Gross, one of NASGA's first "Great Escapes" passed in 2007, but
his legacy lives on through a CT State Supreme Court Decision announced
in March of 2012 which will pave the way to holding lawyers and
conservators (and guardians) accountable.
Thank you, Dan
Gross and daughter, NASGA member, Dee King. May this
decision lead to many more "Great Escapes."
State Supreme Court Holds
In Probate Cases
March 23, 2012
by Rick Green
for a simple
to the old,
The job of a
court is to
is healthyor a
In a unanimous ruling in the long-running civil rights case of Daniel Gross, the justices ruled that court-appointed lawyers do not have immunity from lawsuits if they abuse their clients. The court also ruled, in a divided opinion, that conservators appointed by probate have limited immunity. The justices also ruled that a nursing home does not have immunity from lawsuits in probate cases.
The ruling has far-reaching implications for our troubled probate court system. It means that a court-appointed lawyer, and to a lesser extent the conservator who is appointed by probate when a person can no longer live independently cannot ignore the wishes of a client. The message to probate court is clear: Lawyers and conservators must be held accountable.
For probate courts, this has huge implications because many of the unsettling and outrageous cases I have been writing about for the past six years stem from abuse by conservators and court-appointed lawyers and judges who don't pay enough attention.
Although Gross died in 2007, his civil rights case lived on. The lasting lesson is that the old or disabled even if they are unwell and cranky have the same rights as the rest of us.
"It means that if you get a court-appointed lawyer, that lawyer cannot have any doubt that the lawyer's job is to listen to you,'' said Sally Zanger, the Connecticut Legal Rights Project lawyer who represented Carolyn Dee King, Gross' daughter. "It's what the lawyer is supposed to be doing."
Amazingly, that's been the problem in the probate cases I've been telling you about since 2006. Gross' was the first and most heartbreaking case I stumbled upon, when a Legal Aid lawyer told me an unbelievable tale of an old man from Long Island being held against his will in a Waterbury nursing home.
Elderly but still independent, Gross became ill while visiting his daughter in Waterbury. He was hospitalized, and while his children fought over his care and who should control his finances, Waterbury Probate Judge Thomas Brunnock approved his involuntary conservatorship.
Gross wanted to go home to Long Island. He wasn't told of the hearing where he was ordered conserved. His court-appointed lawyer, Jonathan Newman, failed to object to the conservatorship, even though Gross just wanted to leave Connecticut. His conservator, Kathleen Donovan, had him placed in a locked, restricted ward at Grove Manor Nursing Home in Waterbury. His roommate was violent.
Later, when Gross was on a day visit to his Long Island home, he was hospitalized. Donovan brought him back to Connecticut in an ambulance against the wishes of Gross' New York doctor.
In June 2006, Superior Court Judge Joseph Gormley, at a dramatic writ of habeas corpus hearing, ordered Gross freed, declaring that "a terrible miscarriage of justice" had taken place and that the man had been "deprived of his liberty."
I want to
share the story of the amazing release of my mother, Patricia C.
Rosen, from conservatorship. Her conservatorship was ended July 28,
2011 by Judge Colleen Sterne.
took six years to end this unjust conservatorship. Hundreds of
thousands of dollars were lost to a profit making network. None
of the people who made money off the conservatorship have
responded to the letters to the editor, and I welcome them to do
last professional conservator resigned after I challenged a
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) put on me, and I subpoenaed
witnesses. She turned the conservatorship over to the Santa
Barbara Public Guardian, who was a horse of a different
color than the professional conservators.
professional conservators claimed my mother had dementia, citing
their own evaluators. She was portrayed as going downhill, and
needing caregiving. Using my mom's money, they fought her efforts
to get out of conservatorship, and even tried to take away her
medical right of informed consent. When my mother's doctor of many
years wrote a letter stating she shouldn't be under conservatorship,
he was told he couldn't see her anymore. When my mother chose her
own evaluator, and got a positive result, it was discounted, and the
evaluator wasn't paid.
the other hand, the Public Guardian's office saw my mom as
competent and able in every way, and fought for her rights and
dignity. The case manager genuinely cared for her welfare.
believe in the Public Guardian as an alternative to private,
professional conservators. There is no incentive to devour
estates, as the salaries of staff members are fixed. People are
so easily corrupted by money.
mother has been the victim of elder financial abuse. One can
hear my mother's story by going to ustream.tv and searching for
"Are Conservators Robbing the Elderly?" To avoid this kind of
problem, before choosing a conservator or fiduciary, go to the
National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse website at
Ginger Franklin Regains Control of Her Life
(reported by Nancy Amons)
A Nashville woman who fought for nearly two years to get out from under
a court-ordered conservatorship was set free Thursday.
Ginger Franklin had a conservator, or guardian, appointed to handle her
affairs after she tumbled down the stairs at her house in 2008 and
suffered a brain injury. After she recovered, she tried to regain
control of her life but found it to be a long and draining ordeal
involving multiple court hearings.
