Thursday, 1 March 2018

Pattern and History in South Florida Probate, Estate and Guardian Cases. "Jury hits lawyers with $16.4M for doing senior wrong in guardianship" Brian O'Connell Florida Attorney and Ashley Crispin FL Attorney FOUND Guilty. Keep in Mind that Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga was Judge Martin Colin's Mentor and was involved in iViewit Technology Patent Theft.

"Advocates for guardianship reform clamored in vain for years that Florida’s system failed to properly protect incapacitated seniors, that its primary purpose had been perverted to line the pockets of greedy attorneys and professional guardians with the hard-earned life savings of the elderly.

Now they can point to a new federal verdict awarding a whopping $16.4 million in a lawsuit claiming that two West Palm Beach attorneys breached their fiduciary duties while running up “unnecessary and excessive fees” of $1 million.

“It’s really kind of a landmark case,” said Julian Bivins, who brought the suit as the personal representative of the estate of his father, Oliver, a Texas oil man. “It sends a message to these unscrupulous lawyers and guardians that they are not going to be able to get away with it anymore.”

The Bivins Guardianship Case emanates out of the court of Circuit Judge Martin Colin, the subject of an investigation by The Palm Beach Post into the judge’s conflicts of interest because his wife is a professional guardian.

Colin in open court had heaped praise on the attorneys who lost the case and refused to hold a hearing to decide whether the attorneys had “secretly” kept money from the sale of one of Oliver Bivins’ properties in an escrow account for more than a year, according to court documents.

The Post’s award-winning series featuring Colin, Guardianships: A Broken Trust, resulted in an overhaul of guardianship rules in Palm Beach County. Colin retired last December after he was transferred from the Probate & Guardianship Division because of The Post’s reporting."

"Weeks after The Post published, Julian Bivins filed a motion to disqualify Colin, saying his concerns about the “close-knit atmosphere of the Guardians, their attorneys” and Colin had been “glaringly brought to light” in the stories."

Held captive?

The younger Bivins said he felt his father was “held captive” in South Florida by the guardianship so the attorneys could liquidate real estate assets — including a New York City Upper East Side mansion — and charge more fees. Colin granted an emergency order prohibiting the senior from returning to Texas.

The jury found on July 28 that attorneys Brian M. O’Connell and Ashley N. Crispin of the Ciklin, Lubitz & O’Connell firm not only breached their fiduciary duty but committed professional negligence.

The lawsuit claimed they failed to get appraisals on two high-end New York City properties being divided among family. They were not of equal value and as a result, Julian Bivins ended up with one that was worth millions less than other.

The jury’s decision to award $16.4 million makes up the difference.

But the fight over the property is far less important to reform advocates than the fact that attorneys who carry out the wishes of professional guardians and are paid with the ward’s money were held accountable.

“This case in one of the longtime hotbeds of guardianship abuse is a tipping point,” said Sam Sugar, director of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship.

“This first salvo sends a serious message not only to the predatory guardians and lawyers who have been exploiting families all over Florida for decades but especially to the probate judges without whose complicity these cases could never happen.”

Oliver Bivins died at age 97 in March 2015. He ended up in the court-ordered guardianship when he visited his condominium in Palm Beach in 2011 and a social worker became concerned with his well-being, according to court documents.

Oliver Bivins appeared to be coming to Florida for a weekend vacation, leaving his refrigerator in Texas fully stocked, plaintiff attorneys told the jury. His son said he often didn’t visit his Palm Beach condominium for years at a time.

The verdict takes a further step toward re-establishing that attorneys are supposed to represent the incapacitated ward, not the court-appointed professional guardian — a position many lawyers have argued in court to thwart families trying to rein in a fee frenzy.

“If it wasn’t for me, they would have completely depleted my dad’s estate,” said Julian Bivins, who now lives in Palm Beach. “I’ve been fighting them from the beginning to just get him back to Texas. Finally, I got him back there 35 days before he passed away.”

As with many family members who challenge the status quo in guardianship in Palm Beach County, Julian said he found himself relentlessly attacked in court. He was even sued by one of the guardians in the case, Curtis Rogers.

The biggest toll, he said, though, was his relationship with his father as Rogers told the elder Bivins that his son only wanted his money. “He turned my dad against me,” Julian Bivins said. “I could never explain to my father how he was being held for ransom, how they wouldn’t let him go.”

The Ciklin firm said it is confident it can prevail on post-trial motions in front of U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra.

