Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Long Island "Elder Law" Attorney Pleads Guilty to Stealing $797K from Clients

On June 23, 2015, Martha Brosius, a "retired" attorney who once held herself out as an "elder law attorney," pled guilty in New York to stealing $797,322 from clients.  In one alleged instance of breach of fiduciary duties and embezzlement, she was the court-appointed guardian for a 77-year-old disabled man.  It was alleged she used client funds to pay office, payroll and personal expenses. 

The mother of two minor-aged children and the wife of a district attorney, Brosius is scheduled to be sentenced in August.  According to The Long Island Press, the special prosecutor has sought a sentence of between six to eighteen years plus restitution; the defense counsel says some moneys have already been repaid.

June 30, 2015 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2015

California Court Says Law Permitting Nursing Homes to "Make Routine Decisions for Incapacitated Residents" Is Unconstitutional

On June 24, 2015, the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Alameda, Judge Evelio Grillo presiding, issued a mandamus in a court suit filed in 2013 by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR).  Lots of interesting and important issues here, including:

  • the finding that CANHR, a nonprofit agency "dedicated to improving the quality of care for California's nursing home residents," has standing to bring a citizen action to challenge the reliance by nursing homes on California law to permit them to make decisions "for" incapacitated residents who do not have court appointed agents, family or other surrogate decision makers;
  • the conclusion that the California law in question, Calif. Health & Safety Code Section 1418.8,  is unconstitutional, both facially and as applied;
  • the recognition that the mandate is necessary, even though it will require major changes in how care facilities operate in the daily care of patients.

The 44 page opinion concludes:

"The court is aware that this statute was the Legislature's attempt to deal with a very difficult and significant problem of how to provide timely and effective medical treatment to patients in skilled nursing facilities without delays that were often happening when a petition had to be filed in probate court.  The court acknowledges that this order will likely create problems in how many skilled nursing facilities currently operate....  The court has considered this burden and weighed it against the due process concerns, and finds that the due process rights of these patients is more compelling.  The stakes are simply too high to hold otherwise. Any error in these situations has the possibility of depriving a patient of his or her right to make medical decisions about his or her own life that may result in significant consequences, including death.  A patient may not only lose the ability to make his or her health decisions, but also to manage his or her own finances, determine his or her visitors, and the ability to leave the facility."  

Congratulations to the hard-working advocates at CANHR, and particularly to Golden Gate Law Professor Mort P. Cohen,  who brought the action on behalf of CNHR and several nursing home residents.  Here is a link to the full opinion in CANHR v. Chapman, Case No. RG13700100. Here is a press release from CANHR.

June 29, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Sunday, June 28, 2015

In Divorce of 90+ Year Olds, Nebraska High Court Confirms Award of Alimony to Pay Nursing Home Fees

In Binder v, Binder, decided June 26, 2015, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed an award against the husband for alimony in the amount of $3,200 per month. This was the amount necessary to cover the wife's balance due each month for her nursing home care.  The divorcing couple, each in their mid 90s, had been married for 32 years, a second marriage for both.  Married in their 60s, they had no children together. The husband had at least one child from a prior marriage; his son leased the husband's farmland for more than 25 years to continue operations.

The husband argued that the alimony award, exceeding his own $2,800/mo income from Social Security and rental of his farming property, was an abuse of discretion as it lowered his income below "poverty thresholds" set by state guidelines for child support awards.  The Court ruled, however, that in the absence of minor children, the guidelines were inapplicable. Nonetheless, the Court also addressed the "reasonableness" of the award and concluded:

In reviewing an alimony award, an appellate court does not decide whether it would have awarded the same amount of alimony as the trial court. Instead it decides whether the trial court's award is untenable such as to deprive a party of a substantial right or just result.  The main purpose of alimony is to assist a former spouse for a period necessary for that individual to secure his or her own means of support. Reasonableness is the ultimate criterion.

 

Applying these factors, we cannot say that the amount of alimony is an abuse of discretion. Glenn sought to dissolve his nearly 32–year marriage to Laura after she began incurring expenses for essential nursing home care that are well beyond her means. Laura did not work outside the home during the marriage, she is not employed now, and there is no evidence that she has untapped earning capacity. Similarly, Glenn is retired and has no wage income. But while Laura has exhausted nearly all her assets, Glenn has the power to dispose of more than 200 acres of farmland. The land is not irrelevant to alimony even though it is Glenn's premarital property. A court may consider all of the property owned by the parties—marital and separate–in decreeing alimony. 

