In the midst of Britney Spears’ legal battle over her conservatorship, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have proposed a bill that would target abusive legal arrangements, like the one involving Spears.
Conservatorships (also called guardianships) allow one-person control over another person’s resources when they are unable to manage their own finances. The arrangement is negotiated in court and can only be lifted by a court. Zoe Brennan-Krohn, an attorney with American Civil Liberties Union’s Disability Rights Project, describes in her blogthat, in a conservatorship, “the court is taking away the civil liberties from one person and giving them to someone else.” She explains that a conservatorship should be seen as a severe step and should only be used when a person is truly incapacitated. Often, these arrangements can lead to abuse or exploitation of conservatees.
The proposed bill would aim to prevent abuse of individuals under conservatorships. On Tuesday, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida announced their Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act (FREE Act). The act would give those under conservatorships the power to petition their conservatorship and have the power transferred from their guardian to a public guardian. Each conservatorship would also be assigned a caseworker to keep track of conflict of financial interests. Mace explained in a statement, “In some cases, conservatorships can rob capable and innocent Americans of their money, careers, and even basic human rights, like the right to reproduce in Spears’ case.”
Conservatorships often exploit disabled people for their resources and can be incredibly difficult to escape. Mace hopes that the proposed bill will receive support, as it aims to protect people’s basic freedoms. He explained to The New York Times, “The Britney Spears conservatorship, it’s a nightmare. If this can happen to her, it can happen to anybody.”