Who's in charge here? When it comes to financial trusts under the jurisdiction of the Washington courts, no one seems to know the answer to that question. As a result, some District of Columbia banks are in a quandary over how to disburse money from some trusts, a situation that recently led one woman whose money has been delayed to gripe, "It's persecution of the rich!"
The controversy involves a difference of interpretation of the 1970 Court Reorganization Act by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the D.C. Superior Court. In March 1981, Judge Joyce Hens Green ordered that all trust cases under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court be sent to Superior Court pursuant to the Court Reorganization Act. But last May, Superior Court Judge Margaret Haywood disagreed and said her court did not have jurisdiction.
According to lawyers involved in the dispute, about 170 cases -- under the jurisdiction of whichever court eventually decides to take responsibility -- are in danger of being held up. One person whose trust was due to be liquidated last month wasn't happy when told of the court mix-up. "I want my money," she says bluntly. The bank handling the final disbursement of her trust. American Security Bank, is asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to resolve the dispute because, says the bank, 60 such accounts are in "potential" limbo. A Riggs Bank trust officer says his bank does not have any immediate problems. But "we do hope the question will be resolved one way or another -- we don't know how long our good luck will last."