“We think the verdict was not in keeping with the law or the facts and, in fact, was considerably more than the plaintiff even asked for,” said Alan Ciklin, the firm’s managing partner. “We feel pretty good about our ability to have this reduced dramatically.”

Rogers, one of two professional guardians dismissed as defendants in the lawsuit, testified for more than two days at the trial. He told The Post he believes the younger Bivins financially took advantage of his father. “The verdict was a total shock to me,” he said. “I anticipated there was no way that type of verdict could be made.”

It may come as a shock to Judge Colin, as well.

Colin during a Feb. 3, 2016, hearing in the guardianship case bristled at the suggestion that the Ciklin Lubitz firm was not acting as a good custodian of Bivins’ assets.

The senior’s son questioned why the firm had failed to turn over $472,000 from the sale of his father’s commercial property in New York City, requesting Colin refer their actions to the Florida Bar or keep them from holding onto the money.

“The Ciklin Lubitz law firm has a well-earned reputation of honesty. And this is honesty,” Colin said in court. “Not for a moment do I have any concern because their reputation is well-earned in this respect.”

Colin denied Julian Bivins’ request without hearing any evidence but ordered the firm to return about $400,000.

An attorney for Julian Bivins filed a motion to disqualify Colin because of those statements, but the judge denied it.

“We never got anything done in his court,” Julian said. “We complained about the amount of the fees and he (Colin) cut them down 25 percent, but then we had to pay their fees for them to defend those fees. So they just made it back.”

Guardianship Catch-22

It is in this Catch-22 that families often find themselves when trying to decide whether to fight unethical actions by a professional guardian: Either way they pay, and either way the lawyers’ wallets grow fatter.

The guardianship issue is being looked at by a task force formed by Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga. The state Legislature established the new Office of Public & Professional Guardianship as a result of lobbying by advocacy groups and others about lawyers and guardians siphoning off fees.

Attorney Greg Coleman, past president of The Florida Bar, wrote to the work group in June to alert it to “inappropriate, improper and illegal activities of a very small number of Florida attorneys” practicing in the guardianship arena.

“Unfortunately, the way guardianship statutes and rules are currently constituted allows for a window of exploitation by bad attorneys and bad guardians for their own personal monetary gain,” said Coleman, who was not associated with the Bivins guardianship or any of the relating litigation.

Coleman said everything is moving in the right direction for seniors. “The issue has the (Florida Supreme) Court’s attention, I can tell you,” he said. “It is not something that is being ignored or swept under the rug.”

Oliver Wilson Bivins Sr. was an oil man whose family were pioneers in Amarillo, Texas. He visited his Florida condo infrequently ... Read More
Dominoes falling?

Sugar’s grassroots-group based out of Hollywood was the force behind legislative reform last year. He said the verdict in Bivins is a sign “the dominoes are starting to fall.”

Several years ago Sugar could barely get a conference with key Florida lawmakers. Now his group has spearheaded legislation and made guardianship an issue around the country. Sugar pointed to the recent federal indictment of a professional guardianship firm in New Mexico, charging the owners with stealing millions from seniors, as an example that justice could be done for these seniors.

Attorneys who represented the Bivins family — Charles D. Bavol and Ron Denman of The Bleakley Bavol law firm in Tampa — compared the trial to a climactic brawl from the movie Rocky. The Ciklin defendants knocked out their expert witness and cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to turn over crucial emails between the Ciklin lawyers and the guardians. The son’s testimony persuaded the jury, his lawyers said.

“What the defendants did in this case was wrong,” Denman told the jury. “It was legally wrong, what they did was ethically wrong, and what they did was morally wrong.”

Bavol and Denman said the verdict builds off a 2015 state court appellate finding out of Palm Beach County, ruling that the guardianship attorneys’ duty is to the incapacitated adult, not the professional guardian.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in recent years has reined in circuit courts in Palm Beach County that reform advocates say patently favor professional guardians and their attorneys. Still, advocates such as Sugar say they hear about abuses almost daily in the guardianship courts.

Bavol and Denman said the verdict underscores the need for accountability from guardians and their lawyers.

“Based on this significant jury verdict and the ongoing investigative journalism in Southern Florida concerning professional guardianships, the need for reform of the guardianship system to protect Florida’s elderly citizens is again underscored,” the lawyers said in a news release."


Monday, 26 February 2018

West Palm Florida Lawyer Brian O'Connell, PR Under Oath, Judge Rosemarie Scher Court. Florida Guardianship Case. Florida Probate Case. West Palm Estate Case.

