October 01, 2018 Inside the Commission

Inside the Commission: Meet the New Commissioners

Liz Milner

It’s the start of a new term for the Commission and we are pleased to welcome eight new commissioners. In this issue of BIFOCAL, we introduce the Hon. Louraine Arkfeld, our Commission Chair and two other new commission members: Chasity Sharp Grice and Karren Pope-Onwukwe, Introductions to the other new Commission members will be featured in future issues of BIFOCAL.

Hon. Louraine Arkfeld, Chair, ABA Commission on Law & Aging

Judge Arkfeld’s demonstrated interest and experience in aging issues combined with her service to the ABA makes her an ideal Commission Chair. She is a member of the Tempe, AZ Dementia-Friendly Action Team and is trained as a Dementia Friendly Champion. Within the ABA, Judge Arkfeld has served as the Judicial Member of the American Bar Association’s Board of Governors, Chair of the ABA Judicial Division, Chair of Commission on the American Jury Project, Chair of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division, and member of the Council for the ABA Section of International Law.

Judge Arkfeld has had a distinguished legal career. She served as the Presiding Judge for the Tempe Municipal Court from February 1994 until June 2010 when she retired from the bench. Previously, she served ten years as a judge in the Phoenix Municipal Court, including as Assistant Presiding Judge from 1989 to 1994. Judge Arkfeld sat on the Arizona Judicial Council and served as Chair of the Court Leadership Institute. In 2005 Judge Arkfeld received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, presented by the National Center for State Courts.

A Brief Question & Answer Session with our New Commission Chair, Louraine Arkfeld

Q: What are your goals for the Commission and how do you hope to achieve them?

A: My goals for the Commission do not have to do with changing its mission or focus. One has only to look at COLA’s record of achievements to know how successful it has been. We do not in any way want to lose its unique focus and the impact that its work has for elders in our community. The concern is how to not only maintain but build on COLA’s success in these challenging financial times. It is essential to increase the awareness at all levels of ABA leadership not only of all our activities, but the benefits COLA provides ABA members. It is important to include other entities within the ABA in our work as much as possible so that there is a mutual sharing of expertise and the resulting benefits.

That continuing success will also only be possible if we continue to not only work successfully with our current funding partners but reach out to new funding sources. The continuing growth of our senior population makes this an area that impacts everyone and every area of practice. So, we need to begin thinking outside of the box as to who other partners might be. My goal is to have COLA recognized as the partner who can help so that everyone reaches out to us.

Q: How does your experience help you in pursuing these goals?

A: I have served in many positions over my long and active involvement with the ABA. I served as the Judicial Representative on the Board of Governors including the chairing the Planning Committee. I have also chaired the National Conference of Specialized Judges, the Judicial Division and the Senior Lawyers Division as well as served on the Council of the Section of International Law. I have also been on several Committees and Commissions. All of this gives me a wide knowledge of the activities and work going on within the ABA that we can use to increase our profile across the ABA and engage in joint projects with other entities.

I was also the Presiding Judge of my court for the last sixteen years that I was on the bench (and Assistant Presiding Judge for five years before that). A major function of that role was working with other branches of government particularly with regards to funding. And unfortunately, the recession gave me many opportunities to address the challenge of budget cuts!

Q: What future course do you see the Commission taking?

A: I do not see the future course of the Commission being dramatically different from the current outstanding work it is doing. As we seek out new partners, we may find that there are further areas of the law as it impacts seniors for us to explore. I think it is key for us to listen to the community and hear what they are saying are their needs. One of the advantages the Commission has is its membership of both law-trained professionals and allied professionals, so we constantly have access to input from across many professions that are working with the elderly. As a result, we should be the first ones to be aware of issues that need to be addressed.

Q: How did you become interested in Elder Law?

A: As Chair of the Senior Lawyers Division, I was obviously exposed to many legal issues impacting seniors. I devoted my Spring meeting to the issue of Alzheimer’s and dementia. My community, Tempe, Arizona, is a pilot Dementia- Friendly Community and I serve on the Dementia-Friendly Action Team and am trained as both a Dementia Friend and a Dementia Champion. I have presented both national and local programs on dementia issues impacting lawyers and judges. I could not help but be interested when it impacts not just my professional colleagues but literally everyone I know in some way.

Chasity Sharp Grice

Chasity Grice brings extensive experience in estate planning, family law, and probate law to her work for the Commission. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Clark Atlanta University with her Bachelor of Arts in English. She then attended the University of Tennessee College of Law, where she received her law degree with a concentration in Transactional Tax Planning. She is a partner at Peppel, Grice & Palazzolo, P.C. Ms. Grice has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis in the areas of family law and estates, trusts, and probate law. She regularly accepts court appointments from the Shelby County probate court judges and has previously accepted appointments from the probate courts located in Dallas, Collin, and Tarrant Counties of Texas. She also serves as Substitute Judge for Shelby County Probate Court Judge, Division I, and Shelby County General Sessions Court Judges. She is a former Trusts and Estates fellow of the American Bar Association Real Property Trust & Estate section, and fellow for the American Bar Foundation.

In 2016, Mrs. Grice was accepted as a Young Leader of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. She has dedicated her career to the area of Trusts and Estates. She is currently of completing her LLM degree in Elder Law and Estate planning.

