Guardianship Abuse: Jack Halpern Provides Insight
In June 2013, Nassau County Judge Angela Iannacci sealed a legal action brought by Dean Hart, now a candidate for State Assembly, to have a guardian appointed for his 79-year-old mother, whose mental faculties were in decline.
Iannacci’s order failed to provide any substantive justification for sealing the records, as required by the state mental health law. In such cases, concern for the privacy of the vulnerable party typically serves as the basis for sealing.
An examination of partial case records obtained by Newsday, however, raises the question of who actually benefited from the sealing order. It appears to have done little for the welfare of Beatrice Hart, who suffers from dementia, while shielding attorneys, the courts and a current candidate for public office from outside scrutiny.
The disturbing accusations leveled in the case include elder abuse, cronyism in the court system, and Dean Hart fleecing his mother of $4.5 million with help from the firm of attorney Steven Schlesinger, a powerful Democrat whose court-appointed stewardship of a wealthy charity is now under state and federal investigation.
The Hart case is one of 207 guardianship proceedings identified by Newsday that Long Island judges hid from the public during a roughly 10-year period. These cases involve the appointment of legal caretakers for people who require help managing their personal affairs. They comprise two-thirds of the court actions Newsday found in its investigation of case sealing by Long Island judges.
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