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Abusive trustees above the law in California?

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A San Jose Mercury News investigation "found a small group of court-appointed personal and estate managers submitting huge, questionable bills--and if people challenge them, they charge more." In one case a disabled man was charged $108,000 by a trustee over the course of four and a half months, and then another $145,000 when the trustee defended the original fee request. The fact that challenging fees may make the beneficiaries worse off is a powerful deterrent to challenging the fees, which in turn makes it less likely that fees will be challenged, inviting abuse.

This why cases such as the State Bar of California's pursuit of Stephen Glass bother me. It's a colorable position to forbid Glass from bar membership for journalistic wrongdoing in the last century, as is the argument to forgive him if he's shown sufficient remorse and good deeds since. But the State Bar's hard line on Glass would be better served focusing on existing members who routinely rip off their clients in the trust and class action context, even if the latter is considerably less high profile. Of course, that assumes that legal licensing is actually meant to protect consumers rather than the legal cartel.

1 Comment

I know what kind of message you're trying to get across, but I'm not sure about what exactly you are suggesting. Are you asking for leniency towards Glass and more scrutiny towards existing members, or are you suggesting a hard line approach for everybody alike? The latter is very sensible, the former is not.

About Glass, I don't believe what the Bar is doing with his case is a "pursuit". Also, I believe in forgiving after "sufficient remorse and good deeds", but forgiving does not mean forgetting. There are plenty of occupations Glass should pursue to contribute to society and make a living, but practicing law is not one of them.

I'm sure you agree that practicing law is a privilege and not a right, and if an existing member is caught misbehaving in his profession and affecting others as a consequence, they might be forgiven, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have to be given a second chance.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.