Saturday, October 18, 2014

Court Rules on Intracacies of Recovering Guardianship Fees After Ward's Death


The Fourth District Court of Appeal issued an interesting opinion March 12 in the case of Romano v. Olshen invoking the laws of guardianship and joint accounts.

The case involved the ability of the guardian and the guardian's counsel to recover guardianship administration fees and expenses from a joint brokerage account owned by the ward and his spouse, with entitlement arising before the ward's death but collection transpiring after the ward's death.

The ward had sold his business of roughly 40 years, and the sale proceeds were deposited into an Oppenheimer account titled jointly with rights of survivorship between the ward and his wife, presumably as joint tenants by the entirety.

The ward filed for divorce, and the wife responded with a petition to determine her husband's capacity as well as for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian. The incapacity proceedings took hold and resulted in a stay on the divorce proceedings for the required three years. A professional guardian was appointed.

The Oppenheimer account was reported by the guardian of the property on the inventory for the guardianship. The account represented almost the entire assets of the ward and of the guardianship estate. The case was contentious, heavily litigated and substantial fees and costs were generated by all parties, as were significant care expenses for the ward whose health declined during the course of the case, and he eventually died.

Promptly after the ward's death, the guardian filed a petition to use the Oppenheimer account to pay outstanding guardianship expenses and to close out the guardianship proceedings. Simply put, the guardian sought to enforce an equitable lien on the joint brokerage account.

Not surprisingly, among other things, the wife argued that she was entitled to the whole of the Oppenheimer account as she was the surviving joint owner, and that the account was outside of the reach of the guardianship estate as the ward had expired and the account vested in her upon his expiration.

The court's decision includes a detailed discussion regarding guardianship proceedings as equitable proceedings.

Relying on the broad discretion afforded guardianship courts as courts of equity, the court found that while the Oppenheimer account was properly viewed as a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship in the wife, the guardianship statute permitted the trial court, in equity, to authorize payments for the ward's necessary expenses even after his death.

The power of this reasoning cannot be overstated. It is notable that the court states, "Historically, courts of equity came into being in order to provide a forum for the granting of relief in accordance with the broad principles of right and justice in cases where the restrictive technicalities of the law prevented the giving of relief." Hedges v. Lysek, 84 So.2d 28, 31 (Fla. 1955).

Full Article and Source:
Court Rules on Intracacies of Recovering Guardianship Fees After Ward's Death

Holding Power Of Attorney Doesn’t Prohibit All Gifts From Principal To Agent

We’ve previously noted that, as the population ages, power of attorney litigation has become a ‘hot’ area of fiduciary litigation. Transfers of property from a principal to her agent get looked at closely and often – and sometimes justifiably – with suspicion. And, if the holder of a power of attorney transfers property to herself using the power of attorney, if anyone catches it, then litigation is all but assured. But, this doesn’t mean that a principal is forever barred from ever giving money or property to her agent.

The principal’s agent is, for example, often the principal’s child. Certainly, absent incapacity, undue influence, fraud or other similar issues, a parent should be able to freely give property to her child without the oversight of a court.''

In Shaffer v. Kaplan, a Vermont federal court applied New York law to draw a line between those transactions that warrant scrutiny and those which are acceptable.  Under New York law, a presumption of invalidity exists in self-dealing transactions by one holding a power of attorney, but not all gifts.  Where an agent uses a power of attorney to make transfers to herself or where the agent exerts undue influence over the principal to make a transfer to the agent, those transactions are presumptively invalid and require evidence of a conflict waiver.  Therefore, as long as the principal isn’t unduly influenced (or perhaps also isn’t lacking in the requisite capacity or fraudulently induced), she should be able to freely transfer money or property to one holding a power of attorney without fear of someone later challenging the gift.

Source:
Holding Power Of Attorney Doesn’t Prohibit All Gifts From Principal To Agent

A History of Alzheimer's

While cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States (followed by cancer and stroke), Alzheimer’s Disease — the sixth leading cause of death — is getting a lot of attention these days. However, I still hear people refer to this devastating illness as “Old Timer’s.”

This misnomer begs the question, “Where did the name of the disease originate?”

