Mon, 03/19/2012 - 4:01am
Judge John L. Phillips
Todd Maisel/New York Daily News
Prospect Park Residence near Grand Army Plaza
The Park Slope nursing home where a Brooklyn judge died never had a license to operate as an assisted living facility - but kept the judge as a virtual prisoner, his family charges in a lawsuit.
Relatives of “Kung Fu Judge” John Phillips, who died in 2008, is suing Prospect Park Residence for wrongful death.
The owners of the Park Slope building acknowledge in court papers that their relationship to Phillips was merely that of a landlord - yet the family charges they falsely claimed to be an assisted living facility and confined the elderly judge to the building, only allowing him to leave for a handful of doctor’s appointments over the eight months he lived there.
“We’re talking about a prison,” said John O’Hara, a lawyer for the family and longtime friend.
Records that emerged as part of the case show that developer Haysha Deitsch and partners bought the facility in 2006. They only applied for a license in 2009, after Phillips’ death, and a state Health Department spokesman said it has not been granted because the application was incomplete. Officials are working with the facility to complete it.
Besides senior living, the Prospect Park West residence advertises a secure program for patients with memory impairments, which requires a higher level of license. Many residents there are bed-ridden dementia patients, according to advocates who have visited.
Phillips, a civil court judge for 17 years who was declared incompetent in 2001, was placed at the residence by court-appointed guardians over the objections of relatives who wanted him moved to a friend’s home.
“We can’t believe that the nursing home is still open and still operating without a license,” said Phillips’ nephew Rev. Samuel Boykin.
He said Phillips’ visitors and access to his medical records was strictly controlled - and he was turned away three times before getting permission to see him. “I would come all the way from Ohio and was not legally allowed to visit my uncle,” Boykin said.
The suit charges the residence’s failure to give Phillips a diabetic menu and missed insulin shots contributed to his death.
Vinett Robunson, who offered up her Flatbush home to house Phillips but was rebuffed by the courts, said the judge was not even allowed to go outside to sit in front of the building. “He was devastated because he wanted to leave; he wanted to go,” she said.
She frequently clashed with the staff over his diet, but never suspected the residence was not licensed to operate as an assisted living facility. “I was appalled when I heard,” she said.
Prospect Park Residence’s director did not respond to requests for comment. Deitsch could not be reached.
A lawyer for Prospect Park Residence wrote in a letter to O’Hara that the facility had only a landlord-tenant relationship with Phillips and never promised to provide medical services, but was following court orders in restricting his visitors.
“They locked down the judge, but if they’re a landlord, are they allowed to restrict him from going in and out of the premises? Of course not,” said Dennis Kelly, another attorney on the case.
Original URL: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/unlicensed-assisted-living-home-charged-locking-brooklyn-judge-article-1.1039739
So...I was thinking about this.
All of these places have to be licensed, so how hard is it to really check out a place to see if it's legit? In fact, just like HMO referral care, shouldn't there be a list of places one can be remanded to, and only those? Think of this as how the recent sanctions on Iran are supposed to work. Iran will no longer use the dollar as the reserve currency for their oil transactions; one part of the levied sanctions will be that Iran will no longer have access to SWIFT, which, if I understand correctly, is the be-all/end-all in regards to global monetary transactions.
That having been said...how does the Honorable Judge John L. Phillips end up being remanded to not one, but TWO fraudulent assisted care facilities?
Remember Seth Berkman's piece? Here's a taste:
Friends who visited Phillips said he was also still mentally fit and did not belong at East Haven, where they claimed his room reeked of urine and garbage bags full of his clothes covered the floor. Phillips always asked his visitors to bring him home and inquired about the condition of more than a dozen buildings he owned in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
In 2000, after court-appointed doctor James Lynch concluded that Phillips was showing signs of early dementia, Judge Leonard Scholnick placed him in the State Supreme Court’s guardianship program. At the time of Scholnick’s ruling, Phillips’ fortune was estimated at $10 million. Now, the estate owes more than $2 million—a net loss of $12 million during the years a series of guardians were supposed to be safeguarding Phillips’ interests.
Nearly all the court files relating to the guardianship have been sealed. Even the orders to seal the files are sealed. An investigation by The Brooklyn Ink, in which copies of some of the sealed files were reviewed, found that a series of court-appointed guardians failed to pay property taxes and utility bills, kept insufficient finance records—or no records at all in certain cases—and sold a number of Phillips’ properties with almost none of the revenue going back to his estate. Phillips died on February 16, 2008, having lived his final years in a series of nursing homes, under much different circumstances than a decade earlier when he freely walked the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant as the “kung fu judge,” an unconventional local hero with a 10th-degree black belt in martial arts who had worked his way from poverty to a spot on the bench.
How about Christopher Ketcham's piece?
