By Janet Phelan
In a recent US government human rights report, the US voiced sharp criticism of China’s treatment of human rights lawyers and dissidents.
“The crackdown on the legal community was particularly severe, as individual lawyers and law firms that handled cases the government deemed ‘sensitive’ were targeted for harassment and detention,” the report stated.
The report, which is issued annually by the US State Department, failed to take note that similar repressive tactics are currently being leveled against attorneys and human rights activists in the US.
In particular, the disability rights community is being hit with the disbarment of attorneys and the jailing of activists.
Why Disability Rights?
Governments generally have some kind of mechanism in place to house or otherwise care for the incompetent and infirm. State hospitals, homeless shelters and later, community board and care facilities have all provided some level of care for those under parens patriae (when the government is legal protector of those unable to protect themselves).
With a growing aging population (as of 2014 the US had over 46 million over the age of 65 – 14% of its total population), and given the incidence of dementia or Alzheimer’s-related illness in the elderly, the realities of aging have produced a trajectory of legislation, most of which results in permission to plunder and eliminate – rather than protect – the incompetent.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 11 % of people over 65 have Alzheimer’s. This figure balloons to over 30% for people over 85. It is estimated that 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.
The rude fact is that such people have traversed beyond their productive years and are considered by some to be a burden on the entitlement programs. In a society which values youth and accomplishment, such people may be considered superfluous.
There are three official routes to the elimination/plunder and one unofficial route.
The official routes involve 1) assisted suicide laws, 2) adult guardianships and 3) hospice for non-terminally ill individuals. The unofficial route involves a previously discussed program involving “impostor” pharmaceuticals.
The first three routes enable the “legal” elimination of individuals who are past their productive years. And, as is hardly surprising, there is a growing resistance, among family members and also grassroots groups, to the taking of the elderly and disabled.
The final route constitutes a “black” program and at the time of this writing, efforts to turn over evidence of the impostor pharmaceuticals to the authorities at The Hague have met with a roaring silence.
Those Who Stand to Profit are the Gatekeepers
“It was her time,” court-appointed guardian Melodie Z. Scott stated to the shocked family when she unilaterally decided to withhold life-saving antibiotics from her client, Elizabeth Fairbanks.
The older woman had come down with pneumonia and Scott only ordered morphine, which represses the ability to breathe. Shortly, Elizabeth Fairbanks succumbed to what is considered a treatable illness.
There were no legal repercussions for Scott’s action.
Nor were there any legal repercussions when a Florida guardian put Corinne Bramson, an elderly Florida woman, into hospice with no terminal diagnosis. Bramson was given heavy doses of morphine and expired within ten days.
It is not news to those in the disability rights movement that such abuses are going on. So when Patty Reid’s son, Landon, who had been blind since birth but did not have any documented mental incapacity, was ordered by Judge Speiser in Broward County Court (Florida) to be remanded into an institution, Reid felt the cold chill of potential undesirable futures for her son emerge.
She had custody of Landon and had been his caretaker since birth, so she did what other mothers have done when faced with the prospect of an unnecessary institutionalization – she fled the jurisdiction with her son.
In April of this year, Patty Reid was arrested and her son taken from her. She is being charged with “custody interference,” which holds a potential sentence of five years in prison.
In an interview last week, Reid stated that she does not know where her son is and has been denied any contact with him since her arrest. She states that the charges make no sense as she has always had custody of her son.
While still a minor, Landon had been appointed a guardian, South Florida Guardianship. “They handled the money,” stated Reid in a recent interview, “and I took care of my son.” Landon, age 19, is no longer a minor and Reid states she cannot understand why the guardianship has not been legally terminated.
Reid’s lawyer, Sue Ann Robinson, is concerned about the legality of Reid’s arrest. According to Robinson, the probable cause affidavit, used as the official document to launch Reid’s arrest, is inaccurate.
“The document says that Patty Reid missed a hearing in June, 2016,” says Robinson. “That is two months before she was arrested. You cannot arrest someone for doing something in the future.”
Reid is currently out on bail.
Taking Your Mother to Lunch is a Felony
Barbara Stone was on house arrest for close to a year for taking her mother, who was under guardianship in Florida, to Denny’s Restaurant.
When Stone, who was licensed to practice law in New York, began making multiple public statements concerning the guardianship of Helen Stone, the guardian’s attorney, Roy Lustig, became irritated and facilitated Barbara’s placement in a county jail.
Stone was only able to get out of the pokey by agreeing to a gag order. She has been very quiet now for some months. According to those close to her, her mother is still being held in the guardianship.
Tim Lahrman was a bit more lucky. The arrest of the 57-year-old Indiana man on a seventeen-year-old stale and expired misdemeanor warrant had the disability rights community up in arms.
Tim, who is a paralegal, had provided critical paralegal services for many who were struggling to have a family member freed from a guardianship.
As Tim himself was deemed an incapacitated person, decades ago, and his own business plundered by his guardian, there were mounting legal concerns as to how he could, as an “officially designated incompetent person,” be considered legally culpable for the act of driving without a license and having a cigarette butt – which no lab report proved to contain THC – lying in the car’s ashtray.
Fill That Jail!
Oddly, Lahrman was arrested in Steuben County, Indiana, just blocks from his residence. Nevertheless, he was taken to Elkhart County and processed into their Corrections Complex. The Elkhart County Corrections Complex is a large facility which can potentially house over 1000 inmates.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, it is only at about half capacity. Lahrman reports that there were numerous other individuals being housed in Elkhart County Corrections Complex who were also on decades-old misdemeanor warrants.
According to news reports, other neighboring counties, including Marion County, are now shipping their arrestees over to Elkhart, apparently in a cooperative effort to swell that facility’s population.
Texas elder law attorney, Candice Schwager, an advocate for those under guardianship, set up a website freetimlahrman.org and she and attorney Katherine Hine brought Tim’s plight to the public airwaves.
In a scenario that would have given Franz Kafka a case of the giggles, and acting as his own attorney, Tim Lahrman filed his own motions with the court asserting that he was legally incompetent and unable to even act pro se as his own attorney. Lahrman was released from Elkhart County Jail last week, following a June 2nd court hearing during which the 1999/2000 in abstentia convictions against him were vacated as being void and unconstitutional.
Image Credit: TheFreeThoughtProject.com
Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, an author of a tell-all book EXILE, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.