Alternatives to Guardianship Project
 
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January 25, 2022
Supported Decision-Making: Options for Missouri

With assistance from Spectrum Institute and funding from the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council, the Alternatives to Guardianship Project has released a new report promoting the use of supported decision-making (SDM) as an alternative to adult guardianships in Missouri.  The report provides a framework to stimulate conversations among stakeholders and strategic planning by advocates for new legislation in Missouri to make SDM and other less restrictive alternatives to guardianship for people with mental and developmental disabilities a viable and practical reality rather than a theoretical possibility.  The report is being widely distributed throughout the state.  The options it presents will become the basis for a series of zoom forums later this year to encourage feedback and suggestions. The report and the community evaluation process should be valuable to legislators as they consider introducing or supporting SDM legislation.  For a copy of the report, click here.



December 31, 2022
Year-End Update on Project Activities

In addition to the research and educational activities found on the "what's new" page regarding policies and practices on guardianship and alternatives, the project has also been engaged in consultation and training activities with individuals who have developmental disabilities and their families.  For a summary of those activities click here.


December 1, 2022
ADA Educational Materials Sent to Missouri Courts

An annotated bibliography prepared by Spectrum Institute for the Alternatives to Guardianship Project was sent today to ADA Coordinators at the Supreme Court, State Courts Administrator, and circuit courts throughout the State of Missouri.  A copy was also sent to The Missouri Bar.  The document is titled "How the ADA Applies to Guardianship Proceedings: A Primer for Missouri's Judges, Attorneys, and Guardians."  The letter transmitting the document invites bench officers, administrators, and court staff to review current policies and practices in adult guardianship proceedings through the lens of what the Americans with Disabilities Act actually requires.  Another document containing findings of ADA noncompliance by the guardianship system and recommendations to bring it into conformity with federal law will be released and sent to Missouri officials in all three branches of government next year.  UPDATE: Jan. 3, 2023.  An email was sent today to the ADA coordinators of courts throughout Missouri with a request that they forward an attached report to the justices, judges, and court administrators.  The report contains recommendations on how the judicial branch can improve access to justice for litigants with mental and developmental disabilities in legal proceedings, especially adult guardianship proceedings.


November 18, 2022
DOJ Starts Investigation of Missouri's Guardianship System

The United States Department of Justice issued a press release on November 16, 2022 announcing that it has opened an investigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to determine whether Missouri's use of guardianships for people with serious mental illness contributes to unnecessarily restrictive placements in skilled nursing facilities.   The press release encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the DOJ.

In response to the request for information, Spectrum Institute sent a written communication to the Civil Rights Division offering to share the results of its own multi-year investigation showing a pattern and practice of ADA violations in Missouri's guardianship proceedings.  Thomas F Coleman is the legal director of Spectrum Institute and has been acting as a consultant to the Alternatives to Guardianship Project.  He has been working on a major report for the project titled "How the ADA Applies to Guardianship Proceedings: A Primer for Missouri’s Judges, Attorneys, and Guardians."  The report and an annotated bibliography on the subject will be sent to the Supreme Court and circuit courts throughout Missouri in January 2023. 

Update: (1-29-23)  Spectrum Institute filed an ADA complaint with the DOJ on January 12, 2023 alleging that the adult guardianship system is operating in violation of federal law on a wide range of issues. The DOJ acknowledged receiving the complaint.  On January 26, Viviana Bonilla-Lopez, a trial attorney with the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ, interviewed Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, to learn additional details about the ADA complaint.  Prior to her employment with the DOJ, Ms. Bonilla-Lopez (photo) acquired experience in promoting alternatives to guardianship, including supported decision-making, as a disability rights fellow with Equal Justice Works in Florida.  She is heading up the investigation in Missouri described in the press release referenced above.


