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(Allegedly) Chicago probate courts suck eggs & other cautionary tales for seniors

Did you know that, legally, you can tell or write down any damn lie that you please about anyone else on the planet — as long as you qualify it by saying or writing the magic word “allegedly” just before you start lying through your teeth?  Apparently you can — because the use of “allegedly” changes a statement of fact into an opinion, and opinions do not have to be proven because, “pure opinions, by their very nature, cannot be proven true or false.”  Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990)

And did you know that you can also say or write pretty much any damn lie that you please in any court document or in front of any judge in America as well — and not even have to use the word “allegedly” either?  And especially if you are a lawyer?  Apparently lawyers get to set their pants on fire in court even more freely than the rest of us schmucks.

I recently found this out the hard way when I filed a libel suit in small claims court because the defendants I was suing had (allegedly) lied their pants off about me in a probate matter where money was involved (and as we all know, where money is involved, anything can happen — and usually does).

The judge, however, then ruled against me — even though the defendants had clearly lied like rugs and I could easily prove it.  So why the adverse ruling?  Because apparently it is always okay to tell any kind of whopper one pleases about anybody — as long as said whopper is written or spoken in court documents or in front of a judge.

“You can say anything you want in a court document or in front of me,” said the judge, “due to what is called the ‘Litigation Privilege’.”  Never heard of it.  But obviously the defendants, one of whom was a lawyer, were (allegedly) VERY familiar with the term.

But then, of course, (allegedly) mendacious defendants then have to prove that what they say to a judge is actually true — in most courts.  But (allegedly) you can say anything that you want in a Chicago probate or conservatorship court — and not even have to prove what you say is true.  What’s with that?

(Allegedly) the Chicago probate and conservatorship system is set up so that if you might happen to see a rich old lady walking down the street, you can follow her home to get her 411, then go to court and tell the judge that said rich old lady is incompetent, ask to become her guardian, wait for her to die — and then spend her millions any way that you damn well please!  Or, in many cases, you don’t even have to wait for her to die.  You can just dump her in some sleazy flea-infested rest home and start living the Good Life right now.

So why is this information about (allegedly) sleazy probate courts in Chicago important to you and me too?  Here’s why.  We all are eventually going to die.  Every one of us dies.  That’s what all human being eventually do.  We die.  And when that eventually happens to us too, do we really want some (allegedly) corrupt probate or conservatorship court to be the one distributing our estate to whomever they please?

Hell no.

But it could happen.  And it (allegedly) has already happened to some nice little old lady in Chicago named Mary Sykes  She was out bowling one day with her youngest daughter and while she was (allegedly) rolling strikes and splits, her elder daughter went off to court, got an illegal conservatorship order against Mary, drilled out her safety deposit box illegally, made off with a whole mail-sack full of Double Eagle gold coins and is now living the good life while her mom is being forced to choke down unneeded drugs to keep her sedated in some God-awful rest home because her elder daughter has also sold her house.

This could happen to you too.

Where money is involved, anything can happen.

And with all these millions of baby-boomers floating around bowling alleys these days, it is definitely time to tighten up America’s probate and conservatorship laws so that you and I don’t end up like Mary Sykes.  Well, at least you.  No worries for me — because while I do have several “unpredictable relatives,” I don’t own a house or have a safety deposit box.

PS:  The Berkeley-Albany Bar Association just held their latest MCLE seminar — this time on the subject of America’s current marijuana laws.  Did you know that pot is legal 19 states right now?  The Feds, however, have completely ignored this current trend and have been brutally cracking down on medical marijuana users in the last two years — and spending tons of billions of dollars doing it too. Why the big crack-downs?  Because (allegedly) there are big bucks to be made if you own a prison or work for the DEA.

“But,” you might say, “what does all that have to do with the elderly?”  A lot.

Since senior citizens and retirees compose one of the largest groups of legal medical cannabis users in America today, and also compose one of the largest groups living in subsidized housing, then as the Feds enthusiastically pursue their current policy of throwing legal medical cannabis users living in subsidized housing out on the streets, there is going to a LOT more poor sweet homeless elders hopelessly shuffling around America’s freeway-on-ramps, selling oranges, begging for spare change and living in cardboard boxes in their old age.  Yuck!

PPS:  Getting old and creaky in the knees is already bad enough — but to also face the added burden of possibly being handed down a life sentence to some old-folks-home-from-Hell and robbed blind by our very own conservator and/or be thrown in jail by the local Feds merely for seeking pain relief?  We might as well have lived fast and died young!

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Jane Stillwater

Jane Stillwater