Dr. Aloysius “Alois” Alzheimer was a Bavarian-born (1864) German psychiatrist and neuropathologist at the Asylum for the Insane and Epileptic in Frankfurt. On a fateful day in 1901, he met a new patient who exhibited memory loss, often expressed by repeating the phrase, “I have lost myself.” Planning to conduct a short interview, he recorded this conversation:

Q: What is your name?
A:
Auguste.
Q: Surname?
A:
Auguste
Q: How is your husband?
A:
I think Auguste.
Q: Your husband?
A:
Oh, my man.
Q: Are you married?
A:
For Auguste.
Q: Mrs. Deter?
A:
Yes, to Auguste Deter.

Dr. Alzheimer was captivated; Auguste Deter became his obsession. As her memory loss worsened, he noted that she often expressed unfounded suspicions about her family and exhibited other emotional changes.

 After her death at age 51 in April 1906, he took the patient records and her brain to the Munich lab of a colleague, Emil Kraepelin. There, along with two Italian physicians, he used staining techniques to identify amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

 Today, more than a century later, the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are considered the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Alzheimer is credited with identifying the first published case of “pre-senile dementia,” which Kraepelin named “Alzheimer’s Disease” in his textbook “Clinical Psychiatry,” published in 1910.

Full Article and Source:
Here's a History of Alzheimer's

Friday, October 17, 2014

No, it’s not copyright infringement when attorney discipline authorities copy your blog …



… while investigating charges that some blog posts violated professional conduct rules. So held the unsurprising decision in Denison v. Larkin (N.D. Ill. Aug. 13, 2014) (just noted on a Westlaw case summary service, which is how I learned of it):

This case arises out of an Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (“IARDC”) disciplinary proceeding [which is still ongoing -EV]. Plaintiff [Joanne M. Denison], a licensed attorney in the state of Illinois, is suing the IARDC and Nextpoint for using portions of her copyrighted Blog as evidence against her in an attorney disciplinary proceeding. The IARDC has alleged that Plaintiff made false statements about judges and other lawyers on her Blog, which addresses the guardianship proceeding of Mary Sykes….

Mary Sykes was a 90-year-old woman who was put into guardianship in December of 2009. Plaintiff investigated Ms. Sykes’ case and allegedly found “a large number of irregularities” in the case. Plaintiff believes that Ms. Sykes was a victim of courtroom corruption.

In late 2011, Plaintiff created the Blog to, in her words, “provide a forum for the friends and relatives of Mary Sykes, a probate victim, to speak out against corruption in the courtroom.” … Plaintiff posted her own writings as well as the writings of others on the Blog. The writings included allegations of corruption in the Probate Court of Cook County, that Sykes was the victim of elder abuse, and that the guardians ad litem and the court had physically or mentally harmed Sykes….
 
Full Article & Source:
No, it’s not copyright infringement when attorney discipline authorities copy your blog …

New Orleans City Councilman accused of ethical misconduct; Discipline board recommends two-year suspension


James Gray, New Orleans City Councilman, District E
NEW ORLEANS – The  Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board is recommending that New Orleans City Councilman James Gray’s law license be suspended for two years.

The board made its recommendation to suspend Gray to the Louisiana Supreme Court on Oct. 7 after finding that he had engaged in ethical misconduct.

Gray,  a past president of the Louisiana Law Institute and a former LSU law professor, took office on the New Orleans City Council in 2013 after winning a runoff election for the District E seat in December 2012 against Louisiana State Rep. Austin Badon. By winning the election Gray was selected to replace former New Orleans City Councilman Jon Johnson who resigned after pleading guilty to corruption charges and being sentenced to six months in prison.

The charges that resulted in the recommendation of a suspension were first filed with the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board in August 2012 after an investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) who found Gray continuously violated ethical standards by not providing proper representation to his clients on numerous occasions.

The first incident was in Gray’s 2004 representation of Gloria A. Frith in a medical malpractice claim. In that case, Gray admitted to the ODC that while he had spoken to Frith numerous times about the matter he did not take any action on her behalf. When Frith obtained a new attorney to represent her, Gray purportedly failed to provide her files on the case despite numerous requests that ultimately led to Firth filing a complaint with the ODC in March 2010.

The second incident goes back to 2003 when Gray was retained to represent Barbara Ann Roberts on a wrongful death claim. In 2008, Roberts said she met with Gray who ensured her he was still working on her case, but she later found out after the case was dismissed due to abandonment on May 5, 2010 that the last work Gray had done on it had been in 2007. Roberts filed a complaint with the ODC in 2010.

