What is it about abusive guardianship that makes it so repulsive?
Over the years we have documented and revealed how predators in probate equity courts across the country have taken advantage of the laws that are designed to protect the most vulnerable among us and use them to enrich themselves while committing atrocities against the very people they are sworn to protect.
Listening to as many as four or five new stories every day on our hotline makes it difficult to step back and reflect on how best to educate an unsuspecting public about the guardianship racket and how it could affect them.
I often struggle with the question “is it a broken system or is it greedy predators in a vulnerable system?” Is it that the laws are bad? Is it that the politicians and lawmakers are naïve or are they in on the racket? Is it that law enforcement officers really don’t see the criminality under their noses? Is it that families have become so broken that they don’t hesitate to put their loved ones into guardianship just to get their hands on a pre-death inheritance? On an even grander scale could it be the guardianship racket is simply just one manifestation of a much larger attempt by government writ large to completely control all wealth and assets not only in our country but globally?
The disturbing similarities of the guardianship racket in countries like Switzerland, Australia and the United States are telling. In any of these countries, entering a probate type court of equity is very much like being transported into a totalitarian alternate universe. On the pretense of protecting a vulnerable person, the judges in these administrative tribunals remove all the rights that would protect the vulnerable person and replace them with an often under or unqualified individual of their personal choosing who almost always presides over the demise of not only the life of the allegedly vulnerable person but universally orchestrates the dispersal of a lifetime of assets into the hands and pockets of the insiders in the probate industrial complex. The absurdity of this system and its absolute refusal to allow dissent in any form (except for the staged litigation it encourages) creates a sense of intense cynicism and despair and ultimately outrage that comes from the realization that its victims have been conned, duped, exploited, abused and in many cases tortured by a governmental system that has not only failed to protect them– as is the primary responsibility of any government– but instead has used its power to destroy its own citizens.
I distinctly remember a speech given by then Pres. Barack Obama in which he addressed questions about faith in government. Paraphrasing, he said “we don’t want people to think that the system is rigged”. But we are slowly beginning to understand the system is rigged and it became very obvious in the 70’s. Compensation for probate judges was low and the work tedious. Lawyer compensation was nowhere near what it is today and competition for cases of value was high. Court systems were underfunded and there was no prospect of alleviating these issues through legislation. There then arose the notion that there was plenty of money in the various estates that were being adjudicated in probate court for everyone to “play along to get along”.
In an effort to increase court and lawyer revenues, these courts– much like the industries around them– embraced the notion that the very purpose of a court is for itself– to maximize return for civil and legal service. The focus turned inward towards to single mindedly extracting value for the court insiders, ahead of delivering justice to its “customers”. They were in charge so why not give themselves a raise?
What evolved from this attitude is what we have uncovered in analyzing abusive guardianship cases from across the country. Highly sophisticated Campaign-finance violations, mortgage fraud, banking fraud, insider deals, rampant unchecked overt lying by attorneys in front of colluding judges, systematic denial of due process, violation of rules of evidence, egregious conflicts of interest that include politicians, judges, lawyers, guardians and a host of others all pepper the guardianship racket. But the racket and its leaders know very well that the blanket of judicial immunity that covers everything that happens in these courts makes it almost impossible to call anyone to task for the atrocities that occur in probate guardianship on a daily basis.
It was not until the information age and the advent of the Internet that victims could communicate easily and could access heretofore well-hidden court records that the racket could be exposed on a national scale rather than by individual aggrieved litigants whose complaints were dismissed as one offs or crazy people just blowing off steam.
Today the whole racket is laid bare– the evidence is everywhere for anyone to see. For the first time perpetrators are being indicted convicted and sent to prison. The thick cloak of judicial protection has been pierced and even judges have been called to task for their imperious and dastardly complicity.
Advocacy groups around the country and around the world have arisen to call attention to these travesties of justice. Books, blogs, videos, essays and speeches now attest to the reality of this criminality. The occasional national news story makes short-lived headlines. Investigative television reporters occasionally succeed in drawing enough attention to the problem that arrests are made.
But despite all this progress, the haunting reality remains that one reason guardianship is repulsive because there is no universally effective way to fight it. The government that has sworn to protect us has risen up to attack us and will not stand up for us as individuals or as seniors. Powerful politicians dance around the issue or issue occasional meaningless missives, create feckless task forces or commissions full well knowing that as long as these predatory court actions are not classified as criminal by law enforcement and get indictments issued, nothing will stop the predation.
Guardianship abuse is egregious and repulsive because it represents the betrayal of the American public by its own government. The magnitude of that reality cannot be overstated. It is the ultimate instance of the powerful — in this case the legal industrial complex –crushing the powerless who dare enter their sphere of influence.
And that, dear reader, is why our goal should be the prevention of guardianships. We should be warning everyone we know to avoid probate court like the plague that it has become. We should be telling our stories to anyone who will listen with the idea that each time we tell our story to a new person we may be saving that person’s life. We need to do a much better job of reaching the mainstream and alternative media and convincing them to expose what we already know. We need not be vitriolic and explain why we feel so angered because the simple retelling truthful accounts of our experiences will speak for itself.
We need to deal with the fact that once a guardianship starts it is almost impossible to derail and that anyone who dare stand in front of it will be crushed by the guardianship steamroller.
We need to prevent guardianships and we need money to do it.
Prevention of guardianships is not cheap or easy. Doctors need to know how they can ruin a person’s life by the simple inclusion of one word in a medical record. As has been stated by Tom Coleman in the past, we need an army of honest lawyers to rise up and do the right thing to protect their clients and fight back against the insidious forces of greed and power that permeate these courts. We need more movies like “The Guardians” and “Broken” and “Edith and Eddie”. We need a continuing stream of well-written professionally edited books by legitimate authors.
And what we do not need is to place our trust in hopes on the very people who populate the guardianship courts—self-serving conflicted judges and lawyers in particular. I hear stories of people hiring 5, 6 or 7 lawyers to litigate in probate cases when each of them in succession fails to accomplish what they were hired to do. This story is like a broken record. I am hopeful that someday there will be a roster of honest lawyers who can be effective throughout the country in rescuing families who have been caught in the probate bear trap. But right now that day is a long way off.
There may not be an immediate fix to this atrocity, but maybe this article will help you understand why it’s so repulsive.
Sam Sugar MD
April 4, 2019