Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Superior Court Encourages Lawyers to Violate Rights of People with Developmental Disabilities

Thanks to a mom who's been through Hell and wanted to share her story to help others, I've been made aware of the unthinkable challenges that can happen around Conservatorships, especially in families where the parents are divorced.  When I first heard their story my automatic response was "This can't be, it's just too terrible. It must be an isolated case". When I began asking more people I learned many families were dealing with this, and it was not something I could afford to ignore. My son will be 18 soon enough, and his rights will kick in and I need to know the realities of raising an "adult" with autism and conservatorships. Below is a summary of the issue, and a link to a guide showing recent research findings, and it suggests ways our attorneys can challenge these guidelines when needed.

The Disability and Abuse Project released a new report today that focuses on deficiencies in the performance of attorneys appointed to represent people with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship proceedings in California.
The report was released in the form of a guidebook, designed to help court-appointed attorneys challenge judicial guidelines that encourage them to engage in practices that may violate ethical and constitutional requirements.
Here is a description of the guidebook, taken from the Project's website:
This guidebook releases research findings by the Disability and Abuse Project regarding the policies and practices of the Los Angeles Superior Court.  It reveals how court guidelines encourage attorneys to violate the rights of people with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship cases.  The guidebook calls for systemic changes, but until they occur, it suggests ways that attorneys can challenge these guidelines by using advocacy methods consistent with the ethical and constitutional duties and that protect the right of clients to due process of law
The report was sent to 50 attorneys who regularly represent clients in limited conservatorship proceedings.  It was sent two weeks in advance of a mandatory training seminar they will be attending on September 13.  It was also sent to the panelists who will be making presentations on many of the topics covered in the report.  We hope that the receipt of the guidebook prior to the seminar will stimulate a lively discussion about the proper role of attorneys in such cases and what attorneys should do to comply with ethical and constitutional requirements.
It was also sent to all members of the Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California, with a request that the State Bar convene a Task Force on Limited Conservatorships to study the problems outlined in the report and to make recommendations to the State Bar about how to improve the performance of attorneys handling such cases.
For more information, including a link to the guidebook and links to the letters mentioned above, go to:   http://disabilityandabuse.org/pvp/index.htm

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