The third incident deals with an advanced payment of $18,750 for representation Gray allegedly received on Feb. 9, 2010 from Frederick Reed to represent him in in a criminal matter. After first filing a pro se motion on Feb. 5, 2010 to withdraw a guilty plea, Reed said he was visited by Gray at the Union Parish Detention Center. Reed stated that Gray assured him he would be representing him in the case going forward. After Reed was transferred to another prison in July 2010 he discovered that Gray had never enrolled as his counsel of record and was unable to provide an update on the withdrawn guilty plea. At this time Reed and Gray agreed to discontinue their professional relationship, however, Gray allegedly only returned $14,000 of the $18,750 he received to represent Reed in the case. As a result Reed filed a complaint with the ODC in 2011.

Full Article & Source:
New Orleans City Councilman accused of ethical misconduct; Discipline board recommends two-year suspension

Owners of St. Louis insurance company sentenced for bilking elderly out of $3 million


Two owners of a St. Louis insurance company were sentenced to prison Tuesday in federal court for bilking elderly people out of $3 million.

Mark Driver, 50, of south St. Louis County, and Robert Palmer, 45, of Kansas City, had been charged last year with two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. They pleaded guilty in June.

U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel sentenced Palmer to 70 months in prison and Driver to 30 months in prison. The two men operated Princeton Partnership LLC out of offices in the Hill neighborhood.

In court files, prosecutors said that from 2004 to 2010, the pair engaged in "systematic looting of retirement funds and life savings" of elderly people, most without children or other heirs.

Full Article & Source:
Owners of St. Louis insurance company sentenced for bilking elderly out of $3 million

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Local attorney faces state discipline, fed court lawsuit


C. Allan Runser
A veteran Van Wert attorney is the subject of a complaint filed by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel for allegedly misappropriating funds and failing to properly handle the legal responsibilities related to a trust and a guardianship/estate. Attorneys representing the trust beneficiary have also filed a civil lawsuit in federal district court in Toledo to recoup funds allegedly misappropriated.

C. Allan Runser, an attorney with nearly 47 years of experience, is the subject of a three-count complaint filed September 17 with the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court (click here to read the full complaint).

The first count charges Runser mishandled the guardianship, and, later, the estate of the late Jeanne Koch, while also alleging the attorney misappropriated more than $90,000 from the estate. The second count alleges Runser failed in his legal duties to the Barbara Mary Shackley Trust and may have misappropriated more than $471,000 from that trust, and the final count involves alleged improprieties within Runser’s IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Account).

According to the complaint, during his 5½ years as either emergency or permanent guardian of Koch, until her death June 13, 2011, Runser was charged with repeatedly failing to meet deadlines for making and filing an inventory of her assets, and of filing periodic guardian’s reports – despite numerous notices sent him by Van Wert County Probate Court.

The complaint charges that Runser didn’t file an inventory of Koch’s assets until June 26, 2008, more than two years after being appointed her permanent guardian. His first – and last – guardian’s report was filed June 20, 2008.

Also, despite agreeing to file a final account within 30 days of the termination of the guardianship, which ended with Koch’s death on June 23, 2011, Runser did not do so until more than a year later.

Full Article & Source:
Local attorney faces state discipline, fed court lawsuit

Suspended attorney indicted for title insurance fraud


A suspended Lackawanna County attorney who operated an abstract firm in Avoca has been indicted for more than $70,000 in alleged title insurance fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said.

Susan C. Kevra-Shiner, 46, of Clarks Summit, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury and charged with seven counts of mail fraud relating to GK Abstract Co., Inc., of Avoca.

Kevra-Shiner faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each count, as well as an order of restitution to the victims.

A voicemail message left for Kevra-Shiner at GK Abstract was not immediately returned on Friday.

According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, Kevra-Shiner was an attorney admitted to practice in Pennsylvania in 1994. Kevra-Shiner handled real estate transactions as part of her legal practice, and starting in 2003, she issued title insurance policies on behalf of Stewart Title Guaranty Company, a title insurance underwriter based in Texas.

Stewart terminated its agency agreement with Kevra-Shiner on Sept. 23, 2008, but the indictment alleges that Kevra-Shiner continued to issue numerous title insurance policies to her clients after that date.

“In order to give GKA sufficient time to finish transactions that were already in process, Stewart gave GKA an additional sixty days from the termination date to finalize all outstanding business. GKA was not authorized to issue new commitments or new policies during this sixty-day time period or anytime thereafter,” the indictment states.

