Libra Max, Whistleblower and Advocate Against Guardianship Abuse, Represented by Civil Rights Law Firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, LP, Faces Sanctions for Violating Order
September 8 Hearing in Manhattan
NEW YORK, Sept. 7, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Attorneys for Libra Max, the daughter of world famous artist Peter Max, today disclosed that their client has been silenced by New York State Supreme Court Justice Lisa A. Sokoloff (Index No. 500198/2015) under an extraordinary court order forbidding her from speaking publicly or to the press about her father’s circumstances or releasing filings and transcripts of court proceedings from the case where she is challenging her father’s guardianship. [The order was issued in the wake of a news report where the judge in the case was quoted; the judge objected that the quote lacked context and made it appear that she had spoken to the press in violation of the canon of judicial ethics.]
The June 27, 2023 written "gag" order followed a similar April 10, 2023 ruling by Justice Sokoloff. Both have had the effect of forbidding Ms. Max from speaking freely about the New York State Court System’s handling of her father’s guardianship, as well as her attempts to shed light on alleged violations of the law, improper court proceedings, and the secrecy of guardianship courts in New York.
"Gag orders like this one are extremely uncommon, and rarely lawful. They restrict freedom of speech—a core value in our constitutional system," said Ms. Max’s attorney, Andrew G. Celli, Jr. of the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, LP, an expert in First Amendment and civil rights law. "This order meets none of the requirements for a constitutional gag order; it is unsupported by any of the necessary legal justifications, and it is so broad as to forbid speech of the highest constitutional value – speech critical of government. We believe it is flatly unconstitutional and we are challenging it at every level. In the meantime, however, the Court is threatening to sanction Ms. Max for exercising her free speech rights. This is un-American."
Ms. Max’s involvement with the guardianship system began when she reported what she regarded as abuse within the system and spoke out against the guardianship imposed on her father, the artist Peter Max. An aggrieved daughter advocating for the end of her father’s guardianship, Ms. Max has become a national advocate against exploitative guardianships and a whistleblower, exposing rampant abuses that have been committed at the behest of court-appointed guardians and their attorneys and ultimately with the blessing of local judges.
Ms. Max has argued broadly that the culture of secrecy in New York’s and other states’ guardianship courts has resulted in denial of due process; and it has cost law-abiding citizens control over their finances, their property, their healthcare decisions, and even over whether they can see their own family.
The guardianship of Mr. Max has garnered the attention of media, lawmakers, and activists – largely due to the unyielding efforts of Ms. Max. But she points out that the issue is far larger than Peter Max’s situation – about which she is now forbidden to speak.
Guardianship reform advocacy organizations identify a typical pattern of problematic guardianships: the person under guardianship is isolated, medicated, and his/her assets are liquidated. Ms. Max alleges her father’s guardianship has followed the same course.
In the order, Justice Sokoloff points to news coverage of the Peter Max guardianship as stimulating her interest in the parties’ statements to the press.
"While it may be uncomfortable for a court to have Libra Max criticize its actions, or for the press to scrutinize them, the law entitles Ms. Max to speak about how the judicial branch conducts itself, and it entitles the press to cover that. Ms. Max is entitled to speak about the lack of transparency in our court system, and how that is affecting her father in real time. And she is entitled to use her own family’s experience to critique an area of law that has affected Americans of every stripe – from celebrities to ordinary elderly people swept into the system," said Mr. Celli, attorney for Ms. Max. "I have never before seen a court openly acknowledge that its order gagging the parties was stimulated by the fact that the judge did not like the way her remarks in court were reported in the press. It’s extraordinary."
On September 8, 2023 at 12 noon at Courtroom 540, 60 Centre Street, New York, N.Y., Justice Sokoloff will be holding a hearing to determine whether Ms. Max will face sanctions and/or be held in contempt for violating the court’s gag order. It is important that the media demand the transparency afforded to them in the United States Constitution by attending the hearing.
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SOURCE Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP