In case you missed yesterday’s news of rather shocking abuse of the courts in Baton Rouge, there was an interesting development, or perhaps an interesting lack of one, in the case of the estate of Helen Plummer which came to light. Plummer was the 95 year old woman taken for a ride by East Baton Rouge Council on Aging director Tasha Clark Amar, daughter of Baton Rouge judge Janice Clark.
Clark Amar had essentially written herself into Plummer’s will as a trustee eligible for $500 per month in fees over the next 20 years, in a document prepared by Southern University law professor and EBRCOA board member Dorothy Jackson on behalf of the Southern U. elderly law clinic. Jackson then proceeded to charge exhorbitant legal fees for what was a tiny amount of work on her part. She’s now suspended from her position at Southern.
When Plummer’s family found out about what Clark Amar had done, apparently through a phone call from Clark Amar the day after Plummer died, they emptied the bank accounts from which that trustee fee would be drawn in an effort to stop Clark Amar from collecting. Whereupon Clark Amar sued the family, and either coincidentally or not the case ended up in Janice Clark’s courtroom – and then sued the family for defamation when they went to the press about the ordeal. After what seemed like a fairly long delay in moving the case to another judge’s court, it finally ended up with Judge Don Johnson, in whose court the Plummer succession will also be heard.
Except that was apparently not the end of the matter with Judge Clark, as we found out yesterday…
An unsigned court petition is delaying a settlement agreement in the long-running estate case of Helen Plummer which enveloped the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging and Southern University in its controversy.
Plummer died in March at age 95, and her will appointed Council on Aging Director Tasha Clark-Amar to oversee her estate and to collect $500 a month over 20 years. Plummer’s family cried foul, saying Clark-Amar had taken advantage of their elderly grandmother, who was a Council on Aging client. Clark-Amar later agreed to step aside from that role.
But Clark-Amar’s mother, state District Judge Janice Clark, is now in charge of signing an order necessary for Plummer’s family to receive money from the estate through a settlement. And though court records show that the order was filed March 27 and again hand-delivered to Clark’s office Aug. 28, the order still has not been signed.
“It befuddles me,” said Tracie Davis, Plummer’s granddaughter. “We can’t move forward. We’re stuck.”
Clark’s staff said Thursday the judge could not comment on a pending case.
Southern University professor and Council on Aging board member Dorothy Jackson drafted Plummer’s will July 6, 2016. Plummer requested in the will that her estate be placed in a trust for her two great-grandchildren and a grandniece.
Her estate is estimated at $650,000, with about half the money coming from two houses and the rest from savings accounts.
One of the great-grandchildren Plummer named in her will is Davis’ 9-year-old daughter. Davis filed a petition for tutorship in March because her daughter, as a minor, cannot legally oversee her finances. The petition for tutorship was filed separately from the Plummer succession case, which had already been assigned to 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson. The petition for tutorship, however, was apparently randomly allotted to Clark, Davis said.
The necessity of a petition for tutorship is dependent on a case-by-case basis, though tutorship proceedings are separate from successions. The Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure outlines that tutorship proceedings need to be brought in district court, as Davis has done.
By the way, everyone involved in this case is black. This is not a situation where race, which is ubiquitous in virtually every discussion of political or quasi-political events in Baton Rouge these days, plays a part. This is about ordinary citizens who work for a living being preyed upon by a corrupt political class.
The tutorship is little more than a formality. There is no reason why it shouldn’t have been signed off on a long time ago.
One of two things are true about this incident. The less likely one is that Janice Clark is horribly inefficient. That is likely true, but it would explain maybe three months of the six the Plummer family has waited for this simple piece of paper to be signed. What’s more likely is Janice Clark is punishing these people for not having knuckled under to her daughter’s attempts to pillage Helen Plummer’s estate, and she will wait to sign the tutorship agreement until it actually becomes injurious to them.
Unless, of course, this matter begins to acquire such a poor odor with the public that the political cabal Janice Clark is a member of begins to put pressure on her to make it go away.
Kudos to the Advocate’s Andrea Gallo for publishing a piece on this travesty yesterday. Perhaps that pressure will now mount and the Plummer family can begin to extricate itself from the clutches of the crooks who run Baton Rouge.
By the by, when the US Chamber of Commerce ranks Louisiana as the nation’s worst civil justice system, do you not believe abuses like this play a role in that ranking?