When a Family Matter Turns Into a Business - Los Angeles Times

First, I read about the abuse of elderly vulnerable citizens in Florida, especially in the corrupt Pinellas County, and then I read about the elderly retired judge who has been locked up in a nursing home complete with wrist band to make sure that he can go nowhere, and now I find the subject being discussed in the Los Angeles Times.
This lengthy report by Robin Fields, Evelyn Larrubia and Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers, details various cases of elderly abuse by men and women who are known as Conservators in California.
The following extract from the report gives statistics regarding the granting of emergency conservatorship:
Emergency Appointments
More than half of all conservatorships filed by professionals in Southern California between 1997 and 2003 were granted by the courts on an emergency basis, often bypassing initial assessments by court investigators and other safeguards designed to protect wards’ rights. In all, there were 1,160 emergency appointments:
  • Granted without notice to senior or family: 56%

  • Granted before an attorney appointed: 64%

  • Granted before court investigator’s report: 92%
Sources: Probate records for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Data analysis by Maloy Moore

It is through the method of going to court to seek emergency appointments that the unscrupulous amongst the men and women who act as guardians to California’s vulnerable elderly adults manage to get a foothold and to “legally” steal the wealth of the people who have become trapped within the system.
The report details several cases where the elderly person does not require a guardian or conservator at all, however, the way in which this vile system has been working the unscrupulous, such as Melodie Scott, hear of a case through the nursing homes, hostels or hospitals and they work swiftly by seeking an emergency appointment as conservator.
Conservatorship began as a way to help families protect their enfeebled relatives from predators and self-neglect. Instead of protecting some of the most vulnerable adults, those who are elderly and are on the brink of such conditions as Alzheimer’s or even Parkinson’s Disease end up in the hands of what can only be described as unscrupulous predators who have learned how to manipulate the statutes in their favour as they go about fleecing the victim and enriching themselves.

The Times examined the work of California’s professional conservators, reviewing more than 2,400 cases, including every one they handled in Southern California between 1997 and 2003. Among the findings:
• Seniors lose their independence with stunning swiftness. More than 500 were entrusted to for-profit conservators without their consent at hearings that lasted minutes. Retired candy company owner Donald Van Ness, 85, did not know what had happened to him until he tried to pay for lunch at a San Diego-area restaurant and was told his credit card had been canceled.

Some conservators misuse their near-parental power over fragile adults, ignoring their needs and isolating them from loved ones. One withheld the allowance that a disabled man relied on for food, leaving him to survive on handouts from a church. Another abruptly moved a 95-year-old woman to a care home and for a month refused to tell her daughter where she was.

• In the most egregious cases, conservators plunder seniors’ estates. One took 88-year-old Thelma Larabee’s savings to pay his taxes and invest in a friend’s restaurant. Helen Smith’s conservator secretly sold Smith’s house at a discount — to herself. The conservator’s daughter later resold it for triple the price.

•More commonly, conservators run up their fees in ways large and small, eating into seniors’ assets. A conservator charged a Los Angeles woman $170 in fees to have an employee bring her $49.93 worth of groceries.  Palm Springs widow Mary Edelman kept paying from beyond the grave: Her conservators charged her estate $1,700 for attending her burial.
Once in conservators’ grasp, it is difficult — and expensive — for seniors to get out. Courts typically compel them to pay not only their own legal fees, but those of their unwanted guardians as well. In the 15 months it took Theresa Herrera’s grandson to unseat her conservator, almost half of the 92-year-old’s $265,000 estate had been exhausted.

To be continued.    


The case of John Phillips aged 82

John Phillips is a retired New York judge who is now 82 years young. During his life as a judge, Mr. Phillips managed to amass a fortune in property. Now he is being confined in a nursing home because someone had him taken before the court and had him declared incompetent as far as looking after himself was concerned.

This declaration of incompetence has meant that John has been forced into a nursing home, whilst the court appointed guardian has had the opportunity to get hold of the property owned by Mr. Phillips.

