Probate Advocates State Grand Jury Report Did Not Adequately Investigate Abuse by Court Officials
By Tanya Dennis
On June 6th, the Alameda County Grand Jury released a report regarding deficiencies of probate Court including recommendations to correct deficiencies. Probate advocates are expressing disappointment that the report did not address the rampant abuse perpetrated by some court appointed guardians and officials, a well-documented occurrence not just locally, but nationally.
Spectrum Institute Attorney Tom Coleman says the reason is, “Attorneys are reluctant to investigate their own.” Spectrum Institute has been elevating evidence of probate court mismanagement and fraud over the last five years. The issues highlighted in the Grand Jury Report mirror Los Angeles Times’s investigative reports in 1987 and 2006 that reported those who exploit court dysfunction have only mastered their nefarious intent over the last 35 years. Each time issues are elevated, and nothing is done to correct them, the criminally intent are emboldened, and probate has been perverted to serve the predatory legal community at the expense of the public, often a completely misinformed and unsuspecting public.
Rick Black of CEAR, and producer of the expose documentary “The Guardians” says, “Conservatorship is always an expensive and risky proposition. It should be avoided at all costs. CEAR recognizes anyone can be targeted and exploited by it. Black or white, famous, or unknown, rich or penniless, intellectual or not, anyone can be exploited by this system. Victims of fraudulent adult conservatorships are left voiceless. Their loved ones and heirs are also victimized as the courts dismiss their pleas and material evidence.” CEAR has counseled or investigated over 5,000 cases of suspected fraudulent conservatorship.
Probate Advocates and the Post “Perils of Probate” stories have for years recognized that the minority population is disproportionately targeted by court insiders. The Black female senior community presents a recognized vulnerability. Black families have a history of maintaining homesteads via generational transfers. Properties purchased generations ago are most susceptible to interception by predatory parties in conservatorship. Gentrification areas in New York City, Washington DC, Detroit, San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley have demonstrated a recognized problem with predatory attorneys gaining control of real estate at steep discounts via conservatorships.
Probate reform advocates Shout Out Justice, the Probate Movement Reform Group, Center of Administration Reform (CEAR), and the Coalition for Elder and Disability Rights (CEDAR), spoke directly with DA O’Malley on the issues in 2018 and 2019. She knew the problem was court dysfunction and the ability for benefitting parties to commit constructive fraud in proceedings that facilitated downstream exploitation, theft, embezzlement, and extortion. O’Malley’s response was she was not aware of any accusations of “probate court staff” directly benefitting from the frauds.
Black cites that despite O’Malley’s claim that “There were mountains of claims against benefitting attorneys and conservators, all protected by the sponsoring probate jurist. It was also quite clear after several discussions with DA O’Malley that she had no interest in prosecuting fellow attorneys fully endorsed by District Court judges serving Probate.”
Venus Gist of California Probate Reform Network says, “We all know gentrification is real,” even Mayor Schaaf in a meeting with United Seniors Of Alameda County said that she believes the probate court is causing much of the homeless issues. Alameda County Probate Court robs families of generational wealth. My mother’s former temporary conservator attempted to sell my parent’s six figure rental property for $17,000 to collect their court fees. They never cared enough to talk with us or give my family payment options.”
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