November 13, 2022
Networking at The Arc National Conference

Thomas F. Coleman attended the national conference of The Arc of the United States in Denver from November 10 - 12.  Tom distributed a handout about issues being addressed by the Alternatives to Guardianship Project.  He attended a presentation on sexual self advocacy by Elevatus Training which shared resources that will be helpful to the Capacity to Love project that will be launched in Missouri next year.  He also attended a breakout session on supported decision-making sponsored by The Tennessee Center for Decision-Making Support which is a well-developed program that could be adapted for use in Missouri.  Tom spent time exchanging information with attendees such as Michael Cormier, founder of 3rd Circle Inc. -- a nonprofit in Michigan providing a wide range of supports for people with disabilities in residential settings.  He also enjoyed meeting and exchanging views with Shawn Kennemer, President of the Bakersfield Arc and newly appointed member of the National Council on Disability.  Tom's husband, Michael Vasquez, accompanied him to the conference, providing logistical and other support throughout.  The trip was made possible by a generous donation from Richard W. Smith, Ph.D.


November 3, 2022
Public Guardians Lack Adequate Funding and Staff 

We recently reached out to the Missouri Association of Public Administrators (MAPA) for information about their role as guardians for adults with mental or developmental disabilities.  Danielle Boggs, president of the association, sent us a report with information relevant to our study.  The report contains findings and recommendations which will help us identify ways to improve the guardianship system in Missouri. 

Public administrators (PAs) throughout the state serve as guardians for 11,000 of the 30,500 adults in Missouri who are living under an order of guardianship. (p.2) One-third of their caseload consists of adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. (p. 19) While national professional standards call for a ratio of one guardian per 20 protected adults, public administrators in Missouri, on average, have a ratio of one guardian to 90 adults.

In terms of less restrictive alternatives, the report stated: "PAs often do not have the bandwidth for limited guardianship or supported decision-making, even when it is preferable. Guardianship is perceived by some system stakeholders as a loss or reduction of the ward’s independence and rights. However, without appropriate resources to spend additional time in decision-making with wards, PAs cannot easily afford partial rights to wards." (p. 15)

We will be studying this report further, including the findings regarding inadequate funding, as we develop a comprehensive report focusing on all parts of the system and all participants, including the public administrators who are doing the best they can with limited resources to protect and assist vulnerable adults.


November 2, 2022
The Perils of Judicial Control of Guardianship Legal Services: Time for a New Model in Missouri

The Alternatives to Guardianship Project recently reviewed the dockets in hundreds of guardianship cases in 10 circuit courts throughout Missouri.  Our findings are as concerning as they are enlightening.  What we discovered is explained in a commentary we are sending to the Supreme Court, State Courts Administrator, Circuit Courts, and the State Bar.  We are also sending it to other agencies and organizations with an interest in improving the administration of justice in adult guardianship proceedings:  Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council, MO-WINGS, Department of Mental Health, Missouri Association of Public Administrators, Missouri Protection and Advocacy; and the Missouri Association of Probate and Associate Circuit Judges.

We hope the commentary will stimulate a conversation resulting in action to bring about the reforms necessary to ensure access to justice in guardianship proceedings for adults with mental and developmental disabilities.  Legislative reforms adopted in 2018 were a good start, but only a start.  Much more needs to be done to ensure that alternatives to guardianship are thoroughly explored by court-appointed attorneys and probate judges.  And major changes need to be adopted and implemented to ensure that adults are not abandoned, for all practical purposes, by the courts and court-appointed attorneys the moment an order of guardianship is granted.  The 30,000 adults living under an order of guardianship are not being given meaningful participation in these ongoing cases as required by the American with Disabilities Act. 

Court-appointed attorneys in Missouri are left to their own devices in terms of the scope and methods they use in representing clients in adult guardianship proceedings.  In addition to the lack of specialized training (see posting for October 31, 2022), these attorneys are not given performance standards to guide them in zealously advocating for their clients and defending their rights.  In sharp contrast to the improvisation that seems to be occurring in Missouri's guardianship courts, Massachusetts gives guardianship attorneys in that state specific performance standards to follow, with a checklist of minimum activities that should be performed in each case.