 

As to disputes over matters such as Laura's contributions to the marriage, we note that the district court was in the best position to judge the witness' credibility. Although our review is de novo, if credible evidence is in conflict on a material issue of fact, an appellate court considers and may give weight to the circumstance that the trial judge heard and observed the witnesses and accepted one version of the facts than another. This rule is particularly apt here because both Laura and Glenn had some trouble testifying and the record does not show to what extent their difficulties were cognitive, auditory, or other.

In reading the decision, I'm struck by questions of what -- or even who -- was driving the divorce, and to what extent the parties' decisions were affected by Medicaid eligibility issues.  For more history, as well as comments by the husband's attorney, see "Retired Farmer Must Pay More in Alimony Than Monthly Income," in the Omaha World-Herald.

June 28, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Florida Appellate Court Reverses Conviction on Financial Exploitation of Elder

On June 24, 2015, a Florida intermediate appellate court reversed the 2013 conviction of Tyrone Javallena for "financial exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult," ruling that there was no evidence the defendant in question, who was the husband of a financial advisor for a 94-year-old woman who made late-in-life changes to her estate plan benefitting the couple, had the requisite knowledge of any plan to exploit.  In Javallena v. State, the 4th DCA ruled:

The [elderly woman's estate] documents were amended so that, ultimately, the defendant and his wife were residual beneficiaries of the estate. The defendant and his wife served as witnesses to Teris' execution of some of the amendments, and at some point in time, his wife became aware of the substance of the amendments. However, there was no evidence that the defendant, who also chauffeured Teris on errands, had any knowledge of a plan to exploit the victim. As for Teris' mental capacity at the time she executed the amendments to her estate documents, there was conflicting evidence before the jury.

 

On appeal, the defendant argues that his conviction under a principals theory constituted error as there was no evidence he participated in the exploitation. We agree.

 

"To convict under a principals theory, the State is required to prove that the defendant had a conscious intent that the criminal act be done and . . . the defendant did some act or said some word which was intended to and which did incite, cause, encourage, assist, or advise the other person or persons to actually commit or attempt to commit the crime."Hall v. State, 100 So. 3d 288, 289 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

The original conviction of Javallena and his wife in 2013 was high profile news, in part because of the estate in question -- referred to in the appellate opinion as "vast" -- was reported to be $10 million.  No word on the status of any appeal on the separate conviction of Javallena's wife. 

June 26, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Symposium Issue Responds to Hartog's "Someday All This Will Be Yours"

The Spring 2015 issue of the ABA publication Law & Social Inquiry has a great symposium review section offering a broad array of essays, commenting on Hendrik Hartog's important book Someday All this Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age (Harvard University Press: 2012). 

The impressive list of contributors includes:

Plus, historian Hendrik Hartog provides his own commentary and response! 

Suffice it to say if you appreciated Hartog's book, you will thoroughly enjoy his additional musings on how he came to write it and what it might mean for the future. 

The comments are engaging and relatively brief -- but should still keep you busy on a summer weekend.

June 19, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

California Clarifies Nature of "Takings" Actionable Under Elder Abuse Law

In 2014, the California Court of Appeal issued a decision recognizing broad application of California's Elder Abuse laws to contract-related disputes.  In Bounds v. Superior Court, the appellate court set the stage for the important ruling:

Bounds, an 88–year–old widow allegedly suffering from Alzheimer's disease, alleges in her cross-complaint that for approximately six months, Real Parties in Interest Gerry Mayer (Mayer), Joseph Sojka (Sojka), and their associated businesses entities (KMA Group, LLC, Kopykake Enterprises, and Sojka–Nikkel Commercial Realty Group) engaged in abusive conduct, resulting in her signing, among other documents, escrow instructions authorizing the sale of real property owned by the Trust. Because escrow was cancelled, the Trust retains title to, and Bounds remains in possession of, the property. However, petitioners allege that the existence of the escrow instructions significantly impairs their right to sell the property at fair market value or to use it to secure a loan on favorable terms.
 