“Despite the existence of the termination agreement, Susan C. Kevra-Shiner continued to represent herself as an agent of Stewart who was authorized to issue title insurance policies in Stewart’s name,” according to the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that she defrauded approximately 76 homeowners and lenders of $72,278 in title insurance premiums which she was not authorized to receive and for which no valid title insurance policy was issued, and did not remit any of that cash to Stewart.

Full Article & Source:
Suspended attorney indicted for title insurance fraud

Seniors lose average of $30,000 to financial scammers



According to a recent survey of 2,000 seniors and other adults by Allianz Life Insurance Co., elderly victims reported losing an average of $30,000, while some suffered losses of more than $100,000.

"For a senior without the ability to earn income, that's pretty devastating to their retirement plans," said Allianz Life Chief Executive Officer Walter White. "This isn't petty crime."

But perhaps even more disturbing: more seniors said they had been swindled by someone close to them as opposed to a stranger.

Financial exploitation of seniors ranges from the theft of money by a family member or caregiver to investment fraud and schemes like the popular grandparent scam, where a fraudster impersonates a family member in distress.

"To the extent that it involves a family member, there may be a lot of reluctance to admit [that they stole money]," said White.

While only 5% of seniors age 65 and older said they had lost money to a financial scheme, roughly 20% of their younger counterparts (ages 40 to 64) that were surveyed said they knew an older person who had been a victim.

Full Article & Source:
Seniors lose average of $30,000 to financial scammers

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homeless man tricks woman with dementia, moves in with her


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The niece of an 84-year-old woman with dementia realized something was very wrong when her aunt’s phone number changed, and when she called her aunt’s cell phone, a man answered.

“A gentleman answered, and he said, ‘Who are you?’ and I said, ‘Well, who are you?’”

“He said, ‘I’m Phil, and I’m a paramedic and your aunt fell a couple days ago, and I’m just here checking on her,’” Mary Rademacher recalled her conversation with the man.

Rademacher talked to her aunt, who said everything was fine.

For the past six years, Rademacher’s aunt has been living alone at an independent living facility.

However, late last week, Rademacher learned her aunt wasn’t living alone.

Full Article & Source:
Homeless man tricks woman with dementia, moves in with her

Editorial: Justices should stay out of John Doe case


There appears to be a question about whether four state Supreme Court justices should take part in a ruling on the John Doe investigation involving special-interest groups, should a case reach the court.

There should be no question about it. There’s no way the four justices should be involved with any decision on this case. They’re already involved with the special-interest groups.

The three groups that have been trying to get the investigation halted — and have succeeded so far — had also spent millions on behalf of the campaigns of the four justices in the last decade.

The justices — Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Pat Roggensack and Annette Ziegler — should recuse themselves from any John Doe-related case the Supreme Court gets.

Wisconsin Club for Growth, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Citizens for a Strong America spent a total of more than $8 million to help the judges get elected — Ziegler in 2007, Gableman in 2008, Prosser in 2011 and Roggensack in 2013.

And if that’s not enough, WMC wrote the Supreme Court’s recusal rules, which passed 4-3 in 2011. The rules say that justices can’t be forced to recuse themselves solely because of campaign donations or money spent on behalf of their campaigns. Guess which four justices voted for them?

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: Justices should stay out of John Doe case

Second woman indicted for stealing from elderly man


LAS VEGAS -- A Clark County grand jury issued a superseding indictment in a case in which prosecutors allege a 94-year-old victim, now deceased, was swindled out of roughly $400,000 and an automobile.

Sally Johnson, who was previously indicted, was joined by alleged co-defendant Susan Costello. Prosecutors allege that Costello, a notary public, helped Johnson take the money from the victim's bank account.

Both women face charges of theft, forgery and exploitation of the elderly. Bail was set at $125,000 for both women, and they are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 16. Only Johnson is now in custody at the Clark County Detention Center.

