Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another episode of Legal Tea! Today’s topic is a current trend … something going on in current time, that is pertinent to my world. Today’s topic is on “guardianship” and specifically, it’s somewhat related to the Britney Spears’ guardianship. Before I dive into what we are talking about today, the last time we talked about Britney Spears’ guardianship was before the guardianship got terminated. So wayyyyy back when, like 20+ episodes ago, I did an episode on Britney Spears’ guardianship – how they got to where they got, what a guardianship is, where things stood at that point, etc.
Well now, as many are aware, Britney Spears’ guardianship has been extinguished. I understand there’s still some things happening though; like I just saw a recent headline stating that Jamie Spears asked to see Britney’s estate plan … and he made this request after the guardianship was terminated meaning he was no longer guardian. So, yeah – there’s still some scuttlebutt going on. Many people believe that the force behind the guardianship getting terminated was Britney’s attorney, Matthew Rosengart. Mr. Rosengart came guns a-blazin’ to help Britney … and I’m certain he continues to do so.
So, today’s topic is about someone else that Matthew Rosengart has decided to step in and help – a gentleman by the name of Peter Max, who is according to Peter’s Wikipedia, a “German-American artist known for using bright colors in his works.. Works by Max are associated with the visual arts and culture of the 1960s, particularly psychedelic art and pop art.” As I was researching for this episode, I looked up some of his work – wow, cool stuff. The colors really are bright – and I love bright stuff, so it’s up my alley, for sure!
According to an article in The New York Times in 2019, it was revealed that Peter had been suffered from advanced dementia – and that “he is now often unaware of his identity and his surroundings, and that his deteriorated mental state has been exploited in a massive art fraud scheme dating back to at least 2015.” Man, that breaks my heart to hear. Such a talented man – gets taken advantage of from a cognitive condition he didn’t have any control over.
According to his Wikipedia page, he has two adult children, who are named Adam Max and Libra Max. Peter lives in New York City and actually according to an article in AMNY, news source out of New York, Peter was actually a Holocaust survivor.
So, in 2016, Peter was placed under a guardianship and according to that article in AMNY, he was placed under guardianship “because of alleged mistreatment of his wife, Mary, who committed suicide in 2019 at the age of 52.” So yeah, 2016 is when the guardianship started over Peter. Libra Max, Peter’s daughter, explained that initially, the first 2 guardians over Peter were fine because “they didn’t interfere with her Dad’s life.”
Then, in 2019, Peter’s Court-appointed attorney, Elizabeth Adinolfi, selected another attorney, Barbara Urbach Lissner, as Peter’s guardian of his “person.” In my research it was not clear to me when Peter’s guardian of his “estate” was appointed, but it was a gentleman by the name of Lawrence Flynn. (Side note: Guardian of the person means Barbara makes decisions relating to him, as a person, so like health care decisions, where he lives, etc. while Lawrence, as Guardian of the estate, means he makes decisions relating to Peter’s financial and legal affairs.)
It is alleged that among the various professionals serving in capacities like attorney, guardian, etc. that the services have cost Peter’s financial estate around $16M – that is according to ABC Action news. Though, shots were fired because Peter’s guardian of his estate, Lawrence Flynn, stated to Page Six, “Peter is being very well cared for … I submit a detailed report every year to the Court detailing the money that is spent on his care, on his taxes, and personal bills.” According to Page Six, Peter’s total estate is estimated to be around $65M. Just FYI as we talk all these numbers!
According to AMNY, Peter’s daughter, Libra, argues that all three – the Court-appointed attorney and both Guardians – “worked together in the past and that his estate is being depleted under their guardianship and that they control all aspects of his life.” Actually, and further shared in the AMNY article, Libra was speaking to a group of #FREEPETERMAX supporters (PS – remember, #FREEBRITNEY … similar concept and movement, right?) … and she shared a few things that were startling:
First, she shared that she gets to see her Dad 3x a week for 1 hour and under supervision.
Second, she shared that she is unable to go into her childhood home, which is where Peter lives in “complete isolation.”
Third, she shared that her Dad has to “ask for permission” to call family and friends, which four of his friends has attested to in an Affidavit that has been filed with the New York Court. I actually posted in the source links for this episode a direct link to the sworn statements from his friends. They’re interesting, for sure, if you want to take a look.