These alleged facts raise an issue of first impression: whether to allege a “taking” of a property right under the [California Elder Abuse] Act, it is sufficient to plead that an elder has entered into an unconsummated agreement which, in effect, significantly impairs the value of the elder's property, or whether the Act requires that the agreement have been performed and title have been conveyed.....
 
As explained more fully below, we conclude that because property rights include, among other things, the right to use and sell property ... petitioners' allegations that Bounds entered into an executor agreement which significantly impaired the value of the property owned by the Trust adequately pleads a "taking" -- that is, adequately pleads that Bounds has been "deprived of [a] property right .... by means of an agreement," within the meaning of [California law] section 15610.30(c). 
 
Therefore the appellate court permitted the case to go forward against the alleged abusers, who were alleged to have frightened the aging Bounds into selling property at a bargain price.
 
More recently, Sara Colon, one of the lawyers represented the elderly Ms. Bounds, and Catherine Eschbach, a law student at Pepperdine Law School, collaborated on an article for the Los Angeles Lawyer magazine, published in April 2015.  In Out of Bounds, they explain the significance of the Bounds case, including its application in the context of predatory lending schemes. 

June 17, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Siblings' Dispute Over Filial Support Finds Way to Bankruptcy Court

Last fall, I blogged about In re Skinner, a case in which one son was trying to prevent a brother from obtaining a discharge in bankruptcy court of a "filial support" judgment to a long-term care facility. Both brothers had been sued, but one brother, Thomas, had defaulted on the suit, resulting in a default judgment as to his liability.  The bankruptcy court concluded that Brother William lacked standing" to prevent Brother Thomas' discharge of debt to an assisted living facility for care of their mother. 

In May, 2015 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania affirmed the bankruptcy court's dismissal of the adversary proceeding, concluding that "William Skinner has not adequately alleged that he is a bankruptcy creditor of Thomas Skinner. He therefore lacks standing to bring an action challenging the dischargeability of Thomas Skinner's debts." 

The additional allegations described in the District Court opinion -- which are reminiscent of the allegations of misuse of Powers of Attorney in Presbyterian Medical Center v. Budd (Pa. Super. 2013) -- demonstrate the complicated nature of filial support suits for family members.  This is especially true in Pennsylvania where courts seem to be treating claims of statutory liability as "joint and several" in nature, and not proportional based on fault.  For the latest see In re Skinner, 2015 WL 3400943, (E.D. Pa. May 27, 2015).

June 16, 2015 in Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pennsylvania AG Files Unfair Trade Practices Claim Against Law Firm

On June 5, 2015, the Attorney General for Pennsylvania announced filing of a civil suit, seeking permanent injunctive relief against a lawyer and his law firm, for tactics alleged to violate state unfair trade practice and debt collection laws.  The allegations include misuse of Pennsylvania's filial support law to demand payment by family members for medical service fees incurred by the original debtor.  Here is the link to the AG's press release

Boy, it's been a tough month already for Pennsylvania debt collectors! The AG's suit is not against the same law firm involved in the Second Circuit's decision reported here earlier this week.

June 9, 2015 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 8, 2015

2d Circuit Addresses Nursing Home Collection Practices in Cross-Border Dispute

In Eades v. Kennedy PC Law Offices, decided June 4, 2015, the Second Circuit ruled that a federal court in New York has personal jurisdiction to address alleged unfair debt collection practices of a Pennsylvania law firm in seeking to collect unpaid nursing home fees totaling $8,000.  The plaintiffs, New York residents -- the husband and adult daughter of a woman in a Pennsylvania nursing home -- challenged statements in correspondence and phone communications allegedly made by the Pennsylvania law firm.  The claims against the daughter were based on Pennsylvania's filial support law.

As reported on this Blog in December 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed the suit, finding no personal jurisdiction and further rejecting application of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Second Circuit's ruling concludes, however, that the law firm's "three purposeful contacts with New York," of mailing a debt collection notice to the New York family members, engaging in a debt collection phone call with the daughter, and mailing a summons and complaint to both the daughter and the nursing home resident's husband, are enough to establish personal jurisdiction under New York's long-arm statute.  Further, the defendant law firm had not shown that exercise of such jurisdiction was unreasonable.

