Millsaps and Solomon recovered $835,000 they say was stolen from Berkowitz before deciding to seek the protection of a guardianship, fearing further fraud. Instead, they found themselves fighting controversial professional guardian Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, watching their legal work get undone.
Particularly vexing to Millsaps and Solomon was what they said appeared to be $400,000 missing from Berkowitz’s accounts around the time they sought court-ordered guardianship protection for Berkowitz.
But they were shut down by a circuit judge in their efforts to remove Savitt in order to see what happened to Berkowitz’s money. So this week they ended up at the 4th District Court of Appeal where judges talked about how the guardianship system in Florida had gone awry and how the Berkowitz case was a prime example.
Frances Berkowitz, with her husband Jerry Berkowitz. (Photo provided by WPTV News Channel 5)
But the lawyers and the heirs of Berkowitz, who died in December at 86, were dealt a legal fatal blow on Thursday. Not only did the DCA panel affirm Circuit Judge Howard Coates’ decision to not allow Millsaps and Solomon standing to challenge Savitt, they didn’t even say why.
The one-page decision
was only three words: “Per curiam. Affirmed” by Judge Cory Ciklin, Judge Mark Klingensmith and Associate Judge Mark Belanger. The ruling is a dead-end for Millsaps and Solomon.
The silence of the order was deafening considering that the problems in guardianship have spurred not only reforms on the state legislative level but also in the county. Then-Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbalth handed down new rules last year, many directed at complaints by families of wards of Savitt.