2020 MAGIC Awards
Legal Award - Robert McLeod
The MAGiC Legal Award recognizes an individual in the legal area who has done outstanding work in the field of guardianship or conservatorship. This year’s recipient is Robert McLeod, Shareholder at Best & Flanagan. Robert received his J.D. from Mitchell-Hamline School of Law and has been active his entire career as an attorney, teacher, and active member in bar associations. He currently serves on the MAGiC Board as our Legislative Chair.
Some award nominations just write themselves, and Bob’s is no exception (with credit to his paralegal Liz Meier): Bob is incredibly hard working; He has made a name for himself as an attorney that will review and evaluate a case most attorneys would not want to be involved with, in terms of the potential battle ahead. Bob will dig his heels in and fight for his clients at the same time being upfront and honest about whether it is going to be in the client’s best interest to continue fighting. He is direct, he does not mince words. He is always striving to be the best he can be, wants others to be the best they can be, and wants to bring out the best in others.
Bob is a devoted to his family and community; did I mention hockey? He is just as dedicated to his work, whether that be advocating for his clients or working with a collaborative group to update our Conservatorship and Guardianship statutes, which he done numerous times. Most recently, it was Bob who brought stakeholders together beginning in 2018 to begin the long process which lead to the adoption of improvements and modernization of MN’s guardianship statute this year. Over the course of this time, he convened regular meetings of a broad group of stakeholders in a consensus driven process to develop substantial improvements to the law. Mind you, such collaboration can be, and was, difficult at times, due to different perspectives or desires for amendments, but with his leadership, voices were heard, disagreements were worked through, and eventually the draft language was finalized. Then came the process of introducing the draft to various legislators in both House and Senate on both sides of the aisle, seeking both authors and champions of the bill, as well as averting controversy in advance of hearings. Along with MEJC, Arc, Disability Law Center public policy experts, Bob was actively involved in this process as well, and finally, was present at all committee and full House and Senate hearings ready to testify or answer any questions.
While attorneys are required to provide pro bono services as part of their ethical standards for membership in the bar, Bob has gone above and beyond for the guardianship community in this work, taking time away from his family, his beloved hockey side gig, billable work, and responsibilities to his firm, seeking legislative changes that balance the rights and best interest of people subject to guardianship, the practical ramifications, and the implications for guardians and systems.
Not everyone who has the knowledge, passion, and skills that Bob has to be able to teach, mentor, and advocate legal changes. In complicated legal matters, He always say let’s look at the statutes, rules and court cases. And, sometimes, let’s change the statutes, rules and court cases when that’s necessary.
Please join me in thanking Bob for his commitment to guardianship systems and improving the law as we present him with the 2020 MAGiC Legal Award.
Exemplary Service Award - Megan Kelly
The exemplary service award recognizes an individual who has done ongoing volunteer service with exemplary performance to magic. MAGiC is pleased to honor Megan with this award because she has consistently provided excellent service to the magic organization and to the clients she represents.
As a Magic Board member, Journal Chair and member of various committees, Megan has been engaged and has volunteered countless hours in the betterment of the organization. When William Brown died unexpectedly in August 2018, Megan graciously stepped in to fill the void without any noticeable interruption. Journal Committee members report that they look forward to meetings with Megan because she is always on time, on message, and prepared. She brings fresh ideas, listens to the opinions of other and provides valuable collaborative feedback. Her efforts result in consistently excellent quality journal publications. She brings enthusiasm, generosity and a contagious spirit to the organization. Megan is a true leader and asset.
As a brilliant attorney practicing in the area of elder law, probate and estates, Megan always comes to court well-versed and prepared to address all issues that may arise. She skillfully diffuses dynamic situations involving difficult people with her cool, calm and professional demeanor. Her written work product is always accurate and persuasive. She voluntarily handles IFP cases while receiving minimal compensation, without complaint. She truly cares about people under guardianship and/or conservatorship, and those who require supported decision-making assistance.
Megan balances her professional and home life with grace. Even with two young children at home, she is able to keep the balls in the air and not miss a beat.
Congratulations, Megan, on receiving this well-deserved award!
2019 MAGIC Awards
Judiciary Award - The Honorable Elizabeth Cutter
The MAGiC Judiciary Award recognizes people in the judiciary area who have done outstanding work in the field of guardianship or conservatorship. This year’s recipient is no exception.
