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California Supreme Court Asked to Strengthen the Right to Counsel for Thousands of Conservatees

Britney Spears Isn't the Only One with Attorney Problems.

Justices of the California Supreme Court
Justices of the California Supreme Court

The Supreme Court convenes workgroups to study issues with significant public interest.

SAN FRANCISCO - July 21, 2021 - (

 The California Supreme Court was asked today to convene a blue-ribbon panel to review deficiencies in legal defense services provided to adults who become entangled in probate conservatorship proceedings. The request was submitted by Spectrum Institute and a variety of organizations involved in disability rights, elder care, and mental health services, along with a national coalition advancing the right to counsel. Spectrum Institute is a nonprofit organization at the forefront of conservatorship reform. The request is available online at:

The request cites various ways in which the right to counsel has been infringed for many of the 70,000 adults currently in conservatorship, as well as the 7,000 seniors with cognitive challenges and adults with developmental and other disabilities who are targeted annually in new conservatorship petitions.

"Superstar Britney Spears is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conservatees who have been denied counsel of choice or who have received deficient legal services," said Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute. "Worse yet, many proposed conservatees do not get an attorney at all, which then requires that they represent themselves in these complicated legal proceedings - an impossible task for people who have significant cognitive disabilities."  Once someone is conserved, it is unlikely they will ever regain their freedom. That is why conservatorship has been called a form of "civil death." 

It is anticipated that the request will be placed on the court's administrative docket and will be considered by the justices in due course. 

Organizations joining the request are: National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel; The Coelho Center for Disability, Law, Policy & Innovation; California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform; Mental Health Advocacy Services; Autistic Self Advocacy Network; TASH, Different Brains; Sage Eldercare Solutions, Kasem Cares, and the Long Beach Bar Association as well as its LGBTQ Attorneys and Allies Section.

For more information about the request, contact Thomas F. Coleman, legal director, at: 

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Original Source: California Supreme Court Asked to Strengthen the Right to Counsel for Thousands of Conservatees
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