Elder abuse is not substantiated

Philip C. Marshal is an elder justice advocate and founder of Beyond Brooke. The remarks below were prepared for Our Aging Brains: Decision-making, Fraud, and Undue Influence, part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience at Harvard Law School; April 27, 2018. The complete version of Decision-making, fraud, and undue influence—illustrated through the lens of the Brooke Astor story was published April 28, 2018 in Medium.

The meaning of elder abuse remains misunderstood, even by professionals.

I know—from hard-learned experience—when I, and many others, worked to save my grandmother from abuse by my father.

In a December 2006 court decision, my grandmother’s guardianship judge authorized reimbursement of my legal fees for bringing a guardianship petition for my grandmother, stating, “Although this matter voluntarily settled before the hearing, I find the petitioner Philip Marshall was the prevailing party…”

But the judge also decided to award my father a portion of his legal fees, writing, “I make this ruling based on the conclusion of the court evaluator that the allegations in the petition regarding Mrs. Astor’s medical and dental care, and the other allegations of intentional elder abuse by the Marshalls, were not substantiated.” [italics added]

Decision—In the Matter of the Application of Philip Marshall for the appointment of a Guardian for the Person and Property for Brooke Astor, an Alleged Incapacitated Person. Judge John A. Stackhouse, Supreme Court of the State of New York. December 4, 2006

This decision probably has much to do with the misunderstanding of elder abuse, elder financial exploitation, testamentary capacity, undue influence, and many other critical legal concerns addressed here, today, and for millions of seniors and their circles of support (personal and professional) all along the way.

“Astor son is cleared,” headlined The New York Times, which quoted my father’s lawyer saying, “This is a case that was given birth from allegations that were absolutely fictitious regarding Mr. Marshall’s care of his mother.’” (2006)

On the dark December day of this decision, our Pyrrhic victory found us losing the greater war against elder abuse.

Was my grandmother’s case to be elder justice’s Plessey v Ferguson?

Were we to repurpose my family’s ‘dirty laundry’ as surrender flags, giving up on the greater cause in to which we had been so thrust?

No.

This one clause catapulted our campaign from case to cause.

And, just as my father declared that he had been vindicated, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Unit expanded its own investigation, empanelled a grand jury, and issued subpoenas.

In November 2007, my father and a lawyer were indicted.

In April 2009, a criminal trial began.

Read the full article “Decision-making, fraud, and undue influence-illustrated through the lens of the Brooke Astor story” here!

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