On the questions raised by the FDCPA claims, the Second Circuit rejected several key arguments by the plaintiffs, concluding that Pennsylvania's filial support law is not preempted by the Nursing Home Reform Act's prohibition on nursing homes requiring third party guarantees of payment:

Continue reading

June 8, 2015 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Does 8th Amendment Bar Execution of Murderer Who Develops Advanced Dementia After Conviction?

On March 17, 2015, Missouri executed "convicted cop killer Cecil Clayton."  Clayton's prosecution was a matter of much legal commentary from the very outset of his arrest and prosecution in the 1990s, because of the documented history of removal of 1/5 of the frontal lobe of his brain following a sawmill accident in the 1970s. 

However, as his prosecution, appeals, and post-conviction challenges wended their way through state and federal courts on issues of effective assistance of counsel, insanity and mental defect, an additional cognitive impairment was underway.  By the time of his execution Clayton was reported to be Missouri's "oldest death row prisoner" at age 74 and at least five years before his last day, he had been diagnosed with progressive, neurological deterioration, consistent with "dementia."

The last court to consider the Clayton's last (and last minute) challenges to the death penalty, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, wrote on the same day as his execution:

Should the Atkins [v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)] reasoning be applied, by analogy, to cases involving persons with physical brain damage and progressive deterioration, and an Atkins-like evaluation performed to determine whether the death penalty may be properly imposed? It seems fair to analogize the diminished capacity of the mentally retarded that lessens personal culpability and prohibits execution of the mentally retarded...to those whose physical brain damage and progressive deterioration have, for example, lessened their capacity to meaningfully participate in legal proceedings. Using a different analogy, it would be difficult to imagine, for example, that a civilized society would execute a person who was not mentally retarded at the time of the commission of a capital crime, but who subsequently developed advanced  Alzheimer's disease by the time of the execution.

Ultimately, the court ruled that no relief was available to Clayton on the record before it, but the court clearly was concerned about the potential for evidence of post-conviction dementia to establish independent grounds for a valid 8th Amendment challenge.  The court concluded:

Again, at this very late date, the question of whether the death penalty can be imposed against a person such as Clayton with physical brain damage—a hole in his frontal lobe—associated with progressive deterioration over time, has not been litigated here, and it may be too late. In the time available, the Court cannot conclude under the deferential AEDPA standard that the Missouri Supreme Court's decision should be disturbed.

For more on the litigation history of Clayton's mental impairment(s), see Clayton v. Al Luebbers, 2015 WL 1208786 (W.D. Mo., May 17, 2015).

June 3, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Can You Get A Divorce if You Have Dementia? That's the $10M Question in South Florida

From our roving reporter (okay, actually from my great Dickinson Law colleague, Professor Laurel Terry) we get headline news in Palm Beach, Florida and a front-page question about whether an older man has the capacity necessary under that state's "unique" law to seek an end to his later-in-life second marriage.  You won't be surprised to read that money is involved in this lawsuit: 

Sitting in his oceanfront condominium in Palm Beach, [87-year old] Martin Zelman can’t immediately name the president of the United States, isn’t sure what year it is and admits he can’t remember the month or the date of Valentine's Day. But he knows he wants to divorce his wife [age 80], whom he married in 2000, 7 years after they began dating.

 

Or does he?  That's the $10 million dollar question that surrounds Zelman vs. Zelman, a unique and legally complex divorce case wending its way through Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

 

While the issues raised are intensely personal, they lay bare the ways adult children could use the court system to manipulate prenuptial agreements designed to protect spouses in second marriages. They also expose quirks in Florida's divorce laws, particularly a little known caveat that imposes a three-year waiting period in cases where one of the spouses has been declared mentally unfit.

For more, see Can Florida Man with Dementia File for Divorce? by Jane Musgrave for the Palm Beach Post. This story brings to mind regular reader Jennifer Young's recent, wry comment on a separate post, strongly recommending "shacking up" to avoid late-in-life second guessing of second marriages.  All kind of sad, isn't it?

May 28, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Removal of Private Guardian Is Latest News in Challenge to Nevada Elder Guardianships

As we described last month, Nevada is one of the states facing serious "elder guardianship" concerns, and specifically concerns about court-appointed, fee-paid private guardians. This week, a Nevada court removed a guardian in one of the cases at issue, calling the problems observed "enormous" and "more than technical." The court commissioner who granted the requested relief continues to be the focus of other inquiries about his supervision of private guardians.  Contact 13 News described matters revealed in its own investigation and presented in court:

Since the fall of 2013, the court has allowed [the guardian] Parks to control every aspect of [an elderly married couple's] lives--where they would live, how their money was spent, what items they could keep--and sometimes, who they could see.

