The hidden problem of abuse by court appointed guardians

In 2012 my girlfriend Gretchen Gates was subjected to severe abuse by a court appointed guardian. This abuse destroyed her whole life and led to her premature death. I was also subjected to abuse. I could not believe what happened. This cannot happen in the United States of America.

Despite a blistering complaint to the Court by two of the other parties in the case regarding misconduct by both the GAL and the professional guardian the judge did nothing to discipline either one. This is unbelievable.

At the time, this appeared to be an isolated incident resulting from a bad choice of guardian and the judge sweeping the problem under the rug to hide her own mistake.

In 2014, I filed a complaint with the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs of the Massachusetts Legislature pointing out many problems with the present system of guardianship. Apparently, they considered this to be just an isolated case. Nothing was done.

In 2015 I was doing an internet search and discovered the website Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship (AAAPG.net). This organization was formed in Florida in 2013 as a result of rampant abuse by court appointed guardians fueled by the state’s large population of retired people.

I later discovered another website, National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA). The website is ‘stopguardianabuse.org’. I placed an account of what had happened to Gretchen Gates and myself on this website. There were other cases of abuse listed in Massachusetts.

From reading the information on these websites it became apparent that what happened to Gretchen was not an isolated incident. Abuse of guardianship is a growing national problem because of the aging population. The combination of large assets and dementia makes elders very vulnerable to abuse.

The October 9, 2017 issue of the New Yorker has an article by Rachel Aviv on “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights”. It is about a guardian April Parks in Nevada who had robbed and abused some 400 wards of the court over the last 12 years. This article in a major magazine has helped to bring national attention to the problem.

On January 30, 2018 a hearing was held before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature on a bill S.1177/H3027 to establish an Office of the Public Guardian to provide guardianship services to the “unbefriended”. This would extend guardianship to a whole new class of people who would be extremely vulnerable to abuse by a guardian. They have no one to report any abuse. No one would know if they suddenly died and disappeared.

There were five people, including myself, who testified against this bill either in person or by written testimony. This testimony contains several unbelievable accounts of abuse by court appointed guardians right here in Massachusetts. I have to admit that if I had not been a victim myself I would not have believe the stories told by the other witnesses.

There are two major problems with this bill:

1. This bill gives immunity to guardians. We need more accountability, not less.

2. A careful reading of the bill shows that all authority is vested in a single individual.

The combination of immunity and the concentration of power in a single individual (dictatorship) could create a system of legalized crime.

Guardianship is a drastic legal action that deprives a person of all their civil rights. There is no reason for doing this to people who only need a limited amount of help but are otherwise able to manage their own lives. Giving a guardian absolute power over another person is an open invitation to abuse of authority. As seen in my case, court oversight is virtually non-existent. On the contrary, judges hide anything that goes wrong to protect themselves.

None of the cases of abuse reported at the hearing on January 30, 2018 appear on any public records of abusive guardianship. There were no prosecutions in any of these cases. This suggests that the problem is much larger than anyone realizes.

The Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary is Senator Brownsberger. His assistant Anne Landry has been working on this bill. She told me in an email “I agree that guardianship should be utilized as a last resort and limited in scope to the areas of need.” This is a step in the right direction. But the devil is in the details.

I have no idea what the Joint Committee on the Judiciary plans to do about this bill. I would like a statement from Senator Brownsberger regarding his position on this bill.

I would also like a statement regarding what the Legislature intends to do regarding the unbelievable things that happened in the cases of abuse reported by the witnesses at the hearing on January 30, 2018.

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6 Comments

  1. HI David,

    I think the bill would actually help improve oversight of guardians and would also provide guardians to people in need. We are still working through details, but I’m hopeful we can get it done.

    That would be the main legislative action on this issue in this session.

    1. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

      I have been working with other advocates to try to help people whose whole lives have been destroyed by abuse from court appointed guardians. None of these people should have been put under guardianship in the first place.

      This is not a video game. Real people are being robbed, abused, and killed with impunity by court appointed guardians. I have personally seen two people die as a result of abuse by a guardian.

      The reason these guardians are able to do this with impunity is because the Legislature has set up the laws in such a way that there is no way to stop a guardian from committing a crime. There is no way to punish a guardian who has committed a crime. We know. We have tried.

      So far we have been unable to save a single victim. However, our experience in trying to protect victims has given us a clear picture of how the system works. This knowledge could be used to stop this abuse cold with the stoke of a pen by the Legislature.