The Honorable Elizabeth Cutter has served as the 4th Judicial District’s Probate and Mental Health judge from July 2016 – June, 2019. During her time on the bench she has demonstrated a genuine concern for the persons impacted by guardianship and conservatorship, ensuring that in her courtroom, their humanity is recognized even during these serious legal proceedings. Her warmth during hearings was appreciated, as was her interaction with the vulnerable adults, being kind and welcoming, and providing the opportunity for the vulnerable adults to speak and share their own feelings about their situation and the experience.
Judge Cutter is valued for her professionalism, her thoughtfulness, and taking very seriously the impact of her rulings in removing a person’s rights. She was patient and empathetic, especially with family guardians.
Judge Cutter cares about guardianship systems: she was instrumental in the development of the current mediation project being conducted in Hennepin County. An active participant in the months-long planning process with WINGS MN, the Judicial Branch, and her own team in developing the project, Judge Cutter is emphatic about the harm of a contested trial on respondents and their families, and wants creative solutions to try to find areas of agreement.
She assisted with Volunteers of America’s Guardianship and Conservatorship Basic Training, presenting on the court’s expectations of professional guardians/conservators each year she was on the probate bench.
For all of these reasons and more, I am pleased to present the MAGiC 2019 Judiciary Award to the Honorable Elizabeth Cutter.
Doris Sveen Award - Amanda Jonas
The Doris Sveen Award is given to a person who has done outstanding work on behalf of someone else. The Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making has worked with Amanda Jonas on several difficult cases where Amanda’s social work background and sensitive, person-centered approach to complicated situations were key to positive outcomes for vulnerable adults. For example, there was a situation of an elderly woman living in her home with a family member who severely neglected the client yet claimed to be her caregiver. The living conditions were deplorable, she was so malnourished, neglected and confused that she needed immediate medical attention and placement in a skilled nursing facility. The family dynamics were very complicated, as they often seem to be, however in this case there posed significant risk for a professional Guardian.
Amanda made a huge transformation in this case. She honored the client first and foremost but provided inclusion to the family member modeling person centered approaches. She ensured that the family member’s very real human feelings (anger, grief, loss, concern, etc.) were validated, without granting acceptance of his decisions, and worked with him to guarantee that his mother received the best care possible. It wasn’t easy, but Amanda skillfully handled the complicated nuances of this case. She is an, empathetic, kind, and intelligent professional demonstrating the value that a guardian can bring to horrific situations that vulnerable adults sometimes find themselves in. She also recently agreed to take on another extremely challenging case with a young adult in a very precarious and cruel situation. Amanda meets these challenges, sees the potential for hope, and rises up to be a part of the change and keep her clients safe, happy, healthy, and protected. Congratulations Amanda on this outstanding acknowledgment!
Lifetime Achievement Award - Shirley Olson
Shirley Olson has worked in the area of helping the disabled and persons with special needs for 30+ years. I have seen first-hand the exemplary service she provides to her clients. She truly does care for them and always has their best interests in mind. This is reflected in her work as Director of Guardianship and Conservatorship Services at Presbyterian Family Foundation. Shirley is a wealth of information for her staff and fellow Guardians and Conservators. Her 30+ years of experience in this area have provided a lifetime of knowledge for Shirley to share with her staff and peers. She organized the local group of St. Cloud Area Guardian and Conservators to allow sharing of information among Central Minnesota Guardians and to build comradery and local resources. As I have told her before, “she has been there and done that” many times and I am sure if she had started taking notes years back, she would have a bestselling how-to book written by now! Our office works routinely with Shirley and her staff on Guardianship, Conservatorship, Trust and Probate matters. I admire Shirley and truly look up to her as a successful woman who, after all of these years, still puts others before herself and will do anything in her power to help a client. For these reasons and many more, Shirley deserves this Lifetime Achievement Award.
2018 MAGIC Awards
Lifetime Achievement Award - Mary Watson
The Lifetime Achievement Award goes out to a person who has done outstanding work in the field of guardianship or conservatorship throughout his or her lifetime, and this year’s recipient certainly breaks the mold. This recipient has practiced in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, probate litigation and guardianship/conservatorships for over 35 years. Her contributions to the profession and to MAGiC and our members has been immeasurable. This person has served on the Governing Counsel for the Elder Law Section of the MN State Bar Association and is a past president of the Hennepin County Bar Association's Probate and Estate Law Committee. She has taught numerous continuing legal education seminars, as well as guardianship/conservatorship training sessions and presentations at VOA MN, MAGiC and other forums.
