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Corrupticourts 2 Probate
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 12:35 am    Post subject: Corrupticourts 2 Probate Reply with quote


Don't Die In Connecticut

A will can't protect you from the state's predatory probate system,
considered a national disgrace

By John H. Langbein

October 23 2005

Try not to die in Connecticut. If you are a person of means, you should
- late in life - establish your domicile in some place such as Florida
or Maine or Arizona that has a responsible probate system. You can
still own a Connecticut home and spend plenty of time here. Indeed, if
you place title to your Connecticut home in a Florida trust, your
trustee can even transfer the house after your death without going
through Connecticut probate.

I am not the only person who gives such advice. If you go for a drive
in Connecticut's affluent towns and suburbs in the summer and fall,
you'll see all the gray-haired drivers sporting their Florida license
plates. Some of these people would leave even if they did not fear
Connecticut probate, in order to escape our state income tax and our
winter weather. But for many, I am certain, the final straw that causes
them to change domicile is the prospect of having their estates ripped
off in Connecticut's probate courts. By encouraging these people to
leave our state, Connecticut probate causes the state to lose the
income tax and other tax revenue that goes where they go.

Connecticut probate is a national scandal. Our bad reputation is
longstanding. More than 50 years ago, Professor Thomas Atkinson of New
York University, then the leading American authority on the field,
wrote that "Connecticut is just about at the bottom of the list so far
as its probate court system is concerned."

I move in national trust and estate circles, where Connecticut probate
is routinely discussed as a disgrace. For estate planning professionals
and law professors, Connecticut is the poster child for how not to
organize probate courts.

The Five Core Failings

There are five major (and deeply interconnected) structural flaws in
Connecticut probate:

1. The wasteful multiplicity of our probate courts.

2. The use of people who are not legally trained to serve as judges.

3. The corruption that inheres in having lawyers sit as judges part
time while they continue to practice law.

4. The perverse incentives of Connecticut's probate court fee system,
which rewards probate judges for inflicting make-work on estates.

5. The sustained, self-serving opposition that the probate judges have
mounted to protect their turf and fight off benign national trends and
standards in probate procedure that would reduce expense for our


Connecticut has 123 separate probate courts, with 123 probate judges,
123 separate offices, 123 separate budgets, 123 separate staffs. A few
of the courts operate full time; most do not.

Some in fact operate only a few hours a week, although the judges and
the staffs obtain such perks of full-time employment as full health
insurance. Maintaining these 123 courts and staffs is hugely wasteful,
especially the many that sit idle much of the week.

In Essex, for example, whose population is 6,730, I am told that the
part-time probate judge takes down about $58,000 in compensation plus
full heath insurance.

Nobody has done a careful study of how many probate courts our state
really needs, but my starting estimate is about one-tenth the number we
have. A dozen courts rather than 10 dozen, staffed with professional
judges and operating full time, would do a far better job at a fraction
of the cost.

Connecticut probate is horribly expensive. Filing fees and subsequent
charges are far higher than elsewhere. Recently, the probate courts
extended their fees to non-probate transfers such as life insurance and
joint tenancy, for which, by definition, no probate services are
needed. The reason our citizens suffer these voracious fees is quite
simple: Our citizens are being made to feed 10 times more probate
courts and probate judges than they need.

Amateur Judges

Connecticut law does not require probate judges to be legally trained,
even though probate judges make legal decisions that affect the
property and liberty of our citizens. These judges decide who owns the
property of a decedent; they decide whether to strip a citizen of his
or her liberty by declaring the citizen incompetent.

Such powers ought not to be in the hands of people who lack legal
training. If you exercise the power to take away somebody's liberty or
property, you should have a strong command of the complex substantive
and procedural rules that are meant to govern such decisions.

Indeed, it is far from clear that Connecticut probate could withstand
constitutional scrutiny on this ground under the due process clause of
the U.S. Constitution.

Connecticut's reliance on non-lawyer judges contributes directly to the
wastefulness of our probate procedure. It is the source of the
duplicate trial rule - the rule that allows appeal de novo to the
Superior Court.

In this way, Connecticut allows a litigant who is determined to have a
contested probate matter heard by a professional judge to do so, but
only after making that person pay for two full trials.

