Guardian registry pilot to launch

Dave Stafford
October 9, 2013
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Indiana soon could break new ground with the introduction of one of the nation’s first databases of guardians and their wards. The development is raising hopes for improved oversight of vulnerable populations along with concerns about their privacy.

“I would really be surprised if we’re not moving forward with pilot counties by January at least and seeing how that moves through the calendar year of 2014,” Fountain Circuit Judge Susan Orr Henderson said of the registry being developed by the Indiana Adult Guardianship State Task Force. Henderson chairs the group’s guardian registry project.

henderson-susan.jpg Henderson

That task force’s scores of stakeholder members has scheduled a retreat Oct. 24-25 at Notre Dame Law School to be updated on progress concerning the registry and other initiatives including creation of an Office of Adult Guardianship within the Indiana Supreme Court.

Task force volunteer coordinator Rebecca Pryor said the guardian registry will put Indiana in the forefront of states in managing guardianship cases. “As far as we’ve been able to tell, this will be the first registry of its kind in the country,” she said.

Pryor said the task force has moved the registry project ahead despite off-and-on funding. Henderson said the Supreme Court Judicial Technology and Automation Committee has been developing the registry for about 18 months with input from members of the Indiana State Bar Association’s probate section and task force members.

“There is a level of confidentiality. I understand that,” Pryor said. “What we’re looking at is balancing that need to know and then putting out that public information the public should be able to access.” The task force is hoping to identify six to eight counties that will soon test the guardian registry.

“We want to get it out to judges for them to take a look at … and get it to court clerks,” Pryor said. “It really will be their commitment to this that will make this work.”

Henderson said the registry will compile as public information names of wards of guardians, names and contact information for guardians, and whether guardianship letters are current. Separately, confidential information available to court officers would include required filings such as accountings and inventories, she said.

Information will be available through the Indiana Court Information Technology Extranet, or INcite, Henderson said. The goal is to include information about all guardianships in the state.

“If you are an attorney practicing in the probate area and you are the attorney for that guardian, you’re going to get reminders – chronological case summary reminders saying, ‘this is a gentle reminder you haven’t filed an inventory,’” Henderson gave as an example. “Events are going to trigger automatic chronological case summary notices.”

But the proposed advance doesn’t come without concerns about how much information will be available, to whom and for what purpose. “It’s still undecided who will have access to this,” said Carmel elder law attorney and task force member George Slater II.

slater-george-mug Slater

Slater shared some concerns regarding the registry at a recent elder law panel discussion at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. Slater noted that Notre Dame law professor Michael Jenuwine prepared a report for the task force that found guardianship practices vary widely from county to county.

That study found oversight of cases and enforcement of filing deadlines, for instance, may be proactive in some jurisdictions and an afterthought elsewhere, Slater said. “There’s many, many guardianship requirements in this state that are not being followed.”

While he said a registry could improve the handling of guardianship cases and bring more uniformity in courts around the state, he’s concerned that the registry has evolved from early concepts of a list to become something more resembling a case management system that many judges and court clerks may not be prepared for.

“It’s hard for me to think that all the judges in this state know what’s coming,” Slater said. “It’s kind of like a big train coming down the tracks, and I’m not sure everybody’s heard the whistle yet.”

Dennis Frick, head of the senior law project at Indiana Legal Services and a member of the task force, said compliance with the requirements of guardianships varies from court to court. “It seems like some counties do a pretty good job of keeping tabs and other counties don’t,” he said.

Marion County, for instance, has a larger probate court staff that allows for proper oversight and monitoring of accountings that must be completed every two years. He said the court proactively notifies attorneys of those deadlines.

“In some counties the guardianship is in place for years with no financial accounting,” Frick said. “They’re just relying on the guardian to do what he’s going to do.

“One of the things the registry would do is allow the courts to manage their own caseloads,” he said.

Pryor said the registry will provide not just courts but other users vital information and ultimately will allow information sharing across county lines. “For the courts, for attorneys, hospitals, law enforcement, it will make their lives so much easier if we have a registry.”

Henderson said input from those who’ve worked on developing the registry has addressed numerous scenarios that included questions of how much information to make available to the public.

“We’re on our way and we wanted to make sure the project was ready to be rolled out and offer an opportunity to provide some feedback on it,” Henderson said. “Hopefully, the end product is going to satisfy the skeptics who are fearful of overexposure” of confidential information.•


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

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  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues