Disability and Abuse Project
October 26, 2015
Essay about and Letter to the California Supreme Court
Spectrum Institute sent a letter today to the California Supreme Court in its capacity as a government entity that oversees the State Bar of California. The letter had two requests: (1) for the court to suggest to the State Bar that it convene a Task Force on Access to Justice in Limited Conservatorship Proceedings; and (2) monitor the actions of the State Bar in response to our request that it conduct audits of the Mandatory PVP Trainings conducted for the past several years by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Click here to read the letter.
An essay has been written about the jurisdiction of the
California Supreme Court to ensure that court-appointed attorneys are
providing access to justice for litigants with developmental disabilities in
limited conservatorship cases.
Click here to read the essay.
October 25, 2015
Essay on Mandatory Appointment of Counsel in Guardianship Cases
A federal court decision indicates that the appointment of counsel for litigants with developmental disabilities is required in some cases by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Although the case arose in the context of INS removal proceedings, the rationale would apply to adult guardianship cases where liberty interests are in jeopardy. Click here to read the essay.
Complaint to State Bar of California
Spectrum Institute filed a complaint today with the State Bar of California. The State Bar is a public corporation within the judicial branch of government, serving as an arm of the California Supreme Court. All attorneys who are members of the State Bar are officers of the court.
The complaint asks the State Bar to audit a training program operated by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. The program is supposed to educate court-appointed attorneys who represent clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship proceedings. Our own audits of the seminars and training materials have documented serious deficiencies with the seminars. Important topics have been omitted. Misinformation has been given by some presenters. Attorneys do not receive the trainings they need to effectively represent clients with special needs. The complaint also asks the State Bar, as a public entity with responsibilities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to intervene so that systemic deficiencies in the training programs are corrected. Click here to read the letter to the Executive Director of the State Bar of California.
October 20, 2015
Letter to California State Council on Developmental Disabilities
Spectrum Institute sent a letter today to the Executive Director of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. Along with the letter we sent him 30 brochures about the White Paper to distribute to council members and council staff. The White Paper is a tool that disability rights advocacy organizations can use to press for guardianship and conservatorship reform as well as implementation of supported decision making as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship or conservatorship. Click here to read the letter.
October 19, 2015
Letter to Court-Appointed PVP Attorneys in Los Angeles
Spectrum Institute sent a letter today to 198 attorneys who represent respondents in limited conservatorship cases. The attorneys are members of a Probate Volunteer Panel and therefore are known as PVP attorneys. Although they volunteer to be on the panel, their fees are paid by the County of Los Angeles. The letter informs the attorneys of the complaint we filed with the United States Department of Justice regarding the PVP legal serviced program. Click here to read the letter. Click here to read the cover note of the material sent to the Chief Justice of California.
October 1, 2015
White Paper Sent to Justice Department with New ADA
Spectrum Institute sent the United States Department of Justice new ADA-compliant training and performance standards for attorneys appointed to represent clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities in adult guardianship cases.
A White Paper on the subject will help the DOJ as it investigates and settles complaints filed against state courts that are not fulfilling their duty to ensure that such litigants have meaningful access to justice.
For more information about the landmark White Paper and supporting documents, click here.
The White Paper is being released only days following the issuance of an order of a federal judge approving a settlement between the ACLU and the Department of Justice. The settlement is based on a previous order by the judge that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires the appointment of attorneys to represent persons with intellectual and disabilities who are facing an immigration deportation hearing. The court found it obvious that the persons lacked the ability to represent themselves and therefore a "qualified representative" must be appointed to ensure they have meaningful participation in the proceeding. The White Paper uses the same rationale for guardianship proceedings in state court. Furthermore, the representative cannot be "qualified" unless they have adequate training to represent clients with special needs.
August 18, 2015
New Research Shows ADA Violations by Los Angeles Court
A new exhibit was filed yesterday with the U.S. Department of Justice showing a pattern of ADA violations by attorneys appointed by the Los Angeles Superior Court to represent adults with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship cases.
The exhibit offers new and additional evidence showing violations by the court of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Spectrum Institute filed a class-action complaint with the DOJ on June 26, 2015. The complaint places responsibility on the court for violations of Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It was supported by several exhibits (500+) pages including factual information and legal arguments developed over the course of 18 months by the nonprofit education and advocacy organization.
The new exhibit reflects additional research conducted after the complaint was filed. Two samples of limited conservatorship cases, including documents filed with the court, were reviewed to examine the practices of attorneys who represented proposed limited conservatees in fiscal year 2012-2013. Some 18 cases of one attorney were reviewed, regardless of which judge heard the cases. Another 25 cases were examined, involving six other attorneys, all of whom appeared in front of the same judge.
The exhibit discusses the patterns that were observed regarding the practices of Attorney X and the practices of various attorneys in Courtroom X. Both samples showed a clear pattern of attorneys routinely waiving mandatory procedural protections. They also showed a pattern of attorneys failing to take advantage of investigative options that would have enhanced the likelihood of a just result. Instead of modifying policies and practices to increase the prospect of clients with developmental disabilities having access to justice, the exact opposite occurred. Available legal tools and procedures were ignored by the attorneys.
The complaint alleges, and the exhibits show, that the court itself is responsible for these ADA violations since it is the court that operates the legal services program known as the Probate Volunteer Panel.
