Letter to Beth Rhea

Samuel H. Sloan
2420 Atherton St., Suite 6
Berkeley CA 94704
(415) 673-7123

July 26, 1994

Beth Rhea
Superior Court Investigator
Solano County Courthouse
600 Union Avenue, 2nd floor
Fairfax CA 94533

Re: In re Doris M. Rich, Case No. P34215

Dear Ms. Rhea,

I am responding to the investigative report you prepared and filed with the court, dated June 29, 1994.

I am sympathetic with the fact that you have been faced with a complex and difficult problem in this case. You are faced with a split and divided family, two members of which want to take complete control of their mother's money and person, whereas others are opposed.

Unfortunately, the side that wants control of the money is extremely vocal and assertive, whereas the side that wants things to continue as they have for so many years wishes to keep this matter private and is not inclined to be especially forthcoming about private family business with any outsider, including even a court investigator such as yourself.

However, the fact is that I have spent many hours with Mrs. Doris Rich while this court battle has been going on. As a result of spending this extensive time observing this woman, while she tries to sort out the problems created by this court proceeding, which her son, Neel, has initiated, the following points are obvious to me and, as far as I know, to everyone else who has also spent time with Mrs. Rich:

1. Mrs. Rich is fully competent and capable. She is probably just as strong mentally as she was forty or fifty years ago. Her memory is excellent. She has lost none of her mental capability whatever. She does have some hearing loss, however.

2. Mrs. Rich is faced with the problems created by a squabbling brood of children. She consistently tries to treat them equally and not to favor one over the other. Her periods of indecision or indecisiveness are not caused by any mental weakness, but rather because of her concerns that her actions might favor one child over the other.

3. Two of her children, Myrna and Neel, have low income and insufficient money of their own and have relied on their mother for financial support. They have preempted their own court action by seizing control of all of their mother's assets and income, even before any judicial determination by the court. However, this problem is not created by any alleged incompetence on the part of Mrs. Rich, as any person of any age could have had this happen to them.

4. In short, Mrs. Rich has a serious problem. I must admit that this problem is in part of her own making, because she is trying to treat equally four children who are very unequal. Under some circumstances, judicial intervention might be appropriate, but not the sort contemplated in the petition for the appointment of a conservator. It is clear and obvious that Mrs. Rich does not meet any of the criteria established by law for the appointment of a conservator. The sort of judicial action which might be appropriate would be an injunction or restraining order against Neel and Myrna, requiring them to return to their mother all the deeds to her property which they have taken and all the funds in her bank accounts and so on. However, such judicial action would probably require another court case and might not occur within the context of the petition presently pending before this court. I must add here that Mrs. Rich simply wants the situation restored back to that which it was before Neel filed his petition for the appointment of himself as a conservator. She does not want to bring any court action against her children. She merely wants things to go on as they have for all these years.

Now, I will turn to the specific allegations in your lengthy report. I wish to inform you that I personally gave Mrs. Rich a copy of your 15 page report and she spent many days reading and rereading it. She marked up your report and wrote in the margins numerous objections she has to your report. I therefore have the benefit of Mrs. Rich's thinking on this matter, which is helpful since many of the facts alleged in your report are beyond my personal knowledge.

Frankly, I feel that your report should properly have been labeled "Myrna's Version", because it is obvious from reading your report that the bulk of it comes from Myrna. There are statements in the report which only Myrna would say and which no other member of the family has ever agreed with. For example, on page 9 of your report there is the strong implication that two antique clocks were stolen from the home of Mrs. Rich recently. You even imply on page 10 of your report that this happened "last week." However, Mrs., Rich states that one of the clocks was stolen or disappeared ten years ago. The other disappeared more recently, but much longer ago than last week.

In fact, many people lose, misplace or have stolen their possessions and yet manage to avoid the court appointment of a conservator.

