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washingtonpost.com > Metro > Special Reports > Misplaced Trust


Middle-income people suffer the most in court fights, Judge Rufus King said. (Bill O'Leary - The Post)

VIDEOS
Antoinette Jackson-Campbell, daughter of Geraldine Harrison, discusses what happened to her mother while under guardianship.

Ken Loewinger, who serves as a court-appointed guardian, says that overall the conservator system works.

Washington Post Reporters Carol D. Leonnig, Lena H. Sun and Sarah Cohen discuss what they found during a review of court documents and case filings involving guardianship and conservatorships.

GRAPHICS
Ignored Warnings: Gloria Johnson was among those attorneys who received appointments after being removed from cases of the list of eligible attorneys.
Missing Money: Many of the clients of attorney Rozan Cater had money missing from their accounts, court investigators found.
In the Dark: In nearly half of the 783 long-term guardianships over a five-year period, caretakers missed their filing deadlines by a least a year.
LIVE ONLINE
Carol Leonnig, Lena H. Sun and Sarah Cohen: The Post reporters discuss the series, Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Robert Dinerstein, associate dean at the Washington College of Law at American University, discussed guardianship. Read the transcript.
ANALYZING THE CASES
The Washington Post used court dockets and some case files from 1992 through early 2003 to identify attorneys who had been sanctioned or were the subject of official warnings. The sanctions included removal from a case, removal from a list of attorneys eligible for new appointments or judgments to repay estates or wards for mishandled money or property. The warnings included only those contained in official reports by court staff or investigators. The analysis showed how many times an attorney was then reappointed to a new case.

A separate analysis focused on more than 1,600 cases filed between 1995 and 2000, about half of which lasted at least two years. Cases filed since then were excluded because they were too recent to show how the guardian or conservator performed or how the court reacted.

To determine the number of guardians who failed to file required reports to the court, the Post performed a detailed review of dockets and some case files. In about half of these 783 long-term cases, the guardian filed reports at least a year late at some point during the guardianship.

—Sarah Cohen
New Rules to Tighten Control of Guardians
The chief of D.C. Superior Court Tuesday ordered stricter requirements and heightened scrutiny aimed at preventing guardians from neglecting or victimizing residents they were appointed to protect.

The Series: Day 2
Rights and Funds Can Quickly Evaporate 
Most people who end up in the District's probate court need a protector. But others are pulled involuntarily into a court system that can run roughshod over those it is supposed to protect.

The Series: Day 2
Cases Against Accused Attorneys Drag On
Wayward probate lawyers are rarely punished by the District's attorney discipline system, even when they have broken the law, violated ethical standards or failed their clients. When it does punish, the system is inconsistent and slow, giving accused lawyers so many protections that cases can drag on for as long as nine years, according to court records and interviews.

The Series: Day 2
Protecting Your Wishes
Lawyers and social workers suggest several steps to increase the chances that one's wishes are followed and decisions about finances and health care remain in the hands of a trusted person designated in advance.

The Series: Day 1
Under Court, Vulnerable Became Victims
The probate division of D.C. Superior Court, mandated to care for more than 2,000 elderly, mentally ill and mentally retarded residents, has repeatedly allowed its charges to be forgotten and victimized.

The Series: Day 1
Mary Brooks
Mary Brooks, 73 and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was powerless to stop her crack-addicted son from taking her money and selling her possessions. In March 1999, the D.C. Superior Court appointed attorney Dalton Howard to protect Brooks and gave him permission to bar her son, Dale Brooks, from her Southeast Washington apartment.

The Series: Day 1
Atlanta Scott
Her mother wasn't able to take care of her and her father was dead, so Atlanta Scott grew up in grim group homes in the District. She looked forward to one thing: turning 18 and claiming an $11,000 nest egg, a settlement she received from a childhood accident. As a toddler, she had eaten rat poison left on a grocery-store floor.

The Series: Day 1
Nettie Banks
In the six years since Nettie Banks died, her heirs have wondered what happened to $800,000 the 94-year-old grandmother left behind.

The Series: Day 1
Edith Ray
For a decade, court officials ignored George Ray when he complained that attorney Margaret Beller was mismanaging the estate of his mother, Edith Ray, who died in 1986.

Previous Coverage

Fenty Failed to Guard Elderly Client's Money (The Washington Post, 8/1/02)

Court Probe Lashes Ex-Guardian Over Sale (The Washington Post, 8/1/01)

D.C. Judge Orders Probe Of Guardian (The Washington Post, 12/8/00)

Lawyer Facilitated $10 House Sale (The Washington Post, 12/7/00)

Guardian May Face Sanctions (The Washington Post, 11/29/00)

Guardian's Ethics Questioned (The Washington Post, 11/28/00)


Orshanksy Case

Judge Rebuffed For Ignoring Patient's Wish (The Washington Post, 8/16/02)

Appeal Heard in Case of Elderly Woman (The Washington Post, 6/26/02)

Caught Between Dueling Guardians (The Washington Post, 5/28/02)



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