Part-Time Judges

Fortunately, many of our probate judges are legally trained.
Unfortunately, most of those are part-timers who practice law when they
are not serving as judges. The result is rampant conflict of interest
and cronyism. If you are the probate judge in Bethany on Monday and I
am the probate judge in Woodbridge on Tuesday, and we each practice law
before each other or our partners practice there, abuse is invited. I
am reluctant to rule against you or your partner, because I know that
you could rule unfavorably against the case that my partner or I am
handling before you. The danger of favoritism in such circumstances is

The solution is obvious. Judges should be required to be full-time
officers of justice, legally trained, but forbidden to practice law or
to be partners in law firms. We do not need 123 full-time probate
judges. Proper professionalization of our probate courts is intimately
connected to reducing the number of these courts.

The Fee System

The worst feature of Connecticut's probate courts is the fee system.
These courts are run on the same principle as a Popeye's Chicken
franchise or a Midas Muffler store: The proprietor gets paid by the
amount of business he or she can drum up. If you run a Popeye's outlet,
the more chicken you sell, the more money you make. If you run a
Connecticut probate franchise, you are also an entrepreneur who can
maximize your fee income by making estates engage in needless filings
and seek needless approvals. The more work you impose on estates that
don't need it, the more money you make. The more paperwork the judge
orders up, the more money finds its way into the judge's pocket.

The sad truth is that much of what goes on in Connecticut probate
courts can only be called a shakedown. Our procedures invite judges to
extort money from the estates of decedents by insisting upon needless
court filings and court approvals.

The perverse financial incentives that pervade our probate system are a
disgrace. Goal No.1 of probate reform in Connecticut should be to sever
the link between court proceedings and profit. Any system of judicial
procedure that compensates judges or court officers for stirring up
more work is wrong.

Fighting Reform

We know exactly how to fix probate procedure in the United States. The
Uniform Law Commission worked out the reform model in the 1960s, when
it brought together leading judges, legislators and scholars to draft
the Uniform Probate Code. The code calls for full-time professional
judges, upgraded to the level of the court of general jurisdiction, and
it reforms probate procedure by eliminating make-work. The code is in
effect in many states, from Maine to Hawaii.

The code reflects the understanding that most executors or
administrators are trustworthy family members or professional
fiduciaries who can administer estates faithfully without detailed and
costly court supervision. The code makes unsupervised administration
the norm, while preserving the option for any mistrustful or aggrieved
party to remove the estate from that track and insist upon judicial

For four decades, many Connecticut probate judges have used their
considerable political influence to keep our state from moving in this
direction. The reason is simple: They want the fees. Our corrupt system
of franchise-style probate courts has given the judges a powerful
vested interest in preventing reforms that would lower costs and speed
probate procedure.


Apart from probate, Connecticut has what is surely one of the finest
civil justice systems in the United States. The trial and appellate
benches are staffed with able judges, selected largely on merit, who
have developed a splendid reputation for trustworthy judicial
administration. <BLECH>

The obvious solution to our probate mess, when you have Superior Courts
as good as ours, and Probate Courts as disgraceful as ours, is to
abolish the Probate Court and merge it into a specialized division of
the Superior Court. That solution, widely followed in other states, is
what the Uniform Probate Code has long recommended.

John H. Langbein is Sterling Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale
Law School. This was adapted from testimony he gave to the General
Assembly's Committee on Program Review and Investigations on Oct. 7.

Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant
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Joined: 12 Sep 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 12:40 am    Post subject: OFF TOPIC Reply with quote

kathleen wrote:

Don't Die In Connecticut
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medicine forum beginner

Joined: 12 Jul 2006
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:23 am    Post subject: Re: Corrupticourts 2 Probate Reply with quote

