Could Nancy Reagan or other Californians be forced to give strangers contact lists and take drug and alcohol tests at the demand of Jeb Bush or another Florida resident? Can the former First Lady also be required to disclose the identities and cell phone numbers of her security staff? That claim was made on Monday, March 5, by Florida attorney Ira Wiesner. Wiesner bills his practice as “Advocates in Aging” and has tried to make a case that these types of intrusion on personal privacy are a compassionate way to serve the interests of Americans who qualify for membership in AARP.
Wiesner and several other Florida attorneys have claimed that Floridians can establish a so-called “Special Needs Trust” for Mrs. Reagan or any other American who qualifies for Social Security benefits. This could allow an appointee of the trustee to require Mrs. Reagan to provide unlimited access to her contacts, medical records and other information designated private by the California State Constitution. California allows Mrs. Reagan and other Californians to “just say no“ to such intrusions with a provision of California Probate Code Paragraph 279, according to a veteran President of the Orange County Bar Association. The Getty Trust and Reagan Library have to do this frequently to maintain their high standards for quality and privacy protection. Nonetheless, Mr. Wiesner and his colleagues wrote that a “disclaimer of interest is statutorily insufficient under Florida law to operate as a disclaimer. Whatever effect it might have under California law is immaterial…”
California has especially stringent privacy protection laws. An important aspect of this is Article 1 of the California State Constitution. The text has become part of the California Dream: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.” Since Jeb Bush is now Chairman of the National Constitution Center's Board of Trustees he is expected to lead America in honoring constitutional rights. Last month, e-mail accounts of many Bush family members were hacked, catapulting Governor Bush into the role of privacy advocate.
Will Nancy Reagan be forced to loose many of her most important rights as a Californian? Recent news from Florida is no cause for optimism. Florida also has the dubious distinction of failing to report a millionaire State Supreme Court judge, Diane Hathaway, who purchased a luxury property in Windemere, Florida for $10 and did not report the difference as income when filing an affidavit of financial hardship. Many local governments use computer programs to generate alerts about these kinds of deep discount property sales. Yes, Judge Hathaway did get caught by the FBI and did plead guilty, but no state or local officials in Florida investigated this case, so it is quite possible that there have been other incidents almost no one knows about. Scott Rothstein, a former attorney convicted for cheating trust accountsin Florida, has become a witness for prosecutors and is naming names. There are a lot of names, so it may take ten years to catch everyone.
Does former Florida Governor Jeb Bush know about any more cases? Does he agree that Florida has a special privilege to take away the rights that Nancy Reagan and other Californians have in the California State Constitution? Interested Californians can ask Mr. Bush in person this Friday, March 8, when he speaks in public at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Governor Bush will introduce his new book “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution” Friday morning at the Reagan Forum.
UPDATE: Governor Bush's talk was webacast and nearly 200 members of the Internet audience logged in. He addressed a serious privacy rights question from a local teacher and received enthusiastic applause for his common sense approaches to this and other issues. Mr. Bush's talk took the high road with these observations: "Our country has always been a positive place...Too many people in public life try to mirror what the polls are saying. It takes strong leadership to produce strong results."