Ms. W, an 87-year-old female with a diagnosis of dementia, was admitted to the Weinberg Center from her apartment in Manhattan after being physically, financially, and psychologically abused by various young adults. In addition to the abuse, she was also facing eviction due to the behaviors of the young adults residing in her apartment. They were allegedly using illegal substances, destroying various parts of the building, and threatening the building superintendent.
This was not the first time Ms. W was facing eviction because of these young adults. In a previous eviction proceeding, the landlord told Ms. W that he would drop the case, but only if Ms. W signed a stipulation that she would control the behavior of the young adults residing with her. In order to avoid the loss of her home, Ms. W signed, but, ultimately, she could not comply. Ms. W’s housing issues and cognitive decline were deeply intertwined, and it became clear that Ms. W was in need of a guardian.
Typically, the landlord’s case against Ms. W would proceed in housing court, while Ms. W’s guardianship case proceeded in the guardianship court. Separate proceedings mean that: the cases are resolved separately; neither judge may understand the full scope or context of the case; Ms. W could be evicted in the middle of her guardianship proceeding.
Fortunately, that is not what happened to Ms. W.
Instead, Ms. W’s case was heard in the integrated guardianship part 7. This integrated part has authority to hear housing and guardianship cases simultaneously, allowing one judge to preside over these two deeply intertwined legal matters. Consolidating authority equips the judge to better understand the full facts of the case.
In Ms. W’s case, she was appointed a guardian. Her judge understood the circumstances surrounding the stipulations submitted by the landlord. The eviction was stayed while the guardianship matter was resolved, and the landlord and guardian were empowered to negotiate with each other.
This integrated part is one small example of the transformative power that a consolidated court system could have.
Older adults—and particularly older adults who have experienced abuse and may be coping with trauma or have reduced capacity—face many barriers to accessing justice through our courts. One of these barriers is the sheer complexity of the New York court system. Our court system often requires victims of elder abuse to seek relief through multiple systems, resulting in long delays, arduous travel for repeat appearances, and unresolved matters that directly impact the well-being and safety of older adults.