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Abolish Abusive Conservatorships
Throughout 2021, Britney Spears’ fight to end her conservatorship made headlines around the world. Strikingly, Ms. Spears experienced significant and continuous abuse under her legal conservatorship for 13 years. The operative word here is “legal”. This case has received a high level of attention and scrutiny. However, there are an untold number of private United States citizens who are similarly stripped of their fundamental human rights under legal conservatorships, also known as guardianships.
Conservatorships are legislated by the states, but this is an urgent call for federal action. Undoubtedly, the states have overwhelmingly enacted shockingly opaque systems that have minimal oversight and legal recourse for those impacted. This lack of transparency provides an inordinate ability for nefarious actors to exploit individuals under the pretense of protecting them from undue influence. Yet, it is a tragic irony that conservatorships are a mechanism by which too many people are denied their right to due process. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1868, which obligated the states to also guarantee every individual the right to due process. We need to ensure a system of checks, balances, and oversight in the conservatorship/guardianship system and reform in the probate court to ensure Constitutional rights are not violated.
Why is this important?
Prior to the enactment of any law, we call on legislators to center the voices of those who have been gravely harmed and maligned by conservatorships. The scope of the harms caused by conservatorships is unknown, as conservators often have an unfettered ability by which to control conservatees and stifle their freedom of expression. Fundamentally, conservatorships are the “civil death” of our citizens, whereby legal proxies can control every aspect of an individual’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This requires legislation that will hold abusers accountable for the harms they have perpetrated against conservatees, as well as develop fundamental changes to the conservatorship/guardianship system so that their only purpose is collaborative and supportive care.
Ms. Spears never requested to be the only spokesperson for the reimagining of our legal system; for 13 years, she has been denied the ability to just speak for herself . While Ms. Spears is a solo artist, she is not alone in this exponentially growing movement to end conservatorship abuse. There can be no “Oops” when the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are being repeatedly violated and it should never happen to anyone ever again.