The commentary calls attention to a model legal advocacy program that has been operating in Nevada for several years -- a program that should be considered for Missouri.  To read the commentary, click here.


November 1, 2022
Retention of Voting Rights Varies Widely by County 

 After reviewing months of court records in guardianship proceedings in three counties in Missouri in 2021, we discovered a major discrepancy in the percentage of adults who retain the right to vote when they are ordered into a guardianship.  In Platte County, 100% of guardianship orders in 2021 stripped such adults of the right to vote.  In Jackson County, examining a two-month sample in 2021 showed that some 84% had their voting rights removed.  In contrast, in Jasper County, over a six-month period in 2021 only 46% had their voting rights taken away.
 
State and federal laws come into play in these cases.  The federal voting rights act prohibits states from depriving adults of the right to vote because they cannot read, write, or understand the nuances of voting.  The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires states to modify state laws and provide reasonable accommodations to assist disabled adults to vote.  The ADA applies to adults with mental and developmental disabilities.  We plan to expand our research into local practices to verify the practices of courts in other counties.  It appears there is a need to educate judges and court-appointed attorneys about the mandates of federal laws and how they supersede state laws that discriminate on the basis of disability. 

State legislators should consider implementing voting rights reforms accomplished in California in 2016 after the federal Department of Justice opened an investigation into the widespread denial of voting rights of conservatees in that state.  Now, under SB 589, the only criteria in California for denying a conservatee of the right to vote is a showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that the person cannot communicate, with or without reasonable accommodations, a desire to participate in the voting process.  Prior to the passage of SB 589, nearly all conservatees lost the right to vote.  Now, with a presumption of capacity to vote and the burden of proof so high to deny voting rights, most conservatees retain the right to vote.           


October 31, 2022
No Special Training Requirements for Guardianship Attorneys and Judges 

 Adults against whom guardianship petitions are filed have mental or developmental disabilities which make legal representation more challenging than ordinary civil cases where clients can effectively communicate with lawyers and participate in setting goals and developing strategies to achieve the desired outcome.  In guardianship cases, fundamental freedoms are at risk.  Litigants may have trouble understanding or communicating.  Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act come into play.  Capacity must be assessed by qualified professionals.  Less restrictive alternatives should be explored.  To provide effective representation to these special needs clients, whether they are seniors or adults with developmental disabilities, appointed attorneys must deal with a matrix of complex issues.  One would think that the State Bar of Missouri would mandate special training for these attorneys just as other states have done.  One would also think that the judges who decide the fate of these clients would have special training requirements, just as the judges who handle family law matters in Missouri do. 

A recent email we received from the State Courts Administrator disclosed that there are no education or training requirements for guardianship judges and attorneys in Missouri. That was the case in California until 2019 when the Judicial Council adopted a court rule mandating training for court-appointed attorneys in probate conservatorship proceedings.  These attorneys must receive continuing education on constitutional rights, the ADA, capacity assessments, and less restrictive alternatives in order to be qualified for appointments to these cases.  The Texas Supreme Court issued an administrative order in 2017 requiring judges who presiding over guardianship cases to receive training in the following areas:  the aging process and the nature of disabilities;  requirements of the ADA and compliance methods; principles of equal access and accommodation; and the use of community resources for people with disabilities.  Maryland's highest court has gone even further by issuing an order that defines the role of court-appointed counsel and establishes performance standards, in addition to mandating training related to these cases.  Missouri can look to these and other states to develop training requirements for judges and attorneys who participate in guardianship cases.

 We will be developing proposals to submit to the Missouri State Bar and Supreme Court for continuing education requirements for guardianship attorneys and judges so that respondents with mental and developmental disabilities receive effective assistance of counsel and the administration of justice by properly trained judges.          
                                      

October 25, 2022
Jackson County Public Administrator is Interviewed 

 John Killian is the Public Administrator of Jackson County, Missouri.  He was appointed to the position by the Jackson County Circuit Court. The Public Administrator is currently serving as the guardian of approximately 1,050 adults.  About 30% of these persons are adults with developmental disabilities. The Public Administrator is appointed as guardian in about one-third of the guardianship cases in the Jackson County Circuit Court.  The Office of the Public Administrator has 30 employees, including five attorneys, 10 case managers, and a variety of clerical staff positions.  Mr. Killian was very open and cooperative in answering our questions.  Details of the interview will be included in a future report.

                                 
October 15, 2022
Supreme Court Clerk and State Courts Administrator Respond to Records Requests 

Jennifer Hulme, director of the Alternatives to Guardianship Project, sent records requests on September 27, 2022 to the Clerk of the Supreme Court as well as to the State Court Administrator.  In the requests, she explained:

"The Alternatives to Guardianship Project is in its early stages.  Foundational to our government-funded study is to gain knowledge of some basic census data about open cases and new petitions.  Adequacy of funding and staffing, and planning judicial budgets for these cases, depends on accurate data of this type.

"We are seeking to determine if the judicial branch in Missouri knows how many people it is protecting in guardianships, if it has the data to prepare and plan future budgets, and whether it has the data to determine trends.  The records we seek will help us answer those questions.

"The issue of records on such matters is not unique to Missouri.  I am attaching a legal commentary that was published three years ago in the Daily Journal legal newspaper in California.  The issues raised in that article would equally apply to Missouri."

The Project reviewed the annual report of the 16th Judicial Circuit and noted that data for guardianships is sparse.  Adult and minor guardianships are mixed together.  The number of new adult petitions filed in 2021 is not ascertainable, nor can it be determined how many adults are currently under the protection of the court. There is no data for type of disposition, such as whether cases were dismissed for lack of proof, settled by agreement, or whether there were trials or evidentiary hearings.  There is no data on the value of property under the protection of the court.  

Update: (10-15-22)  We received responses to our records requests from the Supreme Court and the State Court Administrator.  The Court Clerk stated that the Court does not have the data we were seeking.  The Administrator, however, provided data responsive to our request. 

According to the Administrator, there have been an average of about 3,000 new adult guardianship petitions filed each year for the past four years. 

At the end of 2021, there were 30,537 active guardianship cases in the state, reflecting an increase of 2,121 active cases since 2018.

 

Update: (10-19-22)  A new records request was submitted to the Office of State Courts Administrator asking for materials regarding the education and training of judges, court appointed attorneys, and guardians regarding their role in adult guardianship proceedings and their duties under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To read the request, click here.


October 14, 2022
Supreme Court Responds to ADA Records Request


 
Spectrum Institute sent an administrative records request to the Missouri Supreme Court on September 26, 2022.  The request sought records on: (1) the Court's ADA policies; (2) any self-evaluation done by the Court on its ADA policies and practices; and (3) its grievance procedure to process complaints that its policies or practices do not comply with the requirements of federal law.  Obtaining these records is a prerequisite to a proper evaluation of whether the courts in Missouri are meeting their obligations to ensure that litigants with mental or developmental disabilities are receiving access to justice in guardianship proceedings and meaningful participation in these liberty-encroaching cases.  For a copy of the request, click here.

Update (10-14-22)  The Clerk of the Supreme Court responded to our request for ADA-related records through a letter that attached two documents: (1) policy on access to courts; and (2) Supreme Court's ADA grievance procedure.  The letter also directed our attention to a webage addressing "disabled access" to court buildings. 
The letter concluded by stating that "this Court does not have any records pertaining to self-evaluations performed pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 35.105 regarding adult guardianship proceedings or any other judicial proceedings."  We independently found a webpage on the judicial branch website pertaining to general policies of the Missouri Courts regarding the ADA and disability nondiscrimination.  That webpage states: "In accordance with the ADA, the Missouri judiciary will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in its services, programs or activities."  It also provides a list of ADA coordinators for each court in the state to which individuals may direct requests for accommodations.  We were unable to find anything on the judicial branch website regarding the obligations of courts, even without a request, to provide accommodations to litigants with known or obvious disabilities.  The policies and practices of the judicial branch appear to be premised on the need for a request despite the fact that federal law states otherwise. 


