The California State Legislature is failing those in the State that needs their help the most – those disabled and elderly that cannot care for themselves. Senate Bill 156 was originally conceived to help these members of our society. Instead, this bill now makes it easier for attorneys and court appointed trustees to take financial advantage of the very people the bill was originally targeted to provide additional protections for.
Currently, California allows for “fees-on-fees” billing for these disadvantaged group. Originally the language of SB156 was very simple and sought to correct some of the inequities of current law. It was designed to create a “loser pays” scenario, placing the burden of legal costs on whoever lost the fee fight. This is a common concept in English law, which has the net effect of reducing frivolous law suits and overall legal costs to society.
Rather than prohibiting “fees-on-fees”, SB156 now “institutionalizes and sanctions” such fees. The Professional Fiduciary Association of California, which originally opposed this legislation has now switched its’ position to neutral on this bill. Essentially, our state legislature caved to the efforts of the Legal and Fiduciary Associations lobbies.
In 2012 the San Jose Mercury News profiled the financial abuse inflicted on these nearly helpless members of our society by some court-appointed estate managers and their attorneys. Attorney Matt Crosby, who originally advised Sen. Jim Beall on SB156, now says he wants nothing to do with the proposed legislation. His position is understandable given the bill is now antithetical to its’ original purpose.
The State Legislature and Governor should be ashamed of their actions if SB156 is passed with current provisions.
What does it say about a society that fails to act on behalf of those members that need our help the most? Please contact your California State Senator, State Assemblyman and the Governor’s office and ask that they oppose this SB156 in its’ current form. The original provisions and language should be restored.
Frank Kertai, Scotts Valley