The Florida Bar

Florida Bar News

Florida State Guardianship Association criticizes FCCC created task force

Senior Editor Top Stories

Guardianship Improvement Task ForceA guardianship task force created by the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers has been criticized by one of its members as too rushed and having insufficient representation.

Gina Rossi-Scheiman, executive director of the Florida State Guardianship Association which represents professional guardians, sent a letter on August 18 to Pinellas Clerk of Court Ken Burke, who chairs the FCCC’s Guardianship Improvement Task Force, outlining the association’s concerns.

The task force met the following day and Burke in a brief statement at the beginning of the meeting welcomed Rossi-Scheiman’s comments and defended the task force’s operations.

The task force was formed over the summer and aims to make concrete recommendations for the Legislature to act on in during its 2022 session, which starts in January. Pre-session committee meetings begin September 20. The task force is set to begin deliberating its recommendations on September 23.

“FSGA is concerned this ‘task force’ is not well aimed on addressing statewide issues, and it has certainly been formed in haste,” Rossi-Scheiman wrote. “This effort is, frankly, lacking in representation from across more judicial circuits and from the Judiciary. The few total hours scheduled is illogical and a disservice to all concerned. Even within this fast time table, hardly any time is being set aside for substantive deliberations. Notwithstanding, and amazingly, a target date has been set for the issuance of a report in a matter of just a few weeks.”

Since the FCCC is not covered by public records law, she said she has had trouble getting information about how the task force was formed.

Rossi-Scheiman said her association has had a solid record of working with the Legislature and state agencies to improve the guardianship system. She called on Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls to name a state commission, supported by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, to comprehensively study guardianship laws and rules. The letter called for better training and education of all guardianship participants and improving the oversight of courts.

“We trust a comprehensive, more thought-out approach will produce real improvements for all Floridians,” Rossi-Scheiman wrote. “We look forward to working with you, Clerk Burke, and many others in that endeavor.”

She also sent a letter to DeSantis echoing her concerns and asking him to support naming a comprehensive state study of the guardianship system.
At the August 19 task force meeting, Burke acknowledged the letter and defended the task force’s operations.

He agreed the task force had a short time frame to meet and make recommendations, but noted longer, more comprehensive studies in the past have failed to produce significant results, and Florida’s guardianship system continues to have serious problems.

“No reasonable person can believe we can solve all the issues and come up with all the remedies to guardianships in the state of Florida,” Burke said, adding the task force has the “ability to make serious legislative recommendations and move the needle in a positive direction.”

He also said the task force has a wider range of perspectives than past efforts, which will give an added impact to its recommendations. Members include judges, clerks, representatives of the Bar’s Elder Law and Real Property, Probate and Trust Law sections, an advocate for wards, the FSGA, representatives of the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Elder Affairs (which regulates professional guardians), Sen. Jennifer Bradley, and Rep. Colleen Burton.

Burke said the FSGA recommendation would be considered with other proposals as part of its final report.

Chris Hart, CEO of the FCCC, called Ross-Scheiman’s criticism part of the collaborative process that the task force is committed to following.

“The Guardianship Improvement Task Force has played a key role in bringing together legislators, subject matter experts, and concerned citizens to collaborate on ways to improve the guardianship process. I am proud of the hard work of its members for their collaboration and of our association for staffing this initiative,” Hart said. “…The recommendation [from Rossi-Scheiman] supports the mission of the task force, which is to study the current status of guardianships in Florida, with the goal of making recommendations to improve the protection of wards throughout the state.”

News in Photos