With eye on Brooklyn case, Cardozo Law School pushes for guardianship reform

Rebekah Diller, director of the Guardianship Clinic at Cardozo Law School.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In September 2012, attorney Raymond Jones sat in a Kings County Criminal courtroom as a trial against him proceeded. Jones had been charged by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree rising from his alleged mishandling and ultimate breach of his fiduciary duties as the court-appointed guardian and trustee of the estate of various incapacitated persons.

For the Guardianship Clinic at Cardozo Law School, the recent criminal conviction of Jones highlighted the inadequacies of the current system as it pertains to guardianships. The clinic issued a major report today calling for an overhaul of New York’s guardianship system.

The report was written based on input from a group of more than 70 lawyers, judges, court staff members and social service providers who took part in a workshop at the law school last year.

“This report highlights the challenges that need to be addressed in order for New York to fix the system that is supposed to help our most vulnerable citizens,” said Rebekah Diller, director of the Guardianship Clinic at Cardozo Law.

The Clinic at Cardozo, which began in January 2012 set its goal to “improve the guardianship system and make it more accountable for the vulnerable people that depend on it,” Diller told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The report calls for a number of changes in New York’s guardianship system.  Some of the changes include standardization of forms for those seeking guardianship, a standardized complaint procedure and expansion of guardian training and assistance.

“Our report offers a number of changes to the guardianship system. Some can be done very quickly, and some are more far reaching and fundamental,” Diller said.

Though the clinic was involved in neither the civil nor the criminal case against Raymond Jones, these cases influenced many of the recommendations offered in the report.  

“The Jones case shows that you can have problems monitoring the ways in which appointed guardians are handling their wards finances,” said Diller.

But finances are not the only area where guardianship abuse is found.  In addition to creating a monitoring system for the ward’s finances, the report recommends establishing monitors for the personal needs of wards.

“We suggest creating volunteer and community based monitoring to ensure that the personal needs of wards are attended to. Personal needs such as ensuring that food is in the refrigerator and that wards are living in a setting that is best for them to breed independence,” Diller continued.

Jones was ordered to pay a total of $1,151,425.67 plus interest in the civil case against him. Jones’s next scheduled appearance in criminal court is Dec. 6, presumably for sentencing.

December 5, 2012 - 3:57pm


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