“I am thrilled to become a member of the Commission and am eager to learn more about its work, more intimately, and to be a part of it.”

Chasity Grice’s interest in Elder Law developed in law school. In an e-mail exchange, she writes,

“Initially, I focused my experience in developing estate plans and having a more tax-focused practice. At some point, however, my practice began to focus more closely on representing families with disabled or aging relatives for whom they were caring. That shift from general estate planning to more special needs planning eventually led to a more specialized elder law practice, including Medicaid and VA planning. I would say that shift was just the natural progression of my career and the needs of my clients. I think that is true, on a general level, as the needs of our aging baby boomers grow substantially, and imagine that even general practitioners, if they still exist, would have to be more educated in the area of elder law.

I believe that my experience would help me to be a very involved and passionate member of the Commission, having the experience of clients with real-world needs and, oftentimes, very little resources. Due to my background, which includes working both with clients of substantial means and those with very modest means, I have the knowledge base in many different situations. I pride myself on having taken many of the “hard” cases that some lawyers were afraid to touch. While that is both a gift and a curse, it has caused me to better understand situations that arise in the everyday lives of aging individuals.

I have always felt that the people who are best at their jobs are those who are passionate and knowledgeable about it. My goal will continue to grow in this area so that I can provide the very best input and assistance in the work of the Commission.

My main goal is to explore the most pressing issues in the elder law area and better understand how the Commission can tackle them. More generally, my goals include developing and/or fostering relationships with other organizations whose work closely matches that of the Commission. My hope is that those relationships would assist us in providing deep and meaningful impact in our areas of focus.

I see the Commission developing even more relationships and partnerships with organizations who have local outreach to communities of families with aging loved ones with legal and/or other needs. I see a team approach to the outreach becoming stronger in the years to come, which will cause an even stronger positive effect on our communities."

Karren Jo Pope-Onwukwe

“There must be a paradigm shift in how knowledge is shared. I believe that the Commission must go into the communities and share its research and information directly with older persons.”

Maryland Elder Lawyer Karren Jo Pope-Onwukwe looks forward to breaking new ground with the Commission.

“I am very excited about my appointment to the ABA Commission on Law and Aging,” she e-mailed me. “Prior to becoming an attorney, I was a paralegal and I worked with an elder law attorney, accordingly I have practical experience “from soup to nuts” with many of the issues that the Commission deals with. Additionally, I have been the chair of the Maryland Elder Law and Disability Rights Section Council and have been involved on the state level with advocating for and eventually getting Maryland to adopt uniform power of attorney and guardianship legislation.

I would like to raise awareness among attorneys about alternatives to guardianship/conservatorship and how to restore the rights of adults that are under a guardianship/ conservatorship. I attended the recent webinar on this topic and am planning to write an article discussing the issue, perhaps I would submit it to one of the publications of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division.

I would also like to raise awareness among attorneys concerning Hoarding Disorder/clutter-related issues; many attorneys have no idea of how to assist clients that manifest this type of behavior. I would love to have a webinar like the one I attended on restoration of rights of adults.

As a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Quality Care at the End of Life, I was involved in the development of our state’s Healthcare Directive legislation and our statutory Advance Medical Directive as well as the statutory Maryland Order for Life- Sustaining Treatment and the legislation.

In the past I was the chair of the County Executive’s Advisory Committee on Aging which allowed me to understand the funding and bureaucracy of our federal, state and local government agencies that administer programs for the benefit of older persons.

Currently, I sit on the Adult Public Guardianship Review Board for Prince George’s County and that gives me a sobering look at every aspect of aging and our community-based support systems. I also sit on the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission. We had a hearing yesterday afternoon, we took testimony and discussed the impact of data breaches on consumers (identity theft) and mortgage lending protections for buyers of retail manufactured homes (mobile homes).

I became interested in Elderlaw while working with and elder law attorney as his paralegal. The firm I worked for catered to wealthy clients and I enjoyed my work. I enrolled in Georgetown University Law Center to pursue a law degree. I planned to focus on estates and trust law, but providence stepped in when I enrolled in a course called, Law and Aging. My professor was Charlie Sabatino; his class showed me how I could actually help the people in my community, my church and my family and turned my practice into my calling. I started my practice on a wing and a prayer.

I believe that this broad-based experience allows me to see the practical implications of policy positions that the Commission may support or oppose.

The Commission work can be frustrating because many of the topics we are grappling with are areas where seniors, low-income and financially illiterate folks are targeted.

I am hopeful that the information that I gain will help inform the Commission on Law and Aging on new areas that we may need to explore."

The 2018-2019 Commission on Law & Aging

  • Chairperson: Hon. Louraine Arkfeld
  • Hon. Shirley S. Abrahamson
  • Neelum Aggarwal, MD
  • Karen Coleen Buck
  • Karen Campbell
  • Teresa Curtin
  • Carmel Bitondo Dyer
  • Kathy Greenlee
  • Chasity Sharp Grice
  • Ricker Hamilton
  • Paul M. Igasaki
  • Eleanor Crosby Lanier
  • Sandra Markwood
  • Dan Marson
  • Rachael K. Pirner
  • Karren Pope-Onwukwe

Liaison, Board of Governors
    Howard T. Wall III