By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) on Tuesday held a daylong Office of Court Administration (OCA) approved Mental Hygiene Law, Article 81 Guardianship Training program that was worth eight Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits.
“It’s the statute for guardianship for incapacitated persons in New York state,” said Anthony J. Lamberti, chair of the BBA’s Elder Law Committee. “This program is an OCA certified training, because in order to handle cases that are appointed, you have to have the training and [be] registered with OCA.”
The program was hosted by Lamberti, Fern Finkel and the BBA’s Elder Law Committee. The program lasted eight hours and featured seven speakers, including Lamberti, Finkel, Laura Messina, James Cahill, Helen Galette, Michele Lippa Gartner and Herbert A. Medetsky.
As explained by Lamberti, Article 81 of New York’s Mental Hygiene Law is applicable when the court appoints a guardian to manage the affairs of a person who cannot manage them for him or herself due to lack of capacity. This program trains attorneys and it, or one similar to it, is required before they can take on cases involving Article 81.
“We normally get younger attorneys who are trying to break into the elder law field or want to get their certification to handle these guardianship cases,” Lamberti said. “That’s the overwhelming majority of attendees. There are also stragglers who need the CLE credits, and this is a good way to get eight at once.”
Each attorney handled a different aspect of the program. Lamberti began the day with an introduction to Article 81 and explained the role of the court evaluator. Later on, he discussed the role of the counsel. Finkel took over and explained the duties of the guardian, Messina discussed annual accountings and Cahill explained how to commence with the proceedings.
“The intro is just an overview to try to get people familiar with what the statute is all about,” Lamberti said. “A lot of folks that are here have never handled this type of case before, so this is really a primer that gives them the nuts and bolts of what goes on in these cases from beginning to end. We try to get them familiar with the court papers and try to give them the status of the law.”
After a break for lunch, Galette explained Article 17A, Lippa Gartner went over Part 36 rules and Medetsky explained financial capacity assessment.
“Primarily, 17A is geared toward a specific population, which [is] either developmentally disabled people or mentally challenged [people],” Galette said. “It’s a diagnosis-driven statute, so it’s used for a population of parents who will usually come to court and file a petition so they can be appointed guardian for their child.”