335* The Shark Feeding Frenzy
- Mar 17, 2001
J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles - March 17, 2001
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Station Home Page & More Local Information Who’s guarding the guardian?New York, Feb. 28 – When someone becomes incapacitated, a court often steps in. The idea is to appoint a guardian to protect the person’s assets. But ....LIKE MOST PEOPLE coming into court, Dr. Mark Murphy might have expected the judge would help and protect him. Murphy, which isn’t his real name (he asked not to be identified to ensure his privacy and security), had amassed millions in the stock market.
Two years ago, a niece, claiming concern that Alzheimer’s left the 85-year-old doctor unable to take care of financial affairs, brought him to court asking that she be named guardian.
What happened instead was Judge Diane Lebedeff appointed three lawyers. One of them, in turn, hired two more lawyers. All were supposed to be protecting Murphy’s finances. And all started billing him for their services. So what led Judge Lebedeff to appoint these particular people to the lucrative case?
“There was a lot of money involved in this case, and it certainly has the appearance that appointments were made based on the relationship that the judge had with these individuals,” said Robert Abrams, attorney for the Murphy family.
What’s clear is that all of those appointed were, like the judge herself, influential members of the New York County Lawyers Association.
“It was a feeding frenzy,” Abrams said.
Abrams, who literally wrote the book on guardianship law, is referring to the billing records that he reviewed last year at the request of Murphy’s wife. He says what’s troubling is that hundreds of thousands of dollars billed to Murphy in less than a year by Judge Lebedeff’s appointees were approved by the judge in full.
“Anybody could put in any time they wanted and get paid for it,” Abrams said.
Court-appointed guardian Steven Shapiro billed for all but 10 calendar days in a six-month period. And on May 10 of last year, Shapiro actually billed for 42 hours of work. That’s $12,600 on a single day.
In a statement, Shapiro says he did “absolutely nothing illegal or unethical.” As for that overbilling, he says it was “an inadvertent transcription of 42 minutes into 42 hours. I was totally unaware of the error until it was brought to my attention. ....”
But what’s maybe most amazing, after reviewing the original 42-hour bill, is that Judge Lebedeff had ordered it paid.
“It appears to me that her behavior was clearly inappropriate and has the appearance to me that it was corrupt,” Abrams said.
Confronted last summer by Abrams with his allegations, Judge Lebedeff withdrew from the case. ....Critics say the Murphy case is hardly the only “guardian grabfest.” Some who say their assets were grabbed demonstrated last month.
“They are taking over people’s bank accounts, people’s houses,” said one demonstrator.
“No one is watching the guardians. No one is watching the judges,” said another. ....It was seven years ago when taxi driver Erwin Scharge swerved to avoid a double-parked bus, crashing his cab into a fire hydrant.
“He was technically dead for a couple of seconds. I guess that’s what caused his brain damage and his incapacitation,” said Ashley Scharge, the victim’s son and a radio sports reporter.
Ashley Scharge, who was Erwin’s only remaining relative, asked a court to name him guardian of his father’s million dollars in assets. Instead, a Queens judge appointed Robert Groh, a retired Queens judge, as guardian.
“He never listened to me,” Scharge said. “He wanted to charge me rent for living in my own house.” ........
Have you ever noticed that when judges make a slip of the pen which garnishes them huge reapings in their bank own accounts, it is always just an innocent mistake. But I noticed that the "mistake" is always in their favor, never the other way.Also, when judges fail to properly record their banks and corporations assets required under ethics laws, it is always "I forgot that I owned that." It is considered just a momentary lapse of memory with no penalties. However, what happens when a citizen makes a simple mistake on a tax form, or forgets to report his earnings? He is hung up and flayed! Why the inequity? Tell me, please!J.A.I.L. is an acronym for (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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