Judge leans against Falk conservatorship

Monday, March 23, 2009
By ANTHONY McCARTNEY, AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES —  A judge refused to establish a conservatorship for Peter Falk on Monday, but has scheduled testimony to decide whether court intervention is necessary to allow visits between the ailing actor and his daughter.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aviva K. Bobb scheduled an evidentiary hearing on May 27 to try to determine how close the "Columbo" star was to his adopted daughter, Catherine, before falling ill.

Catherine Falk petitioned for a conservatorship in December, saying her father was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and advanced dementia. She has withdrawn a petition to take over her father's estate, but has argued for a conservatorship because she claims Falk's wife, Shera, is blocking attempts to visit her father.

Bobb granted Catherine Falk a 30-minute supervised visit with her father last month, but the details of that meeting were not discussed Monday.

For much of the hearing, Bobb seemed inclined to rule against Catherine Falk and allow the actor's wife of more than 32 years to continue to manage his care and affairs.

Catherine Falk's lawyer, Troy Martin, argued that a conservatorship was the only way to ensure that visits between the actor and his daughter will occur.

"I think it's clear that if this petition is denied that Catherine Falk will not be allowed to see her father again until his funeral," Martin said.

Bobb also heard from Clark Byam, a court-appointed attorney who has consulted with Falk's accountant, friends and doctor. Byam has also seen Falk, who is living in a guest house at his Beverly Hills home that has been converted into an art studio.

Byam said it's unlikely that Falk _ who won four Emmys for his performance in the old detective series "Columbo" _ will remember any visits with his daughter, and that frequent visits would "not be constructive."

Byam agreed to try to work out an agreement between Catherine and Shera Falk so that the conservatorship petition can be withdrawn.

"This is not an easy case," Byam said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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