Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature

Deadly Corruption in Probate Court

by Janet C. Phelan (janetcphelan [at]
"Soylent Green" operation being run out of California Probate Courts--the elderly being turned into cash.
J. David Horspool is a probate attorney doing business at 127 E. State Street in Redlands. His behavior in one particular case, the Conservatorship of (Dr.) Amalie Phelan (RIP 080974), now deceased, has evidenced a degree of corruption, gross manipulation of the legal system, and disregard for the well-being of a vulnerable and elderly woman that begs further scrutiny. I am requesting you read this documented report.

My mother, Dr. Amalie Phelan, first visited Attorney Horspool in the fall of 2001. My sister, Judith Phelan, had been residing with my widowed mother, and following the death of our father in 1997, had been stealing from the family estate, at one time valued at approximately $1 million dollars. In an effort to curtail the hemorrhaging of the estate by my sister, and reluctant to initiate criminal proceedings against her, my mother and I approached J. David Horspool, seeking a fiduciary to handle the funds of my mother, who was in her eighties.

Horspool stated he had knowledge of an excellent fiduciary, a Melodie Z. Scott, who is president of C.A.R.E, located at 25 E. State Street. At no time did he disclose that Scott was his established client, and had been so for many years.

In December of 2001 my mother and I met with Melodie Scott and Horspool. Scott expressed consternation at my sister's behavior, and stated she would "cut Judith off." Not wishing to leave her elder daughter destitute (Judith, though well-educated, is psychiatrically and physically disabled and does not work), my mother expressed her wish that Judith not be "cut off" but be granted adequate funds for her needs.

On December 2, 2001, my mother signed a document nominating Melodie Scott as conservator of her person and estate. In the Living Will set up by my parents in 1997 by Attorney Mark Anderson of Escondido, a conservator was named in advance should this prove necessary. An old family friend, James Henderson of Riverside, had been designated as "stand-by" should conservatorship prove necessary. He was also named successor trustee.

In light of the actions embarked on by Horspool and Scott against the best interests of Amalie and me, her signing the conservatorship nomination proved disastrous.
Almost immediately, Scott started funneling thousands of dollars a month to Judith. Scott placed aides in my mother's home, ostensibly to care for Amalie, although none were needed before. On several occasions she threatened to call the police on me when I came to visit Amalie. Very shortly, Amalie requested I find her an attorney to consult on this matter, as she was distressed by Scott's behavior.

The first week in March, 2002, my mother and I visited a probate attorney in Laguna Hills. Immediately, Scott stopped payment on my trust fund. As a result of her refusal to abide by the December 18, 2001 court order to distribute "up to $1500 a month" to me, I was later that year to lose my apartment and my car.

I ignored Scott's threats and continued my weekly visits to my mother. I noticed my mother's health was worsening. In June of 2002 I received a desperate phone call from Amalie. "I'm very ill and no one is paying attention to me,"she reported. I took immediate action.

At that time, both my sister and C.A.R.E. employee Linda Garcia were residing in my mother's home and being paid by Scott to care for Amalie.

I drove to Temecula, to find my mother too ill to walk unassisted. Immediately, I drove her to the Emergency Room at Rancho Springs Hospital in Murrieta. She was examined and admitted, and went into surgery, where a pacemaker was inserted to regulate her heartbeat.
On returning to her home, I examined my mother's medicine bottles. My mother had been a cardiac patient for some time. She had gone through two previous bypass surgeries, had a history of angina and was on cardiac medication. Indicated by full, undispensed pill bottles, there were at least two months of heart medicine which had been filled and withheld from my mother.

I called the police. Linda Garcia had already fled the scene, never to be seen by me again. When the police arrived, Judith went into her room and locked the door behind her.
The police counted the pills. Mrs. Scott called the house and told the reporting officers that I was crazy and to lock me up. Parenthetically, this is a tactic Scott has used before. In the case of Ann Cole, who went under the care of Mrs. Scott, there was a protective and concerned sister, as reported by Judy Lampuu, Ann's niece. As Ann's situation worsened and her sister attempted to intervene, Scott used the "crazy" appellation in order to thwart the protective efforts. Ann died quickly under Scott's care. "And she wasn't even in poor health," stated Lampuu in conversation in 2002.

