Monday, March 5, 2018
News Feature Focuses on Court-Appointed Guardian in Pennsylvania, Raising Important Systemic Questions
From Nicole Brambila, an investigative journalist for the Reading [Pennsylvania] Eagle, comes an article examining the history of a specific individual appointed by courts to serve as a guardian in multiple cases, in different counties in Pennsylvania. The article raises important questions about court oversight, including but not limited to whether there should be mandatory criminal background checks for those serving as court-appointed fiduciaries:
If [an elderly couple in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania] were astonished to learn the court-appointed guardian [for the 79-year-old husband] had not been paying the mortgage and other bills, their surprise would pale in comparison to the revelations yet to come. Unbeknownst to them, Byars [the guardian in question] had been convicted multiple times of financial theft.
Her most recent arrest came in 2005. She pleaded guilty to felony fraud and was sentenced to 37 months in a federal prison after cashing $20,000 in blank checks [she] found while rummaging through trash cans at a Virginia post office.
The article points to another case in Philadelphia Orphans Court, where an attorney representing family members of a different person alleged to be in need of a guardian, looked into the background of Byars, and discovered records detailing her history. The attorney was successful in having her removed as the court-appointed guardian in that case. The Reading Eagle reporter writes:
For six months she continued serving as guardian to 52 incapacitated Philadelphians. No other Philadelphia judge removed her until after the Reading Eagle made dozens of inquiries in January with the court, Adult Protective Services, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and state lawmakers about her appointments. . . .
Philadelphia Orphans Court works with more than a dozen professional guardians. Ten of these, including Byars, carry some of the highest caseloads: 22, 48, 54 and more. But none more than Byars, who was appointed in Philadelphia alone 75 times from 2014 through 2016, according to court dockets.
For more, read Unguarded: Montgomery County Couple's Trust Betrayed, published March 4, 2018 in the Reading Eagle [paywall protected, although there is a $1 fee for single day access].