October 5, 2022
Interview with Probate PJ in Jackson County

Thomas F. Coleman, consultant to the Alternatives to Guardianship Project, interviewed the Honorable Mark A, Styles, Presiding Judge of the Probate Division of the Jackson County Circuit Court.  Judge Styles was very cooperative and provided information that is helpful to understanding the current policies and practices of that court related to adult guardianship proceedings.  According to Styles, his court has the third largest caseload of adult guardianship cases in the state, with St. Louis County having the highest caseload and St. Louis City the second.  He estimates that about 400 new petitions are filed in his court annually and that the court is protecting about 5,000 adults who are currently living under an order of guardianship.  There is one attorney who is appointed by the court to represent respondents. Three bench officers, Styles and two commissioners, process new and active cases. In addition to adjudicating the merits of the 400 new petitions, they must review and approve 5,000 annual reports filed by guardians. Information obtained during this interview will be included in a report on judicial proceedings that will be issued in the future by the project. 
 

September 8, 2022
Duties of Appointed Counsel: Policy vs. Practice

The sentence in the box to the left is taken from an excellent article published this year in the St. Louis Bar Journal.  Titled "Due Process and Best Interests: The Challenges of Guardianship Cases," the article is written by Heather Hall and Josh Rose.  Both are attorneys whose practice includes cases in which they are appointed by the court to represent adults living under an order of guardianship or who are targeted by a guardianship petition. 

 

The article spells out in considerable detail the rights of such adults in guardianship proceedings.  One of them is the right to have counsel who advocates for their wishes and protects their rights.  One such right is to have appointed counsel seriously explore less restrictive alternatives and to argue for such, including demanding an evidentiary hearing or jury trial on the matter if necessary.  What the article does not address, however, is the extent to which such attorneys are doing this in actual practice.  Nor does it address how attorneys are impeded in providing such advocacy because they are often paid a flat fee of a few hundred dollars which, in effect, puts them in a bind and creates an actual or apparent conflict of interest.  Put in three hours and earn about $150 per hour or put in more hours and perform the extra work for free.   

 

The Alternatives to Guardianship Project will be investigating how many lawyers serve as appointed counsel in Missouri, how they are trained, if they have performance standards to meet, how much they are paid, and what system of monitoring exists to ensure that clients who generally cannot identify deficient performance (ad therefore cannot complaint about malpractice) receive the quality of representation that due process and the Americans with Disabilities Act would require.  It will also examine the duties of the state and of counties to allocate sufficient funds to enable attorneys to provide effective assistance to indigent clients and steps that public entities can take to increase the level funding for guardianship legal defense and advocacy services. 



September 7, 2022
Supreme Court Asked about Status of ADA Complaint


The Alternatives to Guardianship Project has sent a letter to the Missouri Supreme Court inquiring into what actions, if any, it took in response to an ADA complaint filed by Spectrum Institute with the Court in 2017.  The complaint alleged that the state's adult guardianship system was out of compliance with requirements of Title II of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.  The court clerk acknowledged receipt of the complaint in 2018, indicating that it was "under review" by the Court.  Despite a follow-up inquiry by Spectrum Institute in 2019, the organization never heard from the Court on the matter again.  This outreach to the Court by the Project is part of its due diligence to determine what actions have been taken by any officials or public entities to improve the administration of justice in guardianship proceedings.  To read the letter from the Project to the Court, click here.  To read the ADA complaint and related materials, click here.

 

Update: (9-24-22)  We received a reply from the general counsel to the Supreme Court indicating that the Court did not take any action in response to the ADA complaint from Spectrum Institute, explaining that it wanted to see how a new law would be implemented.  However, the letter indicates that the Court is open to receiving additional materials for consideration on the subject.  We passed this information on to Spectrum Institute and have been informed that it will be providing the Court with additional materials on the application of the ADA to adults guardianship proceedings.



September 6, 2022
Analysis of Missouri's Policies and Practices is Underway


The Alternatives to Guardianship Project has initiated an analysis of the policies governing Missouri's adult guardianship proceedings as well as the practices of judges, attorneys, and a variety of professionals who are involved in these cases.  Policies include statutes, court rules, appellate rulings, and training programs for judges and attorneys.  Practices pertain to how the system operates in real life.  This research is foundational to the mission of the project.  We will identify areas where policy is good or deficient.  We will compare Missouri's policies on guardianship and alternatives with those in other states, especially in places where reforms have occurred.  We will also identify areas where actual practices do not conform to existing policies.  In addition, we will endeavor to obtain a census of adults under guardianship and demographics showing who they are.  All of this will eventfully be included in an action report which will contain our findings and recommendations.



August 31, 2022
Project to Review SDM Laws in California and Elsewhere


The California Legislature gave final approval in August 30 to a bill that will: (1) require alternatives to conservatorship to be seriously considered by petitioners and ruled out as unfeasible by the court; (2) strengthen the rights of adults living under an order of conservatorship; (3) give conservatees the right to petition for termination once a year and to have an attorney appointed to assist them if they inform the court of the desire to terminate.  After an appropriation of funds by the legislature, courts will be required to operate self-help centers to explain and help petitioners explore less restrictive alternatives such as supported decision-making and powers of attorney.  There were no dissenting votes in either the Senate or Assembly.  The bill is expected to be signed into law by the governor in September and will take effect on January 1, 2023.  To read the Assembly Floor Analysis of the bill, click here.  The Alternatives to Guardianship Project will be analyzing how provisions of AB 1663 can be adapted for use in Missouri.  The project will also analyze and compare SDM laws in New York (see below) and those in Texas (2015), Delaware (2015), Wisconsin (2018), North Dakota (2019), Rhode Island (2019), Indiana (2019), Nevada (2019), Washington (2020), Louisiana (2020) and Colorado (2021).

 

 

August 30, 2022
New York SDM Law to be Analyzed

 

 

The Governor of New York signed into law a supported decision-making statute on statute on July 26, 2022.  The law finds that adults with mental and developmental disabilities are often denied the right to make decisions based on stigmas and outdated beliefs about their capabilities.  It recognizes that supported decision-making can be a less restrictive alternative to guardianship.  It expresses a public policy to encourage the use of supported decision-making arrangements when they are feasible.  An analysis of capacity shall take into account capacity with decision-making support or accommodations.  The statute also defines supported decision-making, the role and duties of a support person, and the requirements for creating such an agreement.  To read the new law, click here.  The project will be analyzing the bill to determine if elements of it may be adapted for use in Missouri.

 

 

August 25, 2022
Project to Include a Mental Health Component

 

Many adults with developmental disabilities have concurrent mental health challenges and illnesses.  Failure to address and treat these conditions may impair the feasibility of implementing alternatives to guardianship such as supported decision-making.  The same is true for adults with developmental disabilities who are living under an order of guardianship.  Treatment of adverse mental health conditions may be a necessary prerequisite to terminating a guardianship in favor of a less restrictive alternative.

 

It is therefore important to educate adults with developmental disabilities, their families, medical and mental health professionals, service providers, attorneys, and judges about the adverse consequences of failing to provide prompt and appropriate mental health services to such adults as an essential component of enabling them to exercise their right to self determination and to avoid or terminate otherwise unnecessary guardianships.

 

Tina Baldwin is the director of the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute.  She oversaw the development of a recent report on the consequences to adults with developmental disabilities when necessary mental health services and therapy are delayed or denied.  Tina will serve as a consultant to the Alternatives to Guardianship Project and Hulme Resources to educate stakeholders in the guardianship system in Missouri about these consequences and how to enhance mental health services for this population in order to avoid them.  The first steps will include an assessment of the availability of mental health services for adults with developmental disabilities in the state, whether they are in a guardianship or not, and to solicit suggestions from stakeholders on how to make such services more accessible and more responsive to the needs of this population.

