X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

An 83-year-old neighbor of former Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin contends he and his family exploited her frail state and swindled the millionaire out of several hundred thousand dollars in real estate, furniture, electronics and school tuition. In an unusual legal twist, Barbara Kasler now is trying to prevent Seidlin from complaining she was abused or exploited by others to law enforcement or the state Department of Children and Families, which already has cleared him of an elder exploitation allegation. Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch convened an emergency hearing last week on Kasler’s motion to enjoin Seidlin, his wife, his in-laws and their attorneys from lodging abuse complaints involving her after DCF and Fort Lauderdale police twice responded to tips that she was receiving inadequate medical and nutritional care. In court documents, Kasler’s attorney, Bill Scherer, claims the only harm his client is facing is from frivolous abuse reports and the subsequent investigations. “Further intrusion and questioning of Ms. Kasler by DCF and law enforcement would be traumatic to her health and physical well-being” and could “lead to a panic and stress-induced death,” Scherer of Conrad & Scherer in Fort Lauderdale wrote in an Oct. 11 motion, citing concerns raised by the woman’s psychiatrist. Kasler suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and end-stage Parkinson’s disease, which can be accompanied by dementia. Her ex-husband and children are dead. Two distant relatives are now her caretakers. Kasler’s one-time attorney, Robert Bissonnette, filed an emergency guardianship petition in July in probate court, claiming he was wrongfully discharged and Kasler was being unduly influenced by her caretakers. In another court, Kasler’s civil exploitation case filed in June against Seidlin, his wife Belinda and his in-laws alleges the former probate judge preyed on her vulnerability. Kasler and Seidlin live in Marine Tower on Las Olas Boulevard. The lawsuit contends Seidlin began introducing himself as Kasler’s son and wearing diamond and gold jewelry that belonged to her dead sons within six months of befriending her. Scherer said he believes the Seidlins are responsible for bringing police to Kasler’s door twice in October — first through an anonymous tip to DCF and then with a “scurrilous and improper rogue letter” sent to two probate judges who have a duty to report elderly abuse. The letters alleging abuse and exploitation of Kasler by her caretakers were sent by Seidlin’s attorney, Russell S. Adler, a name partner at Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler in Fort Lauderdale. INFORMATION SHARING His letters said Lyn Evans, who was brought in by Kasler’s niece by marriage, holds the elderly woman’s power of attorney. Evans allegedly ordered a nursing assistant to call her and not 911 in an emergency and forced Kasler to sign reams of legal documents. Adler said his firm sought the advice of The Florida Bar before sending the letters. “Opposing counsel may not like what we have done, but the truth is paramount here, and he cannot stop us from sharing the truth with anyone,” he said. “Nor do we believe that the court has any jurisdiction to stop us from sharing information with the guardianship judge, DCF or anyone else outside of our case.” In an interview, Scherer said the emergency motion to sideline complaints by the Seidlin family was intended to spare Kasler anxiety. But defense attorneys contend Kasler’s request ranges from unusual to ridiculous. “It is in my opinion one of the most spurious motions I have ever seen,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Walter “Skip” Campbell, who is representing Seidlin’s in-laws Barbara and Oren Ray. Campbell, a former state senator, said it is ludicrous to try to prevent someone from reporting elderly abuse or exploitation. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, who represents Dorothy Colletto, a former girlfriend of Kasler’s late son who is accused by Kasler of conspiring with Seidlin, said state law has wide latitude for elderly abuse reporting. “If there is a basis for a belief that someone is being exploited, the proper and appropriate thing to do is report it,” Seiler said. Both attorneys reject Scherer’s allegations. Lynch is expected to finish the hearing in the next few weeks. No date has been set to resume the hearing. Kasler’s elderly exploitation case should go to trial in the next six months on an expedited basis because of her rapidly deteriorating health, Scherer said. Seidlin became a household name when he presided — at times in tears — over the fight for the body of late Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith. For six days, he captivated TV viewers across the country as he made garish remarks about Smith’s decomposing body, offered tales of his time as a New York cabbie and eventually awarded the body to Smith’s infant daughter. His celebrity status soared with a lampoon on “Saturday Night Live,” but his local reputation soured. News reports came out that he played hooky from work, taking three-hour lunch breaks and cutting out early to play tennis. Allegations surfaced that he exploited