 

"They took my parents," said Julie.  "I didn't know who. I didn't know what."

 

When Contact 13 looked at the guardianship case, we found mistakes, over-charging and double-billing by [guardian] Parks.  Our findings played a key role in Wednesday morning's hearing.

 

"She's costing me $300 an hour to sit here and degrade me and my family," Rudy said. "I will not stand for it and I will not pay for it."

 

Parks' attorney did the talking for her, claiming the process to remove Parks is being rushed, "...based on innuendo, based on hearsay, based on salacious representations made on the media about Ms. Parks," said Aileen Cohen. "This matter is turning into a witch hunt."

 

But Commissioner Jon Norheim was having none of it.  "The idea that she's been compliant? Not even close."

For more about the ongoing inquiry into alleged abuses by private guardians in Nevada, see Couple Liberated from Guardianship System, by Kean Bauman, for Channel 13 News, KTNV, Las Vegas, Nevada. 

UPDATE:  Before the virtual ink had even dried on my posting above about one couple's case, additional word comes that the Chief Judge of the Eighth Judicial District, Clark County, Nevada has ordered systemic review and immediate changes in the guardianship appointment and oversight authority. For the Court's important May 21, 2015 order, see here. Additional details are available from the Las Vegas Review Journal.  

May 22, 2015 in Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Massachusetts Case Demonstrates Significance of Contracts in Senior Living Options

This week I attended the 16th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Life Care Residents Association (MLCRA) near Boston.  Having last met with the group in 2011, I was impressed with the residents' on-going commitment to staying abreast of legal and practical developments affecting life care and continuing care (CCRC) models for senior living.  Their organization has some 800 individual members, representing a majority of the communities in the state. 

MILCRA Annual Meeting 2015In 2012, MLCRA was successful in advocating for passage of amendments that substituted "shall" for "may" in the laws governing key disclosures to be made to prospective and current residents. 

My preparation for the meeting gave me the opportunity to read one of those troubling "unpublished" -- but still significant -- opinions that shed light on attempts to make consumer protections stick.  Here the "contract" trumped the statute. 

In a February 2014 decision in Krens, v. 1611 Cold Spring Road Operating Company, a son who sought refund of his deceased mother's $282,579 partially "refundable" Entrance Fee was denied relief by a Massachusetts appellate court, despite the fact that Massachusetts law expressly mandated that a continuing care contract "shall provide" for a refund to be paid "when the resident leaves the facility or dies." The reasoning? The actual contract provided merely that the refund could be paid "within 30 days of actual occupancy of the vacated unit by a new resident." More than three years had elapsed since the mother's passing, apparently without the unit being "resold" or rented, and therefore the CCRC operating company took the position that no refund obligation had been triggered.

Continue reading

May 20, 2015 in Consumer Information, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Juror's Perspective from the Iowa Sexual Assault-Dementia Trial

I'm catching up on news items after being away for a few days.  There are additional insights about the sad trial of Henry Rayhons in Iowa, that ultimately resulted in his acquittal, from one of the jurors, who also happened to be a reporter.  Too often it is easy to focus about what is wrong with the court system, but here is a reminder of just how seriously most jurors take their duties. 

Read, "The Rayhons Trial: A Juror's Perspective," by Angela Nelson.  And my thanks to Bryan Gruley who made sure we did not miss this powerful coda to the trial. 

May 11, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Criminal Record? Is Life-Time Ban from Care Industry Employment Necessary to Protect Older, Vulnerable Persons?

In 2003, in Nixon v. Commonwealth, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court struck down a provision of the state's Older Adult Protective Services Act that imposed an absolute bar on designated care "facilities," including nursing homes, personal care homes, and home health agencies, prohibiting them from hiring  "new" employees who had been convicted of certain crimes. The Court concluded that the prohibition, which affected only "new" employees, or those working at a covered facility for less than one year, did not bear a real and substantial relationship to the Commonwealth's interest in protecting the elderly, disabled, and infirm from victimization, and therefore unconstitutionally infringe[d] on the Employees' right to pursue an occupation." 