 (Mr. O'Connell resumed the stand.)

· · · · · THE COURT:· You're still under oath.

· · · · · Go ahead.· It's all you.


· · ·Q· · Are you aware of a 2000 insurance trust
that was executed that the policy in question has
been assigned to in the year 2000?

· · · · · MS. CRISPIN:· Asked and answered.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.· You already asked
· · ·him that.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· NO, a 2000 insurance policy.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Oh, overruled.· Thank you.


· · ·Q· · That supersedes a 1995 trust?

· · ·A· · You'd have to show me a document.

· · ·Q· · Okay.· Here.


· · ·Q· · Mr. O'Connell, have you seen that trust before?

· · ·A· · Sitting here today, I don't recall it but
it's possible in the volume of documents in this
case that I could have, but I couldn't tell you

· · ·Q· · Do you notice that it's Bates stamped by Tescher & Spallina, the former attorneys who committed forgery and fraud in this matter that you replaced and those documents were transferred to you by Ben Brown and you actually argued -- can you answer that question?

· · ·A· · I see Bates stamps at the bottom.

· · ·Q· · So these would be part of your record, correct?

· · ·A· · I'm not sure.· I'd have to look on my record to be sure.

· · ·Q· · And you're aware that the state has argued in Illinois Federal Court that this 2000 trust
supercedes the '95 trust, thereby rendering it moot, the '95 trust you're entering into settlement with,
is that correct?

· · ·A· · I'd have to see some more documents.· If you're talking about -- has there been something in writing submitted taking that position?

· · ·Q· · Yeah.· Your summary judgment arguments rely on this 2000 trust superseding -- in that 2000 trust, can you read from Page 1, the trust, the first paragraph and the Number 1?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection.· The document is not
· · ·in evidence, hearsay.
· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.
· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· Can I submit it as
· · ·evidence?
· · · · · THE COURT:· Objections?
· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Authenticity.
· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· It's Bates stamped.

· · · · · THE COURT:· It doesn't matter.· Sustained.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· It's been submitted into the record.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· We can't enter this?

· · · · · THE COURT:· No.· I sustained the
· · ·objection.· It's an evidentiary objection.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· Okay.· Am I allowed to ask
· · ·him questions about this document?

· · · · · THE COURT:· If you ask a question and
· · ·there's an objection, I'll entertain it. I
· · ·can't tell you how to proceed.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· Okay.


· · ·Q· · Can you read the first paragraph and
Number 1 of that document?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, hearsay.· The
· · ·document is not in evidence.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· Okay.


· · ·Q· · You argued in Illinois in the federal action on behalf of the estate that this 2000
document superseded the 1995 trust?

· · · · · MS. CRISPIN:· Asked and answered.· He said
· · ·he needed further documentation to see it in · · ·writing.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.


· · ·Q· · In a recent similar case to this with allegations of fraud in the Bivens case, are you
aware of the Oliver Bivens case?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, relevance, materiality.
· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.


· · ·Q· · Have you been charged with breach of fiduciary duties and negligence recently and found guilty by a jury of your peers in a federal court?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, relevance.

· · · · · MS. CRISPIN:· Argumentative.

· · · · · THE COURT:· I have to overrule those
· · ·objections because it would go to bias.

· · · · · MS. CRISPIN:· Your Honor, he used the word
· · ·charged.· That was my problem for the
· · ·argumentative.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Okay.· With regard to the word
· · ·charged, sustained.


· · ·Q· · Is there a verdict that claims you breached fiduciary duties and negligence in the handling of an estate?

· · ·A· · There was a verdict but the matter has
been settled and the case has been dismissed with
prejudice pursuant to a confidential settlement.

· · ·Q· · Who was your attorney in that settlement?

· · ·A· · Wicker, Smith.

· · ·Q· · Was it Alan Rose?

· · ·A· · Alan Rose came in after the verdict to
represent the law firm while Ms. Crispin and I were
represented by the Wicker, Smith firm as we had been
from the inception of the case.

· · ·Q· · So the verdict stood?

· · ·A· · No.


· · ·Q· · So there was a jury verdict that you had
breached and committed negligence with Ashley
Crispin, correct?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, relevance and
· · ·repetitive.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.

 MR. BERNSTEIN:· By the way, Your Honor, something strange here has occurred.  Mr. Rose is O'Connell's counsel.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Excuse me.· Do you have a
· · ·question for this witness?· You have one
· · ·question left.


