Guardianship News:

Pennsylvania: Federal Judge Denies Plea to Release Mom from Guardianship

Judge Savage lives up to his name

  1. By Juliette Fairley
  • The elder Ms. Bush resides in a care center where the Plaintiff Daughter says she is only allowed one paid visit per month for one hour.
  • “This legal form of kidnapping is happening in communities across the country, in many cases with little or no recourse available.”
  • Ms. Bush has appealed Judge Savage’s decision to dismiss and the case is currently pending before the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has denied a forlorn daughter’s pleas for the release of her aging parent from court appointed guardianship. In filing a petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Mary Bush was seeking redress for the right of communication and association with her 89-year old mother Genevieve Bush.

A group of adult children sued the state of Florida’s governor and attorney general in Florida Northern District Court, alleging that, under court appointed guardianship, their parents’ estate, assets, 401k funds, social security money, jewelry, cars and homes are being stolen.

The elder Ms. Bush resides in a care center where the Plaintiff Daughter says she is only allowed one paid visit per month for one hour, which is court ordered to be monitored by a Sheriff and an Adult Protective Services (APS) supervisor.

“The petitioner [Mary Bush] seeks to end her harassment and terminate her mother’s guardianship arrangement,” wrote U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage in his Nov. 18 Memorandum. “Because the petitioner [Mary Bush] is not in custody, she is not entitled to habeas relief. The petitioner, as a non-attorney, cannot proceed with this action on behalf of Genevieve.” 

A Writ of Habeas Corpus is typically reserved for prisoners incarcerated in a penitentiary but in her Oct. 15 Motion for Reconsideration of the federal judge’s dismissal, the Plaintiff Daughter Ms. Bush stated that the goal of her petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is not just for the release of her mother but to ensure due process under the US Constitution.

“Petitioner Mary Bush filed as next friend on behalf of her mother Genevieve, clearly telling this court that her mother is isolated and has no means to communicate out of her incarcerated situation,” she said.

Ms. Bush’s federal complaint is one of many filed by adult children under various causes of action across the country that are highlighting the emerging downsides of adult guardianship programs, which are designed to help the elderly and people with disabilities to manage their lives. Instead, these programs have been plagued with allegations of neglect, abuse, starvation, over medication, wrongful isolation and financial exploitation.

In response to the increased number of adult children who are crying for federal authorities to intervene, members of Congress introduced HR 4174 on August 7, which is currently pending before the House Committee on the Judiciary.

“H.R. 4174 is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Richard Green, author of Agents of Deceit: The True Story of Life Inside Today’s Chaotic and Dysfunctional IRS, who rescued his own mother from court appointed guardianship in Tennessee. “It provides online resources for guardianships and makes grants for state oversight program that are independent of state courts, which are often corrupt.”

If enacted, HR 4174 would activate protections against elder abuse, exploitation and neglect under court appointed guardianship.

“This legal form of kidnapping is happening in communities across the country, in many cases with little or no recourse available, and recently in Florida directly resulting in a death,” said Florida Congressman Charlie Crist in a joint statement.

Probate court-appointed adult guardianships are designed to help the aging and people with disabilities manage their lives but in recent years a slew of federal and state lawsuits have been lodged across the country, alleging financial exploitation, civil rights violations, isolation, medical neglect, abuse, wrongful death and Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

In most American states, it is not uncommon for the elderly and people with disabilities to lose their individual rights around residence, visitation, choice of meals, health insurance, marital status, medical care, assets and property once they become a ward of the State under a guardianship ordered by a state or county Judge.

The plaintiff daughter in this case named Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Katherine B.L. Platt as a defendant, alleging that her mother has been allowed to suffer neglect, abuse, improper medical care and treatment.

“Defendant Judge Katherine B.L. Platt cannot provide any legitimate reasons or grounds for the restraint and detention of Genevieve Bush and Mary Bush,” wrote the Plaintiff Daughter in her petition. “This writ thus stands as a safeguard against ongoing imprisonment, loss of rights and liberties of both mother and daughter being targeted in violation of the law and guaranteed rights.”

When asked for comment, Stacy Witalec, spokesperson for Pennsylvania courts and judges, said that no information can be provided.

“Defendant [Judge Platt] has been maliciously inciting public hatred towards petitioner that has resulted in physical attacks, injury, further identity thefts, financial destitution and continued irreparable harm,” stated Ms. Bush in her brief.  “Petitioner can prove that she and her mother have been intentionally targeted by defendant, Judge Katherine B.L. Platt, for cash and property.”

However, the Honorable federal judge Savage ruled that even legal or factual error, personal malice or the performance of an act in excess of jurisdiction will not remove the cloak of the Honorable Judge Platt’s judicial immunity.

“The Defendant [Judge Platt] is protected by judicial immunity,” Judge Savage wrote. “Only when a judge performs a non-judicial act or acts in a “clear absence of all jurisdiction” is the protection of judicial immunity lost.”

Ms. Bush has appealed Judge Savage’s decision to dismiss and the case is currently pending before the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

“Convicted felons have more rights, freedoms and protections,” she said. “Mary and Genevieve Bush have committed no crimes.”