My Crusade to Improve Guardianship Practices

My Crusade to Improve Guardianship Practices
and to Protect Elderly and Vulnerable Adults, and Children
by Doug Schafer
2002 Candidate for Washington State Supreme Court

        1. In 1994, Doug Schafer helped an elderly widow try to resist an unwelcome guardianship petition that a distant relative had filed against her. That shocking experience prompted him to begin a personal crusade to correct abusive and unlawful guardianship practices that were then widely employed by lawyers and judges in Hillsborough County and elsewhere. Some of his many, many letters and a letter by the AARP Vulnerable Persons Committee Chair may be viewed by clicking here.
            The non-responsiveness of the local judges throughout 1995 led Doug to approach the state legislature in 1996, joining with citizens outraged by abusive practices of guardians ad litem in child custody cases that were similar to their abuses in guardianship cases. (Click here for legislative letters.) With great help from AARP and other groups and many outraged citizens, and over vigorous objections by statewide organizations of lawyers (for example, click here) and judges and their paid lobbyists, Doug and his fellow citizens convinced the legislators to change the laws to correct many of the identified abuses. They enacted Substitute Senate Bill 6257 to require, among other reforms, a statewide training program for court-appointed guardians ad litem who investigate whether a person needs a guardian. Doug later was involved on committees in preparing those training materials.

  • About the Candidate, Doug Schafer.
  • The Missing Moral Leadership.
  • The Culture of Shielding Judicial Colleagues.
  • Doug’s Selected Concerns and Proposals.
  • The Corrupt Cadillac-kickback Judge Case.
  • Doug as the Corrupt Judge’s Whistleblower.
  • Doug’s Concerns With Judge/Lawyer Discipline.
  • Doug’s Concerns With Sleazy Lawyers’ Ethics.
  • Doug’s Past Guardianship Projects.
  • Doug’s Replies to Interested Groups’ Questionnaires.
  • Doug’s Selected News Coverage.
  • Doug’s Replies to Voters’ Questions.  NEW  Is incumbent’s dishonesty and marital fidelity relevant?


            Note: AARP is not permitted to endorse any candidate for public office, due to the IRS rules for tax-exempt groups.  AARP is not endorsing Doug for judicial office, but it has shared Doug’s agenda for legislative and judicial reforms on guardianship issues in recent years.

        2. Beginning in 1995, Doug also aggressively asserted the need for licensing of “professional guardians.”  Many responsible professional guardians shared that view, and in 1997 persuaded the Legislature to enact Substitute House Bill 1771 (clone of Senate Bill 5667) to establish a statewide certification program, which is now in place. Click here to learn about that program. To see some of Doug’s contributions toward the establishment of that program, click here.

        3. Beginning in June 1995, Doug voluntarily helped a victimized family pursue its State Bar grievance against a lawyer who ran a guardianship business that misappropriated their deceased mother’s funds. That 4½ year State Bar disciplinary case (to read more about it, click here) finally resulted in that lawyer’s formal reprimand for his unethical conduct. Doug exposed the “production mill” nature of that lawyer’s guardianship business, which for years had enjoyed a near monopoly and minimal scrutiny as the hometown guardian favored by the Pierce County judges.

        4. Since early 2000, Doug has assisted the outraged relatives of a 93-year-old widow with Alzheimer’s Disease who fell 35 feet to her death due to the gross neglect of her court-appointed Seattle “professional guardian.” Though the well-paid corporate guardian provided needed live-in caregivers for over three years, it never safety-checked her third-floor apartment, which had large unsecured sliding picture windows. Her relatives hope that by drawing attention to the senseless tragedy, “professional guardians” appointed to protect vulnerable persons will actually do so.  A website (click here) posts information about the relatives’ pending lawsuit against those responsible.

        5.  In late 2001, Doug drafted legislation that will, among other things, permit Washington lawyers to report evidence of exploitation or abuse of elderly or vulnerable adults or of children, even against a client’s wishes. Representatives Marc Boldt and Sarah Casada introduced the bill (House Bill 2503, “Conduct Of Lawyers Act”), but the powerful lawyers who chaired the two Judiciary Committees, Rep. Patricia Lantz and Senator Adam Kline, refused even to consider the legislation.  Doug posted to promote that legislation and also another bill (House Bill 2504, “Truth In Lawyering Act”) that similarly was shunned by the lawyer-legislators. Doug will continue promoting enactment, whether by the Legislature or by the State Supreme Court, of the public-interest policies reflected in those two bills.

        6. Persons interested in protecting incapacitated elders and others from abusive or exploitive guardianships should read about the AARP/DSHS Volunteer Guardianship Monitoring Program (that Doug began promoting in Washington in 1995) at its website: Those interested in guardianships issues should also read the new website The Retirement Nightmare by a daughter who endured her parents’ guardianship nightmare, then began writing about guardianship problems. Further timely information is on the Guardianship & Alternatives page at the website of The Center for Social Gerontology. Doug Schafer was an advisor and contributor to the Center’s National Study to Assess and Improve the Quality of Guardianship Service Providers, the report of which is expected soon.