Multiple Attorneys Removed from Cases Due to Conflicts of Interest with Guardian Oversight and Attorney-Hospital Relationships

In two recent opinions, Michigan and South Carolina courts have removed attorneys from multiple cases where investigations revealed that they were abusing their powers as clients’ guardians and conservators. Investigations revealed several ethical violations, including an undisclosed agreement in which a hospital would pay the attorney to petition for guardianship of patients. Both attorneys also abused their power by allowing family members to move into the homes of hospitalized clients without their knowledge or consent. In both opinions, the court noted that the attorney’s actions were clear violations of, among other rules, the conflicts of interest rules under 1.7.

These two cases are among hundreds around the country that prompted a recent report in The New Yorker. The article focused on a rash of cases in Clark County, Nevada, in which several elderly individuals were removed from their homes without notice or legal representation. Rather than representing clients who truly needed their help, attorneys were following a routine of temporary guardianship in pursuit of easy payouts. The ethically violative behavior of these attorneys included requests that courts grant them authority to intervene immediately based on vague descriptions of their ward’s medical conditions, minimal physician reports, and reports that wards were too incapacitated to attend a court hearing.

Nevada has begun to address this problem by enacting legislation that entitles all wards of the state to legal representation. For the time being, while these measures are not a cure all for the growing misconduct of certain attorneys, this legislation may provide relief for the people who need it most.

Read more on this issue here.

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