California County, Others To Pay More Than $650,000 In Same-Sex Elder Abuse Case

Late last week, representatives of Sonoma County, California agreed to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf Clay Greene and the estate of Harold Scull, Greene’s deceased partner of 20 years.  According to the suit, Greene and Scull had each executed mutual powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions and wills naming each other as beneficiaries. In April 2008, County employees in the Public Guardian’s office separated the couple after Scull fell outside their shared home. In the next three months, County officials ignored the couple’s legal documentation, unlawfully auctioned their possessions, terminated their lease, and forced Greene into an assisted living facility against his will. The County did not consult Greene in Scull’s medical care and prevented the two from seeing one another.

In August, 2008, before the partners could be reunited, Scull passed away after completing a photo album of the couple’s life for Greene.

In August, 2009, Greene and the representative of Scull’s estate filed a lawsuit against County officials and others alleging elder abuse, elder financial abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and other claims.  The plaintiffs were represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Under the terms of the settlement, Sonoma County will pay $600,000 to the plaintiffs, with a smaller payment of $53,000 coming from the remaining defendants.  In addition, as a result of the lawsuit, Sonoma County has changed or modified a number of important policies in its Public Guardian’s Office, including requiring County employees to follow protocols before seizing private property, preventing County employees from relocating elders or others against their will, and prohibiting County employees from backdating information in their guardianship database.

NCLR is to be commended for taking on this most egregious case and seeing it through to a favorable conclusion for the plaintiffs.  As a resident of Sonoma County, on a personal and professional level, I am deeply disturbed that it took a lawsuit to cajole the County into “modifying” policies requiring its employees to “follow protocols before seizing private property” of its residents, “relocating elders against their will,” and “prohibiting County employees from backdating information.”  It should not be necessary for anyone – regardless of sexual orientation – to resort to court action to prevent such abuses.  The monetary settlement notwithstanding, what this couple lost cannot be replaced by any court.

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The Graying LGBT Community: Important Survey Being Taken On LGBT Seniors’ Issues

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 15:  Kate Kendell, executi...
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National Senior Citizens Law Center in partnership with Lambda Legal, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) are working together to raise awareness of the unique issues faced by the aging LGBT population, particularly in residential or assisted living settings.  For some time, particularly with the development of a viable medical response to the AIDS epidemic, these issues have loomed on the horizon.  It is excellent to see these commendable and respectable groups working together to address an area where community needs overlap.

As part of the work they are doing, these organizations have asked that certain individuals fill out a short survey, which you can link to here.  The deadline for completion of the survey has been extended to February 28, 2010.  Therefore, I am calling on all of my readers, colleagues, and anyone else who falls within the categories of individuals being asked to fill out the survey to take a few moments to share your thoughts.  The categories of individuals being asked to fill out the survey are:

  • A lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender older adult who lives or has lived in a long-term care facility;
  • A caregiver of an LGBT older adult who lives or has lived in a long-term care facility;
  • A family member or friend with knowledge of an LGBT older adult’s experience in a long-term care facility;
  • A social worker or other helping professional who works with older adults

Many of my readers are likely to be in the legal profession, whether as lawyers, law students, para-professionals, or administrative staff.  If you work in a firm or other capacity assisting the elderly, then your input as a “helping professional” is needed.  I will certainly be filling out the survey myself.

You may follow the link I provided to fill out the survey online, or if you prefer to fill it out manually, then you can mail it to:

Nancy Arevalo
National Senior Citizens Law Center
1330 Broadway, Suite 525
Oakland, CA 94612

Thanks in advance for your time on this important project.

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