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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Man, 72, takes guardianship case to jury “


    As his attorney tells it, Richard Morse’s trial that starts today is about the balance between government and individual freedom.

    The 72-year-old man’s nursing home wants to become his legal guardian and take control of his $600,000 estate. Morse believes he’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself.

    His conviction that the nursing home is seeking too much power has prompted him to do something that apparently no one in Clark County has done: Take a guardianship case to a jury trial.

    While Washington law allows those type of cases to be decided either by a judge or jury, most people argue them before a judge because it doesn’t require as much time and money for what usually are mundane and technical cases, said Jim Senescu, Morse’s attorney.

    But not Morse, Senescu said. In the spirit of democracy, he wants his fellow citizens to decide.

    “”He believes strongly in his case,”” the attorney said. “”He believes he’s representing a lot of other people out there who get jammed into guardianship cases.””

    The trial will begin this morning in Clark County Superior Court Judge Diane Woolard’s courtroom with jury selection, followed by opening statements. The case is expected to conclude Wednesday.

    At issue is whether Morse is incapacitated and doesn’t have the ability to make decisions about his money and his care. Vancouver Health and Rehabilitation Center filed the petition for guardianship in May after Morse was staying there following hospitalization for infected leg wounds.

    In the petition filed by the center’s attorney, Rachel Brooks, the center alleges Morse has problems living on his own and managing his medicine and his health. He no longer lives at the center, but in a house owned by his sister.

    But Senescu says his client is of sound mind. He’s a Vietnam War veteran and believes strongly in his rights as an American, the attorney added.

    “”He fought for freedom,”” Senescu said. “”He doesn’t want the government to tell him what to do.””

    The center, through Brooks, is seeking to be Morse’s legal guardian for the rest of his life.

    Brooks could not be reached for comment Friday.

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