Q&A with Dr. Sam Sugar
June 26, 2017
Q&A with Dr. Sam Sugar
June 26, 2017
What is the current status of the guardianship crisis in the United States?
Sad to say, the more we look the more exploitation and corruption we find. In nearly every state there is a well-oiled, unfettered and unchallengeable system in place that routinely utilizes existing laws designed to protect vulnerable people in our society to instead exploit and abuse them. This court based system puts older Americans at substantial risk of losing everything they have, including their very lives should they be pulled into this involuntary, cruel and exploitative perversion of the law.
The exploitation is monetary, physical and emotional. It extends past the targeted supposedly incapacitated person to encompass family members who are entangled in a court process that benefits only the court insiders. These court insiders are protected by a blanket of quasijudicial immunity and for all intents and purposes are untouchable and not subject to any type of monitoring or supervision. The triad of judge lawyer and Guardian function as a Mafia like racket that utterly destroys anything in its path or interferes in any way with its acquisition of money and power over innocent citizens.
Don’t our laws/statutes prevent this exploitation?
It’s hard to believe that something so horrible can be happening in the United States, but it is. Greed and power lust are nothing new. In this country, our system of government was designed to put checks and balances on those two basic human drives. But as designed, the element that has been turned on its head is the concept of judicial independence and integrity. For a whole host of reasons, many of our courts have become intrinsically corrupt by using their independent and immune status as a barrier to criticism and accountability. This is made even worse by lifetime appointments to certain Judgeships and Judicial elections rigged by the Bar. Court processes were intended to solve problems and disputes. Instead, today they either exacerbate existing problems or create new even worse ones and they do so with no repercussions or penalties to the court insiders—nearly all of whom are members of one organization—The Bar.
What is the Bar?
The bar is a closed union available only to graduates of professional law schools. Members of the bar including judges pervade our legal system and by their dominance in the courts, influence every major aspect of American life. Bar membership confers an aura of respectability and prestige and special status within society ostensibly for acting in the best interests of society through our laws and their enforcement. Sadly, when there is adequate incentive to do so, court insiders can easily manipulate court processes to violate laws, remove civil liberties of innocent people and greatly profit from the process. It is a low risk high reward gambit or racket.
Are you saying some of our courts are rigged to actually violate the law?
In equity courts like probate, family, divorce and bankruptcy, Judges are free to act in any manner they choose, in spite of clearly written caselaw and statutes and without fear of retribution, monitoring or supervision. In their courtrooms, they are gods—and that tends to make them feel superior and unassailable. Given any reason to do so, they can rule in ways favorable to those close to them, especially fellow Bar members who often support their re-election bids, interact with them socially and form an old boy network that protects its own.
Why are equity type courts so prone to corruption?
The systematic absence of Juries which might serve to temper the omniscience of judges, the routine sequestration of hearings, the complicity of Law Enforcement to never betray their fellow Bar members, the lack of court data in the public space, the easy availability of corrupt, illegal ex parte meetings with judges, the conflicting priorities of probate rules and statutes, the absence of rules of evidence and/or procedure, the ease of “invoking the rule” and thus excluding testimony from family members in hearings, the tendency of judges to want to clear their dockets of bothersome cases, the ultra vires stay away orders used as a court cudgel against family members all conspire to make this process prone to vile corruption. Combined with a woefully poor complaint system against Bar members (a fraudulent JQC and Bar complaint system) court corruption is so easy that it becomes second nature and business as usual for the court insider predators.
Aren’t these dramatic cases of abuse of power and corruption rare?
Sycophants for the court system always claim that any particularly awful case is a one off, a rare exception. This is simply a lie. Across the country, these systemic abuses and outrages have been going on for decades. Recently large numbers of these egregious cases have been increasingly exposed because of renewed advocacy and social media. But the dual forces of court suppression of information (sequestration) and coercive court gag orders and non-disparagement clauses in rulings remain very effective methods for court insiders to hide their misdeeds and foster the lie that guardianship abuse is a rare phenomenon. It has taken the efforts of many advocates to develop information that finally confirms the enormity of the racket in nearly every State.