Kasler and accepted bribes from attorneys in exchange for lucrative appointments. He resigned in July 2007 after almost 28 years as a judge. Investigations ended with no charges. In January, the Miami-Dade County state attorney’s office cleared him of wrongdoing. In May, DCF said it found no indication that Seidlin exploited Kasler. Scherer didn’t let the cleared investigations deter him, comparing Seidlin to O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of murder charges but found liable in civil court to his slain ex-wife’s family. “We allege [Kasler] was exploited and she was exploited horribly, and we intend to prove it,” Scherer said. Asset Sales The civil suit claims the Seidlins persuaded Kasler to sell one of her apartments to them for half what it was worth and transfer a Palm Bay parcel to them for pennies on the dollar. Seidlin also allegedly wrote more than $500,000 in checks to his family on Kasler’s bank accounts to pay off their condominium, buy a second home and pay for their daughter Dax’s private school tuition. Seidlin allegedly halted Kasler’s plans to marry and move to a community where her sister lived because it could shrink his family’s inheritance. The lawsuit contends Seidlin, his wife and Colletto conspired to change Kasler’s will to disinherit her relatives and split her almost $6 million estate among Belinda and Dax Seidlin and Colletto. The lawsuit asking for the recovery of real estate, jewelry and other possessions seeks $3.6 million from the Seidlins, $540,000 from the in-laws and $3.3 million from Colletto, according to court documents. The lawyer who filed the exploitation case did not stay on it for long. Bissonnette, a Fort Lauderdale attorney at Robert P. Bissonnette P.A., was replaced shortly after filing the suit by Scherer. Bissonnette, who declined to comment, filed the guardianship petition in probate court, alleging he had been wrongfully discharged because Kasler was being influenced by her caretakers. Scherer called the guardianship case “frivolous” but declined further comment. In his motion, he refers to Bissonnette as Kasler’s “former and disgruntled attorney.” The probate case is ongoing. In a July 28 report, General Magistrate Rita Berry found there is no imminent danger to Kasler. The judge appointed Fort Lauderdale attorney Jerome Siegel to represent Kasler’s interests as counsel Aug. 3. He did not return a call for comment by deadline and has been discharged from the case, court documents show. Much of the guardianship record is confidential, but records indicate a geriatric care manager were appointed for Kasler. Adler wrote probate Judge Mark Speiser, who is overseeing the guardianship case, on Oct. 7, stating Kasler’s mental capacity is relevant to the exploitation case. “During our firm’s investigation in defense of the Seidlins, we have uncovered disturbing evidence concerning medical neglect that is endangering the life and health of Mrs. Kasler as well as financial exploitation that is currently happening,” Adler wrote. He attached an Oct. 6 affidavit from Vilma Shand, a nursing assistant who began working for Kasler in July. Shand said Evans discouraged her from taking Kasler to scheduled doctors’ appointments and from calling 911 in case of an emergency. “She implied to me that Barbara Kasler fakes these medical emergencies and instructed me, as my employer, never to call 911 again, unless I call her [Lyn Evans] for permission first,” Shand said. Shand said Kasler appeared intimidated by Evans, who has made Kasler sign stacks of legal documents when she appeared to not be “in any condition to sign anything.” She said Evans once instructed her to stop treatment so Kasler could sign documents. She said Evans fired a nurse who discovered Evans had installed a hidden camera in the apartment. In a second affidavit, Adler’s investigator said Evans is a false name. The investigator also claims two of Kasler’s relatives who recently became involved in her care simultaneously spent large sums of money — the niece purchased three new cars worth a total of $126,000, and the adopted granddaughter paid off $151,000 in debt. Adler wrote a second letter to administrative probate Judge Mel Grossman, in which he enclosed the letter to Speiser and asked him to “intervene and take whatever actions that your honor may deem necessary.” The letters spurred Scherer to file his emergency motion with Lynch, saying he believes Grossman contacted DCF in response to Adler’s motion. Grossman did not return a call for comment by deadline. Scherer said Kasler was being provided with “state-of-the-art medical care,” and the police officer who responded Oct. 1 on the DCF tip noted the presence of recently prescribed medication. He said DCF attorney Jean Costa agreed the court needs to protect Kasler from “further frivolous reports of abuse to DCF and law enforcement.” Yet, DCF and the police were back nine days later. Costa did not return a call for comment by deadline. “Mr. Adler’s letter to Judge Speiser is an illegal, unauthorized and unprofessional attempt to influence Judge Speiser by insinuation, innuendo, libel, inflammatory statements and outright inaccuracies or falsehoods,” Scherer wrote. He said Seidlin must be stopped.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.