Click here to read an op-ed article discussing the new research. It was published by the Los Angeles Daily Journal on August 17, 2015. Click here to read the 90-age "Efficiency vs. Justice" exhibit to the class-action complaint.
For more information
about the class-action complaint,
August 16, 2015
Sacramento Bee Column on Voting Rights
Dan Morain wrote a
column in today's Sacramento Bee about voting rights for people with
disabilities who are in conservatorships. He mentioned Spectrum
Institute and promoted the passage of SB 589 which comes up this week for a
final vote on the Assembly floor. The Assembly
floor analysis focuses heavily on the work of Spectrum Institute, both
the research we did showing how voting rights were being stripped from
conservatees in Los Angeles, and our complaint with the Department of
Justice alleging that California law is invalid because it conflicts with
federal voting rights laws.
June 26, 2015
New Complaints Filed Today with U.S. Department of Justice
Spectrum Institute held a press conference today in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles to announce that two new complaints were being filed with the United States Department of Justice against the Los Angeles Superior Court. The location of the press conference us the same site where the group announced a voting rights complaint against the court on July 10, 2014. A few weeks ago, the DOJ announced a formal investigation of the California judiciary based on that complaint.
The complaints filed today focus on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by the Los Angeles Superior Court. At issue are the policies and practices of the court in connection with a legal services program that it operates for people with developmental disabilities who are involved in conservatorship proceedings.
A class-action complaint alleges that the court has allowed, and even encouraged, court-appointed attorneys to violate the rights of conservatees by allowing them to engage in practices that deny their clients access to justice and that deprive them of meaningful participation in their own cases. In addition to the class-action complaint, a second complaint alleges that the attorney who represented Gregory Demer in his limited conservatorship case engaged in numerous practices that violated the ADA, with the approval or assent of the superior court. For more information about both of these DOJ complaints, click here. To read an op-ed about these complaints published in the Daily Journal, California's largest legal news provider, click here. For a news story about the class action, click here.
Voting Rights Restoration Project Launched
Gregory Demer lost his right to vote when he was improperly disqualified bby a judge who used a literacy test to determine Gregory's capacity -- a test that violates federal law. It is now 10 year later, and Gregory wrote a note saying "I want to vote" and asked attorney Thomas F. Coleman to help him. Coleman has advised the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court that Gregory is one of thousands who lost the right to vote through improper actions of local judges and court-appointed attorneys. The Arc of California is joining Spectrum Institute in launching a Voting Rights Restoration Project to encourage other people with disabilities to step forward to demand that their voting rights be restored. Depicted in the photo is Greg deGiere, public policy director for The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration. For more information about this project, click here.
June 10, 2015
Los Angeles Times Editorial: "Voting Rights Restoration Needed"
Apparently moved by the experience of Stephen Lopate and the story about the Department of Justice investigation into voting rights violations by the California judiciary, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times published an editorial today calling for the restoration of voting rights of thousands of people with developmental disabilities. The DOJ investigation is based on a complaint filed by Spectrum Institute on July 10, 2014. The editorial gives a boost to our voting rights restoration project -- an activity that will get high visibility later this month. To read the editorial, click here.
June 9, 2015
Complaint of ADA Noncompliance Filed with Los Angeles County
Spectrum Institute filed a complaint today with the ADA Compliance Officer of the County of Los Angeles. The complaint alleges that the county is violating the ADA by funding a legal services program that routinely and systematically has been violating the ADA rights of people with developmental disabilities. The attorneys are appointed by state court judges but they are paid by county funds.
The complaint alleges that as a recipient of federal funds, the county has a duty under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the ADA, to make sure that it is not funding a program that violates the ADA. For more information, click here.
June 1, 2015
Letter to Presiding Judge: "Restore the Voting Rights of Thousands"
Spectrum Institute sent a letter today to the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court asking the superior court to take pro-active measures to restore the voting rights of thousands of county residents who had them taken away in violation of federal law. For a copy of the letter, click here.
May 18, 2015
DOJ to investigate voting rights violations in California
On Friday, May 15, Thomas F. Coleman received a phone call from a staff attorney at the offices of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He was informed that a letter of inquiry had been sent in the postal mail to the Judicial Council of California notifying them that the DOJ was investigating allegations of voting rights violations by the judicial system.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed on July 10, 2014, by the Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute. Although the complaint had specifically focused on systematic violations of voting rights of limited conservatees by the Los Angeles Superior Court, the DOJ decided to broaden the investigation to review judicial practices statewide.
Spectrum Institute has issued a press release about the DOJ investigation. The Daily Journal, California's leading newspaper on legal news, published a short article about the investigation in today's paper.
May 18, 2015
Duties of Court-Appointed Attorneys -- Guidelines from the Bench
Judge Maria Stratton did not mince words at a training program for court-appointed attorneys (PVP) who represent clients in conservatorship cases in the Los Angeles Superior Court. She told the audience of 150 or so attorneys what they may do and not do in their role as appointed counsel. To read Judge Stratton's remarks, click here.
We will be reviewing a random sample of PVP reports from 2014 and will report our findings to the Judicial Council. Starting in October, we will start reviewing several PVP reports per month and will see how they compare to the guidelines mentioned above.
