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More Britney chaos as California proposes less-strict conservatorships

A new bill would provide better protections, allow more decisions to be made, and make them easier to get out of.

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On Wednesday, Jan. 18, Disability rights activists and advocates for Britney Spears supported a California proposal to provide better protections for those under court-ordered conservatorships, while promoting less-restrictive alternatives. 

Their move came as the Spears case became even more tumultuous in a Los Angeles County courtroom. 

The hearing to settle lingering issues in the aftermath of Spears’ conservatorship, which was terminated in November, quickly plummeted into a series of angry accusations between attorneys for Spears and her father, and the case seems to be headed for a long trial to determine the truth of the misconduct allegations against him. 

Groups such as Disability Rights California, Disability Voices United and Free Britney L.A. point to this as a prime example of how probate conservatorships are overused and misused in the state. 

These agreements typically involve people with developmental or intellectual disabilities or those with age-related issues like Alzheimer’s. But the advocacy groups state that conservatees like Spears can easily become trapped in a system that strips their civil rights and the ability to advocate for themselves. 

“Conservatorships should be rare, and the last resort,” Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United, told NBC News. 

“The default should be that people with disabilities retain their rights and get support when they need it,” Mark said. 

The advocacy groups backed legislation (AB1663) by Democratic Assemblyman Brian Maienschein that will make it easier to end conservatorships for people who want emancipation. 

As a less-restrictive alternative, the groups are promoting “supported decision-making” agreements, which would allow disabled people to choose someone to help them understand, make and communicate their choices, but allow the person to still make the decision. 

This option has already been undertaken in several states including Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin and more. 

California law states that these agreements should only be ordered if a judge rules that they are the least restrictive alternative, but advocates insist they are often imposed without considering other options. 

Maienschein’s bill would require judges to first document that all other alternatives, including supported decision-making, were exhausted before granting a conservatorship. 

It would also make the process of ending probate conservatorships easier by mandating a periodic review. 

Before his election to the Legislature, Maienschein worked as a law clerk for a Superior Court judge who oversaw conservatorships. During an online news conference, he said he witnessed the potential abuse of the system firsthand. 

“The system in California is in desperate need of reform,” Maienschein said, 

He hopes that his bill would help others who don’t have the “the benefit of worldwide fame to shine a light on her case.”

Mark believes that if AB1663 was in effect 13 years ago, Britney Spears would have had a very different fate. 

“Now Britney’s story lights the way for where changes in our laws need to be made,” she said.

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