(Disclaimer: This is a page made by a citizen with input from other citizens who are trying to help you, but it is NOT professional legal advice.
The authors are NOT acting as attorneys by giving this advice. Go find an honest attorney that you picked based on someone's experience, their court record, and on what they fought. Anything sounding accusatory in this writing is still an allegation, but I do not write anything which for which I do not have proof.)
STOPPING PROBATE CORRUPTION
-As It Effects Just Outcomes In Guardianship-
There are some very good ways to learn about the legal scams that are used to steal your life, your rights, your home, your money, and even deprive you of your family and friends -FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. If the crooks get their hooks in you, you will have very little chance to escape because they hold all the cards. They are protected by the judge. They are willing and able to break the law. And they are given full legal control over both you and your money, so YOU CAN'T ACT. Good luck even being able to get a lawyer who isn't going to support them instead of you. And all that legal gymnastics you went through with the Elder Law attorney you hired? Isn't that good enough to protect you?
In an honest world
full of pink elephants and fairy dust, it would be. But the real answer
is NO!!!!! (Did I emphasize that enough?
So learn about what is going on before they take you.
1) Read the text below.
2) Take a look at this Investigative News Report on Guardianship/Conservator Abuse & Exploitation in South East Michigan. It's called The Fortress, and it is a real eye opener. It is consistent with exploitation in the rest of the US. https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/8/23/1880784/-The-Fortress-Part-One-of-Five-Unacknowledged-and-Unprotected
3) Exposing Washtenaw Probate Corruption- Guest: Alexis More. Black Coffee No Sugar, No Cream is a Radio show and Facebook "TV" show which provides educational programming and that embraces culture, diversity, inclusion, advocacy, and independence.
4) Find a copy of THE GUARDIANS documentary by Billie Mintz. It is an excellent film expose on the evils of guardianships, a crooked scheme that got busted, and the effects on the victims and family. https://www.billiemintz.com/the-guardians
5) See Dirty Money: Season 2, episode 5: "Guardians Inc." on Netflix.
6) Read this imprtant news article: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-the-elderly-lose-their-rights
7) Seek more information on the internet. There are a lot of stories out there, Facebook pages, and organizations fighting the problem.Just type in "Guardianship Abuse." You'll have a lot of choices. Look for volunteer organizations starting with: AAAPG, CEAR, NASGA, VOICE (The Voice Advocates).
8) BEWARE! There are organizations that are supporting and enabling guardianship/conservatorship abuse and exploitation. In some cases, the leadership are themselves some of the worst offenders. AVOID THE MICHIGAN GUARDIANSHIP ASSOCIATION.
First, brief understanding of what Judicial Discretion is, and why it is an important safeguard for justice when it is used properly:
Judge Thomas A. Zonay is the presiding judge of the superior court in Rutland, VT. Among his many accomplishments, he is chairman of the Vermont Judicial Education Committee and has served as faculty for The National Judicial College since 2012.
The Hon. Thomas A. Zoney wrote:
discretion.” What is it and how should it be applied? For centuries
courts and commentators alike have wrestled with the concept of
judicial discretion. Its judicious use increases fairness and can
help to promote an equitable legal process by allowing the judge to
consider individual circumstances in instances when the law is
insufficient or silent. Conversely, because discretion involves
situational considerations, its misuse can adversely impact the
court’s authority and good reputation, create a feeling of
result-oriented decision making and, when abused, lead to gross
Judicial discretion is necessary to the proper discharge of our Constitutional obligations as a separate – and independent – branch of government.1 Legislatures simply cannot write laws to address all situations which find their way into court or that develop as a case makes its way through the legal system. Judges are present during proceedings and hear the evidence firsthand. From this vantage point a judge must have some discretion to apply the law to the facts and procedure of the pending dispute.2
1.Stumpf, Felix, Inherent Powers of the Court¸ The National Judicial College, Reno, NV (2008). Cites cases and describes authority for the exercise of judicial discretion in both substantive, but more commonly, procedural, instances.
2.Smithburn, J. Eric, Judicial Discretion, a Text, The National Judicial College, Reno, NV (2006). Explores the cases and secondary authority which analyze discretion as a jurisprudential concept.
