Astor Family Gets Judge To Close The Door on Guardianship Case
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Describing Brooke Astor as a woman who “invited the world into her living room,” a state judge ruled yesterday that sections of the 104 year-old philanthropist’s guardianship proceeding will be open to the public.
Lawyers representing her son and grandson had asked that the public be barred from future hearings, which are expected to include details of Mrs. Astor’s life from recent years.
The judge, John Stackhouse of state Supreme Court in Manhattan, decided that reporters could attend hearings and read court filings that dealt with Mrs. Astor’s finances or that addressed the question of whether any attorneys have mismanaged her affairs. He also ruled that Mrs. Astor’s medical records were to be kept sealed and that portions of hearings dealing with her health would be kept closed.
The case began last month when Mrs. Astor’s grandson, Philip Marshall, sued his father, Anthony Marshall, alleging that he was neglecting Mrs. Astor by failing to get her medicine or new clothing, among other things. The suit seeks to wrest control over Mrs. Astor’s health care and finances away from Anthony Marshall.
Once a fixture of New York society, Mrs. Astor became famous for giving away nearly $200 million as the head of the Vincent Astor foundation. Astor, who died in 1959, was Mrs. Astor’s third husband.
Judge Stackhouse said the recent news accounts of her son’s alleged neglect have not caused Mrs. Astor any discomfort.
“The court has been informed that she is resting comfortably and has not been disturbed by the media coverage of the dispute because she neither reads the papers, nor watches television,” Judge Stackhouse wrote.
Concluding that the case was potentially one of public importance, Judge Stackhouse wrote: “The contrast between Mrs. Astor’s extensive wealth and public importance and her living conditions at the time of the commencement of this proceeding show that elder abuse can be present in all socioeconomic communities in the United States.”
Judge Stackhouse also said Mrs. Astor sought public attention when she was a younger woman, and often shared details of her life with the public. He notes that Mrs. Astor has published her memoirs and was “very open and forthcoming” about her first marriage, which was allegedly marred by alcoholism and physical abusiveness on the part of her husband.
“Mrs. Astor has always been a very open and candid person, who invited the world into her living room, and is not new to publicity, even when it concerns abuse at the hands of family members,” Judge Stackhouse wrote.
A lawyer for Mrs. Astor’s son, Kenneth Warner, wrote in a statement via e-mail that the decision should allow for the public to learn that Anthony Marshall “faithfully and well served his mother by power of attorney, increasing her assets many times over.”
A lawyer for Philip Marshall did not return a call for comment.