TORRINGTON—Based on a motion citing false accusations of money being improperly withdrawn from a bank, and asking that two people be allowed to define their own relationship, another probate court hearing is scheduled next week in the case of Litchfield Woods Health Care Center resident Eli Schutts, 86.
This hearing, the nursing home client’s second in two months, will address petitioning attorney Matt LeFevre’s request to remove visitation restrictions imposed on Dr. Schutts’ longtime companion, Edith Johnson, 79, of Bethlehem.
The Litchfield County Times began tracking the case of Dr. Schutts, a former professor of philosophy at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, after Ms. Johnson raised concerns about his care, and about how she was being treated by those she encountered through the probate system. (All the stories can be accessed online at www.countytimes.com.)
According to the argument of Mr. LeFevre, who is Ms. Johnson’s attorney, tertiary parties have no right to unduly interfere in the affairs of a two people in a relationship who have known each other for the better part of three decades—even though Mr. Schutts could be heard at a recent hearing repudiating Ms. Johnson.
“If problems develop between them going forward that cause a detrimental situation, then that should be addressed at that time,” states Mr. LeFevre’s motion. “It shouldn’t be third party lawyers and conservators who impose their will and decision-making indefinitely and absolutely … particularly when such false and tainted information has been inappropriately disseminated maligning the character and integrity of Ms. Johnson.”
Attorney Marc Ford Greene, who represents Dr. Schutts, filed a subsequent objection to that motion, as the visitation restriction is per request of his client. The wheelchair-bound Dr. Schutts expressed the desire to deny visitation at the Aug. 27 probate hearing, where Lorraine Seely of New Milford was officially appointed his conservator. She had previously held that role in on a temporary basis.
“And he maintains that position,” stated the objection by Mr. Greene, referring to the visitation issue.
The August hearing settled the question over conservatorship and power of attorney, as this year Dr. Schutts has had three people assuming the responsibility: Ms. Johnson; Ms. Seely; and daughter Prisca Cox of London.
This spring, Dr. Schutts was in the Kent Specialty Care Center, an Apple Rehab facility. There he fell ill with pneumonia and his health rapidly deteriorated. That’s when Litchfield Hills Probate Judge Diane Blick assigned Ms. Cox and Ms. Seely as temporary co-conservators and had the retired Danbury professor transferred to New Milford Hospital, then Litchfield Woods.
Ms. Johnson formerly had power of attorney but Ms. Blick refused to recognize it based on her fear that Dr. Schutts did not fully understand the agreement. The temporary co-conservator status granted to Ms. Cox and Ms. Schutts expired Aug. 12, so from then until the probate hearing Dr. Schutts was a free agent.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned “false and tainted information” refers to public allegations that on Aug. 15 Ms. Johnson withdrew $1,981 in Social Security benefits from Dr. Schutts’ Bank of America account. Mr. Greene said he had it on authority from a banker that Ms. Johnson removed the funds, and the day after the August hearing Ms. Seely passed on to The Litchfield County Times an accusatory letter from Mr. Greene to Ms. Johnson.
Subsequently, information from Mr. Greene showed, Ms. Seely said that she realized she had withdrawn the funds, prompting an apology from Mr. Greene.
This week, Mr. Greene told The Litchfield County Times that part of the reason he believed Ms. Johnson had removed the funds was because “Ms. Seely made mistaken statements.”
When asked if he was concerned disciplinary actions would be sought against him, Mr. Greene said “it hadn’t occurred to me.”
At the upcoming probate hearing, Mr. Greene plans to request that Ms. Johnson return three items to her former live-in partner: Dr. Schutts’ Last Will and Testament; the title to his Hyundai automobile; and his 400-page thesis.
On advice of her attorney, Ms. Johnson refused to comment, and by press time Mr. LeFevre, Ms. Seely and her attorney, Michael McKenna, didn’t returned calls for comment.
The upcoming probate hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Litchfield Woods Health Care Center.
The Eli Schutts Case: Companion’s Attorney Fires Back With Motion Prompting New Probate Hearing
Jack Coraggio/Andy Thibault
October 10, 2012
Litchfield County Times