May 1, 2015
Proposals Sent to the Judicial Council of California
The Disability and Guardianship Project of Spectrum Institute sent a 50-page report today to the Judicial Council of California.
The report contains three proposals for changes to the Rules of Court and one proposal for a change in the Rules of Judicial Administration.
The changes are intended to improve the education, qualifications, and performance of court-appointed attorneys who represent people with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship cases.
report is supported by a 200-page document containing 44 exhibits. The
report and exhibits are available
April 29, 2015
Mailing to Court-Appointed Attorneys in Los Angeles
Today we mailed a packet of information to attorneys who are appointed by the Probate Court to represent people with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship cases. We are drawing their attention to a procedure that is available to them (but has not been used) to improve the quality of their advocacy and the outcome for their clients. The process involves an attorney requesting an Individual Program Plan review at the regional center. The IPP review would help assess the clients abilities or deficiencies with decision making in seven areas, including decisions as to residence, medical care, financial, education, social relationships, etc. We believe the use of this available resource is essential to effective advocacy. To see the packet, click here.
April 23, 2015
Dr. Nora Baladerian on NPR in Ohio
Dr. Nora Baladerian appeared today as a guest on "All Sides with Ann Fisher," WOSU Radio, an affiliate of National Public Radio. The topic of the show was "Abuse of Developmentally Disabled Individuals."
The discussion focused on a report on disability and abuse released by Disability Rights Ohio, titled: "Sexual Abuse of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: Analysis and Recommendations for Ohio."
April 22, 2015
Medical Decision-Making Bill Advances in Nevada
UPDATE: The amended version was signed into law on June 4, 2015.
The state Assembly in Nevada passed AB 128 after it was amended to address some of the concerns that were raised by the Disability and Abuse Project. In its original form, the bill would have transferred authority to make medical decisions from an adult with an intellectual disability to another person as soon as the power of attorney form was signed. We raised many objections to this automatic transfer of authority. For background information on AB 128 and our previous objections, click here.
Proponents of the bill considered our objections and addressed many of our concerns by amending the bill before it was presented to the full Assembly for a vote. The amended bill is part supported decision making and part power of attorney. If the patient can communicate, the patient makes the medical decisions in consultation with a chosen supporter. If the patient cannot communicate, the chosen supporter is the agent who makes the medical decisions. The patient can never be required to have medical procedures to which the patient objects.
We are pleased with the amended bill. We will continue to follow its progress and will report what happens when further votes are taken.
April 22, 2015
Voting Rights Bill Advances in California
Senate Bill 589 was approved yesterday by the Senate Elections Committee in California. SB 589 adds additional protections for the voting rights of people with developmental disabilities in conservatorship proceedings.
The voting rights complaint we filed with the Department of Justice last July is having a domino effect. First there was the passage of AB 1311 which was signed by the Governor last October. I am informed that judges have been more hesitant to take away voting rights of limited conservatees in view of that new law.
Now there is SB 589. It replaces the “literacy test” under California law with a new standard for voting competency. If SB 589 is enacted, a judge would have to find by clear and convincing evidence that a conservatee cannot express a desire to participate in the voting process before a disqualification order can be granted. What a major change.
The committee report credits our complaint with the DOJ for the passage of AB 1311 and as the impetus for SB 589. That is very gratifying to know. If SB 589 is enacted into law, its passage could make our complaint with the DOJ unnecessary and therefore moot. We will know more about the fate of this bill in the coming months.
Letter on Social Rights Violations in Los Angeles case
Dr. Nora J. Baladerian sent a letter yesterday to Judge Daniel Murphy regarding social rights violations in a limited conservatorship case. The letter was prompted by new rules issued by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid that affirm the right of recipients to "freedom from coercion." A recipient must be able "to control his/her own schedule." The letter suggests that, in view of this new rule, Judge Murphy may want to reconsider, on his own motion, the coercive effects of prior orders that force the conservatee in question to visit with his father despite his repeated objections to doing so.
New Article on Court-Appointed Attorneys in Los Angeles
An essay was published today on the website about the need to reform the system of appointing attorneys to represent adults with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship proceedings. The essay compliments Judge Maria Stratton, the new Presiding Judge of the Probate Court, for her leadership. Things are beginning to change. Much more needs to be done.
April 7, 2015
Letter Sent to California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson
Dr. Nora J. Baladerian sent a letter today to Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. Senator Jackson is the Chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee of the California Legislature. The committee held an oversight hearing on March 24, 2015. Attorney Thomas F. Coleman testified during the public comment portion of the hearing.
Dr. Baladerian's letter points out that almost nothing was said at the hearing about abuse of people with developmental disabilities and no attention was given to the dysfunction of the limited conservatorship system that involves this population. She recommended that a second hearing be conducted to fill that void. Attached to the letter was an article that describes the hearing.
April 2, 2015
Letters Sent to Three California Judges
Letters were sent today to three California judges in furtherance of our quest to reform California's limited conservatorship system. The letter to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maria Stratton praises three of her recent actions and asks for a meeting to discuss a proposal to improve the local system. The letter to Court of Appeal Justice Harry Hull thanks him for his ongoing attention to our concerns and lets him know that we are following his suggestion to submit proposals to the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee. The letter to Judge John Sugiyama, chair of the advisory committee, asks the committee to support our proposal for a legislatively-created Task Force on Access to Justice in Limited Conservatorships.