As a MAGiC member, she has been invaluable to our organization, volunteering for the benefit of MAGiC and its members for more than two decades. She was appointed as Membership Chair in 1993, and other than a few years in the mid-2000’s, served on the Executive Board until 2015, as Treasurer, Vice President, was elected President for two terms then sat as Past-President until 2004. Later, our recipient came back to the Board for another term as Treasurer, followed by two terms as the Journal Editor. She has long been an active, and vital, committee member for the Journal and Standards Committees, and volunteer coordinator of the MAGiC networking breakfast.
Though she is a busy and respected Elder Law Attorney, she also readily volunteers to take on extra projects, such as representing MAGiC in outside collaborations such WINGS MN, the Judicial Branch committee which developed the recent online Guardianship/Conservatorship training modules, and the Conservator Account Auditing Program Business Rules Team.
There was a collective gasp when she announced her retirement, as we immediately knew what we would be losing: her wealth of experience, how she always seemed to be available and willing to answer a question or lend a hand; offering her calm, thoughtful approach to even the most vexing problem, and we’ll surely miss her approach to ridiculous or foolish events, the way she cocks her head to one side and shakes it like she can’t believe the baloney, before pulling out that pointer finger as she shared the World According to Mary, not afraid to say what needs to be said, even if she disagrees with everyone else in the room.
For these reasons and more, MAGiC is proud to present the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award to Mary Watson.
LEGAL AWARD - WILLIAM BROWN
WILLIAM, OUR MAGIC JOURNAL CHAIR, PASSED AWAY UNEXPECTEDLY ON AUGUST 14 AS A RESULT OF A TRAGIC SCUBA DIVING ACCIDENT IN SQUARE LAKE. HE WAS 51.
I FIRST MET WILLIAM BROWN IN 2012, WHILE ATTENDING A MAGIC LUNCHEON. WILLIAM AND I EXCHANGED BUSINESS CARDS, AND WE WORKED TOGETHER ON A VARIETY OF GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP CASES DURING THE PAST FEW YEARS.
AS A BLACK MAN, WILLIAM STOOD OUT AT MAGIC AND METRO GUARDIANS EVENTS. IT WAS REFRESHING TO SEE HIM GET INVOLVED IN THE ORGANIZATION AND VOLUNTEER TO BECOME THE MAGIC JOURNAL CHAIR.
IN HIS SOLO LAW PRACTICE, WILLIAM WORKED TIRELESSLY ON BEHALF OF VULNERABLE ADULTS TO ACHIEVE THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOMES. HE WAS ALWAYS CHEERFUL, RESPECTFUL, AND ENTHUSIASTIC.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE, WILLIAM WAS MARRIED AND WITH THREE CHILDREN. HE HAD TWO ADULT COLLEGE-AGE CHILDREN, AND A TODDLER, XAVIER. I RECALL HIM TELLING ME DURING ONE RECENT COURT APPEARANCE HOW EXHAUSTING IT WAS TO HAVE A TODDLER IN HIS HOME AT HIS AGE. BUT WILLIAM WAS A DEDICATED FATHER. HE OFTEN PARTICIPATED IN MONTHLY MAGIC BOARD MEETINGS BY TELECONFERENCE WHILE HE WAS CARING FOR XAVIER. HE SUCCEEDED IN JUGGLING HIS PROFESSIONAL AND HOME LIVES WITH DIGNITY AND COMPASSION.
WE WILL MISS WILLIAM’S SMILING FACE.
Doris Sveen Award - Lori Reif
The Doris Sveen Award is given to a person who has done outstanding work on behalf of someone else.
This award is being given to someone who has been a professional in this field for many years. She has dedicated her life to serving vulnerable adults and their families. She embraces less restrictive alternatives, such Supported Decision Making within her role, recognizing that alternatives can preserve a person’s dignity while addressing vulnerabilities.