Twelve years later, the Pennsylvania legislature, despite consideration of many proposals to "fix" the "Nixon case problem," still had not amended the statute. (This is the second time in a week that Pennsylvania's speed -- or lack thereof -- in enacting important reforms has attracted media attention.) As explained by NPR in a feature story by Carrie Johnson, a new lawsuit again challenges Pennsylvania's employment ban:

In 1981, when he was just 18, [Tyrone] Peake was arrested with a friend for trying to steal a car to take a girl home after a long weekend. "No, we never got the car," Peake said. "We broke the ignition column and then the cops came."

 

Peake couldn't even drive back then. He says he was just along for the ride. He never went to prison. Instead, he got probation. But that single charge years ago still haunts him, sometimes even after he's gotten work....

 

"I've been fired from three jobs," Peake said, "because [of] having a criminal record. And my record is like 32 years old, and I haven't been in trouble since then." A lot's happened since the 1980s for Peake. He went back to school, and he's been working part time as a counselor for men addicted to drugs and alcohol. But the law prevents him from being hired full time to work in a nursing home or long-term-care facility because of that single criminal conviction.

Peake's history of attempting to get on the right side of the law presents a dramatic contrast between the law's laudable purpose of protection of vulnerable adults and its sometimes harsh effect.  For more, see NPR's Can't Get A Job Because Of A Criminal Record? A Lawsuit Is Trying To Change That. 

May 1, 2015 in Crimes, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Systemic Concerns about Adult (Including Older Adult) Guardinships in Nevada

After my blog piece earlier this week about "elder guardianship" concerns in Florida, I've received communications about similar concerns in other states, including Nevada.

According to a report by Contact 13 (ABC affiliate), on April 21 Commissioners in Clark County (Las Vegas area) conducted a "first-of-its-kind" hearing on alleged guardianship abuses that were described by some as "appalling, frightening and plagued by problems." At the heart of the complaints by individuals and family members was frequent court appointment of "private guardians" rather than family members, and an alleged absence of notice to family members about court hearings. A "blue ribbon" panel or expert may be appointed to audit Clark County's court-supervised guardianships.  A recent statement by the Chief Judge for the district court, set forth in full on the Contact 13 website, pledges the court's commitment to "ensuring clarity and instilling public trust in the process of handling guardianship cases.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Chief Judge's response follows a series of stories by the Review-Journal about "thousands of elderly and mentally ill in Clark County open to exploitation."

As reported by the Las Vegas media, the problems reported in Nevada are not unique to one county or even to one state, as demonstrated by an Associated Press series of articles in 1987 titled "Guardianships of the Elderly: An Ailing System."   See also the national Center for Elders and the Courts for more information on guardianship reforms in state courts.

April 29, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Is Georgia A Window Into Political Influence of State Nursing Home Lobbies?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the "long-time head of [Georgia's] powerful nursing home lobby has resigned after months of internal differences."  The resignation appears to be about more than just internal politics, perhaps implicating state ethics.  AJC explains:

"The resignation of Jon Howell, first reported by Georgia Health News, came only a few months after he told lawmakers that the industry didn’t need all of the money Gov. Nathan Deal recommended as part of  a rate hike for select nursing homes. Several of those nursing homes are owned by one of Deal’s top contributors. But one state official said the 'civil war' within  the organization began before this year’s General Assembly session.

 

The nursing home association is a major player at the statehouse, and owners have a big stake in what happens at the Capitol. The state pays more than $1 billion a year to nursing homes to care for Georgians. Owners have long been politically active, donating big money to state leaders and lawmakers who fund  reimbursements. Earlier this year, Deal recommended that select nursing homes get a $27 million a year rate increase, a bump stalled by the Department of Community Health board last year...."

Separate articles in the AJC indicate that federal CMS authorities are now seeking millions of dollars of reimbursement for Medicaid payments made to 34 specific nursing facilities, although whether this claim correlates with the governor's recommended rate increase is not clear from the articles.  State officials are reported as disagreeing with the federal CMS ruling that triggers the reimbursement claim.

Recent rate increases recommended by the Georgia governor were rejected by Georgia's General Assembly. Additional coverage on the Georgia nursing home industry's organization is provided by McKnight's Long-Term Care News. 

