Attorney representing former state guardian under criminal investigation files appeals
Attorney says Rebecca Fierle was within her right to file DNRs
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The attorney representing former Orlando-based guardian Rebecca Fierle is firing back at the circuit court and judge that removed her from nearly 100 guardianship cases in Orange County and reversed the Do Not Resuscitate orders she had in place in those cases.
In a statement sent to News 6, Tavares attorney Harry Hackney wrote:
"Ms. Fierle resigned as a guardian on all of her cases and also resigned as a registered professional guardian. After she resigned, the Court continued to issue orders and make rulings concerning her role as a guardian without giving her notice of those impending rulings or a hearing. We believe that the proper jurisdiction, if any, was with the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG) and not with the Court in Orange County. We also believe that, even if the Court had jurisdiction, due process requires that Ms. Fierle have an opportunity to contest the findings made by the Court in a properly noticed hearing. That is why we appealed. Those events took place after her resignation when the matter should have been moot as far as the Court was concerned."
In July, Circuit Court Judge Janet C. Thorpe held a closed-door hearing with Fierle, her attorneys and attorneys representing wards under Fierle's care. Thorpe filed a "notice for removal" against Fierle on July 3 after investigators discovered Fierle had placed numerous DNR orders without the consent of families or wards.
The judge wrote that the longtime guardian had "abused her power" and noted she had not disclosed related interests and payments, which created what the court believed was a conflict of interest.
Court filings obtained by News 6 show Hackney submitted a Petition for Writ of Certiorari and Writ of Prohibition to the District Court of Appeal in Florida's 5th District, asking to restrain Thorpe from presiding as a circuit judge in the case against Fierle.
The appeal states only the Department of Elder Affairs has jurisdiction over the discipline of professional guardians, not the circuit court.
In the appeal, Hackney writes Fierle was fully within her right as a state-appointed guardian to place DNR orders on her patients, and that state law backs this up.
In the court papers submitted, Hackney claims once Fierle was given the authority to make health care decisions for her clients, according to state law, she no longer needed their permission, or the court's, and that she should be immune from any civil or criminal liability for the DNR decision.
News 6 spoke with Judge Donald Myers, the chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court, who is named in the appeal. While he would not talk about the lawsuit, he stands behind his judges.
"Janet is courageous," Myers said. "She is extremely detail-oriented, and she did some digging, which I am very proud of."
There is currently a state criminal investigation into Fierle being conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which announced its involvement on July 25. However, in that three-month time period, no criminal charges have been filed.
The FDLE confirms it is still investigating.
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