The Ruling That Could Change Everything For Disabled People With Million-Dollar Trusts

A pissed-off judge, a $3 million inheritance, and a neglected autistic man

This wasn't just about Mark: It was a "clarion call" for all special-needs trustees, she wrote. "Courts will intervene not only when the trustee behaves recklessly, but also when the trustee fails to exercise judgment altogether."

Glen's decision sent ripples through the banking industry and disability rights community.

"There's a lot of discussion going on in the banks about what to do," says Glen, who hopes they will now educate trust officers or contract outside professionals. "They're now being called to task. If you don't know anything about it, hire somebody or don't take the job."

Glen's decision doesn't fix gaps in oversight, but it gives advocates and judges around the country something to point to when assessing what trustees must do.

"It's not going to be pretty, because it creates an affirmative obligation on [banks] to actually do something," says Bernard Krooks, who chairs the special-needs practice at the law firm Littman Krooks. "Typically, they just invest the money and try to obtain a decent return."

In her opinion, Glen demanded that JP Morgan and Platt provide an updated accounting of Mark's trust. She also recommended that both have their commissions denied or reduced.

"This is very upsetting to me," Platt says. Now 81, he sounds exhausted when he speaks of Mark's case from his Upper East Side office.

"I never gave her any reason to have such a harsh opinion," he says. "It's not pleasant, especially with the career that I've had, and I'm going to make sure that I continue to do what I'm doing. I will never, ever let anyone criticize me."

His delays in visiting Mark and filing paperwork were largely due to health problems, he says. Platt cared for his ill daughter, who died in 2007, and his wife, who was sick for seven years before she died in 2012. He, in turn, has been treated for leukemia and prostate cancer.

"I don't disagree with [Glen] that more trustees should become more proactive in what they're spending, but I think the forum is wrong," Platt says. "All she's doing is requiring legal fees to be paid, and I think that she's gone too far."

In two affidavits Platt filed earlier this year, he said that Glen and Staver took undue credit for improving Mark's condition. "While Ward's improvement or progress was and is 'heartwarming' and a miracle, according to the staff at Anderson, this was based upon Ward's maturing through adolescence rather than any changes in 'medical' treatment," he wrote. "While we credit Judge Glen for her concern and causing the appointment of a social worker, the facts show Ward's improvement was caused by a higher power."

In addition, Platt argued, "If there be fault in the delayed reevaluation and possible changed treatment, it must be shared by society."

In other words, Anderson or even the court may have been at fault for insufficient treatment prior to his appointment as guardian.

Nearly five months into her retirement, Glen sits at the neighborhood diner where she orders "the usual": bacon, scrambled eggs, and sliced tomatoes. She's now a professor at the City University of New York School of Law, where she was once dean, and has spent the last few months speaking about Mark's case and others at events around the country.

She dismisses the idea that Mark improved simply because he grew older. "Had he not gotten these interventions, he would not be in that situation.

"When you think about an institution that gets the shit payments they get from Medicaid, they do their best," she says. "But they can't do one-on-one. They can't carefully teach somebody to use a communicative device. They can't take people out to restaurants. The more somebody interacts with the community, the more they're allowed to exercise their choice, the more they learn how to make decisions."

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11 comments
sgreenovich
sgreenovich

I agree Determinedin (NY) but the responsibility of finding just judges is up to us. It is the same for finding people who will express our views politically. This really isn't even a difficult thing. Our political representatives only have to do what we ask them to they are literally trying to be popular with the people that put them into office. The same goes for the president his job is to lead and do the will of the people. Why is it so hard for political people to follow their word, do as they have promised and as the people who have faith in them have asked? Something is seriously wrong, and it may start with us.


http://www.jcohenmediation.com/div1.htm

DeterminedinNY
DeterminedinNY

This judge has restored some of my faith in the judicial system, I wish there were more like her.

JackForeigner
JackForeigner

CUNY Law dean and prof, eh?  No wonder!  That's one progressive institution.  Too bad their grads had the issues with passing the bar exam the first time around (industry standard); hopefully that's now been rectified (though it's certainly the case that bad lawyers exist anyway).  What a woman, wow!

AerOHead
AerOHead

I'll gladly join those giving thanks to -- and for -- the Honorable Judge Glen. My question is this: Why was Platt so able to take the money and run, but then claim family illness, etc. for not being able to do the job? Professionals routinely reassign their duties to others when they are unable to perform to standards. Platt said he won't be criticized by anyone. Well, I will most certainly criticize! It's because of sleazebags like him that lawyers get a bad name. Shame on you, Platt. I can almost understand that JP Morgan, as a corporation and dedicated to nothing other but the bottom line, might focus purely upon maximizing the trust, but you, as an attorney, have a sacred duty to work in your clients' best interests. It's too late now, but by rights I think Judge Glen should have ordered you to reimburse your ill-gotten commissions. They were, in truth, defrauding your client. I hope the fire is stoked up enough for the likes of you by the time you get there.

ally121
ally121

Thank you Judge Glen, for caring about people. I wish you had been the judge on my mother's case...she possibly would have been alive today. My mother was kidnapped by her guardian /attorney Mary Giordano, elder care attorney with Franchina and Giordano in Garden City, NY. Judge Joel Asarch insisted she go in a nursing home although I was able to care for her 24/7 in my home, deemed safe by the courts. They wanted what was left of her small estate, which had already been pillaged by Giordano. It always and only all about money, never about the people.

sunnykay1
sunnykay1

Thank you Judge Glen! The whole institution of guardianship needs more oversight nationwide. My family was never wealthy but I had a special needs younger brother -- and it was always a worry as to who would look out for my brother if he was our last family member. Sometimes in dark moments I think it was a blessing that Paul passed before my mother and I did. Perhaps if more people follow your footsteps and watch over the guardianship process, things will be better. But guardianship abuses are everywhere, and there is a long way to go.

MarkNicholas
MarkNicholas

Go Judge Glen, go! Thank you! You are a hero to every parent of a special needs child (like me).

lemurdock1
lemurdock1

I remember Judge Kristin Booth Glen well from my time as a practicing attorney.  Very smart, very fair, very nice.  Now that I am the mother of two disabled boys and Exec Dir of a school for children with autism, I appreciate her even more -- she is obviously caring and sensitive.  I am so happy that she took on the lawyers and banks to ensure that they do right by people who are so severely disabled they cannot fend for themselves.  What a great outcome -- I hope other judges will pick up where Judge Glen left off and hold these officials accountable.


AerOHead
AerOHead

What I hadn't yet learned when I posted that is that Harvey Platt also makes a fair share of money with his books (search for his name on Amazon) and also on the lecture circuit. His family health problems somehow didn't keep him from updating his books every year!

I haven't yet had a chance to read Judge Glen's entire opinion on this case, but I've put it on my Kindle for reading later. It's a bit hard to find, so here's a link for anyone who is interested: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-22387.html

 
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