Your report also states, on page 8, that Myrna recently came home and found a 16-year old boy sitting in the living room and she had to pay some money to the boy to get him to leave. Mrs. Rich denies the story entirely. She states that if such a thing ever happened, it wasn't while she was there. I must add here that I have found the memory of Mrs. Rich to be highly accurate. If she says that the incident didn't happen, then I am confident that it didn't happen. In her personally annotated copy of your report, Mrs. Rich has underlined this section and written the words, "not true not true not true not true."

Your report also mentions an incident where Mrs. Rich allowed the cable TV installation man to use the bathroom, which Myrna objected to. Mrs. Rich states that this happened years ago, when the cable TV was going to be installed. Myrna still "dogs" her about the fact that she allowed the cable TV man to use the bathroom, according to Mrs. Rich.

Your report complains that Mrs. Rich leaves the front door unlocked. Every time I have come to the house, the door has been extremely securely locked and is sometimes even difficult to open, even with a key. My impression is that Myrna must be paranoid about this and other matters and that her paranoia is reflected in your report. Many people leave their front doors unlocked in the daytime when they are at home, and still no conservator is appointed by the court. Mrs. Rich always has her door securely locked, however.

Your report quotes on page 10 the remarks of Carol Jean Norton. Ms. Norton is a domestic servant hired by Myrna to help Myrna with the cooking. Previously, Mrs. Rich cooked for Myrna, not the other way around. Mrs. Rich is not happy with Mrs. Norton and does not want her in the house. She has told Mrs. Norton many times that her services are unnecessary. However, Ms. Norton continues to come anyway, for the simple reason that she is employed by Myrna, not by Mrs. Rich. In fact, Myrna is virtually never in the home unless Ms. Norton is there as well. On the vast majority of occasions on which I have visited the Rich home, Mrs. Rich has been sitting there alone and Myrna has presumably gone somewhere with her boyfriend, Ralph Finley.

On this point, your report states exactly the opposite from the true situation. On page 9 you imply that Ms. Norton is in the home on those occasions when Myrna is not able to be present. In reality, however, I have only seen Ms. Norton in the home when Myrna is also there. Neel himself told me that Ms. Norton is brought there to help out Myrna. I have heard Myrna made that same complaint which is found on page 9 of your report that she is "overworked" with "doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, yard maintenance" etc. However, Myrna has no other job and I feel that she is extremely well compensated for the very limited assistance which she gives to her mother. Also, I have never seen Myrna doing yard work, for example.

Ms. Norton only comes to the Rich home twice a week, for four hours each time. Her employment commenced only recently. The reason that the home of Mrs. Rich is in such spotless condition, and has always been so within my experience, is that Mrs. Rich cleans, cooks and performs all the household chores. Ms. Norton has nothing to do with this and Myrna is not present very often.

I note that you were selective in your quotations from the letter from Dr. Snyder. Dr. Snyder's letter states that "the issue is not entirely clear to me as to the need" for the appointment of a conservator. You fail to mention this vital point in your report. Dr. Snyder has been the family physician for many years. How can you be so certain as to the need for the appointment of a conservator based on your single brief meeting with Mrs. Rich, when Dr. Snyder, with his years of experience in dealing with this situation, is not at all certain about this. Your report is misleading in that it makes it appear that Dr. Snyder favors the appointment of a conservator.

Unfortunately, I must state that you go off the deep end on page 12, when you state, "The court should be aware, however, that Petitioner is of the opinion that the Proposed Conservatee will not cooperate with any attempts to see or be evaluated by a psychologist/psychiatrist. She had apparently been referred previously by Dr. Snyder to a psychologist for treatment of her chronic anxiety disorder and possible depression. The Proposed Conservatee reportedly refused to cooperate."

Mrs. Rich, in her annotations, has starred this entire section and written the words " not true not true no record of this no record of this not true," at various points.

I note that you have qualified the statement with the words "apparently had been referred" and "reportedly refused." Who was it who reported these apparent events? Was it Neel, or was it Myrna?

