SAN JOSE — Attorney Peter Walzer has handled conservatorship cases in the past and said a recent ruling shows the significance of legally stepping in for an aging loved one when needed.
“This guy found this older lady with dementia and he was ripping her off,” the Walzer told the The Northern California Record, referring to 53-year-old Marreon Gene Starks, who married 83-year-old Beatrice P. until her conservator and son, Stephen P., stepped in and had the one-day marriage annulled.
“He was trying to marry her to get her money, making all these claims about racial discrimination, but it was really a smoke screen, because he was caught red-handed by the son, who was the mother’s conservator,” Walzer said.
According to Starks, he and his wife of one-day were in love and found that the California Sixth District Court of Appeal erred in barring Beatrice P. from testifying to their love in court. Starks, who was representing himself, failed to argue like a professional, according to Walzer.
“He represented himself and doesn’t know a mental examination ordered by the court would have been an appropriate procedure to determine the fact if she was fit or conservatorship was committing fraud, but obviously by the evidence in this case, she was an ill person and it seemed like credible testimony,” Walzer said.
Even if he knew what he was doing, he still would have been denied, Walzer said.
“The real reason his request was denied was that he was trying to cheat this lady, but the court found no right to subpoena somebody that is not legally competent to testify,” he said.
Starks also alleged age and racial discrimination in the case, which Walzer said was another deceptive tactic.
“This is a very sensitive issue, and this litigant found something that would have been a reversal if the trial court had not been smart enough not to even mention Starks was black or his age,” he said.
Both courts were very clear not to mention his age, Walzer added.
“He was just keening in on something that would have been a reversal in another situation, but nobody fell into... the age or racial discrimination trap,” he said.
That was not the only failed trap Starks attempted to set, according to Walzer, who said Starks' claim that the “n-word" was used in reference to his African-American race was a lie.
“He just found a hot-button issue, and it was rejected because there was no evidence of that in the trial court,” he said.
Walzer said the conservator took "a big step in," for his mother.
“They are not easy to get," Walzer said. "I used to do conservatorship work, and you have to prove to the court that this person cannot take care of themselves.
Walzer said that in some cases, family members are attempting to gain control of their loved one's money, “but not this case, he was trying to protect his mother.”
Walzer said it was a thought-provoking case.
“It showed the method used to protect older people in going through an annulment process,” he said, adding dissolving a marriage is a very restrictive process in California. “You have to show fraud relates to a fundamental part of the marriage.”