Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates
The vultures are out in OC probate court

The vultures are out in OC probate court

I witnessed another remarkable hearing in Orange County.
Orange County Superior Court Judge David Belz

Note: The podcast is a recording of a hearing from November 2, 2022, in front of Judge David Belz in this case.

Sometimes vultures who feed on dead carcasses aren’t found in the side of the road, or the wild somewhere.

Many times, these vultures wear nice suits, graduate from top colleges, while holding occupations the average person would find respectable.

If you want to find some of these vultures, go to just about any probate court and sit in for a day.

I day that today, November 2, 2022, in the courtroom of Judge David Belz of the Orange County, California Probate Court Division.

I was there to catch up on the Adair case.

I first interviewed Jodee Sussman- whose parents, the Adair’s, were both in conservatorship- in March 2022.

Hers was one of several cases I covered showing corruption in Orange County’s (CA) probate system.

Conservatorship is the equivalent of guardianship in other states; it’s when a court determines that someone is not competent enough to handle their own affairs.

The dark side of conservatorship has received attention recently due to Brittney Spears.

The estate was drained; Jodee estimates there was well over $10 million when it started, and the court pronounced today there is $1.5 million left.

Worse yet, Jodee explained that the estate had to be put into a restructured bankruptcy. Here is more from my first article.

It started in 2015 when a sibling who had a falling out with her parents attempted to place both her mother and father into conservatorship.

“In 2015, my brother filed the same lies about you know, like, mismanagement of my parents’ funds, that my dad wasn’t properly cared for, that you know mom was gonna lose her property, that they didn’t pay for meals.” She told me in the podcast.

Her parents were able to hire attorneys and convince a judge that the allegations weren’t accurate and they fought off the initial attempt to have them put into conservatorship.

Then, in 2019, the same brother was back with the exact same allegations, only this time he filed it ex-parte, she told me, and they were placed into conservatorship immediately.

This is similar, I noted, to how Marla Grayson, the character in I Care a Lot, operated.

She too would normally file an ex-parte motion so that she could have the potential ward put into guardianship before they’ve had a chance to get a lawyer and fight back.

Indeed, the second time around, Jodee told me, her mom- her father had died- was not allowed to hire an attorney but rather given a public defender.

Jodee said the public defender did do a good job on her mom’s behalf.

This time the same allegations were made and her move was accused of dementia.

A “mall” psychiatrist was ordered by Jodee’s brother, and Jodee believes her mom was drugged during their session when this psychiatrist determined her mom to have dementia.

This testimony carried a lot of weight while future psychiatrists who challenged this initial assessment were ignored.

Since last I caught up with Jodee, her mom had moved to Texas, escaped to some peace, before dying.

That has not stopped the vultures from trying to continue to collect.

That’s what this hearing was about.

The lawyers, guardian ad litem, the conservator, and even her brother, all wanted a piece of the estate they all helped to destroy.

I reached out to the GAL, David Shaver, and he responded this way, “Do you have any idea what my role is in this case? I have not been paid any money to date. My petition for my fees and costs advanced was one of the matters on calendar today. If you have done so, I suggest you read my petition. Because there have been objections to my fee petition, I will be filing an amended petition that will address the issues raised in the objections.”

Everyone was asking for fees to be paid out from this estate- now in bankruptcy.

Jodee and her sister, primarily, were objecting and this hearing was supposed to decide it.

Only nothing was decided.

The judge, David Belz, decided that because not all the objections were filed on time a hearing would not occur until January 2023.

“This case is settleable,” Judge Belz pronounced late in the hearing, “there’s no doubt this can be settled.”

I beg to differ.

Lots of people- mostly lawyers, guardian ad litem, and therapists- caused two people to unnecessarily be put into conservatorship.

Now those same people who caused this mess want to continue to plunder this estate even after everyone is dead.

Jodee vociferously disagrees; I don’t think they’ll settle.

To make things even more complicated; the case has also moved to Texas where her mother died.

Jodee told me something remarkable; before she died, a probate judge in Texas examined her mother and determined she should not be in guardianship and did not have dementia: meaning this plundering was done for no good reason.

“The bankruptcy estate is not a slush fund," a lawyer said during the hearing.

Let’s hope so.

The next hearing is January 18, 2023.


Check out the previous articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25. Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, and Part 30.

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David Shavers responded to me shortly after I originally published the article. It has since been updated.

Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates
I give voice to the voiceless with true original reporting on topics the rest of the media is too afraid or lazy to cover.