March 26, 2015
Senate Testimony Confirms Dysfunction of System
Although the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in California focused almost exclusively on seniors, we managed to redirect the spotlight for a few minutes to people with developmental disabilities.
Disturbing testimony from a Los Angeles judge revealed facts that confirm our finding that the system is dysfunctional and needs to be audited. Court investigators must conduct nine home visits on the one day a week allocated for work in the field. And the court has lost track of thousands of adults who are under its protection.
Read our summary of the hearing!
March 26, 2015
Open Letter to Commissioner of AIDD
We sent an open letter today to Mr. Aaron Bishop, Commissioner of the federal Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. We asked him to send a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee of the California Legislature to support our request for a legislative Task Force on Access to Justice in Limited Conservatorships. We also asked him for suggestions on what other steps could be taken to promote the reform of this broken system in California.
Press Release Issued for New Report on Rights Violations
Spectrum Institute issued a press release today to unveil a new report disclosing systematic violations of the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by California judges. The report, and its key findings, will be presented on March 24, 2015 to the Judiciary Committee of the California Senate. (Press Release)
Oversight Hearing by Senate Judiciary Committee On March 24
Attorney Thomas F. Coleman is appearing on March 24 to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee of the California Legislature in Sacramento. The committee is holding an oversight hearing to inquire into the manner in which California courts are protecting vulnerable adults.
Part of the hearing focuses on conservatorship proceedings. Mr. Coleman is presenting the committee with a report by Spectrum Institute issued after an intense year-long review of limited conservatorship policies and practices in California. The report's findings show that judges, court-appointed attorneys, court investigators, and regional centers are engaging in practices that are out of compliance with state and federal laws. The report recommends that the Legislature convene a Task Force on Access to Justice in Limited Conservatorships to review the findings of the Spectrum Institute study. It also proposes that the Legislature direct the Bureau of State Audits to conduct a survey of the practices of local courts in all 58 counties and that it perform an audit of the practices by the Los Angeles Superior Court in limited conservatorship proceedings. The report and exhibits to the report are available online.
letter was sent to the Chair of the Committee today (March 20)
suggesting that the Committee may want to move Mr. Coleman's presentation
from the public comment portion of the meeting onto the official agenda of
scheduled speakers. If not, he will speak during the public comment
March 18, 2015
Letter to Nevada Legislators
The Disability and Guardianship Project
sent a letter today to the Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly.
Copies were sent to other leaders in the Assembly and Senate. The
letter and attachments call their attention to our concerns about AB 128
-- a bill to create a simplified power of attorney form for us by adults
with intellectual disabilities.
March 15, 2015
List of Advisors to the Project is Growing
The Disability and Guardianship Project is pleased to announce the names of individuals who have agreed to be Project Advisors. Future announcements will be made from time to time as additional advisors are added to the list.
A New Focus on Washington State
The Disability and Guardianship Project
is partnering with parent-advocates Christina Baldwin and Michael Haseltine
to review policies and practices on the processing of guardianship cases in
Washington state involving adults with intellectual and developmental
disabilities. Activities of the Washington project will parallel what
we have been doing in California. The goals are to identify any
deficiencies that may exist in the system and to promote reform where
problem areas are found to exist. Administrative and case records will
be reviewed, participants in the system will be interviewed, and disability
services agencies and disability rights organizations will be consulted.
The initial focus will begin with Spokane County. For more
March 12, 2015
Some Conservatorship Progress in Los Angeles
Attorney Tom Coleman attended a seminar for attorneys who want to represent proposed conservatees in the Los Angeles Superior Court. A panel of four presenters spoke to the attorneys at a lunchtime event at the Biltmore Hotel. Of the 75 attorneys who attended, about 15 of them are already on the panel of attorneys from which the court makes the appointments to represent limited conservatees. One of the presenters was Maria Stratton, the new presiding judge of the Probate Division of the Superior Court. Judge Stratton make several statements that were refreshing -- some of which indicated that the work of the Disability and Guardianship Project is starting to create changes. A transcript containing relevant segments of the seminar is on the website. The limited conservatorship oceanliner is ever so slowly starting to change course.
Nevada Power of Attorney Bill in Committee Again
AB 128 was amended by the proponents after the bill received a negative evaluation by Spectrum Institute. The amended bill was published on the legislative website on March 7 and will be considered by the Assembly Judiciary Committee today. Thomas F. Coleman and Dr. Nora J. Baladerian submitted three analyses of the amended bill to the committee: Nevada’s AB 128 (As Amended): An Untested Hybrid That Is Part Power of Attorney and Part Supported Decision Making Agreement; Nevada’s AB 128 (As Amended): Financial Impact on State and Local Governments; and Nevada’s AB 128 (As Amended): A Model Bill on Medical Supported Decision Making is Available.
Public Policy Conference in Sacramento
Attorney Thomas F. Coleman and Dr. Nora J. Baladerian are presenters on a panel today at a policy conference sponsored by The Arc of California. Panel members will discuss guardianship reform and alternatives to guardianship. Materials being distributed to the audience include: Guardianship Reformers; Abuse Statistics; Trauma Informed Politics; Intellectual Disability and Medical Decision-Making Bills; Informational Briefing on Limited Conservatorship Reform; Ten Statewide Concerns About Limited Conservatorships; Freedom of Association of Limited Conservatees; Letter to Santi Rogers (DDS).
