Guardianship News:

New Mexico: Guardian hearing delayed after reporters try to attend

Peter Grotte-Higley, a client of Ayudando Guardians (Olivier Uyttebrouck/Journal). Mr Grotte-Higley is a survivor of the original Holocaust, but failed to escape the clutches of New Mexico's predatory judges and their appointees, who - based upon a Petition filed by Hannah Arlette and the Jewish Federation of New Mexico - swept him up into guardianship in February 2016. Peter Grotte-Higley, a client of Ayudando Guardians (Olivier Uyttebrouck/Journal). Mr Grotte-Higley is a survivor of the original Holocaust, but failed to escape the clutches of New Mexico's predatory judges and their appointees, who - based upon a Petition filed by Hannah Arlette and the Jewish Federation of New Mexico - swept him up into guardianship in February 2016.

By Olivier Uyttebrouck and Colleen Heild / Journal Staff Writers
From the Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque judge postponed a hearing Monday for a former client of Ayudando Guardians after two Journal reporters tried to attend his guardianship hearing at the client’s invitation.

In a related development, the former Ayudando client, Peter Grotte-Higley, said he moved on Friday to a new senior living facility near the University of New Mexico that he called “1,000 percent better” than his former residence in a Northeast Heights boardinghouse where, Grotte-Higley said, he had been dismayed by his living conditions.

“It’s a different life,” Grotte-Higley, 81, said of his new home. “I had a full-course meal for breakfast. And the people there are nice, too.”

Grotte-Higley is still waiting for word on the status of certain cherished belongings he says are missing, as well as his pension and other funds Ayudando was managing.

District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd had scheduled a guardianship hearing for Grotte-Higley on Monday after the indictment in July of his court-appointed guardian and conservator, Ayudando Guardians. The July 19 federal indictment alleges the firm’s two principals and their relatives used client funds, including client monthly benefit payments, to support a lavish personal lifestyle.

The hearing Monday was scheduled to appoint a new corporate guardianship company for Grotte-Higley – Decades LLC – to replace Ayudando Guardians. Ayudando offices were closed by the U.S. Marshals Service in late August because of the federal indictment.

Grotte-Higley, a Holocaust survivor, was profiled in a Journal story published Aug. 9 in which he lamented what he described as poor living conditions and a sudden lack of spending money from Ayudando. He said he felt like a prisoner after he was barred from leaving the house with two Journal reporters to go to Ayudando offices in Albuquerque to find out about his guardianship case.

Minutes before Monday’s hearing, one of the reporters who wrote the initial story asked Grotte-Higley in a courthouse hallway if he was willing to allow reporters to attend the hearing.

“Definitely,” he responded. “Why not?” The reporters then followed him into Barela-Shepherd’s courtroom at 2nd Judicial District courthouse in downtown Albuquerque.

But before the hearing began, Barela-Shepherd asked the two Journal reporters to identify themselves.

She then adjourned the proceedings, saying she wanted to research the issue further.

“I can’t unsequester this proceeding, because I don’t have enough information,” the judge said. ” I’m not opposed to unsequestering it, but by statute I don’t know that I can.”

“I can’t unsequester this proceeding, because I don’t have enough information,” the judge said. ” I’m not opposed to unsequestering it, but by statute I don’t know that I can.”

Barela-Shepherd asked Decades and Grotte-Higley’s court-appointed guardian ad litem, Ellen Leitzer, to submit briefs setting out their positions and announced her intention to reschedule the hearing. A new hearing date wasn’t immediately scheduled, but she added, “I want this matter resolved immediately.”

Guardianship hearings in New Mexico typically are closed to the public.

But New Mexico law says that the appointment of a guardian for an incapacitated person “shall be determined by the court at a closed hearing unless the alleged incapacitated person requests otherwise.”

State law covering substitution or replacement of a guardian says that generally “the court shall follow the same procedures to safeguard the rights of the incapacitated person as those that apply to a petition for appointment of a guardian.”

Grotte-Higley, a Jewish native of what is now the Czech Republic, hid from Nazi occupiers as a boy during World War II and later escaped with his mother from captivity in a camp run by the Soviet Union. After the war, he found refuge in Great Britain, where he pursued a career in advertising.

He moved to the United States after his retirement and eventually settled in Albuquerque and married. His late wife of 17 years died in July 2015.

A court docket sheet, the only public record available, shows that Barela-Shepherd appointed Ayudando as Grotte-Higley’s guardian and conservator in February 2016. The judge made the decision after receiving reports, including from a physician, that Grotte-Higley was in need of a guardian to handle decisions about his daily living and a conservator to handle his finances.

At some point last year, Grotte-Higley was placed in a four-man boardinghouse in Northeast Albuquerque where he shared a room with another man.

It’s still unclear whether Grotte-Higley was among the clients who lost money in the alleged embezzlement scheme at Ayudando.

Nancy Oriola, CEO of the Decades Group, a provider of elder care management services is Grotte-Higley’s temporary guardian pending a permanent appointment. She confirmed that Grotte-Higley moved on Friday to The Albuquerque Grand Senior Living, 1501 Tijeras NE. The firm worked hard to find suitable housing for Grotte-Higley, she said.

Grotte-Higley on Monday cheered his new life at The Albuquerque Grand Senior Living as a major improvement over his former housing.

“It’s nice,” he said. “I have my own room.”

He is still waiting for word on the status of certain cherished belongings he says are missing, as well as his pension and other funds Ayudando was managing.

To read this article on the Albuquerque Journal website, click here.

Editor’s Note:

New Mexico state statutes are clear on how and when a person can be declared ‘incapacitated’ and put into a guardianship. Paragraph H of NMSA 45-5-303 states (emphasis added):

H. The rules of evidence shall apply and no hearsay evidence that is not otherwise admissible in a court shall be admitted into evidence except as otherwise provided in this article.  There is a legal presumption of capacity, and the burden of proof shall be on the petitioner to prove the allegations set forth in the petition.  Such proof shall be established by clear and convincing evidence.

That Judge Barela-Shepherd and her appointees, attorney Ellen Leitzer and guardian Nancy Oriola and her solely-owned(?) corporation Decades LLC, can so easily disregard the laws of New Mexico and find a perfectly fit man “100% incapacitated” shows that no one is safe from these predator attorneys and the judge who ‘oversees’ these abusive guardianship cases.

According to NMSA 45-5-303 (H) the real culprits that are responsible for initiating what appears to be a completely unnecessary guardianship against Holocaust survivor Peter Grotte-Higley are the Petitioners.  Since the Courts of New Mexico have finally started partially obeying the law and making available to the public an incomplete portion of the case docket, the public is finally allowed to know that the Petitioners to put Mr Grotte-Higley under the most restrictive form of  guardianship possible – 100% loss of all civil, constitutional, and human rights, are shockingly Hannah Arlette, Manager of the Holocaust Survivor and Senior Programs at Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque, and the Jewish Federation of New Mexico

This is not the first time (nationally-speaking) AAAPG has seen a religious organization Petition for guardianship over one of their members, but it is the first time a Jewish organization is responsible for such behavior.