The Role of Decision-Making Capacity in Elder Justice Cases that Reach Civil and Criminal Courts

Tuesday, April 19, 2022
to Thursday, April 21, 2022


Every day the lives of older adults are profoundly and negatively impacted in both the criminal and civil justice systems based on mistaken assumptions and inadequate assessments of their capacity to make decisions for themselves. In order to raise greater awareness of these issues and improve how elder justice professionals approach these issues, the Department of Justice will be hosting the Elder Justice Decision-Making Capacity Symposium, a free three-day virtual conference on April 19-21.

The Symposium will highlight what we know today about the aging brain and its impact on decision-making, and discuss the protocols and tools available to assess decision-making capacity. The Symposium will then focus on the myriad of ways that perceptions of an older adult’s decision-making capacity can have profound implications on their treatment in criminal and civil proceedings. These may include elder abuse or fraud prosecutions not being pursued; unnecessary or inappropriate guardianships being imposed; and civil legal remedies being denied to older victims of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. 

By shedding light on the latest science as well as best clinical, legal and judicial practices, the Symposium aims to increase access to justice while promoting the self-determination of older adults.

April 19-21, 2022 Elder Justice Decision-Making Capacity Symposium Complete Agenda


April 19


1:00pm – 1:30pm
Welcome and Introduction to the Symposium
Speaker: Vanita Gupta, Associate Attorney General, US Department of Justice

Speaker: Charles P. Sabatino, JD, Consultant, Aging and Law

1:30pm – 2:15pm
Advances in Aging Brain Research and Its Relevance for Decision-Making
Speaker: Jason Karlawish, MD, Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Neurology; Co-Director, Penn Memory Center; Director, Outreach, Recruitment, and Retention Core of the Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

2:15pm – 2:25pm

2:25pm – 3:55pm
The Role of Clinicians in Conducting Forensic Decision-Making Capacity Assessments with Older Adults
Speakers: Eric Drogin, JD, PhD, ABPP, Harvard Medical School, Affiliated Lead of Psycholegal Studies, Psychiatry, Law, and Society Program, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Daniel Marson, JD, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Neurology, Heersink School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Laura Mosqueda, MD, FAAFP, AGSF, Professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California; Director, National Center on Elder Abuse
Facilitator: Lisbeth Nielsen, PhD, Director, Division of Behavioral and Social Research, National Institute on Aging

3:55pm 4:05pm

4:05pm – 4:50pm
The Impact of Questioning an Older Adult's Decision-Making Capacity: Maximizing Self-Determination, Minimizing Harm
Speaker: Nina Kohn, JD, David M. Levy Professor of Law, Syracuse University College of Law; Distinguished Scholar in Elder Law, Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School

April 20


1:00pm – 1:15pm

1:15pm – 3:15pm
A Panel of Experts Discuss Decision-Making Capacity of Older Adults in the Criminal Justice System Context

Speakers: Judge Melinda J. Young, King County Superior Court
Jane Walsh, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Elder and At-Risk Unit, Denver District Attorney’s Office
Candace J. Heisler, JD, Assistant District Attorney, San Francisco (Retired), Heisler and Associates
Detective Larry "Skip" Swain, Elder Abuse Unit, Fresno County Sheriff's Office
Michelle Gayette, APS Director, Assistant Director, Adult & Aging Services, North Dakota Human Services

Randy Otto, PhD, ABPP, Associate Professor, University of South Florida
Facilitator: Andy Mao, National Elder Justice Coordinator; Deputy Director, Commercial Litigation Branch

3:15pm 3:25pm

3:25pm 4:25pm
Participant Discussion of Decision-Making Capacity Issues

Moderator: Lisa W. Schifferle, Senior Policy Analyst, Office for Older Americans, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

April 21


1:00pm – 1:15pm

1:15pm – 3:15pm
A Panel of Experts Discuss Decision-Making Capacity of Older Adults in the Civil Justice System Context
Speakers: Judge Lauren S. Holland, Lane County Circuit Court, Oregon Judicial Department
Alison Hirschel, Director & Managing Attorney, Michigan Elder Justice Initiative
Charles P. Golbert, Public Guardian, Office of the Cook County Public Guardian
Rima Rivera, New York City Adult Protective Services, Human Resources Administration
Bonnie Olsen, PhD, Vice Chair for Research, Professor of Clinical Family Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California
Facilitator: Edwin Walker, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration for Community Living, US Department of Health and Human Services

3:15pm – 3:30pm
Summary and Next Steps
Speaker: Andy Mao, National Elder Justice Coordinator; 
Deputy Director, Commercial Litigation Branch

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