But how far should Judicial Discretion go before the temptation to abuse it leads to criminal acts?
you give someone ultimate power, power which is literally over life and
death, and the person with the power has all access to money and
authority, and they know they have the freedom to violate law and not
be held accountable, just how long do you think that person will remain
HOW JUDICIAL DISCRETION FAILS JUSTICE IN GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP CASES
As stated above, there is good reason to allow honest judges to interpret a good and just outcome by considering factual circumstances presented in the courtroom and comparing them to the law, and then determining how to apply that law so truth and justice are the ultimate outcome. When an honest judge, with no ulterior motive handles their judicial duty with this principle as their guide, the judge is the last bastion of truth, justice and fair, equitable decision making.
The freedom of interpretation and application of the law permits a judge to act appropriately, and to be shielded from disgruntled litigants who claim an improper decision. Without that protection, a judge's ability to protect justice would be difficult, if not impossible. If a judge makes so great an error that they have denied due process or greatly affronted the law, the recourse of the losing party is to use the Court of Appeals.
As an assurance against the greed of corruption, a judge is paid a very high salary.
But when is enough power and money ever enough power and money?
SO WHY ARE SO MANY AMERICANS BEING HARMED WITHIN THE PROBATE SYSTEM?
The system works “On Paper,” but the laws are written with the presumption of honest judges and attorneys obeying them to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, as far too many Americans have discovered over many decades, the probate systems in most US States have become grossly corrupt. When the person placed in such high position as a judge is willing to abuse their discretionary powers for self-enhancement, whether it is monetary gain, for power or prestige, or just to continue to hold an office with a high salary, then the system fails. When a judge is willing to abandon due process and to ignore statutes altogether for personal gain and wrongful support of the fiduciaries they appointed, then the system has failed. Both of these are common in probate courts across the US.
Money and power are great incentives for corruption, but are not great factors until the safeguard of accountability is removed. Having the means to “get away with it” is crucial to act of a judge's willing participation in criminal acts aimed to exploit vulnerable persons. The very concept of broad judicial discretion to protect a judge's power to do good also protects a judge who chooses to do evil for gain.
One might ask, “How does a judge exploit someone in probate guardianships and conservatorships?”
The answer: The judge's primary tool for personal gain is the appointment of fiduciaries who exploit the wards directly. The very high profit generated by this is a favor, and it is obviously not acknowledged. The favor can be returned in many ways. A private fiduciary may provide kick-back payments, a judge might own a stake in nursing homes, and when the fiduciary is a probate attorney, the favor back can be aligning with other attorneys in the scam who will make sure the judge continues to be re-elected. Many judges run unopposed. When that happens, the people cannot even vote them out of office.
Currently, only a judge can declare someone to be mentally incompetent, incapacitated and to need the “protection” of guardianship or conservatorship. The judge does not have to place every person who comes before them into the corrupt scheme. The mark need not be wealthy to be a good choice for exploitation. The most likely targets are chosen by the ease in which a professional guardian or conservator can profit from them. Some guardians have many hundreds of wards, and many of them are moved into Long Term Care or other facilities, placed on Medicaid, and the guardian takes a payment for being in charge of the person. With enough such cases, a guardian can make a substantial income with minimal effort. A case with a high estate value is tempting, and it is far easier to pick the ones where family disagreements allow a judge's discretion to side-step the statutory order of appointment. The judge simply ignores the law and appoints who the judge wants.
Once the guardian and/or conservator is appointed, any or all of the victim's rights can be ignored. The door to exploitation is open. Many guardians isolate the victims, sometimes in secret, but most always from the family and friends seeking to help the victim. The guardian “sides” with family members who are at odds with those trying to help the victim, and the following strife creates increasing amounts of time that the guardian or conservator are involved. This in turn allows for billing. In this way guardians and conservators can charge fees which they legitimize through the judge, who oversees them and must approve their billing.
How Do They Make Their Money?
