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In re Guardianship of Redd

Court of Appeals of Michigan

September 19, 2017

In re GUARDIANSHIP OF DOROTHY REDD.
v.
JENNIFER CARNEY and NICHOLE LEGARDY, as Co-Guardians for DOROTHY REDD, a Legally Incapacitated Person, Appellees. GARY REDD, Appellant,

         Oakland Probate Court LC No. 2014-356995-GA

          Before: Gadola, P.J., and Cavanagh and Swartzle, JJ.

          Swartzle, J.

         Dorothy Redd is an elderly woman with several relatives who care a great deal for her. One of her sons, Gary Redd, was appointed guardian of Dorothy[1] in 2014. Two years later, Gary's daughter, Nichole Legardy, sought to remove Gary as guardian because she alleged that he was no longer "suitable" to serve in that role under Michigan's Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC). The probate court agreed, removed Gary as guardian, and appointed Nichole in his place.[2] Gary now appeals, claiming that the probate court applied the wrong standard for removal as well as the wrong burden of proof. As explained below, we conclude that the probate court did not err in removing Gary as Dorothy's guardian, and we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Dorothy is 93 years old and is the mother of five adult children: Gary, Michael Redd, Jerome Redd, Sean Burke, and Antonio Burke. At Dorothy's request, Gary has held power of attorney over her affairs since at least 2005.

         In 2012, Dorothy was living in her home in Detroit with three of her sons, Jerome, Sean, and Michael. According to a report prepared by Dorothy's guardian ad litem in 2014, while living in that home, Dorothy's physical and mental condition deteriorated. Dorothy weighed less than 100 pounds and suffered from episodes of delusion. These health-related matters culminated in June 2012, when Gary received a phone call that Dorothy was roaming the streets in her nightgown telling neighbors that thirty or forty people were in her home trying to kill her. In the days following this incident, Gary moved Dorothy into his home, where she resided until August 2016.

         In June 2014, Gary filed a petition with the Oakland County Probate Court seeking appointment as Dorothy's guardian. Jerome and his daughter, Katrina Tao-Muhammad, opposed the petition and argued that Gary was preventing Dorothy from visiting with family. The probate court found that Dorothy lacked the capacity to care for herself and appointed Gary and an attorney, Jennifer Carney, as co-guardians.

         Over the next two years, several disputes arose between the family members. Several family members continued to argue that Gary was preventing Dorothy from visiting family and argued that Gary was unduly influencing Dorothy against her family members. Jerome and Katrina also questioned whether Gary was properly managing Dorothy's assets and whether Gary should be added to the lease on Dorothy's old home. Michael, among other family members, requested that the probate court prevent Gary from evicting him and Dorothy's other family members from her old home. The probate court entered numerous orders aimed at facilitating Dorothy's visitation with her family members, improving the accounting of Dorothy's finances, and preventing the eviction of Dorothy's family members from her old home. The probate court nevertheless refused to remove Gary as Dorothy's guardian, despite several motions seeking his removal.

         In August 2016, the probate court changed course after learning of a physical altercation between Gary and Nichole regarding Dorothy's lack of visitation with family members. The probate court heard testimony from several past and current members of the family, a police officer, and several unrelated individuals. In all, seventeen persons testified. Of those seventeen persons, at least ten testified that Gary was unduly influencing Dorothy's opinions of her family and was preventing her from carrying on relationships with various family members. Importantly, several persons who previously supported Gary's guardianship now believed that Gary was an unsuitable guardian. Among these individuals were Gary's daughter, Nichole, and Dorothy's co-guardian, Carney. The probate court found particularly insightful a police officer's testimony that while Gary had brought Dorothy to the police station as part of a court-ordered visit with several family members, he blocked her from interacting substantively with her family members and seemed to be undermining the entire visit.

         For her part, Dorothy testified that she wished for Gary to continue as her guardian. The probate court concluded, however, that it was only required to honor her preference when that person was suitable to serve as guardian. Ultimately, the probate court found that Gary's unwillingness to facilitate relationships between Dorothy and various family members rendered Gary unsuitable to continue as her guardian. The probate court removed him as guardian and appointed Nichole as co-guardian with Carney. Gary appeals this decision as of right.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review the probate court's dispositional rulings for an abuse of discretion. In re Bibi Guardianship, 315 Mich.App. 323, 328; 890 N.W.2d 387 (2016). A probate court abuses its discretion when it chooses an outcome outside the range of reasonable and principled outcomes. Id. at 329. We review the probate court's findings of fact for clear error. Id. at 328. A factual finding is clearly erroneous when this Court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a ...


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