genesis HealthCare.

Why File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

The elderly and sick are some of the country’s most vulnerable people, yet nursing home abuse and neglect occurs regularly throughout the country. Significant trust is placed in the medical professionals working at long-term care facilities and the companies that own them. While staff should be appropriately trained in patient care and safety protocols, for-profit nursing homes constantly battle neglect and abuse lawsuits.

When a care facility fails in its duty to provide adequate and compassionate care, holding them accountable for neglect and abuse is crucial – especially when it leads to personal injury or wrongful death.

Unfortunately, Genesis HealthCare is not the only company regularly facing nursing home lawsuits and other legal troubles. But when organizations of this size frequently fall well below the standard of care, taking legal action is an essential step towards change.  

If you or a loved one are injured or developed an illness or infection while staying at a Genesis HealthCare facility or other nursing home or rehab center, speak with a nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. While it’s sometimes obvious the facility or staff’s actions or inaction led to the resident’s harm, that’s not always the case.

An experienced nursing home injury lawyer can help determine whether what happened could have been prevented if the victim received proper care and treatment. They’ll gather the evidence needed to demonstrate nursing home neglect or abuse occurred, protect your rights, and get the compensation and justice you or your loved one deserves.

There are also deadlines to file nursing home lawsuits due to statute of limitations. An attorney can ensure your claim is filed correctly and on time. And if a family member died, a wrongful death lawsuit can hold the care facility accountable for what happened and compensate you for the tragic loss.

Full Article & Source:
Genesis HealthCare Has History of Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits and Other Legal Troubles

Stopping Elder Abuse: How Lawyers Make a Difference

By James Andrew

Elder abuse afflicts millions of senior citizens nationwide. From physical and emotional mistreatment to financial exploitation and neglect, the ways the elderly can be harmed are diverse and upsetting. Many victims suffer silently, unable or afraid to speak out against often family or caregivers. Due to frailty and isolation, the elderly are vulnerable to abuse.

California elder abuse attorneys empower victims. These attorneys help clients obtain restraining orders, navigate the legal system, access services, and prosecute perpetrators. They understand the complex challenges the elderly face. Elder abuse lawyers passionately protect senior citizens’ rights when they are most defenseless. By bringing elder abuse out of the shadows and into the justice system, these lawyers make a meaningful difference for countless elderly victims.

Understanding Elder Abuse

The most common form of elder abuse involves harming or taking advantage of senior citizens. It takes many forms – physical, psychological, sexual, financial, and neglect. While it can happen anywhere, it often occurs by caregivers or family members of the senior trusts. About 10% of Americans over 60 experience some elder abuse, but only 1 in 14 cases get reported, so the scope is likely larger. It happens across all groups but especially affects women and those with disabilities. Causes include caregiver stress, substance abuse, and mental illness. Risk factors for seniors include isolation, dementia, and frailty. At its core, elder abuse stems from ageism and lack of respect for the rights of older adults.

The Role of an Elder Abuse Attorney

Lawyers who specialize in elder abuse help old folks who’ve been mistreated or ignored. These attorneys work to keep their clients safe and make sure they’re treated with respect. They assist seniors and their families in obtaining justice and restitution when abuse occurs. They also work proactively to prevent future mistreatment.

A crucial role of an elder abuse attorney is providing legal counsel and representation to clients. They advise elderly clients and family members on their rights and options when abuse is uncovered. The attorney guides them through often complex legal processes, such as obtaining restraining orders, disputing guardianship arrangements, and filing lawsuits. Their expertise in elder law and familiarity with resources for aging can aid clients in making informed decisions.

In addition to legal advocacy, elder abuse attorneys also serve as counselors and advisors. They educate clients and families on warning signs of abuse and ways to prevent it. Attorneys collaborate with medical, social services, and law enforcement professionals to address abuse cases comprehensively. They may also advocate for policy changes to improve protections for seniors. With compassion and dedication, elder abuse attorneys give voice to some of society’s most vulnerable members.