For example: recently, a particular case arose with a son who was AIF/HCA, feeling overwhelmed with the complicated nuances of his father’s finances and the challenging and rather risky family dynamics. The son felt guilt ridden and was beside himself because he wanted to help this father, didn’t want to be involved anymore and wanted a guardian appointed. After some discussion about the fathers needs and a connection with our recipient, she was able to step in to the situation seamlessly. She validated the son’s concerns and emotions while being able to keep him engaged. She provided support, guidance, and organization. In the particular case as a daily money manager, she has played a vital role in assisting those family members manage financial tasks, and work through complicated family dynamics- allowing the family to remain involved with their loved one and not step away, resulting in more vulnerabilities.
It’s important to note that as a professional in this line of work-These situations are messy, difficult, and exhausting at times. We can all take a page from this recipient’s book, that life is messy-but its how you approach that mess that makes the difference. Knowing that she was able to step in and support the family, resulting in supporting the elderly adult is treasured!
This year’s Doris Sveen recipient ensures that the person and their families voices are heard, acknowledged, and validated-She displays empathy and passion for what she does. She continually asks questions, attends classes, and does her homework in order to strive to be the best so she can.
I have appreciated the heart she has and the kindness she gives to all. Please help me in honoring Lori Reif for the 2018 Doris Sveen Award.
2017 MAGiC Awards
Legal Award: Cate Boyko
Given to a person in the legal area who has done outstanding work in the field of guardianship or conservatorship.
Earlier in her professional career, Cate was an Investigator with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. For whatever reason, she left the RCMP and eventually landed in our midst, applying her skills and interests to improve conservatorship in Minnesota, with a special emphasis on addressing financial exploitation and mismanagement by conservators for the protection of protected persons under court jurisdiction.
Cate was hired by the MN Judicial Branch in 2012 to manage CAAP (Conservator Account Auditing Program), specifically to build the auditing portion for this new center to safeguard the assets of protected person through professional, impartial compliance audits. In addition, she was the project manager for the award winning MY MN Conservator (MMC), enabling electronic filing of inventories and annual accounts with MN courts, as well as being a financial management tool for conservators in reconciling accounts. This could be a daunting task for anyone, and has the potential to be met with resistance by professionals who may not appreciate such sweeping changes. But Cate successfully engaged professional conservators through MAGiC and other direct meetings, welcoming their input on the process.
Cate has testified at the US Senate’s Special Committee on Aging on Minnesota’s CAAP and MMC programs, has been quoted in the NY Times; locally, she is an active member of WINGS MN to assist in its efforts to avoid abuse in guardianship and conservatorship, and utilizing less restrictive alternatives to guardianship through innovative approaches such as supported decision making. She led an team of stakeholders through the early and middle stages of the development of an online training program aimed at improved knowledge and skills for all guardians/conservators, but especially families. Cate has recently left the MN Judicial Branch but has not left G/C behind. She is currently working with the National Center of State Courts on yet another online training program, this one nationally-based, and with an even stronger focus on informing would-be petitioners about less restrictive alternatives. As the coordinator of WINGS, I am grateful to have Cate on the Steering Committee, almost always saying “yes” to the call for volunteers for special projects.
We have benefited from Cate’s passion for, and dedication to, improving G/C systems in MN to detect financial exploitation by fiduciaries by developing accessible on-line educational tools, and for disseminating MN’s accomplishments on the national level. Please join me in congratulating Cate Boyko, the 2017 recipient of MAGiC’s Legal Award.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Referee Dean Maus
Given to a person in the legal or judiciary area who has done outstanding work in the field of guardianship or conservatorship
Referee Maus was the Ramsey County probate court manager for 5 years before serving 10 years as a Referee in the Ramsey County probate court. He moved to the Hennepin County probate court and served as Referee there for 7 years.
You younguns may not know that Referee Maus was instrumental in convincing the court system to take conservator accountings seriously by establishing an online accounting program which eventually morphed into My Mn Conservator and the auditing of accounts that we have with CAAP today. These efforts in Minnesota were first in the nation and are leading to similar efforts across the county.
But we are also honoring him today because he was a tireless worker in the court system that is charged with protecting our society’s vulnerable persons. In this age where flash/celebrity/fake leaders get oversized attention, it behooves us to celebrate those who really do deserve our recognition: the hardworking/nose-to-the grindstone citizens who positively contribute to society every day.
