FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COOK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT AND OTHER ILLINOIS PUBLIC ENTITIES INCLUDING ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL LISA MADIGAN FAIL TO APPEAR AND RESPOND TO DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT BROUGHT UNDER THE AMERICANS’ WITH DISABILITIES ACT
CHICAGO ILLINOIS – October 27, 2014
Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan and other public entities failed to appear and answer in a discrimination lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Chicago residents Gloria Jean Sykes and her disabled mother Mary have filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against the Cook County Circuit Court; the Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans; the Cook County Circuit Court, Probate Division; Probate Judge Aicha MacCarthy; the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan; the State of Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn; and, Carolyn Toerpe of Naperville, Illinois. Filed on September 25, 2014 in the U.S. District Court under Title II of the Americans’ With Disabilities Act, the defendants were due to appear and respond on or before October 20, 2014 – and to date herein, the defendant courts, judges and other Illinois public entities have failed to appear and respond.
Joined in the lawsuit by a disability rights advocate and colleague from Indiana, Sykes says she is “not surprised that the defendants have failed to appear and respond because what these defendant public entities have done to her disabled mother is simply indefensible.” According to Sykes, her colleague and the lawsuit “each of the defendant public entities are/were uniquely capable of finding the applicable regulations technical
assistance, and case law and recognizing the substantial likelihood of violating the federally guaranteed and protected ADA rights of the Plaintiffs …” – after all, the defendants are courts, judges and other public entities who know, make and enforce the law which makes their failure to timey appear and respond to the lawsuit even more intriguing.
Under Title II of the Americans’ With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 provides that, “… no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity” and according to Sykes, her colleague and the lawsuit, the Cook County Circuit Court and other defendant public entities have discriminated against Mary Sykes and her daughter Gloria since 2009 when Mary, a lifelong resident of Norwood Park and the widow of a career City of Chicago police officer who dedicated his entire professional life to public safety, was placed under the supervision and control of an adult probate guardianship by the Probate Division of the Cook County Circuit Court.
Adult guardianship is a subject of significant public importance deserving of far more public discussion than it has received over the years. According to Sykes and her colleague “adult guardianship is a complex legal and social issue which is being used more frequently as our “boomer” population ages and succumbs to the frailties of life’s incapacities.” In 1987 the U.S. Congress issued a report on adult guardianship and referred to the practice as a “national disgrace”1 because failures in the system are widespread and pervasive in every state across the country. Between 2004 and 2011 the Government Accountability Office issued five different reports,2 none of which reflects much confidence in how guardianship is administered daily in courts all across the country, and one legal scholar writing about probate guardianship refers to a legal process “where the law of liquidation has taken precedence over the law of preservation.”3
Sykes, et al. v. Cook County Circuit Court, et al. (Case No.: 1:14-cv-07459) has been assigned to the Honorable Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. who, in a previous case involving Sykes and her mother, wrote “… as unappealing as it sounds applied to a living person, she [Mary] is the res of an in rem proceeding”4 which, according to the recent lawsuit is one of the discriminatory practices and disparate impacts of a probate adult guardianship because to be a “res” is to render the person under guardianship – referred to legally as being a ‘ward’ — to a status of being less than a second-class citizen, less than even human and in fact, as a matter of law — to be viewed as a “res” is to be viewed as being “a thing” and according to Sykes, “it is simply shocking to my conscious to witness my mother being treated like she is some sort of thing and less than human.”
Sykes is certainly not alone in her experience and she finds no solace in knowing that collectively hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens are under guardianship in most every state of the union. Sykes, a 39- year veteran news magazine and documentary producer, reporter, and writer – mostly for NBC, and published author and national investigative reporter, she and her Indiana colleague and disability rights advocate, Tim Lahrman, are currently in production of a 60-minute film documentary on the subject of adult guardianship: the two attended the 43rd World Congress on Adult Guardianship held in Arlington VA this past May where the pair interviewed several law professors, former judges, professional guardians and international advocates from various foreign counties in attendance at the three day Congress. Sykes also attemded and videotaped John Marshall Law School’s Conference on Rights of Older Persons where she interviewed many international scholars and advocates. Currently slated for release in the spring of 2015 Sykes says, “the documentary film is intended to be both educational, inspirational and likewise serve as the catalyst for a much needed public discussion about how and when a guardianship may well impact each and every one of us because, after all, it is simply inescapable that each and every one of us will grow old and perhaps be disabled someday.”
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan maintains a public website dedicated to her concerns for and responsibilities to Illinois’ elder population. Found online at http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/seniors/ AG Madigan readily recognizes that “… protecting older citizens continues to be one of the most important responsibilities of the Attorney General’s office”. Sykes says, “there is little doubt that AG Madigan is well aware of my mother’s case, I have called the hotline countless times, I have written numerous letters, sent hundreds and hundreds of emails, spent hours upon hours on the telephone, the court files are voluminous, two Chicago attorneys who have spoken out on behalf of my mother have been publically disciplined and professionally humiliated over my mother’s case, one probate judge recently, suddenly and quietly retired without notice, another judge is now facing judicial discipline proceedings, one of the appointed guardian ad litems has closed their office and cannot be located, and yet with all the hue and cry, not a word from Lisa Madigan, not a single effort to investigate and protect my mother – and now, in the face of a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the AG and other Illinois public entities do not appear and respond to even defend themselves.”
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1. U. S. Congress Select Committee on Aging – Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care (Comm. Pub. No. 100-639) entitled “Abuses In Guardianship Of The Elderly And Infirm: A National Disgrace” (found online at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED297241.pdf – last visited
2. GAO publication #(s): 04-655; 06-1086t; 10-241; 10-1046; 11-678
3. Henry’s Indiana Probate Law & Practice (Rel. 1 – 12/04 Pub. 62794) Chapter 37 Guardianship § 37.01 “Theory of Guardianship”, p. 37-3 ¶ 2
4. Memorandum Opinion and Order, dated August 6, 2012, (ND Ill) Case No.: 1:11-cv-07934 – M.G.S. v. Toerpe, et al.
Other references and relevant recent media:
A: Columbus Dispatch expose’
B: The Tennessean expose’ by Walter Roche
C: Rethinking Guardians (Again): Substituted Decision Making as of a Violation of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1567132
D. Supportive Decision Making In Practice, http://povertylaw.org/communication/webinars/guardianship-alternatives
Other references and relevant recent media:
A: Columbus Dispatch expose’,
B: The Tennessean expose’ by Walter Roche,
C: The National Association To Stop Guardianship Abuse chronicles articles
Regarding ADA discrimination violations and other abuses against the elderly and disabled. http://nasga-stopguardianabuse.blogspot.com/
D. Who’s Overseeing The Overseers? Indiana Report on Adult Guardianship