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Judge to man: Sorry, you’re still (legally) dead

Judge to man: Sorry, you’re still (legally) dead

One of the stranger cases.

A Judge in Ohio has ruled that a man declared legally dead after he disappeared in 1994 still is legally dead. Even though the man was in court asking the judge to declare him not dead.

Long-time correspondent, photographer, reporter, bumper sticker aficionado, and music impresario Danelle sent us the story, via The Courier in Findlay, Ohio:

Donald Eugene Miller Jr. walked out of Hancock County Probate Court on Monday as legally dead as ever.

In 1994, the court ruled that Miller was legally dead, eight years after he disappeared from his Arcadia rental home.

The same judge, Allan Davis, ruled Monday that Miller is still dead, in the eyes of the law. Miller’s request for a reversal came well after the three-year legal limit for changing a death ruling, Davis said….

Miller’s ex-wife, Robin Miller, had asked for the death ruling so Social Security death benefits could be paid to their two children….

She said after the court hearing that Donald Miller left the state with hefty child support bills. He was scared of a jail term, she said.

He owed about $26,000 in overdue child support by 1994, she has said.

Robin Miller opposed his request for a change in the death ruling, because she does not want to repay the Social Security benefits. She does not have the money, she said….

Judge Davis referred to Donald Miller’s case as a “strange, strange situation.”

“We’ve got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health,” Davis said….

But the three-year time limit on the death ruling is clear, Davis said.

“I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned,” Davis said.

Eugene Miller apparently is not happy, according to the reporter who attended court:

Mrs. Miller expected the court to be packed with paparazzi, and was surprised there was a single reporter and photographer:

Give it time. This story will be viral soon enough.


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At least being legally dead won’t deprive him of his right to vote Democrat.

NC Mountain Girl | October 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm

res ipsa loquitur?

That Judge is legally brain dead.

    Paul in reply to Paul. | October 9, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    And the brighter side, now it’s certain that only TAXES are the certain thing in life. Death is a matter for the lawyers to quibble over.

    healthguyfsu in reply to Paul. | October 10, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Actually not…judge used the law to deny a scumbag from mooching off the government.

    You don’t want to pay back your ridiculously large debt of child support…then no social security for you.

    What, for not helping a malicious loser stick his abandoned wife with a huge bill?

    It’s a legal fiction. Not as if the judge thought that he was physically dead.

Actually, he was missing for 8 years in 1994, so he disappeared somewhere around 1986. Apparently, he contacted family around 2005, but with the three year limit to challenge the death ruling, his time would have been either 1997 or 2008, both of which have long passed. As someone pointed out in the comments of the original story – the guy is 60 now, and probably wants to collect Social Security. Being as his kids already got the Social Security death benefit, it’s not ridiculous to think that he doesn’t care if he sticks the bill for repayment of the SS death benefit to his ex so that he can collect Social Security himself. In this light, I can’t exactly blame the judge for the ruling, but I suppose it would be better if there were a category “alive but ineligible for Social Security”. Of course, if that were the case, he’d probably be in court in a few months to get that overturned…

On the other hand, I have to give him credit – as a dead person, he doesn’t have to enroll in Obamacare or pay taxes… He may just have stumbled onto something here!

    platypus in reply to Katja. | October 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    I doubt SSA would go after the ex-wife. The money was paid as support for the children in lieu of his inability to work due to death. If it comes back on anyone, it’s him. And I would expect that at most it would be a monthly setoff against his social security since he didn’t actually do anything (wife did it) except vanish.

    SSA forgives lots of improper disbursements but they don’t tell the public about it.

      Valerie in reply to platypus. | October 9, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Yes, they would. Haven’t you been paying attention to how our executive branch behaved the last coupe of weeks?

      There’s a reason why the death determination became final after three years, and it is to protect that woman and children. This is not the first deadbeat to reappear after years and threaten to cast his poor spouse and kids into debt.

      Rulings like this are why we have judges. This isn’t logical, but it is justice.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to platypus. | October 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      It would probably depend on his political party affiliation. For instance, if he is a Tea Party type (although certainly doesn’t sound like one), he’d probably be denied SSA and forced to pay back the SSA death benefits the kids got in addition to paying for their obastard care until they each reach the age of 50.

      It says right there in the story that the mother of his abandoned children was opposing his fighting of being “legally dead” BECAUSE she’d be forced to pay back the benefits.

Does that mean he is free from Obamacare taxes?

Actually a very sensible ruling. The bizarreness stems from confusion re the shorthand description of his status, “legally dead”. It really means that his estate has been settled just as it would have been if he had been actually, for real, no fooling dead. But “man with settled estate” isn’t the sort of phrase likely to catch on.

I wonder if he could now get another SS number … assuming that he’s had an epiphany and now wants to pursue a productive second career.

    janitor in reply to rantbot. | October 9, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Exactly. These kinds of presumptions were enacted so that benefits and insurance can be collected and won’t have to be paid back, so that spouses can remarry, so that beneficiaries can inherit, so that proving the negative doesn’t have to occur, and so that concern about being wrong doesn’t have to happen either.

    Apparently he’s been living and managing somehow for 25 years under another identity, and he’ll just have to continue on that way.

    I’m interested in Barry Soetoro, the adopted Indonesian boy, who is using someone else’s social security number. When is a judge going to rule on THAT.

    Paul in reply to rantbot. | October 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    I disagree that it is a sensible ruling.

    The “Legally Dead” status extends beyond just a settled estate, and could easily have been ruled in the following:

    As to your settled estate, you are still considered legally dead. But no proviso was made for what lay beyond, based on the facts I see presented here.