There are several ways:
1) If you are poor or have debt, or they can spend you down. They get you tossed into a Long Term Care facility, spending you down so you are on Medicaid. That kind of life is no life. It is a horrible experience. They get a fee every month to maintain you. It's a small amount, but in the summer of 2018 Jon Munger in the Detroit Metro counties had over 1700 cases. I was in court when Judge Daniel O'Brien told a poor woman who was living in poverty and wanted to get away from that crook because was was failing to serve her, "Mr. Munger is not getting rich off you. He's only getting $300 from you a year." Well, do the math. If she is the LOWEST common dnominator and all of his wards were like her, then $300/year x 1700 = $510,00.00 income for doing virtually nothing. But we know Mr. Munger handles a lot of wealthy estates.
2) The fiduciaries charge every way they can. They create excuses for billing fees, and even charge for phone callsand emails by incremental time. They will chrge for every single email they read write, every time they write a check, have a conversation, etc. I've seen billing far exceed the amount of the check being written. While the law says a judge sets the fee for the professional fiduciary at a “reasonable” rate, and one might expect that fee to be something like what a social worker would earn (maybe $30/hr.), the fees for attorneys who are professional guardians and conservators are often well over $100/hr. And I know of some getting over $600 per hour! They are NOT supposed to be paid attorney rates. But the crooked judge will say, "Oh, well if I don't apprve their attorney rate, then wy wold they want to do this?" The answer: "They shouldn't want to do this! The law says professionals are the last resort, and the individual has priority, then family, and then other close relationships. You should not be appointing attorneys working in your court!"
3) The professional guardians then exploit the victim, often sending them into excessive debt. Professional guardians and conservators get paid before other debts. The common abuses to the vulnerable person they are supposed to protect include:
*Deprivation of Rights,
*Loss of home, property and possessions,
*Loss of family and friend relationships,
*Physical abuse for control (which may include violence drugging or restraint for compliance),
*Situational placement or medication
designed to decrease physical and mental ability, and in some cases the hastening of premature
death, either directly via drugging, or indirectly via situational
4) But the scam doesn't end there. Some judges have been busted from the kickbacks, but usually it goes to the crooked guardian or conservator. Since they get to sell your house, and they already paid themselves rather than your debts, the next thing is getting paid for the financial/Real Estate fraud. They take a mortgage against their own property. Within a couple of years, sometimes less, that debt is paid off by a third party. It takes law enforcement to get the info from the bank on who paid, but you can check deeds to see when leins were placed on the property. They try hard to hide it. You might want to hire a private investigator like we did. They can locate the properties from other places, aliases such as using middle names , initials, etc., and they can find companies owned by the crook, such as a facility or a Real Estate company where the money can go through.
This is my mom. They are the same person.
She had hydrocephalus in late 2017. So she was treated with very successful corrective surgery, and her prognosis by the sugeon was full to near full recovery, and she was in the top 10% for her age. But before she had healed enough, and while she was vulnerable, Judge Julia Owdziej of the Washtenaw County MI probate court put her into Guardianship and Conservatorship. I testified that she was already healing very well. Mom wasn't even brought to court or given an attorney. Later, Judge Owdziej refused to hear any petitions about letting mom out of guardianship, despite there being strong doubt and Medical Opinion that mom didn't need it. Before guardianship, mom was living on her own, driving, handling all of her affairs. In less than a year the guardian and conservator spent her out of 2 houses and were busily getting rid of everything she owned. They increased the isolation and treated her like a baby. Mom resented it all, and continued to claim in court that she was a prisoner who wanted her freedom. Judge Owdziej usually wouldn't even acknowledge her. Mom made a speech one day at the end of court that got an ovation from the room, but judge Owdziej ignored her and walked out in the middle of it. That's how much the judge cares.
The day after family filed to Remove the conservator and guardian, the guardian went to court in secret, without notifying mom's trusted family who were in litigation to save her. The conservator, an Ann Arbor attorney in probate law named Kathleen Carter, had already listed the house for sale without a court order (she knew she would get one from this judge). The guardian, an Ann Arbor Family Law attorney named Georgette David, filed a falsified ex -parte MENTAL ILLNESS petition to have mom removed by force with police and ambulance, and requested that she be put in a mental facility -as if she was insane and a danger to herself or others. After all, for the guardian and conservator to get paid, they had to sell the house. The guardian later admitted in testimony that she made no attempt to perfrm the preliminary checks, that she ommitted the required listing of interested parties to be informed, and that she put down reasonswhich she claimed she saw, but she actually had not. They were the words of a caregiver who had just been accused of abuse. Of course, this was all just fine with the judge, who refused to find that this was insufficient to remove the guardian or Conservator for Cause.