Don’t Die in Connecticut, and Don’t be Judged Incompetent There
Either!”A great travesty of justice is occurring in Connecticut,
fostered by a corrupt probate court system which feeds on the estates
of those unfortunate enough to fall into its clutches. Although most
cases which come before the probate court are concerned with wills and
the wishes of the deceased, probate courts are also given jurisdiction
over the lives of those who are judged no longer competent to make
important decisions for themselves.This jurisdiction is being used to
make judgments which are clearly NOT in the best interests of Maydelle
Trambarulo, ward of the court, and her family. We, her family, wish to
protest the decision made by Judge Clifford Hoyle, acting Judge for
Woodbridge Probate Court, as neither impartial nor fair. We plan to
appeal his verdict to a higher Court, but we also feel that Judge
Hoyle’s conduct of this case should be investigated on both legal and
moral grounds. He brings great discredit to the Probate Court system of
CT in both his handling of this case and the decision he rendered. His
conduct, as well as the conduct of Mark DellaValle, “independent”
conservator of Mrs. Trambarulo, Paul Whittaker, court appointed
attorney for Mrs. Trambarulo, and Robyn Berke, court appointed guardian
ad litem, has been a disgrace to the legal profession.Why is this
happening? Professor John Langbein, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale
Law School, recently testified before the Connecticut legislature
during their review and investigation of Connecticut’s probate court
system. According to Professor Langbein, people should “try not to die
in Connecticut”, as Connecticut has long been considered a “poster
child for how not to organize probate courts.” To further quote
Professor Langbein,“The perverse financial incentives that pervade our
probate system are a disgrace. Goal Number One of probate reform in
Connecticut should be to sever the link between court proceedings and
profit. Any system of judicial procedure that compensates judges or
court officers for stirring up more work is wrong. … Our corrupt system
of franchise-style probate courts has given the judges a powerful vested
interest in preventing reforms that would lower costs and speed probate
procedure.”(“The Scandal of Connecticut’s Probate Courts”, Testimony to
CT Legislature Committee on Program Review and Investigation, Hartford,
CT, Oct. 7, 2005)Our family has experienced this self-serving system
first hand, containing an insidious corruption of cronyism and greed,
in this case being used to the utmost by someone who knows how to
manipulate the system for her own perfidious ends.BackgroundThe case
was brought before the Probate Court of Woodbridge CT by Ms Teresa
Sirico of New Haven on behalf of our wife and mother, Maydelle
Trambarulo, without our knowledge or consent. Ms. Sirico brought Mrs.
Trambarulo to CT for rehabilitative therapy for a broken hip. Ms
Sirico, who is the niece of Maydelle’s husband Ralph Trambarulo, told
us that she wished to bring Maydelle to a “top-notch facility
affiliated with Yale University, for a period of 30-60 days”, and then
would return her to her home in Delaware. Why did we agree? We trusted
Ms Sirico as a family member, believing her to be acting in Maydelle’s
best interests, never dreaming of the nightmare which would follow.
Maydelle was essentially kidnapped, as she NEVER intended to make
Connecticut her permanent residence. We testified in probate court
hearings that Ms Sirico lied to us about this and other matters, but
our testimony was ignored. We also contested the court’s jurisdiction
in this case, based on the grounds that Mrs. Trambarulo does not have
domicile in the state of CT, but Judge Hoyle based his decision on her
residency in CT, a residency that was obtained through the deceitful
words and actions of Ms. Sirico.Ms Sirico, a real estate broker in the
New Haven area, targets the elderly in marketing her business, and also
touts herself as a champion of the elderly, as she has endowed a
foundation at SCSU for issues affecting the elderly. She knows the laws
and procedures regarding conservatorship quite well, since she was
involved in a similar prior case (DeVita vs. Sirico, 29 CLR 449 (2001,
2002, 2003)). The facts in this case are eerily familiar. We brought
this case to the attention of the court, but again, our testimony was
totally ignored. We believe Ms. Sirico is a ruthless SERIAL family
destroyer, aided and abetted by a court system she knows very well and
manipulates for her own twisted purposes. Her outrageous behavior and
blatant disregard for the truth has been demonstrated in prior
cases.(DeVita vs Sirico, 29 CLR 449 (2001)) She will continue to
victimize others unless she is stopped.We received paperwork from the
Woodbridge court in October 2004 advising us of Ms Sirico’s ex parte
application for temporary conservatorship of Maydelle’s person and
estate after Ms Sirico first had Maydelle declared incompetent using
her Power of Attorney. Ms Sirico claimed that Maydelle’s financial
affairs were “in disarray”, which WAS NOT TRUE. We disputed her
application, and attended a hearing in Woodbridge CT in November 2004,