Legal Actions Against Elder Abuse

Elder abuse attorneys play a vital role in pursuing legal action against perpetrators of elder abuse. They utilize civil lawsuits to recover damages for victims’ injuries and losses. In egregious cases, they may seek criminal charges and work with law enforcement to hold abusers criminally accountable. Attorneys also file for restraining orders to prevent further abuse and harassment. Recovering stolen assets is another priority. By building strong cases, leveraging their legal expertise, and tirelessly advocating for victims, elder abuse attorneys deliver justice, protect seniors, and work to deter these crimes. Legal action is essential to progress in addressing elder abuse. With compassion and commitment, these attorneys make a profound difference. 

Advocacy and Support

Beyond their legal expertise, elder abuse attorneys also serve as advocates and sources of support for elderly clients. These attorneys don’t just provide legal help to elder abuse victims. They know many victims feel alone or are going through emotional troubles. So the attorneys also give emotional support and guidance to the people they work with. 

Raising awareness about elder abuse and how to prevent it is important to these lawyers. They actively work to educate and inform people in the community. By collaborating with local organizations and authorities, they contribute to a safer environment for seniors.

Seeking Help and Taking Action

Spotting elder abuse early is really important so we can help. Some older folks don’t say anything if they’re being mistreated. Family members and caregivers should watch them closely for any signs of abuse.

If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, it’s extremely important to take action immediately. Reach out to a reputable elder abuse attorney like those at Barr & Young Attorneys for guidance and support. They can help you navigate the legal process and seek justice for the abuse suffered.

Full Article & Source:
Stopping Elder Abuse: How Lawyers Make a Difference

“Maine Referendum Spotlights Voting Rights for People Under Guardianship “

by Rick Hasen


Since its drafting in 1819, Maine’s constitution has barred people who are “under guardianship for reasons of mental illness” from voting in state and local elections. The state legislature tried to end that exclusion decades ago, putting constitutional amendments on the ballot in 1997 and 2000, but voters rejected the changes both times. A non-profit organization tasked by the state with protecting disabled residents eventually sued, arguing that the prohibition disenfranchised residents in violation of the U.S. Constitution. This led to a favorable federal court ruling in 2001 that declared Maine’s exclusion unconstitutional.

This fall, Maine voters will again decide whether to scrub that exclusion from their state’s constitution, echoing the court ruling. Question 8, one of several constitutional amendments on the state’s Nov. 7 ballot, asks voters if they want to “remove a provision prohibiting a person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting.”  

Full Article & Source:
“Maine Referendum Spotlights Voting Rights for People Under Guardianship “

Thursday, September 28, 2023

AG Nessel Testifies in Support of Guardianship and Conservatorship Reforms

- Today, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel testified before the House Judiciary Committee in support of House Bills 4909, 4910, 4911, and 4912, which would institute long-awaited reforms to Michigan’s guardianship statutes, as well as HB 5047 which would create the Office of State Guardian. She was joined by Scott Teter, Division Chief of the Financial Crimes Division and head of the Elder Abuse Task Force. 

“These bills, and our continued work in this area, are fundamental to restoring basic dignity to some of the most vulnerable adults in our state,” said Nessel. “These reforms have been proposed time and time again and nothing has changed. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that our guardianship and conservatorship system serves to protect our residents, and that is exactly what this bill package does.” 

As part of her testimony, Attorney General Nessel highlighted the decades of work that have been poured into these reforms dating back to the Michigan Supreme Court’s first Elder Abuse Task Force, formed in 1998. She also brought attention to problems that the Department of Attorney General and partner organizations in the Task Force repeatedly see. To combat those issues, the legislation will:   

  • Require a judge to justify on the record why a family member who is willing to serve as a guardian is not suitable. While the law already provides that family members have priority, the modification serves as an additional safeguard to ensure family members get due consideration;  
  • Eliminate a judge’s ability to prevent a challenge to an appointed guardianship/conservatorship for up to six months;  
  • Require guardian and conservator certification and visitation frequency;   
  • Establish a clear asset/income threshold for appointment of a conservator;  
  • Set standards for the Guardian ad Litem report to the court;
  • Protect personal items of sentimental value from being discarded;
  • Establish a right to attorney throughout the proceedings;
  • Establish additional protections for individuals before removing them from their homes;
  • Improve the basic standard for medical testimony; and more.   