Lastly, she shared that they’ve gotten rid of her Dad’s rescue cats – and if you even take 5 minutes to look up Peter Max, you’ll discover he was an animal lover x a million.
In response to the claims by Libra and the other #FREEPETERMAX supporters, the law firm, Phillips Nizer, where the Court-appointed attorney for Peter is employed, issued a statement saying:
“[We are] providing legal services to a client as ordered and approved by the New York State Supreme Court. We serve this client, as we do all of our clients, in accordance with our professional and ethical responsibilities as attorneys. The claims made by Libra Max and her allies are demonstrably false and defamatory to our firm and attorneys. We will address this at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum…”
There’s always two sides of every story, right? Attorneys are held to some pretty high standards from a legal ethics standpoint, so there may be stuff they know, but because they’re tightly bound by confidentiality rules, they may not be able to share. Who knows!
To add to this messy situation, it appears that there is even some disagreement and not-a-lot-of-love between Peter’s two children, Libra and Adam. According to Daily News, a newspaper in New York, Libra filed a Petition against Adam in 2017 (not sure why or for what – but nonetheless, she filed something against her brother) and in 2019, Adam accused Libra of attempting a “hostile takeover” of their family’s company.
So, here we are in 2021, and the latest news with this case (at least at the time of writing this episode!) is that Matthew Rosengart, the attorney that helped free Britney Spears from her guardianship, has joined the fight to free Peter Max from his guardianship. According to an article on Page Six, Matthew Rosengart “joined Peter Max’s daughter Libra Max’s legal team in fighting to end the guardianship…”
In a statement, Rosengart shared: “I am honored to join the team’s laudable efforts to seek justice for Peter Max. This typifies the type of guardianship that merits judicial attention and potential state and federal legislation.” He further stated, “Guardianships and governmental intervention should be an absolute last resort and this case warrants a fresh look and implementation of less restrictive measures and the restoration of basic human rights. We will fight vigorously to obtain newfound freedoms for this American icon.”
Alright, Matthew Rosengart – I see that mic drop. I see it!
I’m fairly certain that I read somewhere there was a hearing that was supposed to occur on November 30th, 2021 – but I can’t find what happened or IF it happened. Since there really aren’t any updates that I can find, at least at the time I’m writing this, that leads me to believe that maybe the hearing didn’t happen and/or maybe got continued, which happens all the time in the legal system. Sometimes either party files a Motion for Continuance, heck – sometimes the Court has to continue a hearing.
Interestingly, when I wrote Britney Spears’ episode way back when, the guardianship had not been terminated, right? And I feel like that episode, sort of, ended how this episode will end. That, the #FREEPETERMAX movement is gaining traction; the story is hitting headlines; now Matthew Rosengart is in the mix – so maybe like the #FREEBRITNEY movement, perhaps the #FREEPETERMAX movement will end the same – maybe with the guardianship terminated?
I think there is one glaring difference between Britney Spears and Peter Max, though, and it’s that of the person’s cognitive impairment. Britney Spears, who just turned 40 I believe, does not have dementia, for example, and it’s possible that was the crux of Matthew Rosengart’s argument in her case – that she was competent and able to make all her own decisions/choices. Here, however with Peter Max, he has advanced dementia (and I believe of the Alzheimers variety), so without a guardianship, I certainly hope there’s some strong estate planning documents present – like a Power of Attorney and/or Health Care Proxy – because I think it’s clear he needs SOME help with decision-making.
I suppose what I am saying is that it’s possible that Peter’s guardianship does not get TERMINATED, but maybe Libra’s daughter or son (but remember, they don’t really get along…) could serve as Guardian. Or maybe someone else that Libra and/or Adam could agree, if one or both of them serving as Guardian is not an option on the table. So yeah – crazy stuff. I wonder if we’ll see Britney Spears put out a comment or message relating to Peter … the situations are similar, yet different. So maybe, maybe now!
Alrighty, let’s wrap up episode up…
Next week’s topic is on estate planning of the rich and the famous – on that episode, we’re going to talk about my girl, Whitney Houston! My ultimate jam is “I Wanna Dance with Somebody!” – and actually when I got married, our band asked us if we wanted them to specifically play any songs. Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” was the ONLY song I requested. And also, shout out to my girl, Taylor, because she’s my dance/karaoke partner for that song! So yeah, we will talk about her and his estate next Tuesday, Legal Tea Listeners! Talk to you then and stay well!