Full Article & Source:
Second woman indicted for stealing from elderly man

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Linda Kincaid Reports: DC seeks to curb elder abuse: Limitations of Guardianship Amendment Act of 2014


 On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, the Council of the District of Columbia will hold a public hearing on B20-0710, introduced by Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Marion Barry. Part of the legislative intent of the bill is to curb unreasonable confinement and involuntary seclusion of individuals under guardianship, a common form of elder abuse. Members of the public may testify before the Council or submit comments directly to the Council by email. 
Bill 20-710, the “Limitations of Guardianship Amendment Act of 2014”
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 1 pm
John A. Wilson Building, Room 412
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004
Councilmember Tommy Wells, Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, announces a public hearing on October 15, 2014, beginning at 1 pm in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building, for the purpose of receiving testimony on Bills 20-890 and 20-710.
Elder abuse often takes the form of isolation of an elder by a guardian. An elder’s need for social contact with friends and loved ones can be ignored by a guardian seeking financial gain. Confinement and isolation are especially common in assisted living facilities wishing to reduce work load.
Bill 20-710 would amend Title 21 of the DC Official Code to protect the well-being of incapacitated individuals from unreasonable confinement or involuntary seclusion by a temporary, limited, and general guardian; to require all individuals seeking to be appointed as a guardian or conservator to submit and pay for a local and national criminal history record check and to file a statement with the court indicating whether the nominee has been convicted of, pled nolo contendere to, or received a deferred sentence for a felony or misdemeanor; to require the courts to limit the duration of any limited guardianship order to no more than three years and general guardianship order to no more than five years and have the party seeking guardianship to initiate a new petition based on clear and convincing evidence on the need for a guardianship order. The bill may be viewed online at http://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B20-0710.
Full Article & Source:
DC seeks to curb elder abuse: Limitations of Guardianship Amendment Act of 2014

Missing California woman found in Maine shack


LOS ANGELES (AP) — An elderly Los Angeles woman whose neighbors believed had died was instead found in a rundown shack in Maine, where according to authorities an unrelated family took her after gaining her confidence and selling her house.

The Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/1wkHNvl ) Sunday on the story of Sarah Cheiker, who disappeared in 2008 at age 89 and was found in 2012 — alive but unwell in a dingy cabin in the town of Edgecomb where she apparently had been abandoned.

"It was a place I wouldn't have let my dog live in," said Det. Robert McFetridge of the sheriff's department in rural, coastal Lincoln County, Maine.

The only food was spoiled and the single light bulb had burned out.

As investigators tried to piece together Cheiker's story, they came across a missing person report filed with Los Angeles police by Cheiker's neighbor, Jim Caccavo.

He figured Cheiker had died and was amazed to get a 2012 call from an FBI agent in Boston that she was alive.

Caccavo recalled how, starting around 2006, a family of three people began to help her out with shopping and rides to the doctor. The neighbor said he doubted their motivations — they were unrelated to Cheiker, though they claimed to have known her deceased mother — and warned her to be careful.

And then, "all of a sudden, Sarah disappeared," Caccavo told The Associated Press by telephone Sunday. That was the fall of 2008.

Full Article & Source:
Missing California woman found in Maine shack

Bassetlaw: Nurse who pinned down dementia patient to force feed her medication is struck off



A nurse who pinned down a patient to force feed her drugs medication has been struck off.

Susan Watkinson used ‘significant force’ to hold down the dementia sufferer before covering the woman’s mouth.

Watkinson ignored pleas from the patient and said ‘well choke then’ in front of a horrified colleague at Bassetlaw General Hospital, Worksop, Notts.

She was convicted at Mansfield and Worksop Magistrates Court of assault by beating and given a two month sentence, suspended for a year.

Watkinson was on the drugs round when the dementia sufferer became verbally and physically abusive.

The nurse and a colleague offered her some medication, but she began kicking and lashing out.
Watkinson used her left hand to hold down both the patient’s arms but she spat out the medication.
During a second attempt Watkinson put her left hand over the patient’s chin and mouth.

When the patient complained she was ‘going to choke,’ to which Watkinson said in a loud and aggressive tone: ‘Well choke then.’

She walked off leaving the patient ‘usually subdued.’

The incident was reported by the colleague, but Watkinson resigned before a disciplinary hearing could take place.

Police were then notified of the incident.

Full Article  & Source:
Bassetlaw: Nurse who pinned down dementia patient to force feed her medication is struck off

Monday, October 13, 2014

I-Team: Judges answer to money raised for election campaigns


(Click above to watch video)

LAS VEGAS -- The I-Team has spent months following the money going into some of the most important elections in Clark County.

Specifically, district court judges, the ones who hand down punishments and decide the fates of people and businesses every day.