“On behalf of our 1.25 million Michigan members, AARP Michigan supports House Bills 4909-4912, which address crucial reforms for adult guardianships and conservatorships in our state,” said AARP Michigan State Director Paula Cunningham. “These bills would establish requirements for professional guardian certification, improve due process protections, and enhance transparency and accountability to safeguard the rights and assets of vulnerable individuals. We applaud efforts that would limit abuse in Michigan's guardianship system and ask that you approve this legislation." 

The Department was joined by subject matter experts Michelle Roberts – Executive Director, Disability Rights Michigan, Salli Pung - State Ombudsmen, Nathan Piwowarski - Probate attorney, Chris Smith-Elder Law Attorney, Nichole Shannon – practicing attorney, Michigan Elder Justice Initiative (MEJI), and Allison Hirschel – an MEJI National Expert. 

“Disability Rights Michigan receives thousands of calls each year from individuals with disabilities seeking assistance,” Roberts testified. “Our clients call to report abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation by their guardians and for assistance to terminate an unnecessary or overly restrictive guardianship order. The proposed changes will stop unnecessary guardianships, ensure people subjected by guardianships are seen, heard, and afforded the choice, dignity and respect they deserve before, during, and after petitions are filed,”  

Michigan's Elder Abuse Task Force launched in 2019 and consists of more than 55 different organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sections - all working together to combat elder abuse. The more than 100 individuals on the Task Force are divided into seven committees working diligently to accomplish nine initiatives. Achievements include the adoption of a Vulnerable Adult Incident Report form for investigations by law enforcement across the state, including the implementation of related trainings. In addition to the vulnerable adult incident report and associated trainings, the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act was passed that ensures mandated reporting for financial institutions on suspected fraud or exploitation and was part of the Task Force’s First Set of Initiatives.

More than 73,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse. They experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Michigan residents seeking elder abuse resources are encouraged to call 800-24-ABUSE (22873), or 855-444-3911 to report suspected elder abuse.


Full Article & Source:
AG Nessel Testifies in Support of Guardianship and Conservatorship Reforms

Retired Chicago judge disbarred over stealing $240K from her Tuskegee Airman uncle

By Richard Pollina

A retired Chicago judge was stripped of her law license after she was accused of stealing more than $240,000 from her decorated World War II veteran uncle to buy cryptocurrency.

Patricia Martin admitted to misappropriating funds trusted to her by her uncle, Oscar Wilkerson Jr., and his power of attorney while the honorable Tuskegee Airman was in the care of a nursing home, according to CBS Chicago.

Martin was disbarred on consent, according to court records filed in the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday.

“She intentionally used for her own purposes more than $240,000 she had agreed to hold for an elderly relative who was residing in a nursing home, made false statements to the physician who held her relative’s power of attorney about the balances in his bank and investment accounts, and did not produce documents in response to an ARDC subpoena,” the court’s Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission said.

Martin had served as a Circuit Judge for the Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois for 24 years before she retired in 2020.

She admitted to stealing Wilkerson’s life savings in June.

Oscar Wilkerson Jr., and his power of attorney trusted Martin with handling his finances.
Oscar Wilkerson Jr. and his power of attorney trusted Martin with handling his finances.
US Army

“On December 5, 2022, [Martin] filed an answer to the complaint in which she admitted that she had wrongfully assumed control over Mr. Wilkerson’s property,” according to the record.

“She had no authority to use his funds for any purpose other than for his benefit and that she had intentionally deprived him of funds to which he was entitled.”

Wilkerson’s friend and true power of attorney Dr. Maceo Ellison had entrusted Martin to help manage the finances before he uncovered the illegal use.

Martin admitted to using the funds and was later ordered to pay three times the amount she stole from her uncle.
Martin admitted to using the funds and was later ordered to pay three times the amount she stole from her uncle.

The former judge was in charge of looking after his bank, 401k, and social security accounts.

Ellison first caught wind of the fraud when Brookdale Senior Living, the nursing home where Wilkerson was living, contacted him in July 2022, court documents said.

