The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Gische, determined the temporary guardian of the person and property (Mock) and the attorney appointed represent the incapacitated person (IP), Edgar, were properly removed and discharged without a testimonial hearing. The opinion is rich with allegations Edgar was being victimized financially which cannot be fairly summarized here:
On October 2, 2018, Alison Loew, the sister and only sibling of Edgar Valentine Loew, brought a petition for the appointment of an article 81 guardian for her then 74-year-old brother. The petition alleged that Edgar, who is wealthy, but suffers from mental health issues and has some physical limitations, was the victim of systematic financial exploitation by Rachida Naciri. …
A court evaluator (Britt Burner) was appointed on October 2, 2018, appellant Gary Elias was appointed as Edgar’s attorney, and appellant Judy S. Mock was appointed as Edgar’s temporary guardian of the person and property. * * *
The Mental Hygiene Law does not support appellants’ contention that they were entitled to a testimonial hearing in this case before being removed. Mental Hygiene Law § 81.35 provides that a guardian may be removed when she or he “fails to comply with an order, is guilty of misconduct, or for any other cause which to the court shall appear just” … . A motion on notice, served on the persons specified in Mental Hygiene Law § 81.16 (c), is required but there is no statutory right to a hearing (see Mental Hygiene Law §§ 81.16[c]; 81.35). This relaxed requirement stands in distinction to Mental Hygiene Law § 81.11 (a), which provides that the petition for the appointment of a guardian for an alleged IP, whose liberty interests are at stake, “shall be made only after a hearing” … . The reason a guardian has “no due process right to a full hearing,” nor is a “full blown” hearing necessary for their removal, is that a guardian has no “property interest” to protect … .
Although a guardian cannot be summarily removed in the absence of a fully developed record or without any findings, and a hearing may be required where material facts are disputed … , here the parties had not only fully briefed [the] motion, but the salient facts were also known to the court and largely undisputed. A decision to remove a guardian of the person and property of an IP is within the sound discretion of the trial court … . Matter of Loew, 2022 NY Slip Op 06436, First Dept First Dept 11-15-22
Practice Point: The guardian and the attorney appointed to represent the incapacitated person (IP) were properly removed and discharged without a testimonial hearing, which is not required by the Mental Hygiene Law. The guardian and the attorney failed to investigate the bona fides of the IP’s marriage and prenuptial agreement.