Referee Maus is one of those citizens who deserves the Lifetime Achievement Award which MAGiC gives to a person who has done outstanding work in the field of Guardianship/Conservatorship throughout his/her lifetime.
On behalf of MAGiC – we give you this award, Referee Maus, as a recognition of your service and a token of our appreciation for all you have done.
Doris Sveen Award: Jean Sulzle
Recognizing an individual who has done outstanding work on behalf of someone else.
Earlier in Jean’s career, she was working as a case manager for Catholic Charities helping seniors stay in their homes. The first time she heard of a Conservator was when she couldn't figure out what to do with a particular client and colleagues suggested a Conservatorship. She went through the process and her interest piqued. In 1989, she took the guardian and conservatorship class from VOA and soon landed her first client. She worked part-time building up more clients over 15 years when she finally got the courage to do it full-time and has been applying her skills, knowledge, and passion ever since.
The Doris Sveen award doesn’t even begin to cover the outstanding work Jean did on behalf of a recent case with the young woman in a horrific situation. With this particular case, it would have been appropriate and enough for Jean to buy this young woman clothes, to find her placement, and assist with making some difficult decisions. This is one of those cases that is hard to imagine and it would have just been easier to meet the young woman’s needs and move on -But Jean new this young woman wasn’t just “enough”, and easy isn’t in Jean’s vocabulary. Jean knew that given the horrors and evil of this situation, that this young woman needed more. She did not back down from all the nuance’s and challenges of this particular case-
No, instead Jean embraced her, rose to the challenge, and has since been putting her heart, soul, passion, and skills into guiding her and not only providing the best future for this young woman, but experiencing things with her and allowing her to just be a young woman (Ex. Taking her shopping, instead of just buying her clothes because no one had ever taken her shopping before. Jean toured places with her and allowed her to decide where she would like to live. Spending time and having lunch with her as these were simple things that in life we all can take for granted, when these were opportunities that this young woman never had the pleasure of experiencing.)
Other professionals involved with this case have stated that her skills and compassion were exactly what was needed at a very trying time, and that Jean has gone above and beyond all expectations with all the time, care, and advocacy.
It has been a true inspiration to see the results and love that Jean poured into this young woman. You know that question that we all ask ourselves, “Why are we here? What is our purpose?” This is why…
It is not enough to say that Jean is an outstanding Guardian. Jean is more. Her passion, and dedication to improving the lives of others is significant. Please join me in congratulating Jean Sulzle, the 2017 recipient of MAGiC’s Doris Sveen Award.
Recognition Award: Dawn Rootness
Given to a person who has done outstanding work for the MAGIC Association.
Dawn joined the MAGiC Board in 2011 as the Bylaws Chair. This position seemed to be a natural fit for Dawn. She immediately immersed herself in our bylaws, looking for any areas where language could be improved for simplicity, accuracy, and especially grammatically. By fall of 2011 Dawn had introduced, and passed, the first of four amendments under her term as Chair.
As a Board Member, Dawn is the kind of person that every board needs on it. She was always quick to be the first to offer to proof any correspondence from the board including marketing material and brochures, additions to our Standards, and meeting minutes. Dawn’s eye for detail is remarkable, and the Board could rest easy knowing a document was complete when Dawn had finished editing.
Dawn was also a highly organized and knowledgeable Board Member. Anytime there was a procedural question, Dawn could be depended on to come up with the correct answer, usually by memory. Dawn is also quick to recall details from previous meetings and quickly point to prior meeting minutes to end discussion on a point that had previously been settled.
As the CAMPER and MYMNConserv program expanded to include all conservators, including family members, Dawn stepped in to serve as an agent for family and professionals alike. Numerous attorneys would advise their clients to talk to Dawn, knowing that she could take a box of receipts and statements and prepare an on-line accounting that would keep their clients in the good graces of the court and auditors! Because of her own private conservatorship business, and her knowledge of a family member’s view of CAAP, Dawn was a contributing member of the CAAP work group comprised of CAAP team members, court staff, judges, attorneys and other key stake holders in ensuring the development and on-going process of the CAAP and MMC systems.
As Dawn transitions out of the fiduciary service realm, attorneys, court staff, the professional community, and family conservators will all miss the fantastic and timely service that Dawn has provided and we deeply thank her for her contributions to MAGiC and to our profession.