    I guess this simply means he will have to incorporate, but then he will be immune from liability as well 🙂

Is he eligible to vote? Is he even still considered to be a citizen? I think he might be worse than a man without a country – he’s a man without legal status. Since he’s already legally dead, would it be murder to kill him?

    This is one of the issues which I referred to as “What lay beyond”.

    For his settled estate, and insurance benefits, marriage, etcc. He can be “considered” legally dead, but for all other purposes he will probably have to incorporate.

    As I said above though, this means he’ll probably gain some limited (or immunity from) liability benefits.

huskers-for-palin | October 9, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Hey, look at the bright side….since he’s “dead”, he can’t be “death paneled”.

If he wants to be reborn he needs to go to church.

“The law is a ass.”

If he tries to live a “normal” life, he will have a tough time. Checking into a hospital, establishing a bank account, paying his taxes all require his SSN. All of these will bounce back when the SS Administration reports him dead. Ditto if he applies for a new SSN.

In India declaring a person dead has been used as a way to retaliate against personal enemies. In India’s stifling bureaucracy it nearly impossible for a person to undo it to be declared alive. Tough to say, but it sounds as if our bureaucracy is getting as bad as India’s

    If he incorporates, he gets an EIN, instead of an SSN. And he could probably get a corporate waiver for healthcare in that case too lol (if he donates enough to the DNC that is 😉 )

    platypus in reply to Corky Boyd. | October 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I have a bad feeling about this. What if that’s what’s in store for all the tea partiers? Perfect way to de-fang us – declare us dead.

Repeating my comment from the original article:
So this would be the first dead person in America who will be required to purchase health care, or pay a “tax” to the IRS, right?

TrooperJohnSmith | October 10, 2013 at 4:01 am

The state will kill him and call it an “administrative adjustment”.

Good news! Ohio elected to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, so he can apply for and receive ACA health insurance – provided that he has a valid SS#.

I’ll address this to the lawyers(which I am not): Why not declare him alive and require him to pay the back child support? Why should this dead beat get a pass on supporting is children that he abandoned?

I’m not sure why the women would be required to pay back anything; she petitioned the court in a lawful way and the court ruled. Disappearing may not be a crime but evading child support is however a crime! In my non-lawyer opinion he should be required to pay back the death benefit because it was paid because of his evasion of child support and pay the child support or do the appropriate jail time!

    platypus in reply to Merlin01. | October 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    He doesn’t owe back child support because there isn’t any. SS payments are treated as child support payments since they come from the SS account of the obligor. In short, the govt makes the payment on his behalf. So the obligation is satisfied.

Judge to defendant “You’re dead to me.”
Defendant to Judge “But, I’m not dead yet.”
Now here is an interesting part, if he is dead and he has had an assumed SSN then he has been paying taxes but now he is another person according to the law. I wonder if someone else is using his SSN? I hope it ain’t Barry.

Midwest Rhino | October 10, 2013 at 6:44 am

Can he apply for citizenship, or a visa, as an alien escaping persecution in his current dead state?

I suppose he can always cross the border into Mexico, cross back into the USA and turn himself in to ICE. Since he’s legally a non-entity and there’s no where to send him, the feds would have to deal with him.

“Donald Eugene Miller Jr. walked out of Hancock County Probate Court on Monday as legally dead as ever…”

One of the best ledes I’ve seen in quite a while!

This should be an absolute relief from debt, and a get out of jail free card. The dead can’t commit crimes, cannot be subpoenaed, cannot be incarcerated.

Then again, if he ticks off the wrong people, I suppose they can order him to be buried or cremated.

Comment from the news story: “Does this mean that, legally, he is undead?”

The zombie apocalypse has arrived!

Alternatively, there must be a Monty Python skit in here somewhere!

2nd Ammendment Mother | October 10, 2013 at 1:31 pm

It seems the general consensus is that Miller is a deadbeat who went out for a Lotto ticket and didn’t come back. Other legal remedies were available to the abandoned spouse other than declaring him dead; however, by having him declared dead, she was able to avail herself and her children of government benefits. And, since we assume that the wife is the victim in this scenario, it’s unreasonable for her (and the children) to be expected to repay the benefits and that we should simply just consider his former life “settled”.

Now, what happens if Miller had become a gabillionaire at some point after he disappeared or in the future? Will the “widow and children” expect to be included in his greatly improved fortunes?

Is it just me but didn’t the wife commmit fraud by having her husband declared dead in the first place? She knew he just skipped. Evidently she had no proof that he was dead since he is still alive. Didn’t she knowingly rob the tax payers of this money she was not entitled to? What if all wives of deadbeats could claim their husbands are deceased so they can claim SS? Also, didn’t the man work and pay taxes and SS during all this time? Did the wife or the feds even try to find this guy? There should be no time limit on resurfacing. Really, it’s hard to take sides in this issue but if a person is still alive it is against common sense to say he is still legally dead no matter what the law says. Also, why would the wife’s opinion count for anything in this case? She has too much to lose. There are entirely too many of these cases where people are paid beneifts they are not entitled to because of government laziness and beneficiaries’ fraud.

    When someone disappears for however many years– from the information, she didn’t know he was alive and well; his PARENTS didn’t know he was alive until ’05– they can be declared “legally dead.”
    It’s to avoid situations exactly like what the guy was trying to engineer– where people have moved on with their lives, and the person who decided to remove themselves can’t come back and destroy it.

    Do you want to force the widows of those lost at sea or in the forest to pretend like they’re going to show up Any Day Now unless a body has been examined?