The I-Team talked to some of the biggest fundraisers of this election season about whether they can remain fair despite collecting tens of thousand of dollars from lawyers and law firms, many of whom have active cases in their courtrooms.

Most people never see a judge and aside from jury duty may never see the inside of a courtroom in person. When they do, they want to know the judge will be impartial and justice will be blind.
Judge Susan Johnson has an opponent in her campaign for a district court seat. As of June, she led all candidates for money raised from lawyers and law firms with $121,000.

Her opponent, Jacob Hafter, has raised under $20,000 from the legal profession.

"We don't like to be in the business of trying to raise money, but obviously as long as we have the system in place, judges are to be elected, judges are going to have to run campaigns, which of course means, campaigns require money," Judge Johnson said.

Johnson said the money is extremely important from paying for signs in vacant lots to buying billboards along the freeway. These judicial candidates don't get a lot of attention yet they need all the exposure they can get.

"I would much rather do my job then be out there campaigning, so I would love to see a merit system, a retention system in place," Judge Johnson said.
A merit system would replace the current election model that essentially turns judges into politicians.

Full Article & Source:
I-Team: Judges answer to money raised for election campaigns

Judicial board to review McCaffery e-mails complaint


Seamus P. McCaffery

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's Judicial Conduct Board will investigate a complaint that Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery may have violated ethics rules if he sent sexually explicit e-mails from his personal account to a state employee, according to a letter from the board.

In the Tuesday letter, the board agreed to "conduct an inquiry into the matters" raised in a complaint filed last week by Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp.

In his Oct. 2 complaint, Stilp cited news accounts that McCaffery in 2008 and 2009 sent e-mails containing pornographic content to an agent in the state Attorney General's Office.

McCaffery has declined to discuss the claims.
Stilp asked the board to investigate whether sending such e-mails violated judicial ethics rules "related to behavior that reflects poorly on the integrity of the Supreme Court," according to a copy of his complaint. Stilp also noted that the Attorney General's Office has cases that land before the high court, and that private communications between the prosecutor's office and justices may compromise cases.

"When you are a Supreme Court justice, you have a higher duty," Stilp said Thursday. "Anything that reflects negatively on you as a person reflects on the court in a negative way - and that undermines people's confidence in the court.

"Without confidence in the court," Stilp added, "we don't have a stable judiciary."

Full Article & Source:
Judicial board to review McCaffery e-mails complaint 

See Also:
Porn Email Claims Could Trigger Discipline For Pa. Justice

Stoughton attorney charged with child porn can still practice law


Richard Comenzo

STOUGHTON – A day after Richard Comenzo stood in Stoughton District Court in handcuffs facing child pornography charges, the Stoughton attorney was due in the same courthouse to defend several of his clients.

Comenzo, 62, of 15 Walnut Ave., Stoughton, pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography on Tuesday at Stoughton District Court.

Comenzo, who posted bail and was released Tuesday, did not appear in the Stoughton courthouse to defend his clients Wednesday. He will, however, be able to continue practicing law while his own case is pending, said Constance Vecchione, chief bar counsel of the Office of the Bar Counsel.

The Office of the Bar Counsel and the Board of Bar Overseers work in conjunction to investigate and evaluate complaints against Massachusetts lawyers and, when necessary, discipline them. When criminal cases against lawyers arise, like in the case of Comenzo, their only role is to hand down discipline to attorneys if they are convicted while law enforcement officials execute their own investigations.

Because Comenzo is innocent until proven guilty and because his alleged crimes did not involve his practice of the law, he is not currently facing suspension from the Board of Bar Overseers, Vecchione said.

“The fact that someone has been arraigned or indicted is not a conviction. So if it’s not a matter that otherwise requires a temporary suspension, which usually are situations that arise out of the practice of law, then yes, he is allowed to practice,” Vecchione said.

“We’re aware of this, and we’ll follow it, and if there’s a conviction, there will be disciplinary proceedings,” she said.

Full Article & Source:
Stoughton attorney charged with child porn can still practice law

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Federal investigation finds three local nursing homes lacking

WASHINGTON — Three central Ohio nursing homes were among 33 in 11 states cited for improper care and billing practices yesterday as part of a $38 million settlement among a major nursing-home company, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Ohio.