      We have locate several victims by stories published in a small newspaper with a distribution of only 12,000. If we were to extrapolate to the number of victims we would have located if a newspaper like the Globe with a circulation of around 400,000 were to publish these stories we would probably have located a couple of hundred victims.

  2. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

    Making minor modifications to Bill S.1177/H3027 will do nothing to stop the crimes being committed against current victims of abuse by court appointed guardians.

    The first step has to be to protect the current victims before adding another bureaucracy that could result in even worse abuses unless major changes are made in the way guardianship is handled.

    The only testimony in favor of this bill was by the people who proposed it. The other 5 witness all opposed the bill. In addition, there was a sixth victim, Mary Frank, who wanted to testify. However, she is under the control of her guardian Jewish Family & Children’s service and not free to testify. She is an example of one of the “unbefriendad”.

    The rehabilitation center where she is currently staying went so far as to pass a no trespass order against a journalist to prevent him from visiting her. I have also been banned from visiting her on the grounds that I wrote a story about her. Her current situation was posted on February 27, 2018 on the blogspot of the NASGA (National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse:

    http://nasga-stopguardianabuse.blogspot.com/2018/02/public-warning-boston-is-cesspool-of.html

    Considering the unanimous opposition by all the witnesses except the sponsors of the bill I think one can conclude that this bill needs to be scrapped, at least until a way can be found to protect the current victims.

    I think your constituents need to read the testimony given at the hearing and decide for themselves whether the present system is working properly. How can your constituents obtain the testimony from the hearing on S.1177/H3027 on January 30, 2018?

  3. the professional predatory guardianship industry is described as the fastest growing cottage industry in the country. It is nothing less than a government sanctioned and facilitated trafficking of human beings for no other purpose than to profit.

    If, in fact, this system was intended to protect the vulnerable, everything would be done to preserve their dignity,rights and to encourage socialization as well as their assets. Instead, they are isolated, robbed, and treated like animals. and to add insult to massive injury……their own assets are used to pay the predators. How sick does this system have to become? How many human beings have to be subjected to this abhorrent system of human trafficking before those who were elected and have a duty to the public actually stand up in defense of the public.

    The documented cases across the country of these predatory rackets operating with impunity, number in the thousands with more families coming forward each day. This is a national epidemic of organized crime against the elderly with no other purpose than to divest them of the proceeds of their life’s work.

    With the testimony you heard, how could you possibly support continuing this system and expanding it? I did note that the Senator who offered this bill, was not present. Maybe shame kept her away.

    I do not know how you can possibly defend this system. And don’t think for one minute this could not happen to you, your mother, your father. Be careful what you vote for..it could come back to haunt you.

  4. My name is Bob Burgess. I am Gretchen’s son in law. I spoke to a woman today who had many questions about what David Arnold’s angle is and why, as a ‘Journalist’ he continues to misrepresent the truth. I don’t get it and never will. But please if anyone feels the need to deal with him call me first at 781 245 0080.

  5. My mother currently in has been in a situation of abuse and neglect by her guardian in the Commonwealth neglecting to protect her rights that they assigned to her judge is making errors in laws not contacting me to give me the choice to come forward as an interested party to be my mother’s Guardian neglecting to do citations from the courthouse after I pay to file for petition of withdrawal of the abusive and neglective guardian with a police report that my mother filed herself in a petition for myself a guardianship all being neglected they kidnapped my mother and may 2017 I didn’t find my mother until December 2018 and I’ve been fighting constantly with everyone trying to get my mother out of the situation. She has been placed in she’s been financially exploited confined to a long-term Nursing Care Facility saying she has dementia when in fact after not see me for over a year and me being a hundred and twenty five pounds thinner she still knows who I am the nursing home tries to stop visits because they know that I have proof and evidence against all of them including videos my last attempt I contacted the governor and dropped a package off asking him for help in this situation showing him the errors in the law and if not I will be protesting at the state house I’ve already created Flyers that I will send out in a mass mailing and I will be contacting all of the media Outlets as I know I’m not alone in this situation however I have evidence and proof videos of my mother speaking to me telling me she does not want to be in the situation she is after the guardian tried to stop my visits I had to fight with the nursing home telling them they’re violating her rights according to her decree from the judge that gives her limited the rights that the guardian is violating that they are violating it’s terrible that they do this to these elderly whom are disabled it’s discrimination Financial exploitation neglect and abuse of them they say they have dementia force them to sign over their life to them without giving the family the opportunity to be the one to provide for them or even looking to see if they have any other family members that would be willing to care for them and then once the family is notified and come forward and say they want care for them they are given a hard time and ignored and treated like they did something wrong when they never did.

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