When I received a copy of the police report several weeks later, the police had misreported the pill count. I contacted the Temecula Police Department immediately. I was told not to contact them again.

The situation worsened. Three days after my mother's hospitalization and surgery, Riverside Probate Judge Stephen Cunnison issued a Temporary Restraining Order against me, stating I was not to intervene in my mother's care. The declaration in support of the Restraining Order, concocted by Melodie Scott and David Horspool, is replete with lies. All the opinions they proffered in support of the TRO, certainly damning if true, omitted one basic fact--Amalie was immediately trundled into surgery to correct her failing heart.

At this point the story takes a shocking turn. The TRO came to hearing August 1st, 2002. I sat in the courtroom all morning, but there was no hearing on the TRO. In fact, Judge Stephen Cunnnison signed the order into permanency without granting me my legal right to a hearing, thus stripping me of my rights. Attachment A is the minute order signed by Cunnison that day. You will note that the minute order does not mention any parties present.

Jack Smith of West Hollywood accompanied me to court that morning. His letter-- detailing the actions of the Court are in Attachment B. This document substantiates what is revealed in examination of the minute order--that there was no hearing, and that I was stripped of my right to due process.

Family friend and journalist Patricia Lambert had flown in from Arizona to interview Amalie in the facility in which she had been placed. Lambert produced two reports (Attachments C and D) recording Amalie's wish to end the conservatorship and to restore her relationship with me, to whom Lambert referred as "Amalie's lifeline." Cunnison ignored the reports.
I had been granted permission by the Court to visit my mother "under supervision." On September 28, 2002, I handed Amalie a legal document to sign, prepared by Los Angeles Attorney Jeff Lustman (Attachments E and F). Probate Code 1863 delineates the legal right to a jury trial to determine the fate of the conservatorship. With a Judge issuing Restraining Orders for life saving efforts by a loving daughter, then depriving the restrained party to her legal right to a hearing, it was felt that Amalie would have a better chance with a jury than with this obviously corrupt judge.

Cunnison denied her request. His remarks to Attorney Lustman state that the request needs to be tendered by Amalie's own attorney. According to the Probate Code, this is simply untrue.

Cunnison then unleashed a second TRO against me. The declaration for this TRO, prepared by Attorney J. David Horspool, makes no attempt whatsoever to approximate reality.

I stood in front of the compromised Stephen Cunnison at this hearing, and informed him that he signed the first Restraining Order without a hearing. I asked him to recuse himself. He refused. I produced the Jack Smith letter and stated, for the record, that my mother had incurred surgery and a pacemaker as a result of my bringing her to the Emergency Room.
Cunnison shot me a dark look. "That was another matter," he said. He then cleared the courtroom. When the matter was finally dealt with, at the end of the day, I stood in a courtroom emptied of all possible witnesses.

"Restraining Order upheld," was all he said.

I walked out into the unrelenting sunlight of an October day, stained by contact with a darkness I could not comprehend.

The second RO, which is the final attachment in this report, prohibits me from contacting the police, the FBI, the CIA (??!!), Adult Protective Services or the Ombudsman's Office. Aside from the bizarre and irrelevant inclusion of the Central Intelligent (sic) Agency in the Restraining Order, I was effectively barred from contacting any agency which might assist in my mother's situation. And the fact remains that a judge cannot legally restrain a citizen from contacting law enforcement. This did not seem to bother Cunnison.

Months later, the source of the hemorrhaging of the estate by Judith surfaced. She had been forging my endorsement on checks made out to me by Amalie. Judith, who had studied calligraphy for many years, had been telling Amalie that I was in need of large sums of money, then forging my endorsement on these checks and depositing them into her Wells Fargo account. She had arranged joint signing on my mother's Bank of America and Washington Mutual accounts in order to facilitate her crimes.

When I contacted the Temecula Police Department to report this, Detective Dennis Winker cited the second RO and told me I was "not allowed" to contact him. "You'c better watch out," he warned me.