On Thursday, Nashville Probate Judge Randy Kennedy dissolved the
conservatorship after reading a new doctor's report that Franklin had
"It's hard to take it all in," Franklin said. "I'm a free woman. I
can drive. I can work. I can get married. I can vote."
They are things that most Americans take for granted, but they are
things that people under a conservatorship are not allowed to do for
Franklin said she hopes to get her job back and start her life over.
"I'm going to celebrate by celebrating my life every day," Franklin
Consumed $200,000 Of Danny's Tate's Savings
(reported by Nancy Amons)
A probate judge dissolved the
guardianship that controlled a songwriter's
finances while he was addicted to crack. But the
judge made no apologies for setting up the
guardianship to begin with.
The guardianship has
financial and legal
affairs for the last
three years. The
Danny was admittedly
addicted to crack
cocaine. Danny Tate
said he is now clean
Circuit Judge Randy
Kennedy ruled that
Tate no longer needs
a conservator. The
judge gave Danny's
brother David, the
conservator, 60 days
for how the money
expended has been
Danny Tate's bank
dwindled to nothing.
He's not only paying
his own legal fees,
he's paying the
lawyers his brother
attorney Paul Housch
billed the musician
for more than
$21,300 for work
done in a period of
Danny Tate's estate,
once valued at about
$600,000, is now
including its legal
fees, consumed more
than $200,000 of the
The courtroom Monday
morning was packed
with people wearing
Free Danny Tate."
from as far as
and Key West, Fla.,
to show their
when Danny Tate
courtroom for the
The lawyer for David
brother, agreed that
there doesn't need
to be a permanent
asked for a
that Danny Tate will
continue to undergo
Danny Tate's lawyer
found Danny Tate
competent to handle
his own affairs, and
the lawyer asked to
"It was just a big
victory for me, as
an American citizen,
to be able to make
my own choices,"
said Danny Tate.
happy to tell your readers how I was restored. My sincere appreciation
to a fair and objective neurologist from Northfield, Il. who took his
time to listen to my story and agreed I did not need a guardian. This
letter from him was the ticket out of the system. Immediately, my
money was returned and my property. It took months for the mail to
get back to me. It all started with a letter from a neurologist in
Hinsdale, who was not fair or objective, and is now facing legal action.
seems to act on direction of the physician, without a medical doctor.
I doubt people would find themselves as property in the for-profit and
legal swindle of guardianship. The one thing that baffled me and
still does: the ward is not even given basic competency tests.
It should be required before the judge gives your rights, money and mail
up to anyone, or in my case everyone. My daughter, her two
lawyers. The OPG (office of public guardian) caseworkers, more lawyers,
the GAL (guardian ad litem) and finally my attorney who admitted I was
high functioning - normal as any one of them - and more so than some.
I showed up at every court date for two years, while I worked a full
time job, and wrote letters of complaint to all organizations I could
think of. I was on a mission to beat the system and get my life back.
Nothing was gonna stop me; I was determined. It cost me and plenty, but
it worked. Freedom really is priceless.
only agency that was even willing to act on the behalf of the ward is
"Equip for Equality".
So, that is
the end of two years of fighting, stunning legal fees and the family I
used to depend on - the same family that used to depend on me.
I miss my grandsons and hope someday things are different. And
final thanks goes to the attorney who took my med malpractice case to
Maydelle Trambarulo is
finally FREE! A resident of NJ, she has been trapped by the CT
probate system for three long years and imprisoned in a CT nursing home
away from her family
After a Superior Court judge recently ruled Maydelle could return to her
family, unbelievably, her conservator asked the judge for a stay of
Maydelle's release from his custody! The battle seemed
insurmountable, but the Trambarulos believe in miracles - and they just
Helen Fabis is Sylvia
Rudek's beloved Aunt and God Mother.
She was a clothing designer and gifted seamstress. She designed and
sewed Sylvia's wedding dress, veil, purse-the entire outfit
including the apron that is customary to put on at the end of the
wedding reception. This photo still makes Sylvia smile; it always
Although Sylvia lost her dear Aunt, she was instrumental in seeing
that the temporary guardian, Kathleen Simane, was held accountable
and lost her own freedom when she was sent to prison.
Friday, July 21, 2006 11:19:31 AM CDT)
By Mike DuPre'
Kathleen Simane was Sylvia's Aunt's court-appointed temporary guardian.)
The next 20 years of Kathleen Simane's life will be either behind bars
or under the state's watchful eye. And if Simane violates either
extended supervision or probation she could spend up to 25 years in
Judge James Daley sentenced Simane, 36, St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday for
two counts of theft by bailee in a case in which her great-aunt, Helen
Fabis, and other relatives were swindled out of more than $78,000.
Simane pleaded guilty to the two charges in April.
In a barely audible voice, Simane apologized to her relatives for her
crimes and said she would pay the court-ordered restitution: $78,290.
In addition, she must pay a 15 percent surcharge-$11,743-to the estate.
"She is incredibly remorseful and never intended to do any harm to (Fabis),"
said Simane's attorney, Stephanie Ames of Woodland Hills, Calif.
