LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge today named the son of Nichelle Nichols and a psychologist as the new temporary conservators of the 85-year-old”Star Trek” actress, who allegedly is suffering from memory loss.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson named 67-year-old Kyle Johnson -- who is not related to the judge -- as the temporary conservator of his mother's person, and Marina del Rey psychologist B.J. Hawkins as the temporary conservator of the actress' estate to manage her financial matters.
Most of Nichols' assets are in her Woodland Hills home, which her son's court papers state is worth nearly $2 million.
The judge also terminated the powers of the previous temporary conservators -- Norine Boehmer, Dawn Mills, Susan Ghormley and Leandra McCormick -- who the judge appointed in May at the recommendation of Kyle Johnson.
The four women did not oppose being replaced by Kyle Johnson -- who is himself an actor who had a major role in the 1969 film “The Learning Tree” -- as he and Hawkins await a Nov. 8 hearing on their bids to become Nichols' permanent conservators.
Meanwhile, the judge declined to hear arguments from attorney Troy Martin on behalf of Nichols' friend Angelique Fawcette in opposition to the judge's recent ruling that she did not have legal grounds to ask that the judge be removed from the case. Martin said he thought today was reserved for arguments on Fawcette's petition and that he had just seen the judge's ruling this morning.
Martin also said Fawcette has been stymied in her attempts to visit Nichols. After the judge said that decision will be left to the new temporary conservators, Martin replied it is Nichols, not Kyle Johnson and Hawkins, who has the constitutional right to decide with whom she wants to visit.
Kyle Johnson's lawyer, Jeffrey Marvan, said his client is not ruling out any visits by Fawcette, but is being cautious because Fawcette once shared a power-of-attorney over Nichols with the actress' manager, Gilbert Bell. During the May hearing, Marvan expressed concerns in court over whether Bell was acting in Nichols' best interests.
Marvan's comments brought a rebuke from Fawcette, who said Nichols asked that she be given a power-of-attorney. Fawcette also said she called authorities when she suspected Nichols was the victim of financial abuse and bought her a new set of clothes when some of the actress' wardrobe turned up missing.
Nichols suspected her son wanted to put her in a rest home for the remainder of her life, Fawcette said.
“I just don't want my character defamed,” Fawcette said.
Bell's lawyer, Debra Opri, told the judge her client will provide an informal accounting of his expenses. Opri said after the hearing that the concerns expressed by Marvan in court about Bell were “allegations only.”
In her ruling in which she decided she will remain on the case, the judge found that Fawcette, who says Nichols does not need a conservator, had no standing to bring the removal motion because she was not a party or an “interested person” as defined by the law.
Although a geriatrician who examined Nichols concluded that she suffers from “moderate, progressive dementia,” Fawcette says Nichols can manage her affairs with the help of a regular assistant.
Nichols played Lt. Uhura, a translator and communications officer, aboard the USS Enterprise in the “Star Trek” series that ran on NBC from 1966- 69, and also appeared in some of the later “Star Trek” movies.
Jeffrey Shuwarger, Nichols' court-appointed lawyer, stated in recent court papers that he visited the actress on Aug. 14. Nichols initially agreed only to her son's appointment, but was more cautious about Hawkins, so a meeting with the psychologist was arranged six days later, according to Shuwarger's court papers.
Nichols later agreed to have Hawkins come on board, according to Shuwarger's filing.
Shuwarger endorsed the appointments of Kyle Johnson and Hawkins. He also said Nichols did not wish to be present at today's court session or during future proceedings, but Martin said after the hearing that it is likely that anyone whose critical interests would be decided during such hearings would want to be in attendance.
Martin said Fawcette will file objections to the appointments of the proposed permanent conservators, but that he hoped the parties can work out their differences.