Issue: Elder Abuse
The number of reports of abuse of elderly adults is increasing and these cases are coming to the attention of state courts.
No formal position
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) introduced the Elder Justice Act (S 1070) on 3/29/07. Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) introduced the companion bill the same day. Among other purposes, the bills would (1) establish an Elder Justice program; (2) authorizes grants for forensic centers; (3) establish an annual adult protective services grants to states; (4) address staffing problems in long-term care facilities; (5) directs the Attorney General to (a) study state laws and practices relating to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation and (b) develop and implement a long-term plan for elder justice programs; (6) authorizes advocacy grants for study of elder abuse victim needs; and (7) authorizes grants to provide training and other types of support to local and state prosecutors and law enforcement responders handling elder justice-related cases.
On 6/7/07, Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007 (S 1577) to provide background checks and fingerprint screening of caregivers.
Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) introduced the Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2008 (HR 5352) on 2/12/08. Like HR 1783, the bill directs a study of state laws and practices and development of a long-term plan for elder justice programs and authorizes victim advocacy grants.
On 4/17/08, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on HR 1783 and HR 5352 on 3/29/07. This was the first House hearing on elder abuse issues in 17 years. The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) submitted written testimony for the hearing. In the testimony, CCJ and COSCA noted that while state courts play a critical role in addressing elder abuse, the legislation, as introduced, does not recognize that important role. CCJ and COSCA recommended that consideration be given to providing resources to state courts in a similar manner as the legislation proposes to do for prosecutors and law enforcement.
On 5/13/08, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security marked up HR 1783 and HR 5352 and approved the chairman’s marks by a voice vote. The chairman’s marks increased the authorization level of the grant programs to include funding for training and technical assistance for judges and court personnel. The House Judiciary approved both HR 1783 and HR 5352 by a voice vote on 6/11/08. The full House approved HR 5352 on 9/23/08 by a vote of 387-28.
Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) reintroduced his legislation, the Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009 (HR 448), on 1/9/09.