The court record shows that in November 2000 investigators from Hynes office allegedly determined that Phillips “was suffering from dementia,” according to a statement Hynes himself later gave to the New York Post. In December 2000, a former assistant state prosecutor from Long Island named Frank J. Livoti mysteriously appeared on the scene. Livoti filed a motion in Brooklyn court stating that Phillips, “an alleged incapacitated person,” had “requested that [Livoti] be appointed as Guardian” to oversee Phillips’ “personal needs and property.”
Phillips, who today is barred from speaking to reporters without permission of the court, was quick in 2001 to note the ridiculousness of Livoti’s claims. “I have never met a Frank Livoti and I believe he is scheming to seize my property,” Phillips wrote to his attorney in a letter dated April 11, 2001. “I believe also that a Mr. Kramer, assistant district attorney in the Kings County D.A.’s office, is behind a plan to declare me incompetent prior to my announcing my candidacy in the Democratic primary against Mr. Charles Hynes.” When I first investigated the Phillips story in 2004—eventually publishing an article for New York Press—I telephoned Livoti to ask him the obvious: why would a black judge from the heart of black Brooklyn choose as his guardian a white man from Long Island he’d never met? Livoti said, “I’m not entirely comfortable telling you about the status of any investigations involving Judge Phillips.” I pushed, and Livoti admitted—as I taped the conversation—that he was brought in specifically at the request of the Brooklyn D.A.’s office. His contact there? Steven Kramer, an assistant prosecutor under Joe Hynes.
Livoti, in effect, was the beard for the operation, but it was Steven Kramer who had visited the old judge several times at his home during the winter of 2000-2001, in one instance entering the house with a pair of detectives, who allegedly held Phillips down while Kramer rifled through Phillips’ banking and real estate records, eventually boxing them up and removing them to the D.A.’s office. In a second taped conversation, this one between Kramer and Phillips in early 2001, Kramer admits to raiding the house and commandeering the files. He also tacitly warns the old man, “We know you did it before,” referring to Phillips’ run for D.A. in 1997.
In New York State, anyone can file a motion to declare a person incompetent. The “alleged incapacitated person” is essentially now an accused person: He must defend himself before the court. In February 2001, Phillips was declared “mentally incompetent” by a judge he used to work with. (At the time, Phillips suffered from “mild Alzheimer’s,” according to court records.) His sizable estate, worth an estimated $10 million, was initially handed to a court-appointed guardian named Harvey Greenberg, who happened to be Joe Hynes’ former campaign treasurer and chief of staff as well as one of the D.A.’s oldest friends. Beyond the ostensible concern for Phillips’ health, Hynes also claimed in court papers that Phillips had been the victim of a real estate swindle in 2000 in which illegal mortgages valued at “hundreds of thousands of dollars” had been “fraudulently obtained” while property had been sold off without Phillips’ consent. “Criminal prosecutions” were “pending,” according to Livoti’s court papers. Yet strangely Hynes never arrested or charged anyone in those alleged crimes.
What was clear was that Hynes’ good friend Harvey Greenberg now had control of Phillips’ estate (the guardianship was soon handed off to Livoti; over the years it would get handed off again and again to new players). Greenberg, who runs a law practice out of his Park Avenue offices, was effusive. “It’s wonderful,” he told the court as Phillips stood by, “that all of us have gotten together…calling the world’s attention to the plight of Judge Phillips…[and] giving us a potential to help him in the future.” The following winter, Phillips’ electricity was cut off, neighbors found him living in squalor, and his health had collapsed. Soon the heat in his Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone went dead—the guardians failed to pay the bills—leaving the old man to shiver through two winters as neighbors took up a collection to buy him oil for his furnace. In 2004, he was forcibly moved out of Brooklyn and into a Bronx nursing home, where he was fitted with a tracking bracelet. Then, in November of that year, the brownstone where Phillips lived for most of his adult life caught fire. The building itself remains a shell, gutted and charred, its front yard taken over by a family of cats; the guardians failed to pay fire insurance. Gone were Phillips’ files, his law library, his yellowing news archive (“Kung-Fu Judge Beats the Machine – Again!”).
The suit alleges operators of the facility — which markets itself as “senior living at its elegant best” and overlooks Grand Army Plaza at 1 Prospect Park West — failed to give the 83-year-old Phillips proper treatment for his diabetes, left him shivering with no heat for days and would not allow visits from family members. It also claims operators “committed fraud” by running the place without a proper health department license — all of which “ led to [Phillips’s] injury, suffering and eventual death,” the suit claims.
“They are running a prison of death,” said lawyer John O’Hara, who filed the lawsuit in Kings County Supreme Court. “It’s like something from a Dickens novel. It’s bad.”
This is bloody ridiculous. You're telling me that, if I were to contact the court system, they could not provide a list of accredited and properly licensed "assisted living care facilities"?
Rock Hackshaw - if you're reading this one - this is my campaign 2012 request:
Please close down every building in your purview that is running like East Haven or Prospect Park West. That ought to earn you some votes, at the very least.