SACRAMENTO (AP) — Disability rights activists and Britney Spears advocates on Wednesday backed a California proposal to provide more protections for those under court-ordered guardianship, while promoting less restrictive alternatives.
So-called probate guardianships are overused and misused in California, according to groups including Disability Voices United, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and Free Britney LA
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They most often involve people with developmental or intellectual disabilities or people with age-related conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
But advocacy groups argue conservatives like Spears can find themselves trapped in a system that strips away their civil rights and the ability to defend themselves.
The Professional Fiduciary Association of California, which represents many of those named as conservators, did not immediately comment, but said answers to many questions about the process can be found at https://californiaconservatorshipfacts.com
“Guardians should be rare and a last resort,” said Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United, a Southern California advocacy group. “The default should be that people with disabilities retain their rights and get help when they need it.”
The groups have backed Democratic Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s legislation that will also make it easier to end conservatories for people who want it.
Instead, they promote so-called “supported decision-making” agreements as a less restrictive alternative. They allow people with disabilities to choose someone to help them understand, make and communicate their choices, but allow the person to make the decision anyway.
This option has already been adopted in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington, DC, supporters said.
California law states that conservatories should only be ordered if a judge decides they are the least restrictive alternative. But defenders argue they are often imposed without considering other options.
Maienschein’s bill would require that before granting conservatorship, judges first document that all other alternatives, including supported decision-making, have been considered.
It would enshrine supported decision-making in California law and support this alternative with grant programs, training, and technical assistance.
The bill would also make it easier to end probate conservatories by mandating periodic review, including asking the Tories if they want to make the conservatorship less restrictive or end it altogether.
Curators would also be required to consult with curators and make decisions that reflect the curator’s wishes or previously expressed preferences.
Prior to his election to the Legislative Assembly, Maienschein clerked for a San Diego Superior Court judge who oversaw conservatories.
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“I have seen with my own eyes the role the court plays in establishing guardianships and the potential for abuse,” he told an online press conference. “The system in California is in desperate need of reform.”
He called Spears ‘arguably the most famous conservative in the world’ but said her bill would help the many others who don’t have the ‘benefit of world fame to shed light on her case. “.
Spears drew widespread attention to the issue, culminating in November when a Los Angeles judge ended the conservatorship that had controlled the pop singer’s life and money for nearly 14 years.
“I believe that if AB1663 had been in effect 13 years ago, the court would have been unable to retain Britney Spears, and now Britney’s story lights the way for where changes in our laws need to be made,” said said Mark, of Disability Voices. United.
Lawyers said it’s unclear how many people are under conservatorship in California because data isn’t being collected. They said the Spears battle is an example of how conservatories are too easily imposed and too difficult to end.
She was a 26-year-old new mother who had suffered several public mental health issues at the height of her career in 2008, when her father sought guardianship, initially on a temporary basis.
Spears was not present at the court hearing where her constitutional rights were awarded to her father, nor were less restrictive measures attempted before placing her in guardianship, the Free organizer said. Britney LA, Leanne Simmons.
It only ended after Spears engaged in a years-long struggle and won the right to choose her own attorney.
“While unique in many ways, it follows a very common pattern of exploitation within the probate court system here in California,” Simmons said.
Maienschein’s proposal is the latest attempt to reform guardianship laws in California and the United States
Last year, California approved a law providing for more oversight of professional trustees, allowing people under guardianship to choose their own attorneys and punishing financial, physical or mental abuse with fines of up to $10,000.
Elsewhere last year, New Jersey limited who can ask someone to be placed under a guardian, as the process is known in some other states, while Oregon required anyone under a guardian to receive free legal assistance. New Mexico has made a variety of changes since 2018, while Nevada previously required an adult guardianship attorney.
The process addressed in Maienschein’s bill is generally different from the mental health guardianships that California Governor Gavin Newsom and others have encouraged for increased use to help the seriously mentally ill and also the homeless. Last week, Newsom promised legislation this year to facilitate this type of conservatorship, without providing details.
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