What I believe that you have done is take Dr. Snyder's letter dated May 3, 1994 and vastly distort what he actually said. Nowhere does his letter state that he has ever told Mrs. Rich that she needs "to have a psychiatric evaluation to further define her mental status." Rather, his letter indicates that he recommended this in his conversation with you. Naturally, I imagine that any court would order some sort of psychological or psychiatric evaluation prior to imposing the Draconian remedy of the appointment of a conservator. There is no evidence whatever that Mrs. Rich would refuse to cooperate and indeed I am quite certain that she would cooperate. I note that Neel and Myrna have never requested a mental status evaluation of their mother and is obvious to me that they don't want this done because they know that it will yield the wrong result from their point of view.

The true state of affairs seems to be precisely the opposite from what your report indicates. Your report states or at least implies that Mrs. Rich is suffering from "depression." Nowhere in Dr. Snyder's letter or anywhere else that I am aware of is there a statement by any doctor that Mrs. Rich is suffering from depression. Moreover, even if she were, that would hardly be surprising, in view of the constant feuding that has been going on between her children. For example, several times you mention in your report that Mrs. Rich has difficulty hearing and should have a hearing aid. What you apparently fail to realize is that her son, Neel, the Proposed Conservator, objects to his mother having a hearing aid, unless she agrees to buy the one which he is recommending. Mrs. Rich refuses to buy that particular type of hearing aid because she had one before and it "itched" she says. I myself have tried to break this stalemate by taking Mrs. Rich to the local Beltone Hearing Center, which is located only a few blocks from the home of Mrs. Rich. She ordered a hearing aid there, in my presence, and this hearing aid is due to arrive within a few days. However, I fear that Neel will block the receipt of this hearing aid and that his mother may not be able to get it.

My question is: Why am I, a complete outsider, in the position of being called upon to help this woman obtain a hearing aid? Why couldn't Neel or Myrna have done this long ago?

Similarly, Mrs. Rich has been myopic since childhood. She has been diagnosed as having cataracts and cataract surgery has been recommended. Mrs. Rich states that she wants this surgery to be performed at the U.C. Medical Center. She complains that Neel and Myrna refuse to take her. Why should Neel be appointed as a conservator, when even now he refuses to help his mother get the medical treatment which she feels that she needs? It should be mentioned that Mrs. Rich would not have reached her present age of 89 years if she were neglectful of her own medical needs. The claim by Neel that his mother will not cooperate with any doctor appointed by the court is utterly baseless.

I realize that all this makes for good grounds for the appointment of a third-party conservator. However, again, I must point out that the law of California provides for the appointment of a conservator only under certain very limited conditions as set forth by statute. A son or daughter who refuses to help their mother get needed medical treatment is not one the conditions set forth in the statute. Otherwise, almost all of us would have a conservator appointed.

You reach the real crux of this matter on page 13 when you state about Arden Van Upp, the daughter of Mrs. Rich who is supporting her mother in her opposition to the appointment of a conservator, that "Mrs. Van Upp has demonstrated an inability to manage her own financial affairs." The truth is precisely the opposite. Arden Van Upp is one of the most immensely successful independent businesswoman in San Francisco. The certified net worth of Arden Van Upp is more than five million dollars. We should all have the same "inability to manage our financial affairs" that Ms. Van Upp has.

Mrs. Rich, in her annotations, has underlined in orange almost this entire section of your report and has written in the words "Sez who?" in six separate places.

It is true that Ms. Van Upp is a reorganized debtor in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, she has never been anyway near insolvent. I have detailed familiarity with the facts of her case, which are as follows:

Ms. Van Upp has amassed her wealth through successful real estate investments, most of which were made in the mid-1960s, about the time that I first met her. She owns three apartment buildings, which have appreciated considerably in value. However, in 1973 she made an unfortunate decision. She purchased from Mayor Alioto a famous historical building known as the "Bourn Mansion", but she also signed a partnership agreement with a Dr. Badgley, who, incidentally, now claims to have a cure for AIDS.

