Sens. Cruz, Blumenthal Announce Hearing on Toxic Conservatorships
Ahead of Britney Spears conservatorship court hearing Wednesday, the senators will hold a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee on the need to reform abusive guardianship
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chairman of the committee, will hold a hearing on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 2:30 PM titled "Toxic Conservatorships: The Need for Reform."
Upon announcing this hearing, Sen. Cruz said:
"Conservatorship abuse has come to the forefront of a political, pop culture, and civil rights conversation like never before in America. Britney Spears' conservatorship has shown fundamental liberties can be taken away with little opportunity for legal recourse. The threshold for a conservatorship should be incredibly high to protect the civil liberties of Americans while still ensuring the safety and security of individuals who cannot care for themselves. I look forward to shining a light on this issue tomorrow with a bipartisan conversation in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing along with my colleague Sen. Blumenthal."
Sen. Blumenthal added:
"This hearing will examine harmful, restrictive conservatorships that far too often deny people due process and strip them of their rights to make legal, financial, and even personal decisions. The brave decision by Britney Spears to speak out and fight back has shown the world how harmful these legal arrangements can be. Sadly, her case is far from an isolated incident. I look forward to hearing from experts and a former subject of a conservatorship to explore how we can bring transparency, accountability, and overall reform to a system that is rife with abuse."
Conservatorships, also referred to as guardianships in many states, are legal arrangements that occur when a person is determined to have a diminished capacity to make decisions about personal affairs or property management. The arrangements allow a court to transfer the individual's right to make decisions to a conservator or guardian, with some of the most commonly affected groups including the elder, disability, and youth communities.
Under the current conservatorship system, these legal arrangements often leave individuals deprived of some or all of their legal rights and can lead to social issues such as helplessness and stigmatization. The broad agreements also bring up troubling due process concerns, as ending or amending conservatorship arrangements remain very rare.
Recently, conservatorship concerns have been brought to the forefront with documentaries and reporting focusing on Britney Spears, who was forced into a conservatorship in 2008. Under her conservatorship, there have been reports Spears has been isolated from her family and friends, financially exploited, spied upon, medicated against her will, and even denied access to her own children.
Spears was originally forced into the conservatorship while still in the hospital after being involuntarily hospitalized the day before. Since 2008, there have not been consistent check-ins to reevaluate the conservatorship, the psychiatrist who originally provided the declaration for her lack of mental fitness has said he, "did not know why she still has a conservatorship," and it is clear her father Jamie and other members of her team have a financial incentive to keep Spears in the arrangement.
The hearing will include testimony from:
- Nick Clouse, former subject of a conservatorship following a traumatic brain injury
- Morgan Whitlatch, Legal Director at Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities;
- Zoe Brennan-Krohn, Staff Attorney at the ACLU Disability Rights Project;
- Dr. Clarissa Kripke, Professor of Family Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine; and
- David Slayton, Vice President of Court Consulting Services at the National Center for State Courts.