Who profits from this system?
The obvious profiteers are professional guardians who can bill unlimited hours with court approval. A single guardianship case can be worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to a professional guardian and many such guardians have dozens if not more cases at all times. Lawyers can also bill as many hours of “work” as the complicit judge allows (usually 100%) at corporate rates ranging from 350 to 1000 dollars per hour). So can their staffs, experts, assistants and associates. One case can be worth many millions in legal fees to every lawyer involved and there are often many lawyers involved in contested guardianships.
How do Judges profit?
Less obvious is how Judges profit from these cases. After all, for a judge to intentionally subvert the very laws he has sworn to uphold would take something of great value. Recently, investigators have discovered mortgage fraud involving Judges as one profit motive. Other sources of pressure to rule in ways that can profit the court insiders at the expense of elders and families include: inclusion on secret trusts and land deals, provision of free loans, leases and mortgages and outright cash or equivalent payments. Blackmailing judges for sex, drugs, alcohol, spousal abuse have all been mentioned as powerful reasons for certain judges to allow court predation.
Aren’t family members to blame for this crisis?
Court insiders and those who profit from this racket love to claim that it is the families who are the predators and deserve to be punished. Families surely have the most to lose from the guardianship racket, as their inheritances are often totally forfeit in these situations and they are victims far more often than wrongdoers.
Surely there are some instances of abuse by family members. But it is up to law enforcement to deal with these cases of theft or felonious abuse of an elder, not administrative law judges. It is the failure of law enforcement including APS to properly enforce the law that leads families to turn to lawyers in probate to solve family problems that often turn into nightmares.
The first lesson of law school applies here: Demonize your opponent and blame the victim.
Do we need new laws to make things better?
AAAPG working with brave legislators in Florida has been able to make massive changes in statute 744 which governs guardianship. These changes have proven to be ineffective, as will any new legislative efforts as long as the statutes are not enforced by law enforcement community, especially states attorneys and attorneys general who are of course members of the Bar. The Bar and State Supreme Courts are the most powerful political bodies in every state and any legislation in guardianship that has a chance for passage must receive blessings from the bar and the Supreme Court, thus guaranteeing that any new laws will be watered down or unenforceable. New statutes will do nothing to force compliance with their provisions. So long as the guardianship racket so easily and mightily enriches Bar insiders and their allies, there is little or no incentive for the powers that be to Institute any actions that might decrease the wealth transfer of the probate racket into the pockets of the court insiders whether or not new statutes are created.
Aren’t there some programs in place to detect and punish abuses in guardianship?
In response to countless public reports of egregious guardianship abuse and exploitation some states have created commissions, study groups and Supreme Court working groups to study ways to make guardianship better. None of these groups have ever been willing to address the egregious wrongdoing in specific cases that spurred the creation of these groups in the first place. Whether in California Florida Nevada Colorado Texas or New Mexico, these groups have failed to make any meaningful inroads into protecting families from court aggression. The Florida OPPG is an excellent example of an office that was created to give a measure of relief to guardianship victims but which has been totally eviscerated by threats of endless litigation from the Florida Bar. Again in Florida, the Palm Beach clerk of courts office has been widely praised sports program of auditing suspicious guardianships, but in the county known as the most crooked in the United States and in the county where the most horrific abuses by professional guardians, their attorneys and even their spouses who are judges in the court have been well documented, there has not been a single indictment or arrest of a professional Guardian.
How much money is in play in probate guardianships?
An awful lot!!The National Center for State Courts reports that 1.3 million American adults were under guardianship in 2015 and 176,000 were added to the rolls that year. As only Indiana and Minnesota requires reporting of those placed into guardianship, they created these estimates based on voluntary reporting by several judicial districts. The Federal Reserve and Metropolitan Life reported in 2015 that the average 75 year old has a net worth of $300,000. Using these estimates substantiates nearly $300 billion in assets are controlled by guardians and approximately $50 billion in new assets are obtained each year. The numbers are growing 10-15% per annum due to the aging baby boomer generation and the growth in dementia related diseases. AAAPG Studies indicate over 10,000 adults are conscripted by this fraud each year converting $10 billion in familial assets to third party allies of local courts.