In the 21 years which have since passed, Dr. Badgley has filed six different lawsuits based upon this poorly worded partnership agreement. All of these suits are still pending, which makes this one of the longest and most complicated suits in the entire judicial system.

Finally, in 1992, Dr. Badgley won an incomprehensible money judgment in the amount of about $560,000 plus half ownership in the Bourn Mansion. Dr. Badgley immediately filed liens against all of the apartment buildings owned by Ms. Van Upp and initiated foreclosure proceedings.

As a result, Ms. Van Upp was required immediately to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Otherwise, all of her properties would have been taken pursuant to foreclosure. As Dr. Badgley is himself insolvent and has since filed for bankruptcy, there would have been no possibility to recover this money even if Ms. Van Upp had been successful in reversing the judgment on appeal.

Naturally, Ms. Van Upp needed a highly qualified lawyer to represent her on appeal. She therefore retained the law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott. However, they were unwilling to work for free and required a substantial retainer. If you are familiar with bankruptcy law, you will know that as a general rule lawyers cannot be paid until the bankruptcy proceeding is concluded and then only by the order of the court.

This created a terrible problem often faced by appellants. Fortunately Doris Rich came to the rescue and agreed to pay her daughters fee's. The initial check paid by Mrs. Rich to Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott, which I saw myself, was for $60,000. The total amount paid by Doris Rich to that firm was $125,000.

This payment forms the basis for the claim made by Neel on page 13 of your report and elsewhere that Arden "has been dipping in and dipping in her mother's money for years." However, the amount is exaggerated. There is no basis whatever for Neel's claim that Arden owes her mother $500,000. He has no canceled checks or any other documents to support this absurd figure.

Fortunately, this all came to a happy ending. Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott did a superb job and won the appeal. That decision has been reported as Badgley v. Van Upp, 20 Cal. App. 4th 218, 24 Cal. Rptr. 2d 406 (Cal. App. 11/1993). The $560,000 judgment was reversed. The effective value of that judgment was more than one million dollars, because the Bourn Mansion has an estimated value of over one million dollars. Currently, Arden's lawyers are preparing a creditor's plan in the Badgley bankruptcy case which calls for the entire house to be deeded over to Ms. Van Upp.

No doubt, Neel and Myrna are jealous. Neel is retired and reportedly has little savings. Myrna owns a rooming house, half of which was deeded over by Doris Rich as a gift, a fact not mentioned in your report. Mrs. Rich states that she gives all of her children $10,000 annually as a gift, the maximum allowed by law. This fact is also not mentioned in your report. However, Arden states that she has not received gifts of any kind from her mother, except for the payment of attorney's fees which took place in 1992.

In short, the only child of Mrs. Rich who has no need of her mother's money is Arden Van Upp. Neel is currently unemployed and undoubtedly is looking forward to receiving as income the statutory fees which a court appointed conservator is paid. Based upon my observations, Myrna seems simply to follow Neel's advice.

What is really going on in this case is jostling in anticipation of the death of Mrs. Rich. As far as I am aware, Mrs. Rich is in good health, especially considering her age, and does not suffer from any life threatening illnesses. However, she is well aware that she is 89 and the clock is ticking. Neel's baseless claim that Arden owns her mother $500,000 is an obvious effort to cut out Arden completely from receiving any share of her mother's inheritance.