 


August 11, 2022
Outreach to Department of Mental Health

A letter was sent to Valerie Huhn, Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health.  The letter inquires whether the Department would consider convening a workgroup to review the application of the ADA Olmstead principles to adults guardianship proceedings.  It calls attention to the following statement on the Department's website: “Title II of the ADA requires that any entity administering public funds must ensure services, programs, and activities are provided in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities. Persons served must be informed that they have the right to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”  For a copy of the letter, click here.


August 10, 2022
Spanish Language SDM Presentation

The following flyer was sent to Spanish speaking families of adults with developmental disabilities.




August 9, 2022
Survey Being Distributed to Stakeholders

The project is conducting a survey of agencies and organizations with an interest in promoting alternatives to guardianship and improving the administration of justice in guardianship proceedings.  We want to build upon the work that has already been done on these issues in the recent past in Missouri.  The first three letters have been sent to: Missouri Protection and Advocacy; Institute on Human Development at the University of Missouri at Kansas City; and Mo-WINGS (Missouri Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders).  Other letters will be sent out soon.
Update: (12-9-22) Missouri P&A responded to our insuiry with a letter explaining its activities promoting alternatives to guardianship as a matter of policy, producing educational materials and forums, counseling clients, drafting supported decision-making agreements, and representing clients in guardianship proceedings.


August 9, 2022
Records Request Sent to Supreme Court

The project sent a request today to the Missouri State Courts Administrator asking for records pertaining to administrative actions that have been taken by the Supreme Court over the past several years to promote alternatives to guardianship or improve the administration of justice in adult guardianship proceedings.  The Supreme Court is responsible or administrative oversight of state courts and the state bar.  Meaningful guardianship reform will not occur in Missouri without the leadership or cooperation of the Missouri Supreme Court.  For a copy of the records request, click here.

The website of the Supreme Court explains: "In addition to making legal decisions, the Supreme Court supervises all the lower state courts with the assistance of its state courts administrator's office, which oversees court programs, provides technical assistance, manages the Judiciary's budget, and conducts educational programs for judicial personnel. The Supreme Court also makes detailed practice and procedure rules that ensure uniform handling of Missouri court cases, including times for filing motions and admitting evidence. In addition, the Supreme Court licenses all attorneys practicing in Missouri, maintains the official roll of attorneys, and disciplines lawyers and judges for violating ethical rules of conduct."

Update (8-19-22):
  The State Courts Administrator replied to our records request, stating that she is not the custodian of administrative records of the Supreme Court.  We therefore sent an identical records request to the Supreme Court Clerk today.  Update (9-1-22):  The Clerk of the Supreme Court sent a letter stating that the Court was not in possession of or the custodian of any of the requested records.  This implies that the Court has taken none of the actions mentioned in the records request. 

August 7, 2022
Review of SDM Progress in Texas

Jennifer Hulme and Thomas Coleman interviewed Richard Lavallo, Legal Director of Disability Rights Texas (DRT), about progress that has been made in that state in recent years to promote alternatives to guardianship such as supported decision-making (SDM).  We were impressed by the depth and scope of supported decision-making legislation enacted in 2015 and by what DRT and others have done to implement these measures in the educational system and in judicial proceedings.  We will be studying the progress that has been made in Texas and will issue a future report on how aspects of the Texas model could be considered in Missouri.  To access the references and resources on the DRT website, click here. 

Update:  9-15-22:  A new report from Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), Overcoming Civil Death, exposes the broken system that imprisons many Texans with disabilities in unnecessary guardianships that limit their freedom and independence. Many people with disabilities have the capacity to have their rights restored, make their own decisions, and be a part of their community. And in many cases, the law is already in place to allow this to happen. But due to various obstacles, many people with disabilities remain in unnecessary guardianships and experience what is known as civil death.  For a press release about the new report, click here.


 
 
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