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A Guardianship System in Need of Reform: Britney Spears is Not Alone

A Guardianship System in Need of Reform: Britney Spears is Not Alone


Public outcry towards Britney Spears’ conservatorship has prompted questions about the laws that permit the transfer of legal authority from one person to another and whether these laws actually protect the person. While conservatorship or guardianship laws are different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction they each rely upon the premise that the courts must intercede because a person needs its protection. The persons’ right to self-determination is often outweighed in favor of the desire to protect the person. In order to balance the scales many jurisdictions have built in additional due process protections including limiting the scope of the guardianship, ensuring right to counsel, shifting the burden and requiring higher standards for proof and notice and incorporating a restoration process. Yet, many jurisdictions, including New York, operate a guardianship system that does not offer these additional protections. Further, Ms. Spears’ conservatorship has shown that even where due process is offered it doesn’t ensure that the person’s voice is heard. 

Through this CLE program, we will explore guardianship systems in New York State and how they hold up against the criticism being expressed by those that are following Britney Spears’ story. They will examine what it means to offer due process protections, such as right to counsel, right to a hearing, and notice as well as other alternatives to guardianship. They will also discuss the concerns raised by those subject to guardianships and the challenges they faced restoring their legal rights. Finally, we will examine the challenge to reforming these systems and alternative approaches being used to avoid the application of a guardianship.  


Sheila E. Shea, Esq., Mental Hygiene Legal Services

Jennifer J. Monthie, Esq., Disability Rights New York

Lisa K. Friedman, Esq., Law Office of Lisa K. Friedman

Laura E. O'Brien, Esq., Disability Rights New York

Irini N. Bekhit, Esq., New York Surrogate's Court, Richmond County

Hon. Kristin Booth Glen, CUNY School of Law

Prianka Nair, Esq., Brooklyn Law School

Tina Bebry, Client

Kole Johnson, Client

Kimberly Weisbeck, Esq., Disability Rights New York

Tara Anne Pleat, Esq., Wilcenski & Pleat, PLLC

Lawrence R. Faulkner, Esq., Former General Counsel, The Arc Westchester / Former Deputy General Counsel, NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

Hon. Margarita Lopez Torres, Kings County Surrogate's Court, 2nd Judicial Department

Christopher R. Lyons, Esq., AIM Services, Inc.

Kirk M. Lewis, Esq., Schenectady ARC

Section Member Price: $140.00 Join (or renew) for special member pricing
Non-Member Price: $250.00
Published Date:
  • December 15, 2021
  • Online On-Demand
Product Code:
  • VLL61
Areas Of Professional Practice Credit(s):
  • 6.0
Diversity, Inclusion & Elimination of Bias Credit(s):
  • 1.0
Ethics and Professionalism Credit(s):
  • 1.0
Skills Credit(s):
  • 0.5
Total Credit(s):
  • 8.5