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EDITORIAL: Victims of guardianship travesty finally receive justice

A smattering of the many elderly victims abused by April Parks finally had their day in court last week when a judge sentenced the former Nevada guardian to prison for manipulating the law to steal from her senior charges.

Thus closes a particularly sordid chapter in Nevada legal history. But questions remain.

The hearing came almost four years after a Review-Journal investigation — spurred by reporting in The Vegas Voice, a local monthly for seniors — revealed that a system intended to protect those who can no longer take care of themselves lacked oversight and was being exploited by predators.

In an October 2017 essay for The New Yorker, Rachel Aviv expanded upon the RJ series by highlighting the case of Rudy and Rennie North. The husband and wife, married for 57 years, were rousted from their Sun City Aliante home over Labor Day weekend in 2013 when Parks and her crew arrived on the doorstep and announced the two would be moving to an assisted living facility per an order from Clark County Family Court. Unbeknownst to the Norths or their family, Parks had gotten herself declared the couple’s legal guardian without their consent, giving her virtual control over their lives, including their finances.

A month later, most of the Norths’ belongings, including family heirlooms, were sold or disposed of and the couple had been made permanent wards of the state while confined to a glorified nursing home. The Norths were never represented by counsel.

It was frighteningly Orwellian but all legal — even though the Norths’ daughter, who lived in Las Vegas, vehemently tried to contest what was happening.

Parks was Nevada’s most active private guardian, at one time managing up to 100 cases. But while Parks’ abuses were indeed “absolutely shocking” and “downright offensive,” as the sentencing judge noted Friday, she operated with the tacit approval of all involved — from the police and social workers who turned a blind eye, to the medical professionals who provided diagnostic cover for her court filings, to members of the judiciary who rubber-stamped her every move.

April Parks is going to prison. Good. But many in positions of power, though they committed no crimes, failed miserably to protect the victims yet remain entrenched in the system. For example, Jon Norheim, the Clark County guardianship commissioner for a decade, was transferred to another position in 2015 and now oversees cases involving neglected children. District Judge Charles Hoskin, who handled appeals in guardianship court, was also reassigned three years ago and has applied for a vacancy on the Nevada Court of Appeals.

The guardianship controversy resulted in many positive reforms implemented upon the recommendation of a Nevada Supreme Court panel. But a stench still fouls the air.

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