The facility alleged Martin had not paid for Wilkerson’s care at the home in two months while one of Wilkerson’s bank accounts then showed that “more than $41,000” was owed.

Wilkins was the last known surviving member of Tuskegee Airmen in Chicago.
Wilkins was the last known surviving member of Tuskegee Airmen in Chicago.

Ellison and Wilkerson hired attorney Eric Puryear to investigate Martin’s handling of the senior citizen’s finances and uncovered the substantial missing funds.

Martin acknowledged that “the evidence would clearly and convincingly establish the facts and conclusions of misconduct,” according to records.

Wilkerson died in February — a day before his 97th birthday — but filed a lawsuit against Martin in September 2022.

The state legal disciplinary agency proved the disgraced judge sunk over $110,000 into cryptocurrency from her uncle’s money in her name through receipts.

Martin and her lawyers argue that she shouldn't have to pay money to her uncles estate since he died.
Martin and her lawyers argue that she shouldn’t have to pay money to her uncle’s estate since he died.
CBS 2 Chicago

In June, Martin was ordered to pay her uncle’s estate $1.1 million — three times the amount she stole from him — after she continually failed to appear in court and was unresponsive to court orders, according to records.

Martin, however, argued that she shouldn’t have to pay the money to her uncle’s estate since he was dead.

“The plaintiff’s death suspends the court’s jurisdiction in this matter,” her lawyer wrote, according to CBS.

Wilkerson died in February 2023 but sued Martin months before his death.
85th Support Command

“If you can’t trust a judge, who can you trust?” Ken Rapier, a friend of Wilkerson, told the outlet. “It really upsets me when somebody takes advantage of the Tuskegee Airmen.”

Wilkerson grew up in Chicago Heights and left to join the famed civil rights aviators, the Tuskegee Airman, in 1944.

The civil rights pioneer was one of the first black military pilots to fight for the United States in World War II before returning to Chicago and becoming a radio DJ.

He was the last known surviving member of Tuskegee Airmen in Chicago, according to ABC7.

In 2007, Wilkerson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush.

Full Article & Source:
Retired Chicago judge disbarred over stealing $240K from her Tuskegee Airman uncle

Alabama man pleads guilty to scamming elderly victims out of $236,000

By  Howard Koplowitz 

An Alabama man pleaded guilty to two counts of financial exploitation of the elderly and other charges for schemes that bilked more than $236,000 from his victims, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Nicholas Houston Allen, 35, of Montgomery, also pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of theft of property, said Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl D. Bailey and Alabama Securities Commission Director Amanda Senn.

“Allen prowled neighborhoods for elderly victims and came up with reasons to engage them in conversation,” Senn said in a statement. “Once he gained the victim’s trust, he persuaded them to invest in his endeavors and stole their money.”

Allen used deception, intimidation or the threat of force to obtain unauthorized control of the victims’ property, prosecutors said.

The two elderly victims targeted by Allen lost more than $236,000 while a third victim lost more than $1,700.

Allen falsely claimed he was going to flip houses and/or invest the victims’ money in his company, Professional Fix, LLC.

Instead, Allen used the money to pay personal living expenses, prosecutors said.

A state law helped notify prosecutors about the schemes.

Because two of Allen’s victims were 80 and 86 years old, the crimes against the victims fell under Alabama’s Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation Act.

Provisions of the law allow financial professionals to notify the ASC and the state Department of Human Resources of suspicious activity in a client’s account.

A member of Alabama’s financial community alerted ASC, DHR and Bailey’s office about the activity, leading to the charges against Allen.

One of the financial exploitation of the elderly counts is a Class B felony, with a punishment ranging from two to 20 years in state prison and a $30,00 fine, while the other is a Class C felony, punishable between one and 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The securities fraud count is a Class B felony while the theft of property count is a Class C felony.

Jimmy Pool, the 15th Judicial Circuit Court judge presiding over Allen’s case, has not yet set a sentencing date.

