In March 2017, CEJC's National Elder Justice Advocates Academy hosted "Building an Elder Justice Movement State by State," a panel featuring representatives from five state elder justice coalitions* at the annual conference of the American Society of Aging in San Francisco. As is often the case, the planning and lead-up turned out to be as engrossing as the event itself. Georgia Anetzberger, Iris Freeman, Paul Caccamise, Risa Breckman, and I used the opportunity to catch up on how our groups were coping with the unnerving setbacks and threats to elder justice we're witnessing and to marvel at unforeseen opportunities.
By Mary Joy Quinn
When I went to work for San Francisco Superior Court in the Probate Department, I had much to learn. My previous work as an operating room nurse, public health nurse and gerontologist had not prepared me for immersion in the judicial system. And yet, the work of a conservatorship investigator was decidedly related because the work involved interviewing elders wherever they were living, contacting their families and friends and the professionals with whom they were involved: attorneys, physicians, adult protective services staff, accountants, clergy, bank personnel, and others. The differences were adherence to law and writing reports for the judge to review and to base decisions upon.
The probate law provided structure and direction. However, there was one term that was most mysterious and murky: undue influence. There was no definition of it in the Probate Code and yet it was mentioned more than 25 times in various contexts: marriage, gifts, conservatorship of estate, powers of attorney, trusts, wills. Some observers have subjectively noted, “It’s like pornography. I know it when I see it.”
Some observers have noted, “It's like pornography. I know it when I see it.”
By Steve Baker, International Investigations Specialist,
Better Business Bureau of Chicago, Omaha, Dallas, Oakland, and St. Louis
Every day we and our friends and neighbors are robbed over the phone or through emails and the Internet. Victims almost never meet the fraudsters in person. Why does this continue and what can be done? Although consumer education is useful, most of these thieves are only going to stop if they believe there is a real risk of going to jail – and maybe not even then.
There are, of course, hard-working law enforcers who pursue cases, but most police are used to situations where the witnesses, victims, and perpetrators are all in their jurisdictions. Most look for perpetrators by following the money. When law enforcers find trails that lead outside the US, many either give up or pass the information along to federal agencies, which face similar difficulties. Even when suspects are identified, extradition is often something prosecutors are not familiar with, and it can take months or years to bring someone back to the U.S. Fraudsters have also learned to use “mules,” such as romance fraud victims, to receive the money and send it on to them. Thus many, perhaps most, prosecutions, are of these intermediaries who have gone beyond unwitting assistance to providing active help in committing crimes.
It is hard to convince criminal enforcers to take action unless there are “guns, drugs, or blood.”
By Lisa Nerenberg
At a time when America's values are being ruthlessly challenged and aggressively defended, it seems like the perfect time to launch CEJC's National Elder Justice Academy. Our goals for the Academy, which is supported by a generous grant from the Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders, are to sharpen advocates' tactical skills, provide information and promising models, and share ideas. Beyond that, we hope to start a national dialogue about elder justice—what it is and why we need it.
I like to think of elder justice as the interface between aging policy, elder abuse prevention, and human rights. Those of us who come from the elder abuse field have largely appropriated the term, defining it narrowly as the right to live free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. That's how it's used in the Elder Justice Act and other policies and programs.
But elder justice isn't just about abuse.