· · ·Q· · If there is a 2000 trust, would it not be a necessary party to any settlement if it deals with
the same insurance policy?

· · ·A· · I'm not aware that that trust exists, the 2000 trust exists.

· · ·Q· · If it exists?· Since I can't enter it into evidence.

· · ·A· · I'd have to review the documents to make sure.

Q    But after you reviewed them, if you found that it existed, would it be a necessary part to any settlement?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, calls for a legal
· · ·conclusion and the facts are that trust and no
· · ·trustee has intervened or sought to do anything
· · ·in the Illinois case so it's an irrelevant
· · ·question.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:   Your Honor, that's really
· · ·relevant because the reason this trust is
· · ·suppressed is because my sister, Pam ..
· · ·I'd like to enter another piece of evidence
· · ·where they discussed suppressing this and
· · ·hiding it from the court.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.· Last question.


· · ·Q· · When you found out that I was a beneficiary of my father's estate and Judge Blakey removed me on summary judgment claiming that I was not a beneficiary based on res judicata from this court, when you found out again and admitted in court at the first hearing that I attended with Judge Scher here in the courtroom that I was a beneficiary, did you notify the federal court that I was a beneficiary with standing in my dad's estate?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, relevance,
· · ·argumentative, and I think these issues are the
· · ·ones that were decided by the federal judge in
· · ·Illinois.

· · · · · MS. CRISPIN:· Objection, compound.

· · · · · THE COURT:· I'll let him answer the
· · ·question.· He either did or he didn't.

· · ·A· · I guess to answer your question, I'd have
to go back and review your intervention and review
the order and --


· · ·Q· · The order is there.

· · ·A· · It would take some time to do it to say whether that would be --

· · ·Q· · Well, let me ask you a question.

· · · · · THE COURT:· No, that was it.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· It's the same question.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Then it's been asked and
· · ·answered.

· · · · · MR. BERNSTEIN:· Well, let me help him
· · ·answer what he said, Your Honor.· Would that be
· · ·okay?

· · · · · THE COURT:· That would be okay.


· · ·Q· · The question is, after a review, if you found that I was a beneficiary with standing in the estate and the Illinois court was under the impression that I was not and had dismissed me,
would I need to be reinstated as a party in that action who would be a party to this settlement?

· · ·A· · That would be between you and the Illinois
federal court using that hypothetical.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Okay.· That about does it for
that.· Follow up, Ms. Crispin?
· · ·MS. CRISPIN:· None.
· · ·THE COURT:· You may step down,
Mr. O'Connell.

Source of and Full Hearing Transcript

So the Settlement in the Bivins Case somehow VOIDED the VERDICT according to Attorney Brian O'Connell ???

So attorney Ashley Crispin and attorney Brian O'Connell were somehow LET OUT OF MASSIVE LIABILITY for things they really did do to harm people, and all because of a Settlement negotiated by Alan Rose, who is Ted Bernstein's attorney in the Estate of Simon Bernstein and Estate of Shirley Bernstein case whereby there is CLEARLY the Same Pattern and Practice Happening and has been for 5 years.

Eliot Bernstein, Pro Se Beneficiary questioning PR, attorney Brian O'Connell

"Question:   So the verdict stood?
Answer:       No. "

Full Court Hearing, Brian O'Connell Under Oath Transcript


· · ·Q· · In a recent similar case to this with allegations of fraud in the Bivens case, are you
aware of the Oliver Bivens case?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, relevance, materiality.
· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.

( We See Alan Rose Object of Course, as he was the clearly conflicted attorney for Brian O'Connell who conned the other side into thinking O'Connell and Crispin would simply go bankrupt and so to avoid appeals that may take years and bankruptcy, there was a settlement.

 Seems to me that in the Settlement Ronald Denman attorney for Bivins was rather cozy with Alan Rose and seemed to even believe him, though clearly Denman knew what and who was involved in the Bernstein Cases as I myself gave him that information BEFORE the Settlement in the Bivins Case. Denman must have done what he felt best for himself and his client, however, he sure seemed to me to be believing FLAT OUT LIES by Attorney Alan ROSE, in my Opinion.

Anyway Alan Rose Objects, and as per pattern and history in this case the Court Sustains Alan Rose's Objections and protects the attorneys illegal and unethical actions, ALL of course in my own Opinion of how things have gone. )


· · ·Q· · Have you been charged with breach of fiduciary duties and negligence recently and found
guilty by a jury of your peers in a federal court?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, relevance.

