Spears is Not Alone

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As Floridian and Hall of Fame Football coach Lou Holtz has noted recently in the Miami Herald, “Guardianship abuse may more correctly be thought of as guardian, medical and legal abuse, because without unethical, predatory individuals in all of those fields working together, such abuse is impossible to carry out. It takes more than a corrupt guardian to do these terrible things — it takes a corrupt guardian, a corrupt lawyer, a corrupt doctor, often a corrupt nursing home or hospital and, finally, corrupt judges”
THE HILL reported the following recently:

Britney Spears’s cries for help in court have cast a critical light on conservatorships, as the public has become both more aware and more sensitive to mental health struggles. But her explosive claims Wednesday have also reignited a national conversation on freedom, dignity and how much is too much when it comes to legal intervention.
Spears spoke out publicly for the first time about her “abusive” 13-year conservatorship during a status hearing before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. The “Stronger” singer — whose father, Jamie Spears, has headed up her conservatorship since 2008 following her very public mental health and substance abuse battles — said she’s been left “traumatized” by it.

She also fired off a list of shocking allegations, saying she wants to get married and have another baby, but had been forced against her will to leave in place a birth control device. Spears also alleged that she has been required to work, undergo endless psychiatric evaluations and take anti-psychotic medication that left her feeling “drunk.”

From the Netflix movie, I CARE A LOT, to Britney Spears’ allegations, let’s hope legislators stop pandering to the rampant corruption through probate courts of professional guardianship fraud. I CARE A LOT is an accurate portrayal of many if not most professional guardianships.
The outrage and sympathy that has been pouring out for Britney Spears is not surprising. Her recent statement to the judge was poignant and moving. Her desire to regain her reproductive rights, her civil freedom, her money and her freedom from inappropriately administered psychotropic medications (including Lithium) was a powerful indictment of her conservator father and her conservatorship. Her appearance has moved many celebrities to declare their support for the end of her conservatorship and for the end of the abuses in conservatorship/guardianship in general. None of this would have come to pass without the staunch advocacy of the #Free Britney movement recently augmented by well-known leaders in the advocacy community.

Time will tell what the outcome of her appearance before the judge will be. While there is great hope that the conservatorship will be terminated, there is no guarantee that that will happen because the judge, irrespective of public opinion or support or any testimony or evidence, has the only opinion that matters. That judge has an array of options available to her and will decide the case not on the basis of the law (judges are supposed to be deciders of law and juries the deciders of fact)–and the law is already clear– but in equity probate where there are no juries, she will decide the matter on her subjective and personally biased conclusions on what she “believes is best for the ward”.

Therein is the problem.
Irrespective of this particular judge’s final decision, it is the peculiar probate process—with no checks or balances– which is so predictably unpredictable. It is always a crapshoot. The factors that go into a probate judicial ruling are too numerous to count as are the individual biases of any given judge. We will never know what or who influences the judges’ decisions. No one will be able to question judge whose authority and influence is absolute. And no matter what the outcome of this particular decision, at this juncture of the 13-year conservatorship which has cost Britney Spears untold millions of dollars, there will never be financial restitution and she will never be able to get back those 13 years of the absolute prime of her life.

It took a very brave move by Britney Spears to go public with the abuses she has endured. It is very unusual for her to have even gotten that opportunity because other less famous wards never do. The activism of her fans played a great part in giving her the opportunity to leverage her stardom into a chance for freedom. Without that support it is probable that her voice would have been further suppressed and her abuse and exploitation would continue unabated– just like every one of the other over 1 ½ million wards (more likely a much higher number but no one knows for sure because records are suppressed) across the United States.

Perhaps the real lesson here is that getting out of conservatorship is damn near impossible. While it is extremely fast and simple to initiate a conservatorship with an unsworn allegation of some degree of incapacity, it is excruciatingly difficult to modify, let alone end one. For the typical ward, who does not have an army of advocates to work for their release , guardianship/conservatorship is a life sentence and often that life is one of exploitation, abuse, neglect, poverty, overmedication, malnutrition and premature death.
There is also plenty of blame to go around to all people who have profited from the Spears case or others who never stepped up for her till now and so many others. Where have the clergy been when Spears (and every other abused ward) needed uplifting? Where were their prayers and comforting words? Where were her doctors if they knew she was being drugged? And what the hell was her lawyer doing allowing his high paying client to be so abused? It would appear that Spears was abandoned by so many of the people who now show such indignation at her circumstances and by officials in the government, healthcare, the church, politicians and the courts– just like so many other helpless wards around the country.

So, in many ways the Spears case is unique but in so many others it’s just another abusive guardianship/conservatorship. Let’s all hope this one ends better than the usual outcome which is death by court assisted slow murder.

What do you say? What will it take to stop this?

By Dr. Sam Sugar


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