This is the final chapter in the story of Al Katz, Holocaust survivor. It tells how a judicial system that is designed to protect the life, liberty and property of Al Katz went awry. It is about a judicial and state guardianship system that exploited Al Katz. It is about guardians and attorneys who neither guarded him nor followed the laws of the State of Florida. It is about a system that from September 2009 until his death kept Al from his family's natural authority and in state custody. It is about a system that looted rather than protected Al's assets even today over seven months after his passing.
It is about a horribly failed system.I call this last chapter: Florida's Final Solution. Al survived National Socialist Germany's Final Solution but not Florida's.The story begins at 4:38 p.m. on September 18, 2009 when Al Katzs long-time former Indiana attorney, Ron Isaac, telephones Beverly Newman and informs her that Al Katz was put into public guardianship in Bradenton, Florida, earlier that day. Isaac had promised Louis Katz, son of Al Katz and Executive Vice President and Treasurer of the George Washington University, that he would not release the information to Beverly Newman until after the guardianship proceeding was completed.
This action illegally puts Al into temporary public guardianship, which is only for indigents who have no qualified family members willing to care for them. Florida attorney James Knowles, representing the public guardian, intentionally does not list Beverly Newman as Katzs next-of-kin on the guardianship petition, although the listing and notification of hearing are required by law (F.S. 744.334 and F.S. 744.3371). Even though the probate judge is told that Katz owns two homes and has bank accounts; that Katz is domiciled in Indiana; and that Beverly Newman had already filed for guardianship in Indiana ten months before, knowing all of this Judge Janette Dunnigan puts Al into public guardianship, against Florida law.
When the public guardians, Jo Eisch and Ashley Butler, hear that Beverly Newman has found out about their guardianship of her Father, and is already traveling from Indiana to rescue and bring Al home to Indiana, Eisch and Butler obtain a Baker Act order, to put Al into involuntary mental health isolation at Manatee Memorial Hospital.After a September 24, 2009 meeting in the lobby of Manatee Memorial Hospital between Katzs psychiatrist, David Panting, hospital personnel, and the public guardians, Ashley Butler of Aging Safely has Al put into mental health lock down in the basement of Manatee Memorial Hospital.
A no contact order is put on, isolating Al, a Holocaust survivor, from all family and friends. The meeting takes place immediately after Als psychiatrist had cleared him to be released from the hospital and return to his Bradenton condo to be cared for by his daughter. Al is kept in a Baker Act lock down for three weeks, despite the laws 72-hour limit. During this period, Al develops pitting edema from walking the halls all day and night, filled with anxiety and panic separated from his family.
Understanding her Father's background and his unmet need for family, Beverly Newman and her husband, Larry, begin filing lengthy motions to Probate Judge Paul E. Logan, who is now in charge of Al Katzs case, in order to have Al Katzs illegal guardianship overturned. Judge Logan refuses to schedule hearings on any of the dozens of motions filed by the Newman's to overturn the guardianship and sanction the public guardians and various other persons who continuously violate Florida laws against the rights and interests of Al Katz.
To add insult to injury Als public guardian shuts off his cell phone and the telephone in his Bradenton condominium. The public guardian removes Als car from the condo parking lot to an unknown location, where it is kept from Katz and his family for many months. By mid-September 2009 the guardians had already cleaned out Als condominium, taking documents and valuables from every drawer and every closet, most of which were never returned.After a two-day court hearing in October 2009, Beverly Newman obtains a court order permitting her three hours of visitation per day with her Father.
Al is now in lock down in a Bradenton nursing home. Beverlys visitation motion is strongly opposed by the public guardian and by Katzs own court-appointed attorney, Ernie Lisch. Without visitations from Beverly Newman, Al Katz would be left in Florida without a single family member to see him.Like all Holocaust survivors, Katzs greatest fears in life were institutionalization and abandonment, both of which were ordered by the State of Florida.Although the public guardian has full medical decision-making power for Al under law, the public guardians illegally permit Als designated Healthcare Representative and Indiana nurse, Jackie Steuerwald, to make medical decisions, even though Al never gave Steuerwald such powers.
Steuerwald then illegally hires Florida professional guardian Eric Jason as Als Care Manager, and delegates medical decision-making powers to Jason that Steuerwald never had to begin with. Both Steuerwald and Jason are represented by attorney John Waskom of Icard Merrill. Steuerwald, Als former nurse in Indiana, vacations in Paris, France, while she has illegally given life-and-death powers to a total stranger over elderly and frail Al Katz. While under the care of Eisch, Butler, Steuerwald, and Jason, Al Katz nearly dies from sepsis, after no one got him medical care at the immediately-adjacent Blake Hospital for three days despite a fever that reached 107 degrees and Beverly Newmans repeated pleas for three days on her Fathers behalf.
In desperation Beverly Newman hires Sarasota attorney Gerald F. OBrien to represent her to obtain guardianship of her Father. OBrien recommends professional guardian Herbert Schimmel to be guardian of Al Katzs Florida property. OBrien does not reveal to Beverly Newman that Schimmel has been a long-time client of OBrien, and that OBrien currently was representing Schimmel in a number of guardianship cases. This conflict of interest later causes major problems in Katzs guardianship, when OBrien refuses on numerous occasions to take actions against Schimmel for continuing gross breaches of fiduciary duty.
