Surrogate Nora Anderson

 

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The status of Kathleen Durst, as an absentee, or decedent, was brought before this court for the fourth time since her 1982 disappearance. The court agreed with both petitioner and respondent Durst was presumed deceased, and the only question at issue was the specific date of death, with the court finding Durst was presumed to have died five years after the date she was last seen, Jan. 1987. Petitioner, decedent’s sister, failed to establish a date of death differing from the court’s findings, bringing two post-determination motions—to deny the guardian ad litem (GAL) any compensation for services rendered to the court, and for the court to recuse itself. The court noted the fact petitioner disagreed with the GAL, and court’s, date of death determination was not a reason to deny the GAL compensation. Thus, Gal’s fee was fixed in the amount requested, and payable by petitioner’s personal representative. Also, petitioner’s counsel implied “a nefarious motive” to the appointment of the GAL, alleging an appearance of impropriety in that GAL’s wife and his law firm made contribution’s to the court’s campaign for judicial office, noting same was made over nine years ago. The court stated where a party asserted a bias claim after an adverse ruling, denial of recusal was generally warranted.