Archive for January, 2011

>Nebraska: Oversight of Guardians Advances

January 31, 2011

>A bill that would tighten oversight of guardians and conservators will be among the first debated in this year’s legislative session.

Members of the Judiciary Committee voted without dissent Thursday to advance Legislative Bill 157 to the full Legislature.

Among other things, the measure would require background checks for guardians and conservators and the furnishing of bonds for assets greater than $10,000.

It would require inventories of a ward’s assets before a guardian’s appointment becomes final and would allow for mediation to resolve disputes.

It also would allow third parties to ask for more court oversight when a ward’s safety, health or financial welfare appears in jeopardy.

State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, who introduced the bill, said it represents only the beginning of changes needed to better protect vulnerable Nebraskans.

“This puts some immediate, meaningful protections in place for wards,” he said. “There is much more to do.”

Full Article and Source:
Oversight of Guardians Advances

>Trial Date Set for ‘Road Rage’ Judge

January 31, 2011

>An Erie district judge faces trial before the state Court of Judicial Discipline for a road rage incident in which police say he brandished a gun, and for talking tough about juvenile crime and graffiti in news stories.

The trial of District Judge Thomas Carney is scheduled for April 6 in Harrisburg.

Full Article and Source:
PA Judge Faces Disciplinary Trial in Road Rage

See Also:
PA Judge Facing Disciplinary Trial for Road Rage Incident

>’Gloves are Off’ in Estate Battle

January 30, 2011

>When San Antonio businessman and philanthropist Leo Block, 94, died at home Aug. 31, 2009, he left behind a new wife, at least $15 million in assets and troubling questions about the last chapter of his life.

Among the uncertainties were why the confirmed bachelor had married suddenly late in life without telling his family and why he — or others — had quickly begun making radical changes in his will, estate plan and investments.

Also unclear was how he met Erma Holman, 71, a local bail bond company owner whom he married in July 2008, and Stephen Boyd, a lawyer who twice was disciplined for ethical lapses in the late 1990s.

Some answers are emerging in bitter litigation in Bexar County Probate Court No. 1, where in November 2009 Block family members filed suit, accusing Erma Holman Block, Boyd and others of fleecing a muddled old man.

“Sadly, by the time of his death, Leo Block had truly become the ‘poster child’ for elder abuse and exploitation,” reads the lawsuit filed by Block’s sister Betty Simmons and her two children, who until 2008 had stood to inherit almost all of Block’s wealth.

Their suit seeks to overturn Leo Block’s final will, created just months after his wedding, which gave the bulk of his assets to Erma Block and three charities.

It claims that soon after the marriage, Boyd and Erma Block began to “strip” Leo Block of his wealth while isolating him from his family.

Full Article and Source:
‘Gloves are Off’ in Estate Battle

>Block Estate Battle Set for May

January 30, 2011

>After learning that settlement talks had failed in a contentious suit involving San Antonio businessman Leo Block, Bexar County Probate Judge Polly Spencer ordered both sides to get ready for a May trial.

The judge on Thursday did not rule on a request by the defendants to lift a freeze she had imposed on eight valuable properties acquired with Block’s money. They appear to be all that remains of Block’s once considerable wealth.

“The assets of Leo Block have been wasted by Erma Block and Stephen Boyd. All we are trying to do is keep the few remaining assets from being wasted,” argued Linda McDonald, representing the plaintiffs, in asking Spencer to keep the freeze in place.

Block, 94, had made his fortune through Block Distributing, a San Antonio beer and wine wholesaler, now known as Republic Distributing.

But his last two years were tumultuous. In July 2008, Block, a lifelong bachelor, married Erma Holman, 71, owner of a local bail bond company. He also retained Stephen Boyd, a lawyer twice disciplined in the 1990s for ethical lapses.

And before Block died in August 2009, he or someone else made a series of radical changes in his will, estate plan and investments. His sister Betty Simmons and her two children were replaced as primary beneficiaries by his new wife and three charities.

In November 2009, Block’s relatives sued, seeking to overturn that will, claiming Erma and Boyd had victimized a demented old man, by systematically “stripping” Block of his wealth.

Both Erma and Boyd have issued categorical denials. But the two are now at each other’s throats.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Sets May Trial in Block Estate Battle

>Allegations of Faked Will, Crumbling Finances Dog Prominent Lawyer

January 30, 2011

>The death last year of colorful Mobile County lawyer Joseph Brunson touched off a legal fight that has included accusations that another prominent local attorney helped create a phony will.

In a little more than a month, Mobile lawyer Richard Horne has been repudiated by a jury reviewing the will; has been hit with a $159,000 civil judgment over a loan default; has filed for bankruptcy protection and, as of last week, faces an ethics complaint made to the state bar.

It is a shocking turn for a man who has been a respected member of the city’s legal community for years, once serving on the bar’s ethics committee. His high-profile clients over the years have included former Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo and former Prichard Mayor Jesse Norwood.

Horne, a longtime friend of Brunson who helped the attorney get his law license back after a federal drug conviction, said the state bar’s confidentiality rules prohibit him from commenting.

The bar complaint, made by the stepfather of the women who contested the will in Mobile County Probate Court, accuses Horne of perjury and accessory to forgery. He has 14 days to respond.