Despite mom being cleared by the doctors, the guardian refused to let her go home. Instead, she put my mom into a mental facility without any court order, and without any full required hearing. She refused to say where she put my mom, and she gave the staff pictureds of us so they would lie and say she was not there if we came looking. The picture on the right was taken sometime in the summer of 2019, about a half a year into isolation at the facility. It got expensive for the conservator because she had to pay for mom while they sold her house out from under her. So they transferred her to an Adult Foster Care home.She is still uder lockdown and they won't let her have a phone, won't let her send mail and they intercept almost all of her mail. Even on Zoom Court the judge and the AFC owner tried to stop her from talking. She has very little contact with the outside world, but the guardian lies about that constantly in court and in court documents.The picture on the left is from the Zoom Court Hearing where the petition was to appoint a Pastor from her church to be a more fair Limited Guardian over Visitation (MCL 700.5306(6) on January 23,2020. Jude Owdziej ignored the evidence that the guardian was isolating her victim and refused to appoint the Pastor, who has an impeccable reputation. The priority was to protect the GUARDIAN, not the ward.
THIS COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN YOU!
One might ask: “So how does the judge fit in after appointing these crooks?
In order to accomplish the financial exploitation, the guardians and conservators must act against the ward's best interests. This is contrary to the word and spirit of the law. It often involves severe abuses, financial fraud, Real estate fraud, theft by Conversion, and disregard for the health and safety of the ward. But these fiduciaries are supposed to be accountable to the court, must seek court orders to approve certain acts, and are subject to review.
That is where the judge becomes the necessary element to make the scam work. The judge is the only accountability that the fiduciaries must appease. By using “Judicial Discretion” the judge can completely obliterate due process and adherence to statutes. In that way, by going through the legal motions of a proceeding under the guise of justice, the judge can simply approve of almost any criminal behavior by the fiduciaries.
One might ask “Why would a judge do any of that?” And it is a fair question.
Wouldn't people notice?
Of course people notice! It is a big issue. THERE ARE A LOT OF VICTIMS. But nobody can get any traction to do anything about it.
Judges get power, prestige and wealth just from their position. They get paid handsomely for that privilege so they won't abuse it. But human nature also shows us that to many people, a taste for power and money often leads to a greater appetite for increases in both. How much is enough? To people like that, the answer is “All of it.” A judge in Ohio was busted for taking money in a scheme where he was being bribed, took a series of mortgages on his house, and then the person who bribed him paid off the loan. Clean and easy- only he got caught!
Aren't judges and attorneys accountable to Law Enforcement agencies and oversight agencies such as Judicial and Attorney Grievance Commissions? What about the victims' rights under the US Constitution?
The judge can get away with violating due process and ignoring law because their power of “Judicial Discretion” is broad and for all practical purposes, unaccountable. Neither the Judicial Tenure or Attorney Grievance Commissions tend to take any action, regardless of how clear the evidence of malfeasance may be. Both judge and attorney are protected by their colleagues. Nor are these law enforcement entities. Nor can they overturn a decision by a judge. The most they can do is levy professional sanctions, or maybe ask the Supreme Court for some sanction, but on the very rare occasions when that happens, the sanction is minor compared to the damage done, and the offender is soon returned to their position.
That leaves law enforcement- Right?
In theory, yes, the US Constitution is supreme over State law, so violating the rights of the victim and not allowing them due process is absolutely a violation. In theory, the FBI and US Department of Justice should step in. The reality is that they will not. They say it is a probate civil issue, and they will suggest you complain to the State Judicial Tenure or Attorney Grievance commissions.
The reality of state, county, and local police is that they will not only refuse to help, claiming even clearly criminal acts are “probate matters” or that since they were done under probate the criminal acts are not their jurisdiction. They will tell you to complain to the Judicial Tenure or Attorney Grievance Commissions, or to go though the probate court judge, or to appeal. This is an incorrect position, but common. In fact, most law enforcement will act to serve the crooked fiduciaries' interests because the fiduciary provides a court order. They will not and cannot question the “lawful” order of a judge, even if the judge has violated law and due process by issuing it.