It has recently discovered that Myrna and Neel have already taken full possession and control of all of the assets and income of Mrs. Rich, without her knowledge. Neel has taken all the deeds to her property and has locked them all in a vault. Mrs. Rich voluntarily allowed Myrna to become a joint signatory in her account with Continental Pacific Bank. However, on June 28, only two days before the last court hearing, two significant developments took place: (1) Myrna convinced Mrs. Rich to transfer $23,300 from her account with the Bank of America (where Mrs. Rich was the sole signatory) to Continental Pacific Bank (where Myrna had joint signing authority). (2) On the very same day, June 28, Myrna somehow got the Continental Pacific Bank to change the account from a single signature account to a two signature account. This means that Mrs. Rich now cannot write a check or withdraw any money from any of her accounts without the co-signature of Myrna. As a result, Neel and Myrna have preempted any court action by taking control of all of the finances of their mother, without the benefit of any court order. Again, note that this all took place two days before the last court hearing, which was on June 30.

It is especially noteworthy that Arden spent the night of June 28-29 in the mother's home in Vallejo. When they came to court on June 30, Neel's attorney protested vehemently about this overnight stay, claiming that Arden was trying to gain undue influence over her mother, and asked the court to order Arden out of the house. It now apparent that Neel's real concern was to keep secret from Arden the money transfers that had taken place on the day of June 28. Arden has spent the night at her mother's house an average of once a week, in the 27 years that I have known them. Mrs. Rich calls Arden at least three times a day on the telephone. It is clear that Neel and Myrna simply want to push Arden out of the picture and are asking your court to do so for them.

In my meetings with Mrs. Rich I have taken notes. Here are some of the remarks she has made about this case and about her family situation:

Regarding the statement on page 10 of your report that Mrs. Rich is in need of 24-hour supervision, she states: "Do you think Myrna can stay here 24 hours? That's a damn lie."

Regarding the statement on your page 13 that Arden has a personal stake, Mrs. Rich stated, "That's a damn lie."

When Arden told her mother that she had to back to her home in San Francisco, Mrs. Rich stated, "Maybe I ought to go with you. Can I go with you?"

Regarding Neel, Mrs. Rich stated: "Neel comes and screams around and I tell him to go home finally."

Regarding her medication, Mrs. Rich said, "I'm supposed to take four pills a day. Myrna keeps my pills and keeps me worried. I don't know where they are."

Regarding Myrna, Mrs. Rich stated that although all of her other children went out and established families and had children of their own, "Myrna. Why, she just never left."

I also heard Mrs. Rich say to Myrna, "Why do you keep me dogging and dogging me all the time." Mrs. Rich has also said to Myrna at various times, "Go Away," "get out of here", and "be quiet." It is my impression that when outsiders are not present, there is constant feuding going on between Mrs. Rich and Myrna.

Mrs. Rich also complains frequently about Ralph Finley, Myrna's "schizophrenic boyfriend" whom Mrs. Rich will not allow in the house. "I'd like to rid get of Ralph", Mrs. Rich says frequently.

Because her children are often not around, Mrs. Rich also writes notes to them.

Here is one example:

July 15, 1994

Neel and Myrna

I am feeling much better than I have been feeling, but am tired of sitting around all day. So please, let me do my own work as I have been doing.

Your loving Mother

It is obvious that Neel and Myrna are unwilling to accede to this request, but I believe that your court should do so. The problems which Mrs. Rich faces, while considerable, are personal family problems which only she is in a position to deal with. You may not agree with many of the decisions which Mrs. Rich has made and you might conduct your own personal affairs in a different manner. However, I believe that Mrs. Rich should be allowed to conduct her own life and to deal with her own problems in her own way.

Very Truly Yours,

Samuel H. Sloan

For the Story of Doris M. Rich, see: Under House Arrest at Age 90 . For the federal complaint by Doris M. Rich, see: Suit by Doris M. Rich . For the Motion by Doris M. Rich for a Temporary Restraining Order, see: Doris TRO. For the Petition for Rehearing by Doris M. Rich, see: Petition for Rehearing . For the complaint by Doris M. Rich to the California State Bar, see: Complaint to the State Bar . For the complaint to the San Francisco Grand Jury, see: Complaint to the Grand Jury . For the opening brief of Doris M. Rich, see: Opening Brief .

Contact address - please send e-mail to the following address: Sloan@ishipress.com