Simane became Fabis' guardian because no one else in the family was
willing to help the elderly woman, not because she was after her money,
"This is a crime of impulse and opportunity," the lawyer said.
Fabis, an 85-year-old childless widow of 30 years, fell seriously ill in
March 2001, and Simane was named temporary guardian in what was a family
Fabis, a rural Edgerton resident, died the next month.
Prosecutor Barbara Oswald, an assistant attorney general for Wisconsin,
painted a different picture: "This is a case about greed, not about
need. Kathleen Simane is a financial predator. She preys on people
whose assets allow her to live a better lifestyle."
Within days of gaining access to Fabis' accounts, Simane started
spending her great-aunt's money, Oswald said.
Simane paid off one car and bought a better vehicle, Ames said.
Simane paid for breast augmentation with Fabis' money, and after Fabis
died in April 2001, Simane asked that the funeral be delayed while her
breasts healed, according to court documents.
"(Simane) also went to the effort of cashing (Fabis') Social Security
checks," the prosecutor said.
Two relatives-Estelle Hartman, one of Fabis' sisters, and Sylvia Rudek,
Hartman's daughter-asked the judge to sentence Simane to at least 10
years in prison.
"I am sad, and I feel guilty for the tragic way Helen died," Hartman
said in a statement read by Ames. "The pain became greater as Kathleen's
betrayal and treatment of my sister was revealed by my daughter,
"Our family of four generations was destroyed by one person, and that
person is Kathleen Simane. Kathleen Simane is not considered a member of
"There is nothing that Kathleen Simane won't say or do to get what she
wants," Rudek said.
In levying his sentence, Daley noted Fabis' vulnerability and Simane's
speed in taking advantage of her great-aunt.
"The funds should have been used for her benefit, but you used them for
your benefit," Daley admonished Simane. "You took money from someone who
could not protect herself. You were supposed to protect her.
"We as a people will be judged by how we treat the least in our society
and those who cannot help themselves," the judge said.
Story Ends With Justice Waterbury, Connecticut
by Rick Greene
July 14, 2006
(Note: Daniel Gross is NASGA Member Dee King's Father)
I could go on about the
travesty that left Daniel Gross - an 86-year-old New York man with
no legal connection to Connecticut - locked in a Waterbury nursing
home for 10 months, his freedom stolen in the courtroom of Waterbury
Probate Judge Thomas Brunnock.
Gross's shameful ordeal is a powerful lesson for our state
legislators and governor, who are unwilling to demand reform of
Connecticut's shoddy probate court system.
But Gross is now a free man. I prefer the words of the Superior
Court judge who ordered Gross freed at an emotional hearing in
"A terrible miscarriage of justice has happened here," Judge Joseph
Gormley told the courtroom as Brunnock and the lawyers who worked on
the old man's behalf hung their heads.
What happened was Gross, ailing and living alone on Long Island,
came to visit his daughter in Waterbury last summer. He was
hospitalized in August, suffering from cellulitis, as his children
bickered over his care and who should control his money.
With Gross increasingly uncooperative, the hospital asked probate
court to step in. His children agreed. Within days, Brunnock
approved handing control of Gross's life to a court-appointed
Gross didn't want a conservator and wasn't even at the probate court
hearing at which a conservator was named.
"This case has disturbed me from day one. I kept looking for
evidence to support what was done, but I find none," said Gormley,
who freed Gross on a writ of habeas corpus, terminating the
Gormley had strong words for Gross's court-appointed lawyer,
Jonathan Newman. Last September Newman urged Brunnock to name a
conservator for Gross, taking away his freedom and control over his
"It is obvious to me he grossly underrepresented and misrepresented
Mr. Gross," Gormley told the court as Gross looked on. The ruling
removes Newman, and Kathleen Donovan, his conservator, from Gross's
life. Newman was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Gormley said he was mystified how Brunnock thought his court - which
covers Waterbury, Wolcott and Middlebury - had jurisdiction over the
estate of a New York man visiting his daughter. He likened it to the
absurd notion of forcing visitors to the state to pay income taxes
merely because they spent a few days here.
Mr. Gross's plight is yet another reason to doubt the probate
courts. It is a system in which prospective judges with close ties
to the local legal community win office through election, their
campaign coffers stuffed with contributions from lawyers and
political insiders. No legal training is required to be a probate
judge. Procedures can vary widely from district to district.
I wonder how many other Daniel Grosses there are, ones whose lives
are buried in the backslapping underworld of probate court.
Were it not for two volunteer lawyers, John Peters of West Hartford
and Veronica Halpine of Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Gross might
still be in Grove Manor Nursing Home. His house, approved for sale
by Brunnock, might have been sold, and an old man forever lost.
Ambling out of Wednesday's hearing with a walker, Gross said he
couldn't wait to return to Long Island, where he will now live with
his daughter Carolyn's assistance.
"I am overwhelmed with happiness," he said.
So am I.
Rick Green's column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Guardianship abuse and conservatorship
abuse IS elder abuse!