Like many Nashvillians of a certain age, I read with horror and a certain amount of lurid fascination the story of Danny Tate and the involuntary conservatorship initiated by his brother. The story was reported in the Nashville Scene.(http://www.nashvillescene.com/2010-01-21/news/court-ordered-hell-mdash-how-an-errant-judge-and-a-controlling-sibling-stripped-nashville-rocker-danny-tate-of-his-money-his-livelihood-and-his-legal-rights/) Danny was the golden boy of Nashville pop in the 1980’s, and he had a successful career into the 1990’s. He apparently still has some success today when he is not battling some horrific addictions.
While the article was gripping, I thought the author unfairly criticized Judge Randy Kennedy in his handling of this case. Conservatorships are not pleasant and they are not tidy. In these actions, the Court gives one person power over the “person and property” of another person, if the facts indicate such action is necessary for the second person’s welfare. Presented with a petition to establish a conservatorship, the judge can only review the facts presented and appoint a guardian ad litem, to give a (hopefully) unbiased report to the Court as to the condition of the respondent and then, based on the statute, take the most appropriate action necessary.
I have been involved in a handful of conservatorships, both as a lawyer, and in one case as the conservator for a disabled songwriter and his wife. The latter case was one of the most challenging and rewarding cases of my career. It lasted more than a dozen years. Having served in that position, I got a firsthand appreciation of the awesome responsibility and the need to be resolute in the face of the oftentimes competing demands of family members and friends. I also developed an acute appreciation of the tough responsibility a probate judge faces in dealing with all of these demands and ensuring the well-being of the ward. The cases I have been involved in all concerned elderly or disabled people. I can’t even imagine all the challenges involved in dealing with an able-bodied person caught in a spiral of addiction. Reading Danny Tate’s story makes me appreciate the difficulty of the system, but I don’t really see any villains. It seems to me this is a bunch of people trying to use an imperfect and expensive legal system to deal with a terrible situation. I hope they can resolve this soon.