Full Article & Source:
Alabama man pleads guilty to scamming elderly victims out of $236,000

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

ABA Adopts Policy on Guardianship Bill of Rights and Due Process Protections

By, Erica Costello, Senior Attorney, American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging

At the ABA Annual Meeting in August of 2023, the House of Delegates unanimously passed Resolution 506, urging national, state, local, territorial, and tribal law and policy-making bodies to adopt the provisions of the “Guardianship Bill of Rights,” promulgated by the National Guardianship Network (NGN) in 2022, and to protect the right to Due Process in guardianship proceedings. The adoption of this Resolution furthers the ABA’s on-going guardianship reform efforts and recognizes the importance of having meaningful due process protections in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings.

Resolution 506 was co-authored by the ABA Commission on Law and Aging (COLA) and the ABA Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice and is based upon recent recommendations from a taskforce established by the NGN.  The NGN is comprised of representatives from various member organizations that advocate for quality guardianship practices and procedures, including ABA COLA and the ABA Section of Real Property, Trust, and Estate Law.  

In May of 2021, the NGN convened the Fourth National Guardianship Summit, virtually hosted by the Syracuse University College of Law. The purpose of the Summit was to review current guardianship policies and practices and make recommendations for reform over the next decade. At the Summit, 125 delegates adopted twenty-two (22) recommendations for guardianship reform—including Recommendation 1.1, which called upon the NGN to convene a task force to draft a model national Bill of Rights for adults subject to a guardianship.[1]

Following the Summit, the NGN established a task force in 2022 to create the first model national “Guardianship Bill Rights.”  The task force, including members from national disability and aging organizations, individuals at risk or subject to guardianship, and family and professional guardians, created a model document affirming the rights of adults who have a guardian, including the right to an attorney to advocate for the outcome they want, the right to be present and participate in all court hearings, and the right to keep all rights not granted to their guardian.[2] The document also affirmed other access to justice rights, core human rights, and decision-making rights that should be afforded to adults at all times when they have a guardian.

Resolution 506 was drafted and passed following the NGN taskforce’s recommendations, urging law and policy-making bodies to enact the NGN’s “Guardianship Bill of Rights,” as well as take necessary steps to ensure meaningful due process in guardianship and conservatorship cases. All too often stories in the news media report that individuals are placed under unnecessary guardianships because of a lack of fundamental due process protections, including the failure to have counsel appointed to represent the individual, the failure to receive notice of the hearing or be heard by the court, and the failure to confront or cross examine witnesses to the case. It is imperative that individuals subject to guardianship or conservatorship proceedings have the right to present a guardianship defense and be provided with meaningful due protections, even if such protections are not explicitly provided in state statutes.

There are currently only eleven states that have statutory provisions providing a “Bill of Rights” for individuals subject to guardianships or conservatorships, or have language specifying rights retained by persons in guardianship or conservatorship cases.[3]  While these statutes typically recognize basic due process protections afforded to all adults subject to guardianship or conservatorship proceedings, they may not encompass all of the protections recognized by the NGN’s “Guardianship Bill of Rights.” As such, the NGN’s “Guardianship Bill of Rights” provides law and policy-making bodies with an excellent model to consider adopting or take into consideration when amending existing statutes.

The passage of Resolution 506 is a huge step towards improving current guardianship policies and practices across the country.  It encourages the adoption of the NGN’s model “Guardianship Bill of Rights” and provides a template for protecting the rights of individuals subject to guardianship or conservatorship proceedings. It also seeks to ensure meaningful due process protections for anyone whose rights are at risk in such proceedings. The provisions in Resolution 506 are especially important for protecting individuals who have a conservator or guardian appointed by the courts.

[1] Fourth National Guardianship Summit: Maximizing Autonomy and Ensuring Accountability. Recommendation 1.1.  Fourth-National-Guardianship-Summit-Adopted-Recommendations-May-2021-1.pdf

[2] For a complete list of the rights adopted by the NGN: NGA-Bill-of-Rights-rev-11-4-22.pdf (

[3] Arkansas (Ark. Code Ann. § 28-65-106), California (Cal. Prob. Code § 1835.5), Florida (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 744.3215), Iowa (Iowa Code Ann. § 633.637A), Michigan (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 700.5306a), Minnesota (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 524.5-120), Missouri (Mo. Rev. Code § 475.361), Nevada (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159.327-8), South Carolina (S.C. Code Ann. § 62-5-304A), Texas (Tex. Est. Code Ann. §1151.351), and Utah (Utah Code Ann. § 75-5-301.5).

