Family Law

Movant Denied Guardianship Of Her Incapacitated Father Due To Her Being Disciplined As An Attorney

The court did not base its decision to deny movant guardianship of her incapacitated father on her decade-old attorney disciplinary record, though her disciplinary record was relevant to its task of appointing an appropriate guardian who would act in her father’s best interests. The court denied movant’s motion for reconsideration.

Petitioner, the Philadelphia Nursing Home, filed a petition for adjudication of incapacity and appointment of a plenary guardian for John Norman in late 2017. The court held hearings to determine whether Norman was incapacitated and in need of guardianship services and, if so, who should be appointed. Petitioner supplied the court with the deposition testimony of physician Neal Satten, who diagnosed Norman with dementia and adjustment disorder with depressed mood. Satten opined that Norman required assistance for all activities of daily living. Petitioner proposed attorney Howard Soloman, a neutral party, as guardian. Norman’s daughter, movant in this case, did not produce any evidence to rebut Satten’s testimony. The nursing home’s director of finance and billing testified that movant refused to turn over the entirety of Norman’s income, as required for Norman to receive Medicaid assistance. Additionally, petitioner introduced a report and recommendation from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania regarding plaintiff, an attorney formerly licensed in Pennsylvania. Back in 2004, the board found that movant failed to keep clients informed about the status of their matters and, inter alia, commingled client money with her own money, leading to a three-year suspension of her license to practice law. Movant, who never applied for readmission, proposed herself as guardian. The court determined that it was in Norman’s best interest to appoint a neutral guardian of his person and estate. Here, the court addressed movant’s motion for reconsideration. There was no dispute that Norman was incapacitated. However, movant argued, inter alia, that the court erred in admitting evidence of her disciplinary record into evidence because such information was irrelevant and should not have been considered in determining the appropriate guardian for Norman. The court explained that movant’s disciplinary record did not serve as a basis for denying movant guardianship over her father. Rather, the court denied movant guardianship because she expressed her clear intent to remove her father from the nursing home without any plan to ensure his continued care. Satten testified that Norman’s condition was not likely to improve and that he required extensive, round-the-clock care. Even assuming it was feasible for Norman to receive the same level of care he required after leaving the nursing home, movant offered no care plan to ensure such services. As such, it was in Norman’s best interest to remain at the nursing home, as Soloman planned. Regardless, movant’s disciplinary record was “unquestionably” relevant, the court opined, noting that it was tasked with identifying and appointing an appropriate guardian who would act in Norman’s best interest. Movant’s disciplinary record was probative of her fitness to serve as guardian, particularly as guardian of his estate.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 41 PLW 441 (May 8, 2018) In re: Estate of John Norman, PICS Case No. 18-0465 (C.P. Philadelphia April 2018)

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