The announcement in Washington and Columbus resolved an investigation by the federal government, Ohio and seven other states into charges that Extendicare of Canada provided services at those 33 homes that were “materially substandard” or “worthless” because the company did not provide care to residents that meets federal standards, according to the settlement agreement.

The settlement asserts that Extendicare submitted false claims to Medicare between 2007 and last year, charging that the company demanded payment for “medically unreasonable and unnecessary rehabilitation-therapy services” for clients in the 33 homes.

The Columbus Rehabilitation and Subacute Institute in Franklinton, the Arbors East Subacute and Rehabilitation Center on the East Side and the Arbors at London in Madison County were among six Ohio homes cited in the agreement.

At a news conference in Washington, Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce Branda said, “These problems stemmed in large part from Extendicare’s business model — a model that was driven more by profit and less by the quality of the care it provided.

“Extendicare employed fewer skilled nurses than were needed to care for the very sick residents in those facilities and failed to properly train and supervise the staff it did have.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, “Not only will the states and federal government be reimbursed for the millions that we believe was paid for inadequate care, but we will also make sure that residents living in every Extendicare skilled nursing facility across the country receive the quality care that they depend on and deserve.”

Full Article & Source:
Federal investigation finds three local nursing homes lacking

Ohio Supreme Court suspends area attorney


The Ohio Supreme Court has suspended Akron attorney Rami M. Awadallah from practicing law after ruling that he fraudulently and deceptively represented several of his clients — including some in Lorain County — during court proceedings.

The Oct. 9 ruling suspends Awadallah from practicing law for up to six months.

On April 30, the Lorain County Bar Association filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline against Awadallah, which according to the document, committed multiple violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and Ohio Rules for the Government of the Bar.

Attorney Stephen Mecker, a member of the County Bar Association, was assigned to represent the group by sending by seven letters requesting Awadallah to respond to the allegations against him.

Awadallah did not respond to any of the letters and was later issued an Ohio Board of Tax Appeals Order which placed him in contempt and demanded that he reimburse the Lorain County Board of Revision and county auditor $8,529.76 for legal fees, a punitive award, and the cost of two sanction hearings associated with one case.

According to the complaint filed, Awadallah, who has practiced law in Ohio since 2005, failed to show up for numerous court proceedings after filing countless complaints and at least 25 property tax appeals with the Lorain County Board of Revisions in 2012 and 2013.

Awadallah acted on the behalf of multiple clients and governmental agencies in and outside of Lorain County, some of which he had never met and was not authorized to represent yet still delivered invoices for, according to the complaint.

READ: The full complaint
 
Due to Awadallah’s negligence in court proceedings, most of his “client’s” cases were dismissed, the document states.

The grievance went on to state that multiple clients and governmental agencies were impaired by Awadallah processing complaints and appeals that were “never prosecuted, by scheduling untold hearings that did not go forward and by managing cases that were frivolous and often filed without the informed consent of the ‘clients’.”

Full Article & Source:
Ohio Supreme Court suspends area attorney

Judge closes Zavalidroga guardianship proceedings to public


A state Supreme Court justice has shut out the media and public from attending the guardianship proceedings involving an 83-year-old woman who was found alone in the woods this summer.

Although Tomas Zavalidroga stands accused of leading his mother, Margaret, into the woods and then reporting her missing, the Blossvale man has welcomed the media to cover any court proceedings against him.

But this week, Justice Samuel Hester in Rome ruled that the public cannot attend a hearing on Oct. 21 to determine whether Margaret is mentally incapacitated and in need of a legal guardian.

“Based on the information available to the court, and the opportunity of all interested parties to be heard, including the general public, the court is of the opinion that the privacy of the (alleged incapacitated person), particularly her health and financial issues, override any interest of the public,” Hester wrote this week.

“Considering the orderly and sound administration of justice and the nature of these proceedings,” all records in this matter shall be sealed, Hester finished.

Hester’s ruling runs contrary to what was previously ruled by state Supreme Court Justice Bernadette Clark before she recused herself from the Zavalidroga case. In September, Clark agreed to keep the proceedings open to the media while balancing the interests of Margaret and the public.

But, due to the nature of the proceedings involving a person’s mental health, Hester had “good reason” to close the proceedings, state court officials said.

“For guardianships, the threshold to close court is much lower,” said David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state’s Office of Court Administration.

Full Article & Source:
Judge closes Zavalidroga guardianship proceedings to public

See Also:
Brothers Seek Control of Mother's Finances