Are there studies or other data to more clearly depict/confirm the experiences of victims?
The 2016-17 AAAPG Guardianship Survey at Our survey results paint a clear picture of the impact of abusive guardianship on hundreds of families from around the country. No other meaningful data exists on thousands of cases because such data is sequestered and hidden by the courts—the perfect way to hide these misdeeds and crimes.
How do these abusive guardianships start?
The most common starting point for these protracted legal nightmares is a family disagreement or dysfunction in which one party or another asks an attorney to solve a family dispute over money or control of a loved one. Invariably, the attorney will strongly recommend that guardianship is the only answer to a family’s problems. Another important generator is court locale, because certain locations within the country or state seem to be hotspots for the creation of abusive guardianships. And of course, another factor mitigating towards litigation is the value of the estate in question, although even relatively small states can be very lucrative as well through control of Social Security benefits, pension benefits, life insurance policies and healthcare benefits that can be controlled in the guardianship for profit. Almost everyone is a potential victim.
How do these abusive guardianships end?
After studying hundreds of cases across the country in which the typical pattern of litigate, overmedicate, take the estate and hide the evidence are in play, the typical outcomes are; the abrogation of any and all valid advance directives; the preventable, agonizing and often times premature isolated death of a Ward who may not have been incapacitated or in need of guardianship in the first place; the total or near total dissipation of estate assets diverted into the pockets of court insiders; years of pointless staged litigation resulting in massive legal fees and guardian fees; massive court retaliation against anyone who stands up to this racket; ruination of entire families; civil rights violations; suppression of information and shuffling complicit judges out of probate and away from scrutiny and into other courts.
What can be done to stop or prevent guardianship?
Once the court process begins with a request for an incapacity determination, our AAAPG national experience shows that almost nothing can stop the process.
In terms of prevention, the creation of valid advance directives should be the single greatest obstacle to prevent the court-based intrusion of unwanted end-of-life decisions or actions. Unfortunately, many of these documents, while adequate in cases where there is no family dysfunction whatsoever, are not always created to stand up in probate court because they often do not contain adequate safeguards expressly against the court racket. It is for this reason that experts suggest that any end-of-life documents (advance directives) include the following partial list of suggestions:
*A clear directive nominating at least five potential pre-needs guardian candidates (preferable family members and not lawyers, accountants or others who might profit from the racket) in the event of need, rather than only one candidate. While a judge might be able to disqualify one or two of these individuals for whatever reason, it is extremely difficult to disqualify five individuals or more
*A statement such as: “under no circumstances shall a professional or any other court-appointed Guardian be appointed or allowed to serve as Guardian for me in the event of my temporary or permanent or total or partial incapacity”.
*Furthermore, it is highly recommended that any attorney who draws up advance directives be compelled to guarantee in writing that they will aggressively act in any manner necessary to achieve compliance with their end-of-life wishes if they are challenged or in danger of being ignored.
What would you say to those who commit these abuses?
I would say “many eyes are now watching you”
What can be done to address the crisis?
Clearly, after decades of abuse reports, after generations of advocates bringing their concerns to every level of state and federal government, after attempts at federal lawsuits, RICO lawsuits, the resistance to reform the probate courts is remarkably resilient. It has been impressive to see how government at every level has refused to recognize the explosive growth of the guardianship industry and the upward spiral in the number of abuse cases despite endless case reports and complaints.
Attempts to replace guardianship with assisted decision making and other so-called remedies including mandatory mediation have so far failed to reduce the risk of the court’s intervention into the private lives of Americans. The complexity and opacity of the system, the mandatory involvement of lawyers who are paid by the minute and whose primary interest is self-enrichment rather than justice, the ease with which estates can be looted, the ego and power trip that go along with controlling another human being’s very existence, the commonplace forging/altering of court documents and records, the imperious hubris of the connected and rigged court insiders all conspire to create a process that is easily corrupted. This phenomenon has infected not only probate courts, but as has been extensively discussed in many scholarly writings, our entire legal system of which probate guardianship is a microcosm, albeit a particularly egregious and vile microcosm.