The option to seek relief from the Court of Appeals. -
You only have a few weeks to file an appeal. But it is not necessarily going to help. It will require a good lawyer who understands how to write an appeal. It will cost a lot of money. The victim might be dead before you get it through the court system. And in the end, thy may rule against you, or they may kick it back to the corrupt judge who got you there in the first place. Law enforcement and the Justice Department, and other agencies recommend this, but this it is often a failure.
*It usually ends in financial disaster for those seeking justice for the victim, and the victim's hardships of isolation and attacks via drugging or other harm increase as the fiduciary and the court take measures to thwart a legitimate legal challenge. They can usually protract the conflict until the party either runs out of money or the victim dies of old age or sickness.
*Victims are usually not allowed by the court or the guardian to seek or access legal representation of their choice. You are correct that such a ruling would violate someone's rights. Instead, the judge appoints an attorney who will support the scam. Even honest attorneys in the system are unable to resist, as their incomes are dependent upon the judge and in some cases, resisting would bring professional sanctions.
*Victims are cut off from their own money to be used for hiring an attorney who will work for them.
After the judge makes wrongful decisions:
*An appeal to the Court of Appeals requires a level of legal knowledge that not even every attorney is good at, let alone one who would work for the victim. So no typical non-attorney citizen is likely to succeed there, even if they are in the right.
*It is never timely, even for the elderly who are in the process of having everything they worked their whole lives for taken away. It takes an exceptionally long time for a case to be heard by the CoA. In the intervening time whole estates are laid waste and become irrecoverable, and the victim may die from age, new infirmity, or even design.
*It is very expensive to escalate a matter to the CoA. Most people do not have the money to even attempt it. Those who do are often fought hard and waste sometimes hundreds of thousands of their own dollars, or even their homes in the fight.
*There is always the chance that the judge who made the wrongful rulings and supported criminal activities of the fiduciaries might be “protected by judges on the CoA.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS MADE POSSIBLE BY ABUSE OF JUDICIAL DISCRETION AND THE PROTECTION OF JUDGES AND ATTORNEYS
It is a grim picture. The very people who are trusted by the populace to protect them have become the abusers, exploiters, and the antithesis of what they are supposed to protect. These violations, whether they are of federally protected rights, including rights to due process, or state or federal statute all come under the heading of violations under “Color of Law.” That means the bad actor has used their lawful authority to violate the law.
Since professional guardians and conservators are protected from accountability by the probate judges who appoint them, and those judges have no real accountability to effect them, the fiduciaries and probate judges are in a unique position of potential profit which provides the means, the motive, and the opportunity to exploit vulnerable persons for profit.
Our legislators created that situation because they will not create laws which provide the necessary accountability. The laws create exploitable situations where gross profit can be made by corrupt support, and which do not account for the victim's needs for speedy, inexpensive and meaningful justice.
No law is useful if a judge can ignore it.
HOW CAN THIS UNFAIR AND DESRUCTIVE SYSTEM BE CHANGED TO WORK FOR THE PEOPLE RATHER THAN AGAINST THEM?
Some people say that the guardianship system itself should be completely abolished. They say it violates the US Constitution's protection of civil rights. They say the destruction from unchecked criminal abuse is not worth the offset benefit to those who are in sympathetic, legitimate guardianships and conservatorships. These proponents of eliminating guardianships and conservatorships favor a method known as “Assisted Decision Making,” which leaves the ultimate authority to the individual, and is a method used successfully in many parts of the world.
But is that the BEST answer?
It is almost the best answer, but no. Guardianship and conservatorship should not be entirely eliminated because there are a great many persons who need and want protection: A true solution must accommodate those needs while still allowing the person sovereignty over their life.
*Some individuals need protection from family or others who exploit or abuse them.
*Some individuals find certain mental tasks (accounting, decision-making) too difficult.
*Some individuals are found by sufficient psychiatric examination to be insane.
*Some individuals have medical conditions which make them
exploitable, or incapable of expressing
opinions (such as prolonged coma).
*Assisted Decision making can help with some, but not all of these.
So what needs to happen for guardianships and conservatorships to work?
Back to the main Probate Corruption page