I am not a lawyer and I readily admit my understanding of the law is limited. However one does not need a law degree or legal education to know the following case is an abhorrent perversion of law and justice.
The case of Anastasia Adams proves that having power of attorney and an advance directive will not protect you if a major hospital like Inova Fairfax in Northern Virginia sues for guardianship and hands you over to their designated guardians. Even having a court appointed guardian will not protect you from guardianship if Inova thinks your child needs Electro-Shock therapy and you disagree with them; as Francisca Zegarra-Rodriguez found out. Francisca was appointed as her son’s guardian by Loudon County Circuit Court judge the Honorable Jeanette A. Irby on December 14, 2015. When Francisca disagreed with Inova’s treatment decision Inova simply took her to court and had a Fairfax County Circuit judge set aside her guardianship order and took her son forcing him to have ECT. They returned custody of Francisca’s son to her six months later.
Inova in both of these cases — and in 35 others and counting, 19 just since February 2017 — had Fairfax County judges appoint the same two co-guardians and co-conservators, using the same two guardian ad litem’s, and the same external law firm Blankingship & Keith; who allegedly according to public records always state it is an emergency and there are no known power of attorney’s even when they allegedly know they exist.
Anastasia’s sister Yolanda Bell had been her power of attorney for 15 years when Inova sued for guardianship. In their petition for guardianship Inova and their attorney’s did not allege there was abuse, neglect, or exploitation (nor did the circuit court judge find abuse, neglect, or exploitation). All Inova alleged was Yolanda “refused to consent to discharge” and therefore was not acting in the best interests of her sister. So on February 15, 2017, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Stephen C. Shannon issued an order appointing Inova’s two designated guardians as co-guardians and co-conservators of Anastasia’s person, property, and estate. Like Francisca Yolanda had simply disagreed with Inova. Yolanda disagreed with Inova wanting to discharge her Anastasia with a large pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart) and a 12″ blood clot, so she appealed Inova’s decision to Medicare. Medicare agreed with Yolanda that Anastasia was still too ill to be discharged but Inova had already taken custody of Anastasia.
Since the guardianship order Anastasia’s health has been run into the ground by Inova’s designated guardians. Allegedly the facility where she was first placed severely broke her right hip and the guardians would not have it set or fixed leaving it grossly deformed. Allegedly the next facility where she was placed broke Anastasia’s right ankle and again the guardians would not have it set or fixed. What is allegedly happening to this woman and dozens of others by Inova in this writer opinion is both morally wrong and criminal.
According to public records there are at present approximately 38 people whom Inova Healthcare Services has sued for guardianship, allegedly either to enforce treatment decisions or effect discharge from one of there hospitals. All of these individuals are on Medicare or Medicaid and it appears that when Inova thinks they will not be paid they simply call in Laurie Kirkland from B&K and she files an emergency petition for guardianship. Amazingly at least 35 of the 38 guardianships all have two attorneys from Dingman and Labowitz, PC as co-guardians and co-conservators — principal Kenneth E. Labowitz, Esq and partner Anne M. Heishman, Esq — and either Saben N. Johnston, Esq or Gary Jetter, Esq as court appointed guardian ad litems. At first glance this might appear to be a coincidence but upon closer inspection one realizes the same one or two names are shown in appointing the guardian ad litems, with the predominant name being the Honorable Daniel Ortiz.
According to official court transcript in the Anastasia Adams hearing, guardians Heishman and Labowitz have up to 120 at a time. Conservatively, this means if each ward receives $1200 a month in social security benefits the guardians are receiving $144,000 a month and $1,728,000 a year since they have had all funds diverted to bank accounts they control. Meanwhile their wards, as evidenced by Anastasia’s situation, are relegated to languish in substandard and poorly run nursing homes isolated from their families, clergy, and loved ones. In fact Anastasia was placed in a room with no TV or radio and left to just stare at the walls 24 hours a day.
Family members dealing with what has been labeled “predatory” guardianships have attempted to obtain legal help but lawyers in Northern Virginia will not help the victim’s party because Inova is a major employer and contributes to many political campaigns. Add to this the fact that Kenneth Labowitz started a political action committee (PAC) in the ’90s that got Senator Jim Moran (D) elected and served as the president of Legal Services of Northern Virginia; it becomes clearer why families are unable to get any help to fight the Inova guardianship machine and extract their loved ones from their clutches.
Both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have just passed SB178 Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017 and it is waiting for President Trump to sign it into law. The Bill promises some potential protections (and hopefully prosecutions) for those families and individuals who find themselves trap in the agonizing torment of a guardianship like those above.