Due to this Restraining Order, I was not allowed to see Amalie again until February of 2004. Horspool and Scott's retaliation against me had decimated my income. I had lost my apartment, my car and one-third of my body weight, due to the lack of money for food. There was no longer even a remote possibility of hiring an attorney.

In 2004 I was granted permission to visit my mother several times. In late April, I was unable to reach her at the home in which Melodie Scott had placed her. I called Scott and Horspool to find out what had happened to her. They did not return my calls.

In late May, after dozens of calls to Scott and Horspool concerning the well-being of my mother, I finally reached case manager Christina Erickson at Scott's office. She informed me that my mother had passed away on May 4. She had died alone and had been buried without my notification.

Melodie Scott had gone to court in January of 2003 and secured the Power of Health Care Decisions over my mother. According to the will, this had been accorded to my sister Judith. I had beseeched my sister to go to court and to challenge this move by Scott. Judith refused.

Johanna Baker, the daughter-in-law of Dora Baker, who had also been under conservatorship with Melodie Scott (represented again by David Horspool) revealed to me in conversation in late 2002 that Scott had ordered a catheter removed from Dora Baker a week prior to what was ordered by the attending physician. As a result, Dora Baker died a premature and agonizing death.

"Her life was cut short," stated Johanna Baker.

I was contacted by a " Kathy Carroll, " who told me she had been a friend of one Freeland Allison, also under conservatorship with Melodie Scott. Carroll told me that Scott had placed her friend in a nursing home. When Carroll attempted to visit him at the home, Carroll reported to me that Scott threatened to "pull the note" on Carroll's property, which was held by Freeland Allison, and initiate foreclosure proceedings on Kathy Carroll's home.
Allison died shortly thereafter.

"I believe he died of a broken heart," said Kathy Carroll.

It is now too late for my mother. Hopefully, the details of this report will inform your passage through the perilous waters of Riverside Superior Probate Court. Judge William Sullivan was removed from the bench as the sitting probate judge several years back. It appears to be time for another, more extensive housecleaning.

Janet C. Phelan
by Kathleen Waters
I am trying to get in touch with Janet Phelan. I am the daughter of a woman under an evil conservator and have been subjected to abuse, retaliation, attacks and persecution of all kinds, including theft of my property and horrific lies which have destroyed my relationship with family. I have just discovered the most disturbing evidence of all and feel like I desperately need to tell someone about this. My mother was forced into a guardianship to protect her from me (!) and two years later she was found to be competent with a full neuropsychological exam by a specialist and the conservator SUPPRESSED the report. My motehr goes on welfare this month after them liquidating her million dollar estate through several dubious property deals and slight of hand accounting... they threw my poor mother into a nursing home for a pulled muscle, which healed in a week, and left her there, screening her visitors and blocking her from even going to church, blocking me from talking to her doctor, I could go on and on. I am brokenhearted but have a case in a California court. Please call me at (801) 268-0481 or email me at kwaters1234 [at] Tears ran down my face as I read your experience-- this has GOT TO STOP!
An industry exists in which lawyers, accountants and other unethical participants, sometimes with complicity from probate courts, can separate any of us from our property when certain (not that unusual) circumstances occur. These circumstances can be orchestrated and lead to an Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA). This often occurs with wills, trusts, guardianships or other probate-related situations.

To think that property and assets are your own and that you have control over their ultimate distribution is a mistake. Situations such as are described at occur more often than most people would ever believe. A close study of this issue leads one to recognize that going to court is not a path that necessarily provides reasonable resolution. This course too easily leads to lawyers or administrators becoming the functional beneficiaries while the intended beneficiaries are left with reduced or no assets as well as potentially significant legal expenses.

With the transfer of wealth that is getting ready to occur in the next 20 or so years, the Involuntary Redistribution of Assets will likely skyrocket. People think proper estate planning will protect them – wrong! People think they don’t have enough assets to be a target – wrong!! There is no inoculation from the threat of IRA. Forewarned, however, is forearmed.
We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!


$190.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.


Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network