On March 9, Mr. Coleman and Dr. Baladerian will meet with Justice Harry Hull, Chair of the Rules Committee of the Judicial Council of California, to discuss the steps the judiciary should take to address the ten statewide concerns mentioned above.
March 5, 2015
New Model Bill on Medical Supported Decision Making Agreements
New model legislation on medical supported decision making agreements is now available. The new model bill has the support of the Disability and Abuse Project and the Disability and Guardianship Project of Spectrum Institute since it incorporates the principles in our "Framework for Supported Decision Making Legislation." The concerns we raised to the original model bill do not apply to the revised model bill. We are very grateful to attorney Jonathan Martinis, legal director of the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, and his colleagues, for amending the model bill to address our concerns. We believe that the new bill is something that should be used by advocates to promote state legislation that advances the rights of people with disabilities in medical settings, whether that would be in doctor's offices, clinics, and hospitals or in their interactions with other medical professionals.
To read more about our position on SDM as an alternative to guardianship, click here.
A "Rule Out Abuse" Campaign for Physicians
The Disability and Abuse Project is launching a "Rule Out Abuse" campaign for medical doctors. Dr. Nora Baladerian is spearheading the campaign after years of noticing that, when presented with patients with disabilities who have traditional symptoms associated with abuse, doctors generally do not consider such a diagnosis as a possibility to rule out. For Part 1 of the literature (an overview), click here. For Part 2 of the literature (detailed information), click here.
February 25, 2015
Additional Analysis of AB 128
We listened to and read the testimony presented to legislators at a hearing on February 23. We have published a response, calling attention to issues that were overlooked in the testimony and correcting some facts. We have also published an analysis of liability issues that may arise for medical providers, notaries and witnesses if AB 128 is adopted in its current form. Our response and the liability analysis are both published on the Legislature's website.
For links to the bill text and all of our analyses of AB 128, click here.
February 22, 2015
Analysis of AB 128 (Nevada bill on medical powers of attorney)
Two separate analyses are being published by our projects about Assembly Bill 128, a proposal to authorize a new form to be used for medical powers of attorney for adults with intellectual disabilities. The bill is being heard on February 23 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee of the Nevada Legislature.
We believe that AB 128, as currently written, poses a significant risk to the legal rights of and well-being of people with intellectual disabilities.
February 5, 2015
Article on Conservatorship Reform Published in Legal Newspaper
A commentary by attorney Thomas F. Coleman was published today on the opinion page of the Daily Journal, California's largest legal news provider. The paper is read by judges, attorneys and politicians throughout the state. Titled "Reform Long Overdue for State Conservatorship Process," the op-ed article suggests that the Judicial Council of California -- the rule making body for the judiciary -- is putting the cart before the horse in its consideration of training programs for attorneys and judges who handle conservatorships for adults with developmental disabilities. Instead, Coleman says that a thorough review of the limited conservatorship system, with an analysis of costs for systemic and operational changes, should come first. Then, when state and local officials are ready to implement these changes, should come education and training of probate judges and court-appointed attorneys. To read the commentary, click here.
Request to Department of Developmental Services
We have sent a
request to the Director
of the California Department of Developmental Services asking that DDS amend
regulations on client's rights to clarify that the freedom of association of
clients is protected. Clients have the right to associate with, or
decline to associated with, specific persons. The regulations mention
a "right to social interaction" but this needs to be clarified with greater
specificity. The First Amendment rights of Regional Center clients,
especially those who are placed under a conservatorship order, are being
violated. Amending the regulation on social interaction may decrease
the risk of violations of the freedom of association of limited conservatees.
We encourage people to email the Director, via the Deputy Director
Nancy Bargmann, to support this request.
January 21, 2015
Communications with the Judicial Council
After sending letters to the Chief Justice of California,
and after meeting with the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee to
the Judicial Council of California, we finally received an official response
to our list of concerns with the Limited Conservatorship System.
Justice Harry Hull wrote to us on behalf of the Judicial Council. We
responded. We also sent a follow up email to the Chair of the Probate
Advisory Committee. To read this correspondence,
January 7, 2015
Letter to the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court
We sent a letter to the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court today, with a copy to the Presiding Judge of the Probate Division asking for a meeting to discuss problems with the processing of limited conservatorship cases and how to fix those problems. To read the letter, click here.
Special Report on Supported Decision Making
We have gathered a variety of materials we have published
on the subject of supported decision making and are publishing them in a single report, titled, 'Supported Decision
Making: A Critical Analysis." Click here
to access the report.
December 27, 2014
Task Force Stimulates Changes in Indiana's Guardianship System
The Arc of Indiana spearheaded the creation of a statewide Task Force to examine the adult guardianship system in that state. After nearly three years of study and analysis, the Task Force recommended several major improvements to that system. The judicial branch and the legislative branch cooperated and many of those changes are now being implemented. For more information about these reforms, click here.