before Judge Robert Horowitz. Peter Barrett, our attorney at the time,
advised us that the appointment of an independent conservator was
probably the wisest course, as none of us lives in CT. We agreed,
envisioning a neutral party whom we could work with. Attorney Mark
DellaValle was appointed by the court as conservator of both Maydelle’s
person and estate. The court also appointed Paul Whittaker as Maydelle’s
attorney and Robyn Berke as guardian ad litem.(GAL). Judge Clifford
Hoyle replaced Judge Horowitz as acting Judge of Woodbridge Probate
Court in January 2005.Our goal then and now was to reunite Maydelle
with her husband and family while ensuring high quality medical care
for her. Ralph had moved from Delaware back to New Jersey (where he and
Maydelle lived for 48 years prior to their move to Delaware in 2003) to
live near Anne, their eldest daughter. Daughter Margaret also lives in
New Jersey. We asked Mr. DellaValle to consider moving Maydelle back to
New Jersey, which he refused to do. In February, 2005, Maydelle nearly
died of an infection she contracted while a resident at The
Willows-Harborside facility in Woodbridge, CT (the facility she was
taken to by Ms Sirico), and was later moved to Birmingham Health Care
Center in Derby, CT, where she presently resides. We presented a motion
to reunite Maydelle with her family to the court in May 2005. Hearings
were held in June 2005 in which members of Maydelle’s family were
subjected to interrogation more appropriate to a criminal trial. It
should be noted that attorneys Della Valle, Whittaker and Berke have
always been adversarial to us and sympathetic to Ms Sirico. We hoped
that Judge Hoyle would consider the testimony we presented to the court
concerning Ms Sirico’s activities and her manipulative and deceitful
behavior. Once again, our testimony was totally ignored by the court.In
November, our attorney, John Berman presented a motion disputing the
Court’s jurisdiction over the case, based on the fact that Maydelle is
not presently (and never has been) domiciled in CT. Ms Sirico presented
motions applying for co-conservatorship and an “emergency” motion to
move Mrs Trambarulo to an assisted living facility closer to her. These
motions were denied by the court. We then waited 3 months for Judge
Hoyle’s decision. We had previously waited 4 months for a decision on
the earlier motion, and when no decision was forthcoming, asked that
the decision be delayed until the jurisdictional motion was ruled upon.
(Ironically, the following quote is from a recent article on probate
court reform, “Woodbridge acting Probate Judge, Clifford Hoyle,
advocated the present system, saying, "In a contested case, it doesn't
take years." The Orange Bulletin, 02/02/2006We will address the
following charges:1.Outrageous statements without proof:In his judgment
(dated January 12, 2006, but not received by the court until February
21), Judge Hoyle made many statements which we strongly dispute. He
stated that we “seem to be indifferent to her care”. This is absolutely
outrageous!!! First and most importantly, we love Maydelle, our wife and
mother, and care very deeply and sincerely about her welfare. We are not
“indifferent to her care”, but have been shut out of the day-to-day
decision-making and information by both the conservator and our
physical separation from CT. We are being penalized by the court for
having spouses, families and jobs.2. Discrimination based on age and
medical infirmities:Judge Hoyle dismissed Mrs. Trambarulo’s husband
Ralph as “elderly, infirm and … has been unable to care for himself for
some time.” Judge Hoyle never acknowledges that her husband’s
circumstances and residence have also changed, and that he now has a
live-in aide in his own home. Again, Judge Hoyle ignored testimony we
presented regarding Ralph’s medical conditions. Judge Hoyle’s statement
also displays callous disregard for the rights of this couple to pass
their remaining years together. Ralph is being discriminated against on
the basis of his age, as he is not able to speak for himself as
vigorously as he would if he was younger. Ralph is no longer able to
travel to CT to see his wife. Although he realizes they can no longer
reside together due to her health issues, he very much wishes to be
able to see his WIFE OF 50 YEARS on a daily basis.The court in its
decision is taking advantage of his age and infirmities to deprive him
of his constitutional right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness”, namely the companionship of his wife of 50 years. Maydelle
is also certainly being deprived of the same rights, as she has stated
to us many times that “I just don’t care whether I live or die
anymore.” This is certainly not the happy picture painted by Ms Sirico
and Judge Hoyle! Again, it is an OUTRAGE that ANY court should keep a
husband and wife apart for the reasons given by Judge Hoyle! Their 50th
Wedding Anniversary, December 26, 2005, should have been a joyous
occasion for family and friends to celebrate, but instead brought us
sadness at their separation.3. Conflicts of interest with the court and
officersThis case displays a very obvious conflict of interest with the
court and its officers. They are the ones who get to decide whether the