Full Article & Source:
ABA Adopts Policy on Guardianship Bill of Rights and Due Process Protections

Flushing doctor settles health care fraud claims for $1.3 million after over-billing nursing home patients: Feds

By Bill Parry

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace reached a $ 1.3 million settlement agreement with a Flushing doctor after he allegedly over-billed Medicare for services provided to residents of Queens nursing homes.
File photo courtesy of the EDNY

A Flushing-based pulmonologist will have to pay $1.3 million in restitution as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department after he over-billed nursing home residents for years, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace announced last week.

The deal addresses allegations that Dr. Arun Arora violated the federal False Claims Act by billing Medicare for critical care services to residents of nursing homes in Queens when he provided only routine care, such as regular medical checkups.

Critical care services involve imminent life-threatening deterioration of a patient’s condition and Medicare reimburses health care providers at a higher rate for critical care services than for routine care, according to federal prosecutors. By billing for critical care services when he provided only routine care, as the government contends, Dr. Arora received extra payment for care that he did not provide.

Under the terms of the agreement with the U.S., Dr. Arora will pay the $1.3 million for conduct that took place in the years 2019 to 2023. In addition to the payment to resolve the government’s fraud claim, Dr. Arorahas entered into a separate “integrity agreement” with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, which imposes a number of obligations meant to ensure he complies with Medicare rules and regulations going forward.

“Our Medicare program, which provides health care services to the elderly, works only if its funds are expended properly,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “When health care providers over-bill the program, Medicare cannot ensure that services are going to the people who need them most.”

He added that the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no admission of or determination of liability.

Full Article & Source:
Flushing doctor settles health care fraud claims for $1.3 million after over-billing nursing home patients: Feds

Double H Canine Training Academy... Epic Service Dog Training Failure

Ryker giving it his all before flunking our of Service Dog Training School

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Double H Canine Training Academy... Epic Service Dog Training Failure

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

GOP lawmaker calls for scrutiny of DHHS after disclosure of eight public guardianship deaths

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GOP lawmaker calls for scrutiny of DHHS after disclosure of eight public guardianship deaths

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

96-year-old judge who refuses to retire suspended for ‘misconduct’

By Rachel Weiner

Judge Pauline Newman of the U.S. Court Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, with mementos in her office in Washington. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

The order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit begins with praise. Judge Pauline Newman is called “a heroine,” “highly valued and respected,” and “the most beloved colleague,” one who has served for 39 years.

But it’s not an award or a retirement announcement; it’s a notice that Newman has been suspended from the court for a year for “serious misconduct.” Her transgression: refusing to cooperate with an investigation into whether, at the age of 96, she can no longer do the job. The suspension could be renewed after a year, the court says.

“We are acutely aware that this is not a fitting capstone to Judge Newman’s exemplary and storied career,” the other active judges of the court wrote in a 70-page explanation of the decision. “We all would prefer a different outcome for our friend and colleague. However, we have a solemn obligation … to take action — and not to simply look the other way — when it appears that a judge of this Court is no longer capable of performing the duties of her judicial office.”

Newman has sued her colleagues, providing an unusually public view into what is usually a secretive process. The suspension comes as lawmakers such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) face calls to step down over age-related health issues. Newman refused to cooperate unless the investigation was transferred to a different court, arguing that there would be inevitable conflicts of interest if her colleagues were evaluating her fitness and questioning their own staff.

“This could have been done in a much more respectful, nonhostile and appropriate manner simply by transferring to another tribunal,” her attorney Greg Dolin said. “This was entirely avoidable.” The lawsuit is ongoing; Dolin says Newman also plans to appeal Wednesday’s order to the federal courts’ Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, made up of seven judges from around the country.

The court says in its order that it is Newman’s recalcitrance that led to these “very sad proceedings.”

Newman was one of the first judges appointed to the Federal Circuit, which hears cases involving patents and trademarks along with some other claims involving government contracts and benefits. A trained chemist who helped invent a new type of synthetic fabric, she is known as a vociferous defender of the patent system amid a backlash spurred by “patent trolls” who claim broad inventions.