The will listed Judy Harold – Brunson’s “companion and life-long friend” – as administrator and sole beneficiary of his estate. Horne and Pauline Phillips, who worked for the company that owned the building that housed Horne’s law practice, were listed as witnesses. Horne’s secretary, Megan Graham, notarized the document.

Full Article and Source:
Allegations of Faked Will, Crumbling Finances
Dog Prominent Mobile lawyer

>CA: Court of Appeals Upholds Judgment Against Lawyer for Elder Abuse

January 29, 2011

>The First District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment requiring several individuals, including an Oakland attorney, to pay more than $400,000 in damages and attorney fees to the conservator for an elderly disabled woman.

Div. Four upheld the award against Oakland attorney Carol Veres Reed, along with Ida McQueen’s sister and uncle, for misappropriation of funds from the unauthorized sale of property that McQueen’s father left her in trust.

McQueen, now 75 years old, suffers from physical and mental disabilities. Her father provided in his will that she could live in the family’s Oakland home for life. He also established a testamentary trust, giving the trustees discretion to use the principal for McQueen’s benefit during her lifetime, with the remainder of the assets to be divided among her surviving siblings after her death.

McQueen’s father died in 1990, and his two brothers were appointed to administer the estate. McQueen remained in the home until 2000, when she was taken to a nursing home due to medical complications.

While in the nursing facility, she was visited by Reed—who had handled her father’s estate, and whose father had prepared the will—and her brother, attorney Richard K. Veres. The two lawyers presented her with a power of attorney, naming her sister, Earline Drumgoole, to act on her behalf.

A witness later testified that McQueen told him that she did not understand who her visitors were or what they had her sign.

Full Article and Source:
Court of Appeals Unpholds Judgment Against Lawyer for Elder Abuse

>Three Relatives Accused of Exploitation

January 29, 2011

>Three relatives of an 88-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease are accused of illegally withdrawing nearly $174,900 from her bank account.

Tammy Childs, 50, used about $72,000 of the ailing Genevieve Gallant’s money to purchase a house, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

Childs, who alone is accused of taking about $153,800 from Gallant, faces charges of exploitation, money laundering and theft from a person 65 or older.

If convicted, she could face as many as 30 years in prison.

Childs is Gallant’s biological granddaughter, arrest records said, but Gallant had adopted Childs and referred to her as a daughter.

Childs’ daughters, Kari Lynne Boyett, 26, who lives with her mother, and Kati Marie Childs, 24, were each charged with theft from a person 65 or older.

Kati Childs took about $1,850 from Gallant and Boyett about $19,232, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

Full Article and Source:
Three Relatives of Victimized Elderly Woman Accused of Theft

>TX: Former County Judge Indicted by Federal Grand Jury

January 29, 2011

>Liberty radio station KSHN is saying former County Judge Phil Fitzgerald has confirmed he’s been indicted by a federal grand jury, but doesn’t yet know what the charges are.

The feds are mum, but it’s likely any indictment handed down has been temporarily sealed.

It was a joint investigation by 13 Undercover and the Cleveland Advocate Newspaper that sparked the criminal probe. Our hidden cameras showed trucks owned by the then-county judge were used in the Hurricane Ike cleanup in his own county.
Later, we reported his family may have made a million dollars from the cleanup.

News: Former Liberty County Judge Indicted

>Court of Judiciary Responds to Ginger Franklin’s Complaint Against Judge Randy Kennedy

January 28, 2011

>In an unusual turn of events, the Court of the Judiciary responded to Ginger Franklin’s appeal in her complaint vs. Judge Randy Kennedy. Click the link below to read the correspondence. This is the second investigation simultaneously being conducted by the COJ into the judicial misconduct of Judge Kennedy that we are aware of. We have also been told that there are several other complaints vs. Kennedy and that the attention Kennedy has notoriously garnered in the last year has led to an avalanche of complaints. This all in a probate court which rarely becomes the spotlight of complaints vs. judges. Let’s see if the Court of the Judiciary does their job. We’ll be contacting Senator Mae Beavers to find out what she is doing as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Read the Tennessee Court of Judiciary’s Letter

See Also:
Ginger Franklin Freed!

>TN Judge Randy Kennedy Reversed in Appeal

January 28, 2011


Attorneys: Sheryl D. Guinn, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Hazel Childs, Oreva Childs.

Jeanan Mills Stuart, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.


Two of the daughters of an eighty-two year old woman filed a petition to be named as their mother’s Conservator. The trial court found that the mother did indeed need a Conservator, but because of family disagreements it appointed a third party to perform that role. Seven months later, the same daughters filed a petition to remove the incumbent Conservator and to be named as Co-Conservators to replace her. The mother died after proceedings on the second petition began, but before the trial court could rule on its merits. The Conservator subsequently moved the court for payment of her fees. The court found that some of those fees were incurred as a direct result of the uncooperative acts of the two daughters. Since the decedent’s estate was indigent, the court entered two money judgments for costs against the daughters. We reverse the judgment that was assessed against one of the daughters for failing to return her mother to the nursing home in a timely way, because although her actions led to additional costs, no legal basis for the judgment appears in the record. We vacate the judgment based on the unsuccessful petition to remove the conservator and we remand the case for further proceedings, because although Tenn. Code Ann. section 34-1-114 does allow an assessment of costs against such petitioners, it is unclear how much of the court’s judgment falls within the parameters of that statute.


Read the January 5, 2011 Decision