Listen to audio of our presentation at the Judicial Council
On November 14, 2014, members of the Disability and Abuse Project made a presentation in the conference room of the Judicial Council of California in support of our request for a Task Force on Limited Conservatorships. An audio recording of the presentation was sent to us and has been uploaded to this website. Click here to listen to the mp3 recording.
November 25, 2014
Letter Sent to the President of the State Bar of California
A letter was sent today to Mr. Craig Holden, new President of the State Bar of California. The letter requests that the Board of Trustees convene a Task Force on Limited Conservatorships to investigate the practices of public defenders and court-appointed private attorneys who represent adults with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship proceedings.
November 24, 2014
California Coalition Joins Call for Conservatorship Reform
The Compassionate Care Coalition of California has issued a report focusing on the Limited Conservatorship System in California. Findings point to serious deficiencies in the system. The report recommends a thorough review of the system statewide with major reforms to all of its various components. The report cites our Justice Denied report and adds new information from a variety of informants.
After reviewing the report, we issued a news release which was sent to the Daily Journal, the legal newspaper for California lawyers, judges, and lawmakers. We also distributed a summary of the report to the Chief Justice and to other officials.
November 17, 2014
A Successful Trip to San Francisco
A few of us who are working on the Conservatorship Reform Project went to San Francisco last Friday for a meeting at the headquarters of the Judicial Council of California. The Judicial Council adopts rules that govern legal proceedings throughout the state, including proceedings involving limited conservatorships.
Along with my colleagues, Dr. Nora Baladerian and Jim Stream, I made a presentation in support of our request for a statewide Task Force on Limited Conservatorships. Also present was a young man, Stephen, who had almost lost his right to vote, Stephen's mother, and the stepfather of another young man whose First Amendment rights have been violated by the Limited Conservatorship System.
A news story appeared today in the Daily Journal, a statewide legal newspaper read by judges, legislators, and attorneys. I followed up with a letter to the Chief Justice. I also sent an email to Judge John Sugiyama, Chairperson of the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee -- the committee to which we made our presentation. That email included a document titled "Ten Statewide Concerns About the Limited Conservatorship System."
Prior to our meeting at the Judicial Council, our group spent some time at the Golden Gate Regional Center. Many thanks to the Executive Director and the staff for their hospitality. Also many thanks to Greg Byers, a filmmaker who came to San Francisco to video our activities for a documentary he is working on about the Limited Conservatorship Reform Project.
Other documents submitted to the Committee can be found on the Judicial Council page of our website.
(The photo depicts Stephen and me standing at the reception desk of the Judicial Council of California.)
July 22, 2014
A Review of "Model Legislation" on Supported Medical Decision Making
We have reviewed "model legislation" being proposed for supported medical decision-making agreements and find that the proposed bill has serious defects. The proposal violates the first principle of medical ethics to "do no harm" because it would give immunity to medical care providers who engage in treatment without informed consent. We cannot support any proposal that dispenses with current legal and ethnical requirements of obtaining informed consent from a patient or his or her legally empowered surrogate before conducting medical procedures. To read our review of the legislation, and to access the proposed legislation, click here. To read additional reviews of it, click here.
July 16, 2014
News Segment on Arise America
Arise America, a division of Arise TV, carried a segment on voting rights for people with developmental disabilities on their news show on Friday, July 11, 2014. The segment was just uploaded to You Tube today. Click here to watch the segment.
July 10, 2014
Voting Rights Complaint Filed
The Disability and Abuse Project filed a complaint today with the United States Department of Justice asking for intervention to stop the violation of the voting rights of people with developmental disabilities in California. The complaint explains that limited conservatees are having their voting rights taken away in violation of federal laws prohibiting states from using literacy tests and laws requiring states to allow people with disabilities to have assistance in the voting process. The Los Angeles Superior Court is named as the violating party. For more information, click here. Read the news stories about the complaint.
June 19, 2014
Position on Supported Decision Making
A position paper has been added to the website. It analyzes calls to repeal adult conservatorship laws and replace them with a non-judicial alternative called supported decision making. To access the position paper, click here.
Letter to Los Angeles District Attorney
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Jackie Lacey, District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles. Along with the letter, we sent her a copy of the Survey Report. We requested a meeting with her office to discuss ways to improve the training of investigators and prosecutors in order to prosecute abuse cases more effectively.
Letters to Area Boards
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Area Board 1 of the California State Council on Developmental Disability. A similar letter was also sent to the other 12 Area Boards. Along with the letter, each Area Board received a copy of the Survey Report, as well as a request to answer the following questions: What actions has your Area Board taken over the past 8 years with respect to the issue of abuse and disability? Have you adopted any policies? Published any educational materials? Conducted or sponsored any educational or training programs? Or taken any other actions on abuse and disability? We will be posting the results of this "mini survey" in the coming months.
Letter to the Department of Developmental Services
Today he Disability and Abuse Project
sent a letter to the Santi Rogers,
Director of the California Department of Developmental Services, along with
a copy of our report, Justice Denied. The letter asks for a
meeting with him to discuss ways to create a role for the department in
oversight or auditing of the Limited Conservatorship System.
May 23, 2014
Letter to the California Attorney General
Today he Disability and Abuse Project
sent a letter to the Kamala
Harris, Attorney General of California, along with a copy of our report,
Justice Denied. The letter asks the Attorney General to meet with
us to discuss the deficiencies in the Limited Conservatorship System and how
they can be corrected.
