Disability Rights Ohio, Legal Aid Society of Columbus file joint Amicus Brief in support of woman attempting to challenge her guardianship

November 13, 2015 / guardianship

Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) have submitted a joint Amicus Brief (also known as a Friend of the Court brief) in a case involving a woman who is currently under guardianship in Marion County. E. Jodene Carpenter wishes to challenge her guardianship and has hired a private attorney, Brian Cook, to represent her through the process. Carpenter currently lives in a nursing home but would like to move into the community and needs legal advocacy to achieve her goal. Also, her current guardian, attorney Maria L. Hypes, has charged Carpenter's estate more than $92,000 in fees, billing at $175-$200 an hour, to serve as her guardian.

Hypes challenged Carpenter's right to representation of her choosing, and the Marion County Probate Court sided with the guardian. DRO and LASC disagree with this decision and have crafted the Amicus Brief to inform Ohio's Third District Court of Appeals of the legal ramifications of the probate court's decision as they consider the case.

"Appointing a legal guardian over an individual is an extraordinary act that restricts a person's freedom and ability to make decisions for him- or herself," says DRO Executive Director Michael Kirkman, who served as a founding member of the Ohio Supreme Court's Adult Guardianship Subcommittee, Committee on Family, Children and the Courts. "Because a person's freedom is at stake in such proceedings, people under guardianship have a right to independent legal counsel. It is a clear conflict of interest for the guardian to be the only representative of a person in his or her care, particularly when that guardianship is being challenged."

"This situation underscores a need for more rigorous monitoring of guardianships," says LASC Deputy Director Kathleen McGarvey. "In May 2014, the Columbus Dispatch series 'Unguarded' brought to light the widespread abuses in the guardianship system in Ohio. A year and a half later, some progress has been made, but this case shows that much more needs to be done."

About Disability Rights Ohio: Disability Rights Ohio is the federally and state designated Protection and Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program for the State of Ohio. The mission of Disability Rights Ohio is to advocate for the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio provides legal advocacy and rights protection to a wide range of people with disabilities.

About the Legal Aid Society of Columbus: The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of the poor through representation in civil legal matters. We help individuals residing in Franklin, Madison, Delaware, Marion, Morrow, and Union counties. LASC staff and volunteers assist the community in areas that impact basic human needs, including consumer rights, family law, health and public benefits, housing, foreclosure, tax, immigration, and education.

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