She is also known for her dissents and for taking a long time to write them. But Chief Judge Kimberly A. Moore argued that Newman’s output in the past two years was so meager, despite a reduced caseload, that it was necessary to ask her to retire or take less onerous “senior status.”

Newman in her office. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Newman declined. Moore then convened a panel of three judges to investigate Newman’s competence, which recommended the suspension to the rest of the court in July. Newman has not been assigned new cases since the investigation began, which she says in her lawsuit is a denial of due process.

Because Newman would not submit to a neurological examination and interview set up by the committee or share her medical records, the court ultimately ruled only on her failure to engage with the investigation. But the order also details what the judges describe as “overwhelming evidence that Judge Newman may be experiencing significant mental problems.”

Newman did undergo about four hours of evaluation with a forensic psychiatrist and a neurologist, both of whom deemed her mentally fit, and argues she is actually slightly more productive in recent months than previously.

“I am not physically disabled; I am not mentally disabled. I may talk too much, but that’s always been true,” Newman said in an interview earlier this year.

The court dismissed those psychiatric reports as inadequate, noting that the doctors were chosen by Newman, relied on her for information and gave tests far shorter than the six-hour cognitive exam the judicial committee wanted.

Included in the order are emails in which Newman appears not to remember having agreed to let a law clerk change jobs and repeatedly demands return of a computer she was told did not belong to her. (Newman’s attorney said the judge had accepted that the clerk would leave but did not know he would go to another judge.) In affidavits, court employees say she had begun having trouble keeping track of her files and the status of various cases, started struggling to use technology, and would claim her phone was “bugged” and her computers “hacked.”

“I would describe Judge Newman as ranting, rambling, and paranoid,” one information technology staffer wrote in an affidavit. According to the order, the clerk of court “advised staff to avoid interacting with her in person or, when they must, to bring a co-worker with them.”

Newman’s paralegal said that after he complained about a law clerk treating him inappropriately, including by calling in the middle of the night with personal requests, the judge retaliated against the paralegal and threatened to have him arrested.

“I love, revere, and admire Judge Newman personally and professionally for all her accomplishments and who she is as a person, which makes the last few months so much more difficult,” the paralegal wrote in an affidavit.

Dolin blamed the court’s refusal to transfer the investigation for Newman’s mistrustful behavior, and suggested staffers exaggerated or distorted their concerns about the judge to curry favor with the chief judge.

“Given how Judge Newman was treated,” he said, “can you really blame Judge Newman for not taking what she’s been told at value?”

Even if Newman’s managerial style was unpleasant for some staffers, he argued in an August filing, it was nothing she could be disciplined for, as federal judges have significant power over their offices: “It is entirely Judge Newman’s prerogative to determine when to work and when to expect assistance of her chambers staff.”

The Federal Circuit judges are acting under a 1980 law that allows for judicial sanction by colleagues, as long as the punishment is not removal from office or indefinite suspension. Had the committee deemed Newman disabled, another judge could be appointed by the president, but she would still not be forced to retire. The only generally accepted way to remove a federal judge from the bench entirely is impeachment.

In the August filing, her attorneys argued that while the court committee could stop assigning Newman cases under a misconduct order, they cannot bar her from “en banc” hearings that include the full court or make the punishment renewable indefinitely.

“The Committee’s remit is limited only to sanctioning judges for past conduct, rather than attempting to directly compel some future conduct,” they wrote.

The court dismissed Newman’s criticisms of the process as baseless, saying that keeping the investigation in the Federal Circuit was more efficient.

“Judge Newman can, at any time, end this suspension, by … allowing the Committee to complete its investigation,” they wrote.

Arthur Hellman, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who studies the federal court system, said the order was “quite persuasive that there’s reason to be concerned about Judge Newman’s cognitive abilities.” But he said there is “no judicial precedent” making clear that a court can force a judge to undergo medical testing or impose a renewable sanction. He expects she will argue that the punishment violates the Constitution “because it is the functional equivalent of removing the judge from office.”

Full Article & Source:
96-year-old judge who refuses to retire suspended for ‘misconduct’