· · · · · MS. CRISPIN:· Argumentative.

· · · · · THE COURT:· I have to overrule those
· · ·objections because it would go to bias.

· · · · · MS. CRISPIN:· Your Honor, he used the word
· · ·charged.· That was my problem for the
· · ·argumentative.

( Ashley Crispin who was also found GUILTY in that same case and ruled 16.4 million against them, and Alan Rose attorney for them who negotiated their settlement, well they Object, Surprise. Ok so Crispin don't like the word charged, well how about a Verdict that found YOU Ashley Crispin and Brian O'Connell seriously guilty of breach of fiduciary duties?)

· · · · · THE COURT:· Okay.· With regard to the word charged, sustained.


Question:  Is there a verdict that claims you breached fiduciary duties and negligence in the handling of an estate?

Answer:   There was a verdict but the matter has been settled and the case has been dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a confidential settlement.

(ok so the matter was "SETTLED" so this somehow means that the case was dismissed, um what? There was a 16.4 MILLION Dollar Verdict. Whatever the Settlement that made them pay less or nothing who knows, well that does not Change the VERDICT. They did it, they were found Guilty of it. Period.  - So the Confidential Settlement somehow makes it so the bad guys who really did harm people for years, violate human and civil rights, well they are somehow NOT GUILTY of any of it because of a "Confidential Settlement" WHAT? 

And a "Confidential Settlement" that somehow O'Connell thinks makes them Not Guilty was negotiated with Alan Rose as his attorney, WOW, gee now that seems like obstruction of justice to me as if O'Connell and Crispin really were GUILTY as they were found, well then they did the same thing in the Bernstein Case, where Alan Rose represents and adverse party I believe, well that would be pattern and history right.

There is a Whole Lot Wrong with all this Folks. )

· · ·Q· · Who was your attorney in that settlement?

· · ·A· · Wicker, Smith.

· · ·Q· · Was it Alan Rose?

· · ·A· · Alan Rose came in after the verdict to represent the law firm while Ms. Crispin and I were
represented by the Wicker, Smith firm as we had been from the inception of the case.

· · ·Q· · So the verdict stood?

· · ·A· · No.


· · ·Q· · So there was a jury verdict that you had breached and committed negligence with Ashley Crispin, correct?

· · · · · MR. ROSE:· Objection, relevance and repetitive.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Sustained.

 MR. BERNSTEIN:· By the way, Your Honor, something strange here has occurred.  Mr. Rose is O'Connell's counsel.

· · · · · THE COURT:· Excuse me.· Do you have a
· · ·question for this witness?· You have one question left. "

Full Court Hearing, Brian O'Connell Under Oath Transcript

Gee I hope that West Palm Florida Attorney Alan Rose is Next, and Mark Manceri, Steve Lessne of Gunster, Brian O'Connell and Ashley Crispin, Diana Lewis and the Whole Gang of Attorneys involved in the Estate of Simon Bernstein and Estate of Shirley Bernstein in Judge Rosemarie Scher's Court, formerly Judge John Philips case and Judge Martin Colin.


"NY Atty, Judge Accused Of Stealing Over $4M From Trusts"

"Law360 (February 23, 2018, 9:08 PM EST) --

A judge in upstate New York and an attorney have been arrested for allegedly stealing more than $4 million from the family trusts they were responsible for overseeing, the New York state attorney general announced Friday.

Richard J. Sherwood, 57, who is an attorney with an Albany law firm and part-time judge for the town of Guilderland, and Thomas K. Lagan, 59, who is an attorney and former financial adviser, were each charged in a felony complaint filed in Albany City Court with various counts of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and scheme to defraud.

“As we allege, the defendants orchestrated a complex scheme to steal millions from trusts they were responsible for protecting,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement.

 “We have zero tolerance for those who try to game the system and violate the public trust in order to line their own pockets.”

According to the complaint, Sherwood and Lagan provided estate planning services to former General Electric Co. executive Warren Bruggeman, his wife Pauline Bruggeman and her sister Anne S. Urban starting in at least 2006.

It was in that year, the complaint alleged, that the Bruggemans — who by then were elderly and had a reputation for philanthropy in the Albany region — each set up trusts for themselves that also housed sub-trusts intended to benefit Urban and Julia Rentz, Pauline and Anne’s sister.

