District and federal court judges who have been steadily working their way through the myriad of lawsuits filed by Pop artist Peter Max’s two children, Libra and Adam, against each other (charging abuse of their father, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s induced dementia for the better part of a decade), by the artist’s late widow (charging Libra and Adam with stealing Max’s artwork from her), by Libra against the personal needs guardian appointed by the courts (a range of charges, including abuse and causing the family emotional stress), by that personal needs guardian against Libra (for defamation) and by Libra against the deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City Court (for improper communications with another judge).
The most recent decision came in a Manhattan district court on 3 March, when Libra’s lawsuit to remove that court-appointed personal needs guardian, Barbara Lissner, was dismissed. Judge Valerie Caproni referred to Libra Max’s “30-page diatribe” of complaints about Lissner, a partner in the New York-based law firm Lissner & Lissner whose specialty is the care of the elderly, ranging from “complaints about limitations on visits and telephone calls to the removal of cats from Max’s home to Lissner’s unwillingness to share Max’s medical information with her”.
In the end, Judge Caproni found that “the actions and decisions of Lissner about which Plaintiff complains are reasonable and appropriate given her role as Max’s guardian, including her decisions about visitation, the cats and Mr. Max’s medical care”.
In addition to the now-dismissed lawsuit against Lissner, there is a separate legal action by ALP, a corporation created by the artist Peter Max for, among other things, the production, maintenance, marketing, licensing and commercialisation of his art, and of which Libra Max is president and chief executive, against Lawrence L. Flynn, the court-appointed property guardian of Peter Max. That case is still pending.
Back in 2016, Peter Max formally requested the courts to appoint a guardian to manage his finances. His wife, Mary (his second wife, whom he married in 1997), tended to his more personal needs, such as his diet, exercise, seeing doctors and other activities. Reports began to circulate that the artist was being physically abused and financially taken advantage of, which may have led to Mary’s death by suicide in 2019. A personal needs guardian was appointed by the courts thereafter.
The intervening years have seen a parade of guardians, along with charges of overbilling and abuse of the artist and family members, as well as disputes between Max’s two children. Libra “has filed numerous applications criticising Barbara and/or seeking to have Barbara removed as Mr. Max’s personal needs guardian, contriving ugly accusations and levelling one complaint after another, often times just repeating and amplifying the same meritless allegations”, says Oren Warshavsky, the lawyer who represented Lissner.
The artist himself “is well cared for”, according to Lawrence L. Flynn, noting that money has become a bit tight, the result of Peter Max’s own payments from ALP having been “cut 80% in 2019, leaving the guardianship unable to pay many of his expenses. I and my firm have had to advance approximately $45,000 to cover Peter’s expenses. Most of that has been reimbursed. My court awarded compensation is more than two years in arrears, because I can’t pay myself and cover Peter’s expenses”. The legal profession, however, has done well by the family disputes, he says. “Libra has had more than 35 lawyers in the various matters and is currently represented by no fewer than four law firms. I have no idea what she has paid them.”
In his heyday, Peter Max embodied the be-one-with-the-cosmos current of the psychedelic 1960s, writing in his 2013 autobiography The Universe of Peter Max that through yoga “I had tapped into a vast creative reservoir that now gushed forth with an unimpeded flow of artistic energy.” he added, “.If you’re not in the flow, or not feeling that you are, do not resist it; be with that too.”