FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 5, 2021
Libra Max submitted the below written testimony to the
U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding Toxic Conservatorships: The Need for Reform public hearing, which took place on September 28, 2021 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Chairman Blumenthal, Ranking Member Cruz, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee on the Constitution:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit my testimony to the Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding Toxic Conservatorships: The Need for Reform.
I, Libra Max, the daughter of American pop-artist Peter Max, submit this testimony because my beloved 84-year-old father has been caught in the iron grip of a predatory guardianship in New York City which has ripped him from his family, against his wishes, at the end of his life.
At the twilight of my father’s beautiful life, he should be surrounded by love, family, hugs and kisses, warmth, gentleness, celebrations, and everyone familiar that he holds dear. Instead, for over two years, my father’s court-appointed guardians have isolated my father like a prisoner, and I have to watch his lonely and disorienting life over FaceTime as he begs repeatedly for me to come and stay with him in my childhood home. There is no punishment more cruel.
The harshest punishment in the American justice system that is withheld for the most dangerous prisoners is social isolation. My father is not a criminal. My father is a Holocaust survivor who lost most of his family in the war and his worst nightmare is to be separated from his loved ones. How can this happen in America?
After more than two years of isolation, my father’s health has steeply declined; he appears to be under 100 pounds; he appears dangerously over-medicated; he is losing his will to live; and I fear for his life.
I submit this testimony to beg for my father’s freedom, and to advocate for the millions of victims of predatory guardianships and their families who do not have the platform that I have.
I also submit this testimony to punctuate the reality that despite my platform and the reach of the Peter Max name; despite the tremendous resources that I have used to fight against my father’s isolation; despite the support of our family and my father’s friends and loved-ones; and further despite my retention of the best lawyers in America, I have been unable to move the needle in my father’s abusive guardianship given the depth of the entrenchment of the system and those who profit from it. I wonder, is the game fixed?
If the system is impenetrable for those who have the means to fight it, just imagine the plight of those victims and families who do not.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are approximately 1.3 million vulnerable adults under guardianship, and over $50 billion of their assets under the control of court-appointed guardians. Given the for-profit nature of the guardianship industry, the system is ripe for predatory individuals – who purport to act under the cloak of protecting the vulnerable – to instead exploit the citizens in their care by marshalling their assets for their own financial gain.
My father arrived in Brooklyn as a teenage immigrant, with the hope for the American dream and a love for freedom. He built his career from nothing, and through his hard work and his embracing of all the opportunities America offered, he became one of America’s most successful artists: He painted for six American Presidents on both sides of the isle; his works are on permanent display at Presidential Libraries and US Embassies; and he spearheaded the renovation of our Lady Liberty monument in NY Harbor when she was is disrepair. The excitement that my father felt when he arrived on America’s shores has never waned and is still palpable in the patriotic themes that have been a constant in his artwork for over 60 years.
While the world may know my father as a famous artist, to me he is my deepest heart, my whole world, my most precious, irreplaceable, and loving dad. My father is a traditional and sensitive Jewish family man who created a life full of laughter, celebration, and a warm community of life-long friendships. He is the kindest and most gentle human being I have ever known, who wants nothing more than for everyone around him to be happy.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, Senators: Can you imagine having dedicated your entire life to nurturing a family, a successful career, and many life-long friendships, only to find yourself, at the hands of a complete stranger, a court-appointed guardian:
being held in forced isolation nearly 24 hours a day;
being forbidden from seeing your loved ones unless they lodge a formal written request, and, when you are permitted to see them, visits are strictly timed and supervised;
being prohibited from having any visitors in your own home;
being forbidden from being cared for by your children, notwithstanding your articulated desire for them to care for you at the end of your life;
having your phone confiscated and having to ask permission to call your family and loved ones;
having all of your medical decisions made by a for-profit guardian (a lawyer) who has no medical or geriatric training;
having your beloved rescued pets cruelly taken away from you;
being surveilled in your own home 24 hours a day through cameras recording both audio and visual, in violation of your privacy rights and civil liberties;
repeatedly asking for the companionship of your family and friends, only for your court-appointed guardian to coldly ignore your pleas;
having your existing legal and estate planning documents voided;
being prohibited from speaking to your long-time attorney, and having counsel thrust upon you that you did not choose; and
having your hard-earned financial assets liquidated for the benefit of court-appointed strangers.
My father’s case should send shivers down the spine of every aging parent and their children. His guardianship has descended into captivity, where protection in theory has become exploitation in practice; a case study of just how much can go wrong when the vast powers of the State are left unchecked and turned against the interests of the person those powers are meant to protect. It is a textbook example of a predatory guardianship:
Isolate – isolation enables exploitation and removes oversight from concerned family members;
Medicate – medicate the victim to decrease resistance and gain control;
Liquidate – liquidate the victim’s assets to pay the guardian’s fees; and
Intimidate – retaliate against family members and loved ones seeking to free the victim.
My father’s final wishes are being ignored and his most fundamental Constitutional and Human Rights violated.
My father and our family have been denied the most essential Constitutional right to familial privacy – the right of the family to remain together without the coercive interference of the awesome power of the State.
My wish for America is to raise ourselves to a place of integrity and truth-telling about this demonstrably broken system. Imagine what we would most desperately hope for if we were forced to rely on someone else to fight for our lives. We owe this to our most vulnerable.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Cruz, and esteemed members, for giving me this opportunity to submit my testimony and for holding this hearing and raising awareness of abusive guardianships. This broken system needs immediate attention before more people suffer as my father has suffered, and before more people are deprived of the guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that sits at the core of our national soul.
I beg for your assistance in freeing my father from his unjust and unnecessary guardianship so that he may be surrounded by his family and loved ones before he passes away under this crushing system which betrays every notion of the America that he so loved and believed in.
I stand in solidarity with the millions of victims of guardianship abuse and their families.