As of this writing, absent some monumental groundbreaking event, there is no single effective governmental intervention that would produce much-needed guardianship reform. For now, victims families and advocates can only continue to expose and publicize this racket in hopes that a principled, courageous and determined champion will rise in the political sphere in response.
What bothers you most about guardianship abuse?
The entire process is so anti-American. Our nation has gone to war many times and countless people have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect what we value most in this country which is our freedom–including freedom from oppression by our government and its courts. The removal of an innocent individuals’ rights because they are allegedly less than 100% able to care for themselves or perfectly manage their assets or their families is an extremely twisted and egregious application of the ancient legal concept of parens patriae, in which the state takes control of an insane person to protect society from their dangerous actions. Today, guardianship is invoked to theoretically to protect a vulnerable person from predators in society who might do them harm. Tragically, because there is so much wealth in America even among relatively poor people in this country, and controlling that wealth confers great power and riches to the elite court insiders, the temptation to enjoy such low hanging fruit with no consequences for doing so is simply too great for less than honorable judges, lawyers and guardians to resist. While it is easy to find fault with nearly every detail of this wicked court process, including hopelessly biased incapacity examinations, unconstitutional stayaway orders, ludicrous sequestration of hearings, mean-spirited court retaliation against family members, the abrogation of advance directives and so many others the entire system from start to finish is hopelessly corrupt. Also galling is the lip service paid by the orchestrators of these court charades, the various states Supreme Courts, whose working groups, commissions and blue ribbon panels continue as they have for decades, to pay lip service to the rising chorus of complaints from the public while uniformly failing to both recognize the urgency of the need not to reform guardianship but to replace it with something more just and humane.
When you listen to complaint after complaint after complaint is I do, it is sickening to see what court insiders have become, namely a Mafia like cabal that defines the word racket.
What is a racket?
Wikipedia states that “A racket is a service that is fraudulently offered to solve a problem, such as for a problem that does not exist, that will not be put into effect, or that would not otherwise exist if the racket did not exist”. Rackets sell a product or process ostensibly designed to solve a problem for some kind of reward like money or control, but instead not only fail to solve the original problem but create even greater ones for the involved parties while still taking the reward. Rackets are fraudulent. Rackets, particularly rackets under color of law, are uniformly and intrinsically corrupt.
In the guardianship racket, the predators, including not only the probate triad of judges lawyers and Guardian but also including financial institutions, medical facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and so many other downstream profiteers all gain enormously from the imposition of guardianship on anyone with assets. While this so-called solution to the so-called problem of incapacity is highly profitable for these predators, the victim whose problem was supposed to be solved by the court racket is forced to pay for being abused to the point where he is destitute and winds up, at taxpayer expense, on the public dole. This is wrong in so many ways, but because the system is so large, so ingrained in our legal system, so unmonitored and unsupervised and encompasses such a variety of profit-making opportunities on the back of a relatively small number of victims, any momentum for change is usually overshadowed by the strong desire for the status quo on the part of the perpetrators and because the public cannot comprehend the magnitude of this correction until it happens to them personally.
You have often said that judges are to blame for this crisis, why?
Without the complicity of judges in equity courts there would be no abusive guardianships. It is inconceivable to me that these judges do not see the incredible harm they are doing to families across the country. It is inconceivable to me that they are unaware of the fortunes they transfer from innocent Americans into the pockets of the attorneys and guardians that are in their courtrooms on a daily basis. It is inconceivable to me that they are not aware of the statutes they violate on a regular basis. It is completely unacceptable that judges take hearings when they are cold, meaning unfamiliar with the facts of the case or the law and rule on the basis of which court insider they like best on a given day.
We depend on our judges to act to the highest scintilla of integrity and the law. This simply does not happen in equity type courts and is a corrosive attack on every American’s belief in the integrity of our legal system. I lay blame for the entire corrupt guardianship racket directly where it belongs, not on sadistic guardians, not on greedy lawyers, but on the judges themselves who encourage and allow them to wreak such havoc on innocent vulnerable Americans and their families.