A Highland County woman has filed a case in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against a local judge, local attorney, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, regarding the legal guardianship of an elderly area resident. 

 

The case is being brought by Jane Branson, written on behalf of her 93-year-old mother, who is "an adult ward under court-appointed guardianship." Branson - who is not the guardian - is acting as her own attorney (pro se) in the suit. 

 

Highland County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Kevin Greer brought the suit to the attention of local news media on Friday and provided copies of court documents. Greer, Hillsboro Attorney J.D. Wagoner, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and James Malott - the court-appointed legal guardian of the 93-year-old - are named as defendants in the case. 

 

Wagoner is the 93-year-old woman's guardian ad litem, according to the court documents. 

 

The suit does not expressly state how Kasich is involved in the matter. 

 

According to Greer, Branson has previously filed an appeal with Ohio's Fourth District Court of Appeals, and filed on four separate occasions to have the matter heard before the Supreme Court of Ohio and was denied each time. 

 

Greer said that the situation began with a 2007 case in Highland County Probate Court when he presided over a case to determine guardianship for the elderly woman. Branson had filed an application to be appointed guardian of the woman's estate and person, which was denied. Branson made the appeal to Ohio's Fourth District Court of Appeals, which upheld Greer's decision. 

 

According to the 2008 judgment from the court of appeals, Branson and Malott are two of the elderly woman's four children. Malott is her power of attorney, and according to documents she filed with the Highland County Recorder's Office, "In the event that [it] should become necessary for a guardianship of my person and or my estate, I request that the probate court appoint my attorney in fact, James D. Malott, as such guardian, without bond." The court upheld Greer's decision to appoint Malott, stating that under the Ohio Revised Code, because a guardian had been named in the power of attorney, the court had to appoint the person nominated (Malott) as long as he was competent, suitable and willing to accept the appointment.

 

"The court (Greer) was required to appoint Malott, absent a showing of incompetence, unsuitability, or unwillingness to accept the appointment," the court of appeals wrote." 

 

Branson claimed in the appeal that she was more qualified to care for the woman, and that she had been caring for her for four years. "In Branson's lay opinion, (the woman) was not getting appropriate care at the nursing facility (where she is now living)." 

 

Malott testified, the court said, that the woman was "getting appropriate care at the facility."

 

In the case filed with the federal court, Branson alleges that the 93-year-old, who she says suffers from Alzheimer's disease and dementia, was "granny-napped" when she was placed in a nursing home by her court-appointed guardian, that she does not receive adequate care, and that she is "forcibly" kept from friends and family members. 

 

Branson alleges that the elderly woman has been "unlawfully deprived, denied and restrained of her liberty;" denied due process; denied her right to appear in Ohio state courts; denied legal counsel; denied access to Ohio courts; and denied a right to a review or appeal process.

 

Among the prayers for relief requested in the suit, Branson asks for "an award of compensatory damages in an amount yet to be determined, an award of punitive damages where appropriate and in a sum sufficient to deter future like conduct by defendants," and for attorney fees, costs and litigation expenses.