On April 18, 2013, in a posted press release entitled Supreme Court’s Elder Law Task Force Will Tackle Growing Abuses to Older Pennsylvanians, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced creation of a new Elder Law Task Force. The initial meeting of the group was held on April 16 and 17, 2013, at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center, in Harrisburg, PA.
The Press Release announced that "The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has formed an Elder Law Task Force, chaired by Justice Debra Todd, to study the growing problems involved in guardianship, abuse and neglect, and access to justice. The task force has been charged by Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille with recommending solutions that include court rules, legislation, education and best practices."
The task force is made up of 38 elder law experts, including judges, lawyers and social workers.
The task force will have three subcommittees, one devoted to appointment and qualifications of guardians and attorneys, a second on guardianship monitoring and data collection, and a third on elder abuse and powers of attorney. The work of the group will take approximately one year.
“As a society, we have increased concentration on child abuse, but the issue of elder abuse has not kept pace,” said Justice Todd.
“This task force is the judiciary’s attempt to study the issues under its purview and make adjustments now, before the numbers of older Pennsylvanians and the commensurate jump in abuse, occurs." * * *
"The U.S. Administration of Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that for every one case of elder abuse reported, five more go unreported. This is shameful, and we need to do better.” * * *The appointed members of the Task Force met in Harrisburg on Tuesday, April 16th and Wednesday, April 17th, for introductions, initiation, presentations, and discussions, and then for organizational activities within the three subcommittees. During a break, a group photo was taken (reposted above). I stand in the back row, behind the pretty lady in the red dress, Prof. Katherine Pearson, of Penn State / Dickinson School of Law.
Simultaneously with the announcement, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts posted "a variety of resources" on the UJS website, including high-definition video footage of an interview with Justice Debra Todd, the convener and Chair of the Task Force (the first time such form of media content was posted on that website), an audio clip of the interview, and a graphic, all of which can be used or distributed freely.
Great opportunities for change -- some in study and development for five years or more -- are now presented by the Legislative branch and within the Judicial system in Pennsylvania, even as programs operated by the Executive branch are refined. These proposals and changes would affect positively the Commonwealth's senior and disabled populations:
- The Report and Recommendations of the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC), through its Advisory Committee on Decedents' Estate Laws (ACDEL), issued October, 2012, entitled Guardianship Law: Proposed Amendments to the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, which is now in the form of Senate Bill 117 of the 2013-14 Legislative Session, according to its legislative history.
- The Report and Recommendations of the JSGC-ACDEL, issued June, 2011, entitled Powers of Attorney and Health Care Decision Making: Proposed Amendments to the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, which is now in the form of Senate Bill 620 of the 2013-14 Legislative Session, according to its legislative history.
- Pending, proposed new Pennsylvania Orphans' Court Rules, published for comment in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday, April 13, 2013, which were the subject of my PA EE&F Law Blog posting PA Orphans' Court Rules Proposed for Sweeping Changes (04/04/13).
- Other proposed and pending legislative measures on similar subjects, but with different approaches.