Judge Gary F. Knobel

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The court noted the remaining issues for determination in this special Article 81 proceeding for the appointment of a guardian for the alleged incapacitated person’s (AIP) property and person were if court-appointed counsel for the AIP should continue in that capacity, and if the record herein should be sealed. The court noted it could not accurately determine the AIP’s wishes, as was typical in such proceedings, due to her severe cognitive impairment, finding everyone, but the cross-petitioner and proposed co-guardian, claimed there was no basis to seal the record. It stated, in view of the existing public policy strongly favoring the public’s access to court files, and applying the criteria within Mental Hygiene Law §81.14(b), cross-petitioner failed to sufficiently show good cause to warrant sealing of the subject record. The court found the serious allegations in the petition were exactly the examples set forth in arguments favoring public scrutiny of guardianship proceedings, ruling public interest outweighed the private interests of the parties. While it urged the legislature to re-evaluate §81.14 to prevent identity theft and in view of broad impact of HIPPA on guardianship proceedings, the court re-appointed the attorney for the AIP, but denied the motion to seal the record.