Warren Bruggeman died in April 2009, leaving his assets to flow through his trust and on to his wife Pauline, who died in August 2011, leaving behind assets in her trust and elsewhere of more than $19.8 million, the complaint said.

Upon their deaths, the complaint alleged, the trust terms called for Urban and Rentz to each get about $2 million from one of the sub-trusts and for Urban to get another $4 million, half of which was to go into another sub-trust specifically for her “health, education, maintenance and support.”

Once Urban died, the remaining money from that sub-trust was supposed to revert back to her sister Pauline’s trust, the funds from which were then to be divvied up among six charities.

Urban in September 2011 signed paperwork putting Sherwood and Lagan in charge of her sister Pauline’s trust and estate, and two months later, Urban approved the creation of another trust in her name that Sherwood and Lagan were also in control of, the complaint said.

The trust documents allegedly specified that the trustee had free rein to parcel out the trust assets to anyone, as long as the trustee had the successor trustee’s approval.

Given that Sherwood and Lagan were designated as trustee and successor trustee, respectively, the two men were in a position to use the trust to their own benefit, the complaint said.

The complaint alleged that Sherwood then moved $4 million out of the Pauline Bruggeman trust and into the new Urban trust’s bank account, while people close to Rentz — who was suffering from dementia — later sent another $2.9 million to the trust after Sherwood allegedly led them to believe the money was destined for the charities benefited by the Pauline Bruggeman trust.

After Urban died in February 2013, the complaint said, the charities did receive some distributions from Pauline Bruggeman’s trust but didn’t get any of what they were supposed to get from the money that had been set aside for Urban’s care.

That money was in fact being disposed of through the Urban trust that Sherwood and Lagan controlled, according to the complaint.

The two men set up another trust, the Empire Capital Trust, for their benefit in 2014 and funded it with money wired from the Urban trust, the complaint said.

Sherwood also allegedly authorized transfers of more than $6 million in Urban trust money to bank accounts in his and Lagan’s names in January 2015.

The complaint said that an investigator with the attorney general’s office interviewed Sherwood this week at his firm, where he subsequently admitted to conspiring with Lagan to get the more than $2 million from Rentz.

“He also admitted that the [Urban trust] was a mechanism used to steal the estate funds and that he and Lagan divided the proceeds of this scheme in roughly even amounts,” the complaint said.

“Sherwood also stated that the scheme, including the wording of the trusts, was devised by Lagan but that he, Sherwood, drafted the documents in order to effectuate it.”

Contact information for Sherwood and Lagan was not immediately available late Friday.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Christopher Baynes and Matthew Peluso of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Daniel G. Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz.

Counsel information for Sherwood and Lagan was not immediately available late Friday.

The case is People of the State of New York v. Sherwood, et al., case number unavailable, in the Albany City Court. "

--Editing by Joe Phalon.

Source of Post

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Marc Manceri, John Pankauski, Diana Lewis. Alan Rose of Mrachek, Fitzgerald, ROSE, Konopka, Thomas & Weiss knew that that Judge John Philips, at his request and the request of attorney Steve Lessne of Gunster, put a Guardianship on Adults with NO Competency Hearing. This among what I believe to be a whole lot of liability caused to quite a few third parties in the Estate of Simon Bernstein and the Estate of Shirley Bernstein.

 Julian Bivins v. Curtis Rogers. Bivins v. Rogers Case:

"Will a Guardianship Judge’s orders approving your client’s actions shield you from third-party Malpractice Liability?"

"Bivins v. Rogers, 2017 WL 5526874 (S.D. Fla., June 01, 2017)