At the end of October 2009 the Manatee County Probate Court, under Judge Paul Logan, holds a three-day guardianship trial to determine the permanent guardian for Al Katz. For three grueling days, Beverly Newman is fighting the State of Florida in order to care for her own Father at no taxpayer expense, for the rest of his life. Beverly Newman is solely fighting the State of Florida to care for her own Father, in a lengthy trial costing the taxpayers and Al Katz tens of thousands of dollars.Three weeks after the grueling guardianship trial, with Al at deaths door, the Manatee Probate Court appoints Beverly Newman as Guardian of the Person of Al Katz, and appoints professional guardian Herbert Schimmel of Sarasota as Guardian of the Florida Property of Al Katz.The court gives up ownership of the body but keeps his property, without which he is nothing but a shell of a man.Schimmel then hires Sarasota attorney Edwin M. Boyer to represent him.
By this time, Al's health is already irreparably damaged. He is unable to walk, talk, and eat, and has developed severe bedsores at Blake Hospital that last for four months. His daughter Beverly begins to nurse her Father back to health and cancels all orders for narcotics and psychotropics prescribed by Dr. James J. Hanusa and Dr. David Panting, who had Al Katz on what some would describe as debilitating dosages for years.Herbert Schimmel callously sends an e-mail to his attorney and Beverly Newmans attorney in which he describes his plans to spend down Katzs hundreds of thousands of dollars and puts Al into a nursing home on Medicaid at taxpayer expense, which would be a direct violation of Katzs written advance directives, that state, in no event shall I ever be placed in a nursing home facility or in hospice care. (Schimmel e-mail)
In the email, Schimmel also tells Gerald OBrien and Edwin Boyer that he is (illegally) taking funds from Katzs Indiana accounts, over which he has no jurisdiction. OBrien makes no objection to this taking of Al's property. Schimmels initial accounting overstates the value of Katzs real property by more than $100,000.00. The judge then approves it.In February 2010 Ernie Lisch, Katzs court-appointed guardianship attorney, is awarded attorney fees of almost $25,000.00 despite never filing a single document or taking a single note in the case. Schimmel does not oppose Lischs fee petition, which is granted in full by the court despite Beverly Newmans opposition.
Beverly Newman and her husband appeal the fee award pro se, and the appeal is still pending. In January Schimmel empties Katzs Indiana bank accounts of over $36,000.00, even though Schimmel has no jurisdiction in Indiana.During this entire ordeal thousand of dollars in needless attorney and guardian fees are incurred.At the end of June Schimmel files his Final Report. In seven months of guardianship, Al Katz has incurred a total of approximately $75,000 in professional guardian and attorney fees. Schimmel and his lawyer subsequently file for an additional $46,000.00 in additional fees, mostly for work performed after Mr. Katz had passed away.
On July 11, 2010 Al Katz passes away. There are not sufficient funds left in his guardianship account to bury him, so his son-in-law pays for and personally guarantees the funeral bills for Mr. Katz. To make matters worse Schimmels Petition for Discharge is granted by the Court, but the court never issues an order of discharge, claiming that Schimmel is still Al Katzs guardian in February 2011, over seven months after Al passed away. The court then orders additionalprofessional guardian and attorney fees, six months after Al Katz passed away. The additional fees are more than the $13,000.00 left in Katzs guardianship account.
As a result, Al Katzs Estate gets not one cent from the guardianship and is left without Katzs legal and financial documents from the past decade.Throughout the guardianship of Al Katz, the Court issues many orders against Als family: that Beverly Newman cannot access Katzs assets, including documents needed to administer the Estate; order eliminating bond; denial of the Newmans four motions to recues Judge Logan; order to show cause why Beverly should not be sanctioned, and sanction of Larry Newman; denial of any sanctions against Schimmel and Boyer. Dozens of orders are issued ruling against the family of Al Katz, but not a single hearing is scheduled to overturn the illegal guardianship or to sanction any of the perpetrators of the illegal guardianship and for charging 25-50% over the capped rates for attorneys and professional guardians in the same judicial district.
SummaryDespite countless violations of Florida law, and gross breaches of fiduciary duties, not a single sanction is given in one-and-one-half years of guardianship, against any guardian, attorney, or other professional for violating the rights of Al Katz. Every single cent of Al Katzs liquid assets is consumed by the fraudulent guardianship. Mr. Katz is left, for the first time in his lifetime, deeply in debt to the IRS, many different businesses and professionals, and the State of Indiana Department of Revenue. Even though Schimmel never filed tax documents for Al Katz; never paid taxes for Al Katz, which is tax fraud; stole Al Katzs mail; stole Beverly Newmans mail and committed extensive perjury, the court never sanctions Schimmel or his attorney, Edwin Boyer. Boyer is the current President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and a faculty member of the Stetson College of Law.But there is good news! Beverly Newman has launched the Al Katz Campaign To Save Holocaust Survivors from Institutionalization and organizes other bereft families and former wards against the corrupt Florida guardianship system.There still is hope in this tangled world. Blessing upon Al and his family.