This is yet another classic case of guardianship abuse. This story highlights the comments that I made concerning the State of Florida, especially Pinellas County where such abuses are rife, and where guardians have been forcing the elderly into a similar situation under the Baker Act, that is administered by a woman who has connections to none other the the same hospice where Terri Schiavo was forced to die. The difference in this story is that this case is in New York State.

Court appointed guardians owe their wards a duty of care, especially when it comes to the protection of property. If this story was to conclude in the same way as the stories in Florida and Michigan, then the asset stripping guardian has only one purpose in mind - rob Mr. Phillips of his estate, and when the money is gone, starve him to death.

These cases highlight the lack of justice that exists in the civil justice system. It seems that greed is constantly the winner in these cases. I cannot understand how the "professional" guardians are managing to gain precedence over members of the family of the victim who is being stricken with such abuse. The family members of Judge Phillips are attempting to come to his aid and they have scheduled a court appearance to challenge the guardian. If this case goes according to script, then the judge will deny the family their right to make the challenge.

For an elderly person such as John Phillips, the declaration of incompetence is almost like a death sentence. In this particular case, it seems that the judge who allowed this to happen and declared this man incompetent to look after himself, has taken the unnecessary step of having this man confined to the nursing home, complete with tracking wrist-band.

To put a tracking wrist-band on a resident of a nursing home is in my view something that could cause the person to go into deep depression. It is an extremely cruel method of control, especially when the person is definitely competent to speak up for himself. One could see the use of a tracking device to be useful for someone with Alzheimer's Disease, but from what I have read about this man, so far, I cannot see the evidence of Alzheimer's Disease that would require that he was to be confined in the nursing home as though he were a criminal.

No matter where these cases appear, there is a lack of justice and once again it illustrates exactly how rotten and decayed the justice system in the USA has become when there is more that can be done for criminals than innocent people who are being forced to be placed into nursing homes, and then watch as the guardian strips them, not just of their dignity but also their wealth. It is time to speak up against this form of injustice.

Retired judge in New York subject of guardianship abuse

I have just become aware of the following article:


February 28, 2006 -- EXCLUSIVE

A beloved former Brooklyn judge says he's a virtual prisoner in a Bronx
nursing home where he has been confined by a court order for more than a
year while his appointed guardian sells his assets.

The former judge, John Phillips, 82, wears a monitoring wristband and
cannot leave or receive telephone calls at the East Haven Nursing and
Rehabilitation Center — but spoke to The Post via a tape recorder
carried by a friend during a visit.

"It's lousy what they did to me," Phillips told The Post. "I've got to
get out of here and get back to Brooklyn. They're stealing from me. I'm
going to get my life back. I've got no business being here."

Phillips has been an involuntary guest at the home since December 2004.
Court-appointed guardians have looked after his multimillion-dollar
estate since 2002, when a judge ruled that he was not mentally competent.

All records in connection with his case have been sealed. But a lawyer
retained by a niece of Phillips' said the judge is barred from leaving
the facility by a court order.

"I still don't understand how the judge is at the nursing home," said
the lawyer, Armani Scott. "But once he was put in, the court said he
can't get out until they say so."

Scott said he's unaware of any specific treatment the ex-judge is
getting at the home.

A nursing-home official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The
Post that Phillips did require monitoring and care — but also said the
situation would be better if the ex-judge lived with a relative.

Of particular concern to both Phillips and loved ones is what's
happening to his estate, which includes at least 10 buildings and two

Earlier this month, a committee formed by friends of Phillips' filed a
complaint with state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to look into the
management of his finances by his court-appointed guardian, Emani Taylor.

Taylor did not return a call seeking comment.

Relatives plan to attend a Brooklyn Supreme Court hearing today in hopes
of persuading Justice Michael Pesce to release Phillips and relieve Taylor.

Meanwhile, Phillips is outraged that his properties are being sold.

"They are stealing my theaters and everything," Phillips says on the
tape. "I want to get out of here . . . I'm gonna tear their asses up
when I get out."