The general trend in Florida is that a third-party beneficiary of your legal services can sue you for malpractice — and it doesn’t matter that the third party was never your client, had zero privity of contract with you, and may have even been adverse to your actual client in related litigation.
This risk is especially acute in contested probate and guardianship proceedings.
Past examples include cases in which the beneficiaries of a deceased ward’s estate had standing to sue the guardian’s lawyers for malpractice (see here), estate beneficiaries had standing to sue a decedent’s estate planning attorneys for malpractice (see here), a ward had standing to sue the attorney for his former court-appointed guardian for malpractice (see here), and a successor personal representative had standing to sue his predecessor’s attorney for malpractice (see here).
Risk management:
The way most probate and guardianship attorneys manage this kind of risk is to obtain court orders approving the actions of their fiduciary clients (preferably in advance). Surely you can’t get sued for actions a judge has previously ruled are OK, right? 
That’s the question addressed in this U.S. District Court order entered in the Bivins case (which has already been the subject of some commentary on this blog; see here for my take on the court’s ruling regarding Florida’s attorney-client privilege statute as applied to fiduciaries).
Will a guardianship judge’s orders approving your client’s actions shield you from third-party malpractice liability? NO
This case involves a contested guardianship proceeding involving millions of dollars in assets that bled over into a probate proceeding. 
After the ward died his son (who had been locked in ugly litigation against his father’s court-appointed guardians for years prior to his father’s death) was appointed personal representative of his father’s estate. And guess what he did next? He sued the same lawyers he’d been litigating against for malpractice.
The guardian’s lawyers cried foul, arguing that the claims against them were barred by either res judicata or collateral estoppel because the wrongful actions they were being accused of had all previously been approved of by the guardianship judge.
In what will probably come as a shock to most practitioners — the federal judge ruled against the lawyers despite the prior approving orders. Why?

Because the lawyers weren’t actually parties to the underlying guardianship litigation; they were just counsel for one of the parties (the guardian). And because they weren’t parties, they don’t get the defensive benefits of those great orders the guardianship judge had entered saying they and their client had done a great job.

Here’s how the court explained its ruling:
These claims are not barred by either res judicata or collateral estoppel for the simple reason that the Defendant attorneys were not parties or in privity with any party before the guardianship court. In Keramati v. Schackow, the court held that res judicata did not bar bringing a legal malpractice case against attorneys who had represented the plaintiffs in an earlier case even though the earlier case was settled and the clients certified that the settlement was “fair and just.” Keramati v. Schackow, 553 So.2d 741 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1989). 
The court observed that, in the first case, “the adequacy of the amount settled for was not litigated.” Id. at 744. Here, Plaintiff did not have an opportunity to bring its legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duties against the Defendant attorneys before the guardianship court.
In so finding, the Court rejects the Defendant attorneys’ argument that they are “joint tortfeasors” with the guardians and that there is no way to distinguish the alleged harm by the Defendant attorneys from the alleged harm by the guardians. 
To the contrary, the Defendant attorneys owe duty of care to the ward as well as to the guardian. Fla. AGO 96–94, 1996 WL 680981 (Fla. A.G. Nov. 20, 1996); see Saadeh v. Connors, 166 So. 3d 959, 964 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2015) (finding that the ward is an intended third-party beneficiary of the attorney for the guardian and that therefore the attorney owed the ward a duty of care).
Next, in arguing that summary judgment should be granted on the claims against the Defendant attorneys for malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty, Defendants contend that the guardianship court already determined that all the actions being complained of were made in the best interest of the ward. The Court rejects this argument. 
As discussed supra, the guardianship court never considered whether the Defendant attorneys engaged in malpractice or breached their fiduciary duties. As such, the Court will not grant summary judgment on these claims on the basis of the guardianship court’s rulings.
Jury hits lawyers with $16.4M verdict:
So what do you think happened next?

Here’s where your natural instincts as a practicing attorney used to thinking un-appealed court orders actually mean something, might be your undoing.

If a judge has previously approved every transaction you’re currently being sued over, surely a jury of your peers isn’t going to slam you for that same conduct, right? Wrong!
When the case went to trial things went very, very badly for the defendant attorneys, as reported by the Palm Beach Post in Jury hits lawyers with $16.4M for doing senior wrong in guardianship.

Here’s an excerpt:
Advocates for guardianship reform clamored in vain for years that Florida’s system failed to properly protect incapacitated seniors, that its primary purpose had been perverted to line the pockets of greedy attorneys and professional guardians with the hard-earned life savings of the elderly.
Now they can point to a new federal verdict awarding a whopping $16.4 million in a lawsuit claiming that two West Palm Beach attorneys breached their fiduciary duties while running up “unnecessary and excessive fees” of $1 million
The jury found on July 28 that attorneys Brian M. O’Connell and Ashley N. Crispin of the Ciklin, Lubitz & O’Connell firm not only breached their fiduciary duty but committed professional negligence.
The lawsuit claimed they failed to get appraisals on two high-end New York City properties being divided among family. They were not of equal value and as a result, Julian Bivins ended up with one that was worth millions less than other.
The jury’s decision to award $16.4 million makes up the difference.
So what’s the takeaway?
Shortly after the trial the primary parties settled, which means there likely won’t be any appeals of the trial court’s pre-trial orders. So for now, the last word we’ll have on whether a res judicata or collateral estoppel defense works in this kind of third-party malpractice litigation is the Bivins case, which I predict is going to give a lot of probate and guardianship lawyers heartburn."

