Archive for the ‘Task Force’ Category

New oversight of conservatorships proposed

November 3, 2013


A task force assigned to examine the growing number of  conservatorships in Davidson County has concluded there aren’t enough resources to provide adequate oversight and has proposed the creation of a publicly funded Office of the Public Guardian.

The new office would replace the existing single public guardian, a post now vacant.

In a 55-page report made public Friday, the task force appointed in March by Probate Judge David “Randy” Kennedy said the proposed new office could be funded by a combination of public money and voluntary support.

The panel cited an increasing caseload of conservatorships in the local court, with the number jumping from 636 in fiscal year 2009 to 1,782 in 2012.

The task force was appointed in the wake of the abrupt resignation of the public guardian, Jeanan Mills Stuart, after a series of Tennessean reports on the fees Stuart charged for a variety of tasks. Among those tasks were accompanying wards on shopping trips and attendance at events, including a symphony orchestra performance.

Stuart, whose resignation coincided with Kennedy’s demand that she resign, charged her wards the full hourly lawyer’s fee — up to $225 an hour — no matter the task.

A Tennessean review of Stuart’s billing showed she billed twice for the same services, including a five-hour shopping excursion.

Specific fees dodged

The task force dodged the issue of setting specific fees for nonlawyer tasks but did recommend that conservators be required to “use their time as judiciously as possible” and “act in the best interest of the ward.”

The panel, headed by attorney Colleen P. Mac­Lean, did not recommend a specific budget or staffing level for the proposed public guardian office but instead contrasted the current effort in Davidson County with Tarrant County in Texas, which it cited as a model program.

While Tarrant has a staff of 11.5 to handle an annual caseload of 1,237 cases, the panel said, Davidson has a single judge and a staff of 3.5. Davidson’s caseload is growing and is expected to surpass 1,910 a year.

The Tarrant court has an annual budget of $940,000 and it spends an additional $675,000 to contract with a third party to provide services to wards.

In addition to urging an increase in public funding, the panel said increased court filing fees could underwrite the cost of some of its recommendations.

Kennedy did not respond Friday to a request for comment but provided a copy of a letter forwarded to Metro Council members along with copies of the report.

“I am confident that working together we will continue to enhance and improve our system of justice in this challenging area of the law,” Kennedy wrote in the letter.

The panel attributed the high Davidson County caseload — the highest in the state — to a variety of factors, including a high number of nursing homes, hospitals and veterans facilities and a large homeless population.

“This translates into a ballooning demand, particularly of indigent individuals in need of a conservatorship who do not have friends or family available to serve in this position,” the report states.

Data gathered by the panel showed that the fees charged by conservators currently range from $50 to $250 an hour. Much of the current caseload, it found, is handled by nonprofit and government agencies.

But, the task force warned, those entities “don’t have the capacity to serve all the indigents in Davidson County.”

While not recommending specific fees for non-legal-conservator services, the panel did suggest a system under which overall fee limits could be set.

It cited a flat fee of $1,500 for a case requiring minimal duties and a ceiling of $10,000 for more complicated cases, with a requirement that fees over that ceiling would require greater documentation.

The panel also called for the creation of a program to provide voluntary services for overseeing conservatorships. Such a program would provide training for those interested in serving as conservators.

Overall, the panel concluded that the Davidson County court has too few resources dedicated to the administration and oversight of conservatorships.

“The number of these cases is expected to grow even further as the baby boomer generation ages and life expectancies continue to grow due to advances in modern medicine,” the report concludes.

Full Article and Source:
New oversight of conservatorships proposed

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NY: The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption

September 7, 2013

On July 2, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appointed the “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act and Executive Law Section 63(8) to probe systemic corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York State.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will appoint the members of the Commission as Deputy Attorneys General giving the Commission broad investigative authority to probe matters that “involve public peace, public safety and public justice”.

The Commission will have the power to issue subpoenas and examine witnesses under oath.  They will be tasked with among things, reviewing the adequacy of existing state laws, regulations and procedures involving unethical and unlawful misconduct by public officials and the electoral process and campaign finance laws.  They will also examine whether existing laws and regulations have been fairly and vigorously enforced and what changes must be made to such enforcement.  The Commission is directed to make recommendations to toughen and improve existing laws and procedures.

Note: 

The Commission will hold hearings in September:
* Tuesday, September 17 in lower Manhattan,
* Wednesday, September 18 in Buffalo,
* Tuesday, September 24 in Albany

The hearings will begin at 6:00 p.m.

Source:
The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption

PA: Elder Task Force to Step Up Guidelines

May 3, 2013

As more Americans worry about financial abuse of seniors, Pennsylvania’s new task force on elder law is stepping up.

The group expects to outline recommendations next year that could make it harder for thieves to prey on older people and drain their bank accounts, its chairperson said.
 
The practice of senior guardianship is “ripe for abuse,” said state Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd, who chairs the court’s Elder Law Task Force.
 
“We need greater monitoring,” Todd said. “It’s really sad when you read their cases. … They’ve lost their life savings or their homes.”
 
Pennsylvania law allows the Orphans Court to appoint guardians to handle living arrangements or financial matters for someone incapable of doing so.
 
Three task force subcommittees will focus on the appointment and qualifications of guardians and attorneys; guardianship monitoring and data collection; and elder abuse and neglect.
 
Financial abuse of the elderly is hard to measure, experts said.
 
“It’s difficult to get a handle on because family members may be involved,” said Richard Schulz, director of Gerontology and associate director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Pittsburgh.

The 38-member task force composed of judges, lawyers and social workers plans to recommend solutions “that will allow older Pennsylvanians to age without worriesthat they will be abused or their money will be taken,” said Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.
 
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. will chair the subcommittee on elder abuse and neglect. He believes the task force will make a difference.
 
“We’re looking at changing rules, both civil and criminal. … We’re going to change the way we do business,” said Zappala, who formed an elder abuse unit in his office in 2004.

Full Article and Source:

Elder Task Force to Step Up Guidelines

PA Task Force Established to Study Legal Issues Faced by Older People, Recommend Changes

April 23, 2013

A new Elder Law Task Force will take up special legal issues faced by older Pennsylvanians, from their vulnerability to abuse and neglect to the ways in which the judicial system should change to accommodate their needs, state court officials said Thursday.

The 38-member task force held its first meeting this week in Harrisburg, and has about a year to study the topic and make recommendations for changes to court rules, new legislation and other solutions.
“Every Pennsylvanian is going to face this in one way or another, whether it’s their parents, their loved ones or themselves,” said state Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd, who chairs the panel. “And we really want to do everything we can to keep our older adults safe.”

Among the issues being studied are guardianship matters, improving access to the judicial system and abuse — whether physical, psychological or financial.
“We’ve focused so much in recent years, and we continue to focus, on child abuse, because our children are a vulnerable population,” Todd said. “But our elderly are a vulnerable population as well.”

Full Article and Source:
Pa. Task Force Established to Study Legal Issues Faced by Older People, Recommend Changes