For over twenty-five years I have worked on issues involving people with diminished mental and/or physical capacity as a private attorney, as the former Executive Director of the National Guardianship Association, and as Chair of the NGA State Affairs Committee. With a background as a teacher, a historian, an attorney, and a guardian/fiduciary, I began developing a “Guardianships of the Rich and Famous” series of presentations that are fun and entertaining educational sessions that are ideal for keynote speeches, general sessions, and smaller breakout trainings for guardians, conservators, families and professionals with interest in valued ethical and legal principles of capacity adjudications.
Please find attached descriptions of the sessions I have developed to date – I would be very pleased to discuss opportunities to present on these really fascinating people of interest to guardians and conservators.
Beach Boy Brian Wilson is considered by many to be one of America’s true musical geniuses. Even George Martin, producer of the Beatles, has said that Brian Wilson was able to challenge everything he and Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr collectively accomplished. However, few know the story of how Wilson slipped into mental illness and drug addiction in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, only to be saved by a Ph.D psychologist who himself nearly destroyed Wilson. In 1989 Brian Wilson’s family and the Beach Boys initiated a conservatorship proceeding in Santa Monica, California, to rescue Wilson from his savior. This session will examine Brian Wilson’s genius and severe mental illness, and how the guardianship/conservatorship process returned Wilson to a healthy and productive lifestyle and musical career. The highlight of the session is archival video, interviews, and photographs, as well as the music of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson as a solo artist.
Groucho Marx is generally considered to be one of the funniest comedians, whether in Vaudeville, on the radio, in film, or on TV. However, late in his life, Marx came under the influence of a woman who became his caretaker, lover, and ultimately his manager. Marx alienated his family and increasingly came under the total control of Ms. Fleming, who shepherded Marx around to various television and live performance venues while taking a percentage of the fees. Marx’s family finally intervened, and sought conservatorship on Mr. Marx and his estate in 1977. Sensational headlines filled the news in Los Angeles while Marx’s conservators worked to protect him from Ms. Fleming. Lengthy litigation followed, with a corporate fiduciary recovering a substantial judgment for damages against Fleming. The highlight of this session is archival video, interviews, and photographs focusing on the comedy and tragedy in the life of Graucho Marx, and the challenges families and professionals face when intervening in such cases.
Mary Todd Lincoln endured the deaths of three children, the assassination of her husband – the President, a conservatorship proceeding initiated by her only surviving son, and an insanity trial which rendered her a “lunatic.” This session analyzes the legal proceedings brought against Mrs. Lincoln in a Chicago courtroom by Robert Todd Lincoln, and the dichotomy between newly-reformed statutes designed to ensure due process protections for the mentally ill and the practical application, or misapplication, of those statutes by the presiding judge, counsel, and jury which convicted Mrs. Lincoln of the allegations against her. Included in the session are historical documents from the 1875 judicial proceedings, as well as Mrs. Lincoln’s remarkable restoration with the help of committed advocates who worked tirelessly to assist Mrs. Lincoln. The session will also focus on conflicts of interest among treating physicians who sought to commit Mrs. Lincoln as well as the challenges faced by family members who seek to intervene with court proceedings when a loved one is viewed as acting in an eccentric and unacceptable manner. Special emphasis will be given to similarities and differences between 19 th and 21 st century capacity adjudications, and the ethical lessons learned from the trials of Mary Todd Lincoln.
King George III was known as the “Mad King.” He suffered from debilitating mental illness warranting the appointment of a “regent” to assume the throne. This is a historical look at the near-insurmountable problems faced by the Court of King George III and will address modern challenges when serving as conservator for “the King.” This session will focus on the historical records of the illness of King George III, his treatment by physicians of the day, and recent findings and conclusions of the causes of the King’s intermittent and debilitating illness. Excerpts from the film “The Madness of King George” will be shown depicting the treatment of the king by his family, physicians, and Parliament. Special emphasis will be given to the challenges faced by guardians and conservators for the Chief Executive, who has always been in charge, and the ethical challenges and potential successes and likely pitfalls when dealing a command personality with difficult medical, mental, public, emotional, and family situations and associations.
Woodrow Wilson, the 28 th President of the United States, suffered from health issues that were concealed from the American public. Even after he suffered a devastating stroke late in his administration, the severity of his medical condition was known only to his wife, physician, and closest advisors. President Wilson could have been placed under formal guardianship, but instead he was subject to a de facto guardianship where decisions were made for him without the burden of public legal proceedings. This session focuses on the ethical implications of concealing medical incapacitation from the people and entities concerned with the well-being of the person with diminished capacity, the consequences of avoiding guardianship and conservatorship when medical evidence supports the need for a surrogate decision-maker, and the balancing of the risks and advantages of management of the affairs of a person with diminished capacity without legal intervention and the appointment of a guardian or conservator.
Rosa Parks is best known for taking a stand by sitting on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to protect discriminatory laws that subjugated minorities to second-class status. However, late in her life, Rosa Parks developed dementia and became unable to manage her personal and financial affairs. A legal battle ensued that continued from the inception of a guardianship on Ms. Parks through her death, pitting extended family members against charitable entities. This session examines the vulnerability of all people to unexpected illness, the need for advanced planning, and the benefit of guardianship to protect the interests of even the most prominent people.
Margarita Carmen Cansino, also known as Rita Hayworth, was America’s “sex goddess” during World War II. She became known as the “pin up” girl, and helped many American GI’s survive life at war. An accomplished actress who was prevented by the Hollywood studio system from reaching her full potential, Ms. Hayworth was best known for her role in the 1946 film noir movie “Gilda”. Ms. Hayworth developed very early onset dementia in her early 40’s, and just as she broke from the oppressing Columbia studios became unable to remember her lines and was forced to retire from moving pictures in her prime. This session examines the role of public guardians in protecting Ms. Hayworth from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and the emergence of her daughter who became her guardian and cared for her in her last years of her life.
Our founding fathers devised a system of constitutional government that is designed to protect individual liberties against excessive control and domination by government. These protections have been refined by constitutional amendments and statutory changes over the course of two centuries. Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings impact upon these fundamental protected individual right that are guaranteed by the Constitution. The goal of the session is to examine the legal, philosophical, and theoretical foundations of guardianship adjudications in the United States of America, and to communicate how ethical guardianships can facilitate, if not ensure, the fulfillment of the American dream for those who are unable to achieve it without the assistance of a guardian.