I suspect the Georgia stories are part of a bigger picture.  Compare, for example, Al Jazeera's America Tonight report from April 2014 on The Whopping Political Power of the Florida Nursing Home Lobby, describing the nursing homes advocating for placement of children into facility-based care.

April 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

News Reports Spotlight Guardianship Issues in the Sunshine State

Recent news reports in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune have focused on "elder guardianships" in Florida.  The articles include:

  • The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida, a three part "special project."
  • A Civil Dispute Over Guardianship, detailing a conflict between co-trustees for a man in his 90s over costs of care.  One trustee was concerned about what appear to be charities named as remainder beneficiaries and was described as making "imaginative" use of a guardianship to challenge the wife's role as the other named trustee.  A sidebar in this article describes bills pending in the Florida legislature seeking to clarify the legal effect of a "power of attorney" when a guardianship petition is filed. 
  • Film to Detail Horror Stories from Florida Guardianship, describing a video project to share "stories about Florida's adult guardianship system," supported by a local "nonprofit organization called Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship."

April 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iowa's New Law Recognizes Rights of Communication and Visitation in Guardianships

On April 24, 2015, Iowa's Governor signed SF 306 into law, amending Iowa's Guardianship Law to recognize an express right of adult wards to "communication, visitation, or interaction with other persons." The law's effective date is July 1, 2015.

The law further provides that a court shall deny such rights "only upon a showing of good cause by the guardian."  In the absence of an ability to give "express consent to such communication, visitation or interaction with a person due to a physical or mental condition, consent of an adult ward may be presumed by a guardian or a court based on an adult ward's prior relationship with such person."

This is an interesting law, especially coming on the heels of the Henry Rayhons trial in Iowa, even though there appears to be no direct correlation. The new provision does not, for example, define "interaction."

According to news reports, Kerri Kasem, the daughter of radio D.J. Casey Kasem, was present at the ceremony and lobbied for the bill after her late father was moved from his nursing home in California, first to Nevada and then to Washington without his children's knowledge or consent:

 “This is a silent epidemic,” she said. “There are so many abuses of guardianships and so many abuses of caretakers.”

April 27, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Iowa Sexual Assault/Dementia Trial -- and the Jury Says....

On Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at approximately 2:30 p.m. central time, after almost two full days of deliberations on a single count of statutory sexual abuse of his wife, a nursing home resident with dementia, the jury found 79-year-old former Iowa legislator Henry Rayhons NOT GUILTY. 

As shown with pictures posted by KIMT.com Twitter, there are many tears in the courtroom.

Interestingly, as another indication of the State's aggressive prosecution of this case, the prosecutor filed a "Statement" with the court in Garner, Iowa yesterday, while the jury was still deliberating, asking that in the event of a conviction, Mr. Rayhons be taken immediately into custody. The explanation? The state contended that under Iowa law, sexual abuse in the third degree is covered by Iowa Code Section 709.4.(2)(a), and that any exception to "forcible felony" treatment for criminal sexual acts occurring between husband and wife does not apply, because they were not "cohabiting," at the time. 

Therefore, argued the state, if convicted Mr. Rayhons would have been barred from posting bail pending appeal.  Further, the prosecution argued the defendant would not have been eligible for a deferred or suspended sentence, and, once released, would be subject to restrictive, special parole terms for the rest of his life.  See Iowa Code Section 701.11(1) on "forcible felony."  See also Iowa Code Section 811.1.  See also Iowa Code Section 907.3.

Fortunately for this defendant, the incarceration arguments are now moot. 

This case has demonstrated, all too clearly, that we need better understanding of the relationship between dementia and legal capacity. The Rayhons case challenges us to consider carefully the appropriate balance between protection of individuals with Alzheimer's and recognition of fundamental human rights.

As additional details emerge, we'll supplement this post. 

Here are two early stories on the aftermath of the jury's verdict:

From Bloomberg News' Bryan Gruley: Iowa Man Accused of Raping Wife with Alzheimer's is Acquitted, noting that this case "offered a rare look at a complex dilemma that will become more common as the 65-and-over population expands."

From The Des Moines Register (Tony Leys): Jury finds Henry Rayhons Not Guilty.

And from Iowa Public Radio and the local Globe Gazette, a brief video interview with a tearful Henry Rayhons. (Note the comments posted by viewers after the interview.)

April 22, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)