Probate Court Can Do Better
THE PROBLEM: There is simply a lack of legal resources, including lawyers, and so people feel they have been denied access to justice.
THE SOLUTION: I would propose a law clinic be permitted under the roof of the court. A clinic may be staffed by volunteer lawyers, law school students and other nonprofits. The court would not provide legal advice, and the solely administrative tasks would be provided by Court personnel. There is certainly reason to coordinate with the law school and non-profit legal assistance organizations that are up and operating, and ensuring the Court is not providing legal advice. These programs have been successful and helped a great deal in areas such as filing tax returns, marriage terminations and evictions. The types of cases where assistance may be provided are guardianships or small estates, where the value of the assets may be less than court costs or attorney fees. For example, probating a vehicle worth $300 is rarely worth the time, effort and money to hire counsel. The pro se cases may be handled better by directing many to the clinic.
THE PROBLEM: The Court has not taken advantage of technology to improve services to the Community, which must be improved.
THE SOLUTION: In working with numerous judges and courts over the years, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t. There are vast differences in how matters are administered and decided from court to court, and I am a firm believer that courts must constantly review and improve services to attorneys and the community. Electronic filing, videoconferencing and delays in issuing important decisions are consistent problems that must be improved. Although technology has helped in in these areas, some courts have implemented it well, whereas others clearly need an overhaul. In my personal experience, the Covid-19 shutdown only accelerated the need for evolution. Transparency would also be improved. It is through this experience of working directly with other courts and staff across the state, including Montgomery County, that brings fresh ideas to the bench.
THE PROBLEM: Certain agencies such as law enforcement need better communication with the Court and availability to deal with the mentally ill.
THE SOLUTION: I would establish an open-door policy with all agencies, governmental and non-governmental, to determine exactly what resources are needed and whether the probate court can provide those resources or help facilitate. For example, I am endorsed by the Federal Order of Police Orders: Kettering FOP #92, Montgomery Co. FOP #117, Dayton FOP #44 and Moraine FOP #100. In discussions with command staff and officers, I understand police departments need an open line of communication with the Probate Court, particularly around the “revolving door” of mentally ill patients that are jailed. The same occurs with incompetent adults. The jails are not treatment facilities. Each individual jailed should be reviewed with the Court or personnel to determine which agency or agencies are needed, especially when the individual and community are not necessarily served keeping the inmate jailed when treatment is needed. A case-by-case approach should be taken on all individuals, and certainly agencies should share information to ensure the appropriate process is used. To expedite cases, I would ensure law enforcement and other county agencies have 24/7 on-call access to myself or Court personnel to assist.