Letter to the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye in her capacity as Chairperson of the Judicial Council of the State of California. The letter transmitted our report, Justice Denied, and asked the Judicial Council to convene a Task Force on Limited Conservatorships to investigate the policies and practices within that system on a statewide basis. Update (May 30, 2014): We received a response from the Judicial Council that our proposal has been reviewed by Justice Harry Hull and that he has referred our report and the proposal to the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee for a recommendation.
Letter to the Los Angeles County Superior Court
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Judge Michael Levanas, Presiding Judge of the Probate Division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The letter transmitted our report, Justice Denied, and offered to meet with him to discuss ways to improve the Limited Conservatorship System operated by the court. Update (June 5, 2014): Judge Levanas acknowledged receiving the report as well as an invitation for the head of Probate Investigations to attend the Voting Rights Conference. He said that he passed the invitation and the report on to the her.
Letters to State Councils on Developmental Disabilities
Today the Disability and Abuse Project
sent a letter to the
Arkansas State Council on Developmental Disabilities along with a copy of
the 2012 Survey Report. The letter asks the Council to evaluate and
update its 5-year plan so as to incorporate information from the Survey
Report. Over the next few months, a similar letter will be sent to
State Councils in all 50 states and the territories. Update (March 10,
2014): As of today, all State Councils have received our letter and a copy
of the Survey Report.
September 5, 2013
2012 Survey on Abuse of People with
Today the Disability and Abuse Project released the first report from the 2012 Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities. Some 7,289 people took the survey last year. The first report focuses on the responses of individuals who were victims of abuse and families whose loved ones had been abused. The report contains dozens of findings and recommendations that, if studied and implemented, will help improve response to abuse, justice for victims, and therapy for those in need. To access the survey, findings, recommendations, and the full report, click here.
July 18, 2013
Issue Brief Released on Sexual Abuse of People with Disabilities
In March 2012, the Center on Victimization and Safety of the Vera Institute partnered with the MS. Foundation for Women on a project to learn more about sexual abuse of people with disabilities. Participants were assembled from a wide range of backgrounds to offer background information, statistics, and recommendations. Dr. Nora Baladerian was one of the participants consulted by the project.
An Issue Brief released in March 2013 contains the findings and recommendations of this project. To access the Issue Brief, click here.
July 17, 2013
Social Rights Protection: A Case Study
The Disability and Abuse Project has selected the case of In re Gregory D. to be used in an educational program focusing on the social rights of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In this case, the California Court of Appeal ruled that a parent does not have the right to challenge on appeal a court order that violates the constitutional rights of an adult child.
The case has now returned to the trial court where, at the request of his conservators, the court is being asked to completely take away Gregory's right to make social and sexual decisions. The conservators want the court to vest authority for such decisions in them. The Disability and Abuse Project will be monitoring these proceedings and using the actions of the parties, attorneys, and the court, as a teaching tool to educate others throughout the state on how social rights were handled in this case. In re Gregory D. will become a model for how to, or how not to, protect the social rights of adult conservatees with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
For a statement about this case study, click here.
June 7, 2013
The Right of Adults to Say "No" to Forced Visitation
Two letters were recently filed in the California Supreme Court supporting the right of an adult with developmental disabilities to refuse to visit a parent if he does not wish to do so. One letter was filed by the Disability and Abuse Project. The other was filed by Dr. Nora J. Baladerian in her capacity as a clinical psychologist.
Gregory, an adult with a developmental disability, has on many occasions expressed his desire not to visit with his father. Gregory is subject to a conservatorship and the dispute over visitation was heard in Los Angeles Superior Court. Despite Gregory's wishes not to visit his father, the court ordered him to do so, and ordered the caregivers in the home where he lives to pressure him to see his father. Gregory's mother, Linda S., was a party to the conservatorship proceeding. She argued that Gregory should have the right to veto any visit. An attorney appointed to represent Gregory was mostly silent. He failed to advocate for Gregory's right to say "no" to any particular visit he did not want to participate in.
Linda S. appealed the order of forced visitation, claiming that it violated Gregory's constitutional rights. Gregory's attorney failed to participate in the appeal. The Court of Appeal ruled that Linda was not harmed by the order and therefore could not appeal. It concluded that she did not have the authority to argue for the protection of Gregory's constitutional rights on appeal. So the appeal was dismissed, without the Court of Appeal ever deciding the issue of forced visitation and the right to say no.
Linda petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the case. The petition is pending. The letters of the Project and Dr. Baladerian argued that the Court of Appeal should have appointed another attorney to represent Gregory on appeal since his own attorney failed to participate. The letters also argued that when, as here, a conservatee is ordered to visit a specific person, the conservatee should have the right to say "no" to any particular scheduled visit, and that the attorney for the conservatee should not be able to waive his client's constitutional rights in this regard.
We will advise our website visitors when the Supreme Court takes action in this case. A decision should be made before the end of June. (Conservatorship of the Person of Gregory D., Supreme Court No. S209942)
This issue is not going away. A growing number of mothers have contacted the Project about this issue. In each of these cases, an adult child with a developmental disability, has expressed a desire not to visit with the father. Often, the child acts out when the father comes near the child, and if a visit occurs, the adult child shows signs of anger and frustration, with adverse physical manifestations and resulting psychological harm, afterwards. The Project will be encouraging these mothers, and others like them, to form a support group to help each other and to advocate for the rights of their children.
