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An Alabama Probate Judge Gave My Mother a Life Sentence

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By Nancy Gregory-McLendon (formerly Nancy Scott)
June 15, 2021 – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

I am definitely my mother’s daughter. We shared a profession (retired school teachers), a love of reading, writing, and travel. My mother was a true fighter; you don’t live to be 103 years old without having a will to live.

My mom took care of me when I was young and, as the years passed, our roles shifted as I became her caregiver. For 30 years, my mom trusted me to act as her Power of Attorney for financial and medical matters. We thought we had prepared for the inevitable – I would be responsible for managing her affairs when the time came – but we were about to learn otherwise.


What I didn’t know, (and who would know this ahead of time?) was the guardian and conservatorship arena is no place for the uninformed. The phrase, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to guardianships.

In America, a judge can determine a person to be incapacitated and take away their civil liberties with shockingly little evidence. A judge can also ignore a power of attorney or health care directive and appoint a person of their choosing instead. A guardian can liquidate property and belongings and take percentage of the proceeds as a commission. The guardian can also isolate their ward (victim) from friends and family.

My mom and I did not seek assistance from the Jefferson County Probate Court, but that didn’t stop them from taking charge of her life. More

“They’ve Killed Her” – Retired Alabama Schoolteacher Dies under State Guardianship

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Terri LaPoint

“She’s gone.” The call came in Monday from Nancy Scott regarding her mother, Marian Leonard, who had been taken from her family and placed onto hospice care against her will. Nancy was in tears when she told me that her mother died on Saturday, August 24, but nobody bothered to notify her until Monday.

Marian Leonard died in a nursing home that she was forced into by a judge in early 2018. Last month, her court-appointed guardian Sidney Summey restricted her from having any visitors except a token hour and a half visit twice per month from her daughter – the woman that Mrs. Leonard had designated as her chosen power of attorney, not just once, but 3 different times over a 30 year period.

She died alone. No family or friends were permitted to be with her in her final weeks. The guardian had even taken her away from her roommate, whom Nancy viewed as her mother’s “guardian angel.”

Nancy, who has been fighting the court since custody of her mother was seized by the state, is devastated.

It’s like being in the middle of a horror story.

All her mother’s planning to ensure that she would live out her elderly years on her own terms vanished with the stroke of a judge’s pen, at the request of social workers from the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) and St. Vincent’s Hospital. The simplest request, that her only daughter be with her at the end, was denied.

Nancy’s voice cracked as she cried:

I couldn’t save her. I tried so hard to get her out of there.

Marian Leonard was known to her former English students as “Mrs. Gregory.” Yearbook photo provided by family.

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