Source of Post and Full Article

Also Check Out the Following Articles

"5th DCA: Can estate beneficiaries sue the guardian’s lawyers for estate planning malpractice?"

"4th DCA: Do the beneficiaries of an estate have standing to sue the decedent’s estate planning attorneys for malpractice?"

"1st DCA: In case of first impression Appellate Court rules successor PR has standing to sue prior PR’s attorney for malpractice"

"4th DCA: Can a ward sue the attorney for his former court-appointed guardian for malpractice?"

"Does the common-law “fiduciary exception” to the attorney-client privilege still matter in Florida?"

Julian Bivins Case Filings, Motions and Information

 third-party malpractice litigation, res judicata or collateral estoppel defense, Judge John Philips, Guardian Diana Lewis, Judge Martin Colin, Ted Bernstein Boca Raton, Donald Tescher, Robert Spallina, Mark Manceri, John Pankauski, Alan Rose, Brian O'Connell, Ashley Crispin, Judge Howard Coates, Judge Corey Ciklin, Pam Simon STP, David Simon, West Palm Beach Probate and Estate Courts, Florida Estate Case, Florida Predatory Guardianship, Estate of Simon Bernstein, Mitch Huhem Death, Real Estate Fraud, Larry Pino, Deborah Huhem, Sotheby's, John Poletto, Gregg Geffen. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Brian O'Connell Florida Lawyer involved in Predatory Guardianship Florida. The Shot across the Bow as they say, or perhaps a gentle war cry. As a New Attorney enters the Estate of Simon Bernstein, Estate of Shirley Bernstein Probate Court Case in West Palm Florida, Judge Rosemarie Scher Court. Formerly the Court of Judge Martin Colin.

The Shot across the Bow. 
The Not so Subtle, Gentle, Firm War Cry. 

“what's happened is that a guardian ad litem 
was appointed by the Court.  
At the time that that happened, 
our client was already 18 years old 
and had full 14 capacity to represent himself.”

Years of objections by pro se litigants. Cease and Desist letters with all the applicable law. Experienced lawyers, judges and yet years of a Predatory Guardianship that is in CLEAR violation of LAW and of Civil Rights.  And the courts let it go on and on, doing NOTHING to hold them accountable, Why?

February 6, 2018

“On behalf of Joshua Bernstein: PERLMAN, BAJANDAS, YEVOLI & ALBRIGHT, P.L.”

Source and Full West Palm South Florida Court Transcript, Judge Rosemarie Scher Court

Watch the Lawyer Rats Scramble. Watch the Insurance Companies Exposed. Watch the Truth Roll Out and the Culture of Corruption become Transparent for ALL to SEE.

Keep in mind that Guardian Diana Lewis is an experienced professional in all manner of law that is involved in these cases, as she was an area Judge that dealt with these same legal issues.

Diana Lewis has NO Valid Legal EXCUSE to have not known or understood Florida Guardian Law. In my opinion, she is even more liable as she was someone with expertise and superior knowledge of law.

Keep in Mind that Diana Lewis was given a Cease and Desist long ago that explained to her what she may have not known, though she certainly should have, as she was a professional and has superior knowledge of these matters.  She did nothing to correct this issue nor did the courts or attorneys involved in the cases at that time.

Also keep in mind that for Judge Diana Lewis was not a Guardian prior to this. And Diana Lewis was not picked randomly. She was an old family friend of Brian O'Connell, the PR in this case. I say specifically picked to aid and abet Alan Rose, Ted Bernstein, and Brian O'Connell to cover up years of unethical and fraudulent activities.

Diana Lewis started a new business for her Guardianship simply because she was asked by an attorney in the case, either Alan Rose or Brian O'Connell, check out the Transcript Below.

Cease and Desists Letters to Guardian Diana Lewis

Guardian Diana Lewis claims to not know that she had to file reports or that she had to end guardianship when her wards turned 18 per Florida Law.  Admits to knowing Josh was 18, at the very least when it "whispered" in her ear, as she stated on the stand under Oath. 

An ATTORNEY contacted Diana Lewis to be Guardian? Which parties interest was this attorney representing when they called former Judge Diana Lewis to be Guardian?

Transparency and Accountability 
Coming to a Court Near YOU