source of their financial “gravy train” stays in CT or is allowed to
leave the state! Clearly it is in THEIR best interests financially that
Maydelle Trambarulo stay in Connecticut.4. Denial of access to funds and
informationRalph has been denied access to his own money by Judge Hoyle.
In order to purchase a residence he had to obtain a mortgage at age 80
because he could not access his own money in a joint Merrill Lynch
account. We have made numerous requests to the court for information on
how Maydelle’s money is being spent. We have NEVER received any
answers.5. Judge Hoyle’s decision based upon biased testimony
andinaccurate factsAttorneys DellaValle, Whittaker and Berke have all
voiced their opinions that Maydelle should stay in CT. Their opinions,
with life-altering consequences, are based on their knowledge of
Maydelle’s family as told to them by Ms Sirico, certainly NOT on any
factual basis. These court officers are all on friendly terms with Ms
Sirico and adversarial to Maydelle’s family, as evidenced by their
questioning of us in the hearings. They do not know us, and most
certainly have not tried to know us. Instead they have accepted the
lies told them by Ms Sirico.Judge Hoyle could not even get the FACTS of
this case straight! As we have stated in numerous documents submitted to
the court, Maydelle was a resident of Delaware at the time she was
brought to CT, NOT New Jersey as stated by Judge Hoyle in his decision.
This is a very significant error, as he then states throughout his
decision that a “return” to New Jersey would return her to her prior
circumstances. Maydelle would NOT be returning to her prior
circumstances, but instead would reside in a health care facility with
equivalent or better care than she is receiving at present. We
presented information and testimony about a rehab facility in NJ which
is directly across the street from where Ralph lives. We might add that
the facility in NJ is also less expensive than the one in CT, by $18,000
per year! (Apparently, consideration of “what is best for Maydelle”
depends upon keeping her a prisoner of the court in CT!) Instead of
considering the information we presented, Judge Hoyle stated in his
decision that“The Court is not convinced that the respondent’s family
is willing to make the time commitments necessary to care for her if
she returned to NJ. When asked about the nursing home which was planned
to become the respondent’s residence in New Jersey, her daughter who had
selected the nursing home testified that she had never been inside the
building.”Once again, we are penalized by the court for having families
and jobs. At the time of the hearing, the daughter (Anne) was extremely
busy at work, and her husband John, Maydelle’s son-in-law, was going
right by the facility. He offered to tour the facility and obtain
information for his wife. Isn’t a loving and trusted SON-in-law of 20
years able to vouch for the facility as well as a blood relative? Ms.
Sirico is not a blood relative, yet her word is accepted as gospel!Why
also does the Court overlook what seems so perfectly obvious to anyone
else, that Ms Sirico may indeed have an ulterior motive (possibly
financial, despite her protestations to the contrary) in keeping her
aunt and uncle separated from each other?? Why does Ms Sirico display
absolutely NO interest in her blood relative, her Uncle Ralph? Because
she has no possibility of controlling either him or his finances!When
it suits the purposes of the court, Maydelle is considered competent in
her opinions on where she would like to reside, but incompetent in other
matters. The supposed goal of the court, “What is best for Maydelle”,
(her future), is decided by the court’s officers on the basis of the
few minutes they have spent with her and the answers she has provided
to their questions. Those answers are a product of months of
brainwashing and coaching by Ms Sirico and others, PROVEN by a paper we
presented to the court which was written by a friend of Ms Sirico.
AGAIN, OUR EVIDENCE WAS IGNORED by the court. We, her family know her
better than anyone else in the world, and have been totally disregarded
by the court when we say that Maydelle is being brainwashed and unduly
influenced by Ms Sirico’s abusive and domineering manner, as she
continues to feed Maydelle lies about us, her family, on a daily basis.
Ms Sirico succeeded in convincing Maydelle’s siblings (who have not seen
her in 10 or more years, (only two of whom who have ever met Ms Sirico
briefly)), that we are unfit to care for our wife and mother.The
Probate Court’s primary function in this case should be the reuniting
of Maydelle with her FAMILY, and the true conservation of her person
and financial estate, NOT the reallocation of her hard-earned assets to
court officers’ own bank accounts! Judge Hoyle’s decision appears to be
motivated not by an interest in what is truly best for our wife and
mother, but self-serving GREED of the most reproachable kind. Naively,
we once believed that justice was blind; sadly, we have found the
justice rendered in the Probate Court of Judge Clifford Hoyle to be
both deaf and dumb to our pleas and the evidence we presented.

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