Sunset Advisory Commission hearing update (TX)

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A couple of things related to this week’s Sunset Advisory Commission hearing on the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

First, here’s an interesting op-ed out of the Austin American-Statesman:

Legislators on the Sunset Advisory Commission had every right to be harshly critical of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct during a public hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday.

The agency, which investigates possible misconduct by Texas judges, had denied the lawmakers and sunset staff access to some of its investigative records and closed meetings, claiming attorney-client privilege.

The unfounded claim to privilege was in fact a naked claim to secrecy that angered the members of the Sunset Commission, which periodically reviews the performance of state agencies.

Sunset commissioners should let that anger burn slowly and carry it to the Legislature when it convenes in January.

If between now and then the judicial commission doesn’t voluntarily open its records to sunset staff, then legislators should do what’s necessary to force them to do so.

Read more.

Attribution:

Commission on Judicial Conduct doesn’t deserve special privacy
Editorial Board
April 12, 2012
Austin American-Statesman
http://www.statesman.com/opinion/commission-on-judicial-conduct-doesnt-deserve-special-privacy-2300638.html#.T4gwv1j_klI.email

Additionally, the Sunset Advisory Commission now has video from Tuesday’s hearing posted.  Click here to access that file.  Though testimony on multiple agencies was heard that day, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct was first on the agenda.

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  • Ojuskissme

    My mother, Fay Louise Hohmann, an elderly, incapacitated, disabled, 85 year old widow with Alzheimer’s has been made a Ward of the State of Texas. Why is it that the state of Texas is not protecting her? Millions of people each day take care of their elderly loved ones without a battery of attorneys, judges, and a quarter of a million dollars to do so. Something has gone seriously wrong when a system that is supposed to protect a person, ends up irreparably harming them and creating unnecessary burdens on Texas taxpayers!

    On April 12, 2012, there was a Collin County Probate Court hearing to discuss the payment of attorneys’ fees. It was premature to have this discussion because our family has never been given an opportunity to receive and perform a detailed review of the billings from each and every attorney, court appointee, or any other person seeking compensation from Fay Hohmann’s estate. Before the court ruled on this, it would have been essential for the members of our family, outside of the interference of attorneys and court appointees, to have an opportunity to sit down together and review all billings to gain an understanding of what services were provided and to determine which services rendered, if any, actually benefited Fay Louise Hohmann, and how.

    On April 12, 2012, the court simply gave a rubber stamp of approval to the blanket affidavits for fees that were presented to the court, without requesting itemization and a thorough review of each billed item. The Texas taxpayers will now be forced to pick up the tab for another vulnerable citizen’s care in Medicaid dollars when the money runs out through the disbursement of assets to pay for professional services that have not benefited the ward. When did it become legal to bill tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to a ward for services that did not benefit them? It is imperative that only those services that these parties can prove truly benefited Fay Hohmann be delineated and supported by proper documentation before Fay Hohmann is forced to pay these fees. Judge Weldon Copeland’s Court should have demanded it. Judge Don Windle’s court should have demanded it. By doing otherwise, the court’s actions were not fair to the person under guardianship; the court’s actions were not fair to the taxpayers of Texas; the court’s actions yesterday were neither good public policy nor improvements to the law.

    Thankfully, visiting Judge Don Windle, who heard the case because Judge Weldon Copeland “refused to conduct this hearing” according to Susan Periquet, determined not to continue with a previous order by Judge Weldon Copeland, to prematurely advance a sizable inheritance to the ward’s adult son to pay his personal debts, because clearly there would be no inheritance, it would not be in ward’s best interest, it would be poor public policy (setting a precedent for others to follow), and there was no fathomable or intelligible reason to do so.

    Since July of 2010, the Probate Court of Collin County, and the court appointees, and opportunistic attorneys (John Round and Lori Leu) have exploited the Probate system, and have unfortunately taken advantage of the mental illnesses of one family member who was unqualified to contest the guardianship from the beginning. The court and its appointees allowed this maneuver to serve as leverage to drive a wedge between all of the members of our family. At a critical time for our family, when it was perfectly normal to have disagreements and differing opinions about how to care for a loved one, this court (Judge Weldon Copeland), and its appointees (Terri Green, William “Bill” Stith, and Susan Periquet) used the system to foster, fortify, and capitalize on our differences, and personally financially flourish (draining tens of thousands of dollars from mom’s estate) by cultivating an environment of distrust, antagonism, and dissension in our family.

    This court has allowed the probate system to violate Fay Hohmann’s civil rights, her right to a capacity hearing, her right to a jury trial, her right to service for all matters concerning the guardianship petition(s), her due process rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and her right to competent representation by legal professionals not willing to breach their fiduciary duties to Fay Hohmann, like both Susan Periquet as Fay Hohmann’s Attorney ad Litem, and Terri Green as Attorney for the Estate of Fay Louise Hohmann have.

    The Collin County Probate Court allowed the system to violate the guardian’s civil liberties by ordering her not to speak to, or have contact with, her family members, or to be able to speak as herself, and not as the guardian, in family matters concerning the ward and others. The probate system and its players bullied the ward’s guardian, threatened her, and allowed others to knowingly make libelous and defamatory statements, declare unsubstantiated claims, and file false motions in court against her.

    The Collin County Probate Court allowed the Probate, Guardianship, and Legal systems to seek every opportunity, loophole, and intentional procedural error to abuse and exploit Fay Louise Hohmann, her guardian, our immediate and extended family, when the systems should have been protecting us! How can the Probate Court system be allowed to encourage, or look the other way when, appointees blatantly disregard all of their fiduciary duties to a ward? How can a legal system allow appointees to fail to speak to a ward about matters concerning Trusts where the ward is a rightful heir and beneficiary, and matters about the ward’s guardianship? How can a Probate system blatantly disregarded a ward’s advance directives, intentions, and wishes at every turn?

    Our family did not object to paying for professional services that benefited Fay Hohmann. The fee applications in this case were sky high! We all owed a duty to Fay Hohmann to ensure that her estate was not robbed by the unjustified disbursement of assets for services that did not benefit her. For example, we vehemently objected to billings for services at professional attorney rates, when all an individual (William “Bill” Stith) did was write a few checks, place a few night lights inside Fay Hohmann’s home, pull weeds from the yard, and go to the ward’s current residence for the first time on April 10, 2012 to ask how to put residents on Medicaid, knowing full well that Emeritus is a private pay facility. I am sure there were many other items like this in the billings these folks wanted to be paid for. In the end, the affidavits were not reviewed to determine if any of the services billed actually benefited Fay Louise Hohmann; the blind rubber stamp of approval sealed the ward’s and the Texas taxpayers’ fates yesterday.

    The Texas Probate system has also made a mockery of the thoughtful, deliberate, highly specific, intentional and legal Revocable Living Trust Agreements of our aunt and her life partner, by knowing the minute details of both trust agreements, including the Spend-Thrift Clause, the Protective Property Sub-Trust Clause, and the Four-Corners of the trust, and ignoring them outright to the detriment of Fay Hohmann. The life savings from hardworking, upstanding citizens, and deceased war veterans (our aunt, her life partner, and our father) went to strangers who neither knew nor cared about our mother, or our family.

    How will the legitimate and rightful heirs and beneficiaries of ALL the aging Baby-Boomers be treated when their purposeful, time consuming, and costly Revocable Living Trusts, Advanced Directives, Powers of Attorney, Wills, right to due process, right to personal freedom and freedom of speech are ignored by the American Courts and the American Court Systems? These are huge issues; unfortunately, our family’s story is not unique.

    The Collin County Probate Court alleged that our family “could not get along.” We have never been so united.