Under House Arrest at Age 90

VALLEJO - UNDER HOUSE ARREST - Doris M. Rich, 90-years-old, has been held under house arrest in Vallejo for the last year, for no reason other than to get control of her money. On January 11, 1996, the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Second Division, dismissed Mrs. Rich's appeal with a brief summary order which stated: "All of the restraints imposed on Ms. Rich and her children were incidental. ... The issues presented are not matters of wide-spread interest and indeed are very fact-specific. For all the foregoing reasons, the above entitled appeal is dismissed."

The case of Doris M. Rich made the front page of several Bay Area newspapers in January, 1995, when her daughter, Arden Rich, was twice jailed for a total of five days by Solano Superior Court Judge William E. Jensen, supposedly for failing to reveal the whereabouts of her mother. However, the case dropped out of the news when the whereabouts of Doris M. Rich were found out and when Doris Rich was placed under house arrest.

The whereabouts of Doris M. Rich were found by San Francisco Chronicle Reporter Tara Shioya and were revealed to the court on January 17, 1995. As a result, Arden Rich was released from jail and Doris Rich was arrested. It turned out that Doris M. Rich had taken refuge in the Alameda Hospital in Alameda in order to prevent anybody, including especially the court, the court-appointed "conservator" and her own family members, from finding out where she was, for fear that she would be placed under house arrest.

The fears of Doris M. Rich proved to be well-founded. After her whereabouts were revealed, Doris M. Rich was picked up from the hospital by James A. Moore of Sacramento, her court-appointed conservator, and taken to Vallejo, where she has been held under house ever since. Doris M. Rich has been allowed almost no communication with the outside world. Mr. Moore even refuses to allow her to attend the court hearings where her case has been heard. Doris M. Rich has not been allowed to retain counsel of her own choosing. Rather counsel preferred by her legal adversaries have been forced upon her.

The problem started in March, 1994, when Neel Rich of Benicia found out that his mother was planning to write him out of her will. In order to preempt the possibility of her doing that, Neel filed suit to have himself appointed as her conservator. This suit was opposed by Arden Rich and by Doris Rich herself.

In July, 1994, Sam Sloan, an old family friend of the Rich family, retained Robert K. Bolt of Walnut Creek to represent Doris M. Rich. Sloan delivered a check for $1500 to Bolt to pay for his attorney's fees. However, Bolt soon found out that Mrs. Rich felt that $1500 was more than adequate payment for his services, but that he could get more money by applying to the court, but only if Doris M. Rich was found to be incompetent.

Accordingly, Bolt switched sides. It was Bolt who asked the court to have Doris Rich placed under house arrest and to have Arden Rich jailed, even though Doris Rich was technically his own client and Doris Rich did not want these things.

Since then, Bolt has applied for and received more that $13,000 in court awarded attorney's fees, all for opposing the actions which his own client wanted him to take. In addition, John O'Hara and Tosh G. Yamamoto have each received more than $10,000 in court-awarded attorneys fees, all of which must be paid involuntarily by Doris M. Rich.

Doris M. Rich has repeatedly tried to fire Bolt as her counsel and to replace him with a lawyer willing to defend her. On October 23, Solano County Superior Court Judge Moelk denied the latest request by Doris M. Rich to replace Bolt with counsel of her own choosing.

During the one and a half years that this case has been going on, Doris M. Rich has been examined by numerous doctors, all of whom have agreed that she is, by any recognized legal standard, competent to manage her own affairs. She has been examined by specialists at UCSF Medical Center, at Alameda Hospital and elsewhere and all of them agree that she is competent.

Dr. Martin Blinder, a psychiatrist who examined Doris Rich on April 10, 1995, summarized the situation as follows:

"Neel Rich has taken steps to sequester his mother's wealth, and unfortunately his mother, from Arden, heedless of the possible consequences to his mother's well being. Mrs. Rich is today loathe to be critical of any of her children, but articulates the problem well when she laments that she wished that she could do it over again, this time writing her will in secret. .... Possible 'preemptive strikes' to preserve the estate or secure an eventual 'equitable distribution' are clinically insupportable at this time."

Nevertheless, with Doris M. Rich having a net worth of $1.5 million and so many judges and lawyers in Solano County engaged in a greedy grab for that money, it appears increasingly unlikely that Doris M. Rich will ever get out from under the house arrest in which she has been detained for the past year.

For information, please contact Arden Rich at (415) 921-8719

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