Bill to Protect Elderly and Disabled Adults in California From Excessive Lawyer Fees Sails Through Key State Senate Committee

Legislation to protect incapacitated adults in California from excessive legal fees when their lives and finances are under court supervision sailed through a key committee Tuesday and is headed to the Senate floor.
Members of the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously for Senate Bill 156 — a bill inspired by 38-year-old Danny Reed’s years-long battle with a court-appointed estate manager and bevy of lawyers. Together, their hundreds of thousands of dollars of fees would have gobbled up most of the San Jose man’s life savings.

“When you see what really happened, everyone agreed,” the bill’s author, Democratic state Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose, said after the hearing. “Our bill is pretty simple. It just allows judges to protect people.”

SB156 would avoid the burden Reed faced of “fees-on-fees,” which leaves dependent adults paying for both sides of legal disputes over excessive fees, whether they win or lose their arguments. The bill would tackle that problem by creating a “loser pays” system. If an elderly or disabled adult objects to the fees of a court-appointed conservator and wins the case, then the conservator could be required by a judge to pay his or her own legal fees. Otherwise, those fees would be drawn from the person’s estate.

In Reed’s case, he objected when his court-appointed trustee charged $108,771 for four-and-a-half months’ work in 2010, but that spiraled into legal bills more than double the original amount. Reed’s case — highlighted in this newspaper’s investigation “Loss of Trust” — was resolved in the appeals court, but only after a lengthy court fight and the help of a dedicated pro bono legal team.

SB156 has so far attracted only one formal objection — from the trade group representing fiduciaries, who serve as probate court-appointees handling the money and daily care of dependent adults. Jerry Desmond, the lobbyist for the Professional Fiduciary Association of California, was the sole opponent of Beall’s bill testifying at Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. While Desmond said his group shares Beall’s intent to best serve vulnerable adults, he believes the bill would scare fiduciaries away from seeking court assignments.

“We could end up in a situation where we don’t have enough professional conservators to take the cases,” Desmond told senators.

Full Article and Source:
Bill to Protect Elderly and Disabled Adults in California From Excessive Lawyer Fees Sails Through Key State Senate Committee

See Also:
Loss of Trust Series – Santa Clara County’s Court-Appointed Estate Managers are Handing Out Costly and Questionable Bills


7 Responses to “Bill to Protect Elderly and Disabled Adults in California From Excessive Lawyer Fees Sails Through Key State Senate Committee”

  1. tvfields Says:

    While there is no doubt that there is a problem with lawyers charging excessive fees, there are other ways in which lawyers and judges act unethically, and too often these other ways lead to courts ruling in favor of the wrong party. This is a big problem, one which is not adequately addressed by either our appellate courts or disciplinary committees operated by the Bar and judiciary, neither of which can be counted upon to hold lawyers and judges accountable for violations of the simplest statutes. And, of course, another problem is created by bad laws, and loopholes in good laws, which are lobbied for and exploited by unethical persons, including lawyers and judges …

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I'm glad.

  3. Thelma Says:

    One of the purposes of conservatorship being to CONSERVE, there must be a curb on fiduciary billings.

  4. Finny Says:

    Yes Thelma, you're right, but by having to pass a law to accomplish this, what does it say about the state of our judiciary? Judges are supposed to be reviewing all billings. Reed's lawyer's billings should not have been approved.

  5. Norma Says:

    I'm glad Danny's hell led to something, but getting back to Danny, does he get any relief?

  6. Donna Says:

    You're right tvfields and also it's the judge's job to review the fees, not just sign and approve them. This bill seems to me like it's taking the heat off of judges not doing their jobs.

  7. Sue Says:

    Business deals being conducted in a courtroom under color of law.Does anyone have any idea how much money / income for the G Team is generated from guardianships?

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