Thursday, February 18, 2010

Send My Sister to the Slammer!

The lady in the picture is telling a sentencing Judge that her sister should be sent to the slammer for "embezzling" funds from theri parents' retirement account, maybe $100,000, maybe more.  The account at MLive by John Tunison is a classic recurring drama that runs in families with aged parents that I've seen played out over and over again.  The woman in the picture is Janet Unger, her sister Eloise Russo was Grand Rapids-area, guardian rendering care to her parents and two mentally handicapped brothers.  Ms. Russo misappropriated funds according to Probate Court records.

I actually defended a federal lawsuit not dissimilar to this case in which three vicious siblings made outrageous allegations of misappropriation of funds.  The conduct of one of the sisters in the case I defended was os over the top that the Federal Judge hearing the case was on the verge of jailing her for discourtesy.  Every hearing was like being "racked."   As it turns out, unlike the situation in Michigan nearly every dime was accounted for and legitimately spent by the other family members for their mother's support.  The argument was about control and who would get what when mother ultimately died.  When Mom died the lawsuit ended. . . well, changed venues and states. How do you spell relief. . . change of venue.

The story of Mrs. Unger and her sister brings it back.  Mrs. Unger's account of her sister's misdeeds sounds a little exaggerated.  Her courtroom language was florid, and I get the impression that the Judge who was asked to send the sister to the slammer concluded that Mrs. Unger was not too impressed by the sister's plea to jail her sibling..  The Judge gave the sister, Mrs. Russo, probation, although Mrs. Russo is going to have to deal with restitution requirements in Probate Court. 

I am so beleaguered by the dark side of the internet, cable news, disciplinary and tax nightmares, that a good old family feud was a slight relief. 

There is so little love and compassion in the world.  It's funny that I would talk about love, but I loved what I did as an advocate for people.  I was the Bad Lawyer, but I cared about my clients and the wrongs being done to them.  But I don't think I ever lost the feeling of compassion or empathy for others.  The deep loss I feel, the shame and humiliation makes it very difficult to stand upright.  I keep telling myself, don't quit--so, I think, what must it be like for a woman like Mrs. Russon to stand in court and hear her sister tell a Judge to send her to jail over money that may or may not have been spent on the care of their parents.  In that case Mrs. Russo lost her job, her family, and now her reputation.  Very sad.

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