April 9, 2013
Guide on Responding to Suspected Abuse
A Guide on Responding to Suspected Abuse of People with Disabilities has been added to the Resources section of the website. The Guide is for parents or family members whose loved one receives residential, transportation, day program or other services. To view of download the pdf file, click here.
May 21, 2012
Prof. Dick Sobsey Joins the National Survey Team
The Disability and Abuse Project is pleased to announce that Professor Dick Sobsey has become the Principal Survey Analyst for the 2012 National Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities.
Dr. Sobsey is a Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton Canada. He currently serves as Director of the JP Das Developmental Disabilities Centre and Director of the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre.
He has worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities since 1968 as nurse, teacher, and transdisciplinary team leader as well as a researcher and advocate. He is the author of more than 200 books, articles, and commentaries related to health, educational, and social aspects of disability.
Prof. Sobsey will assist the Disability and Abuse Project in interpreting the results of the survey. He and other members of the National Survey Team will collaborate together to identify ways to use the results in a variety of educational, policy, and advocacy efforts
For more information about Professor Sobsey, click here.
May 1, 2012
National Survey on Disability and Abuse is Released
In collaboration with The Arc of Riverside County, the Disability and Abuse Project is releasing the National Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities. For more information about the survey, and for a link to the survey itself, click here.
April 6, 2012
OVC report includes section on victims with disabilities
The Office for Victims of Crime issued a new report on the status of services to victims of crime. The report, "Rising to the Challenge: A New Era in Victim Services" includes a section on victims who have disabilities. That section, which begins on page 53, mentions a training manual and DVD, produced in 2009 with the assistance of Dr. Nora J. Baladerian, which has been distributed to more than 5,200 recipients. To access the complete report, click here.
March 20, 2012
A section has been added for Project Updates
A short email newsletter will be sent to supporters of the Project periodically. It will keep them advised of our activities. The first Project Update was sent today. To access this new section of the website, click here.
March 18, 2012
Resources section is added to the website
A new section for Resources has been added to the website. The first material was added to this section for use in the presentation of Dr. Nora J. Baladerian at the National Symposium on Child Abuse in Huntsville, Alabama this week. Material will be added to this section as time permits. To access the Resources section, click here.
March 9, 2012
Archives section is added to the website
The former website of the Disability and Abuse Project (2000 - 2005) is now available through the Project Archives section of this website. To access the Project Archives, click here.
February 12, 2012
Profile of Lori Brown: Forensic Interviewer
The Athens Banner-Herald published a
feature story today focusing on Lori Brown, a forensic interviewer with the
Sheriff's Office in Oconee County, Georgia. Lori will be a presenter
next month at the National child Abuse Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
Lori is a consultant to the Disability and Abuse Project. To read the
full story about Lori,
February 11, 2012
Autism Light: Focus on Autism's Diverse Heroes
Autism Light is a blog that honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. Yesterday's blog featured Dr. Nora J. Baladerian. Alan Stokes, the author of the blog, wrote: "It is my experience both as a parent of a child with autism and as one working in the field of abuse prevention that Dr. Nora Baladerian's specialization and expertise is very much needed today." To read the full story, click here.
February 9, 2012
APA Issues Guidelines for Assessment
The January 2012 issue of American Psychologist contains several new practice guidelines for several specific populations: seniors, LGBT clients, people with disabilities, and parents. Among the 22 guidelines for clients with disabilities is one directed to disability and abuse.
Guideline 11 recommends that psychologists should strive to recognize that people with disabilities are at increased risk for abuse and they should address abuse-related situations appropriately. The guideline recognizes that people with disabilities are victims of violence and abuse at a much higher rate than the population at large. This is true for men as well as for women. Abuse and neglect can be the initial cause of a disability or abuse may exacerbate an existing disability. To read more, click here.
February 3, 2012
Combating Violence Against Women with Disabilities
Thanks to Russell Butler for bringing to our attention the
following article in the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section
Newsletter: "Barrier Free Justice: Combating Violence Against Women with
disabilities." To read the article, on page 7 of the newsletter,
Georgia school found liable for disability-abuse by teacher
An administrative law judge filed a decision yesterday finding the Fulton County School District liable for repeated physical, verbal, and emotional abuse committed by a special education teacher against students with developmental disabilities. The decision followed administrative trial arising out of a complaint filed by a parent (on behalf of her child) alleging abuse by the teacher, knowledge of the abuse by administrators, and a cover-up of the situation by the school district.
For a copy of the full decision, and quotes from various portions of it, click here.
Click here to view a new comment about the value of the newsfeed.
Click here to view and listen to a You Tube video of public defender Billy Edwards discussing how Fetal Alchohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is relevant to the work of a criminal defense attorney.
Dr. Nora's Blog has been added to the website. She, and guest bloggers, will periodically post commentaries to the blog. To access the main page of the blog, click here.
Dr. Nora Baladerian was quoted in a newstory which was added
today to the website. The Associated Press story focused on the
financial abuse of people with intellectual disabilities. To read the
story, click here.
September 10, 2011
A tribute was added for International FASD Day.