New Oregon Law To Provide Lawyers For Those Facing Britney Spears-Style Guardianship And Guardianship


In 2008, pop icon Britney Spears suffered a public mental health crisis that led to a court appointing her father and others to control her social, health and financial decisions.

This tutelage has taken away an incredibly large part of her rights, rights that she fought to reclaim.

As the story of Spears’ heavy guardianship continues to gain national attention, Oregon is enacting new legislation to help those at risk of being placed in guardianship or guardianship, in an effort to protect rights. of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Senate Bill 578, due to come into force early next year, will require courts to appoint legal counsel for many people facing this situation. This will affect trusteeship and trusteeship cases in Multnomah and Lane counties in 2022, expand to Columbia County in 2023, and expand statewide in 2024.

The concept of guardianship and guardianship has moved from a relatively obscure legal process to mainstream in recent years.

In Oregon, according to Fred Steele, the Oregon long-term care ombudsman, guardianship covers legal decision-making in health, social and non-financial matters, while guardianship covers financial decision-making. .

A person can have one or both.

“Some guardianship is considered ‘full guardianship’ which means that all rights are granted to the guardian to make all decisions for that person,” Steele said. “Not all guardianship should be full guardianship. “

In a “Last Week Tonight” segment in 2018, John Oliver pointed out that a guardian, supposed to protect people who cannot make financial and health decisions for themselves, may have “fewer rights. than a person in prison “.

Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow, a Democrat who represents a Portland district, had been interested in the process for more than a decade. He co-sponsored the Bill to Guarantee Legal Representation, which was passed by both the House and the Senate on a majority bipartisan basis.

Dembrow said he viewed guardianship as a civil rights issue. And for over a decade, he strived to improve the system.

As the state senator for the first term, during the 2009 legislature, Dembrow said he was invited to join the Working Group on Public Guardianship and Conservation. He was a new member of the House Human Services Committee and this was his first working group.

“I have come to care very deeply” about the question of guardianship and guardianship, Dembrow said.

The ideal outcome of the program, he said, is to “keep people in the least restrictive situation possible.”

“Guardianship,” Dembrow added, “can be abused”.

And, said Dembrow, there are people who need guardianship and don’t get a guardian, people who are homeless or living in hospitals, for the sole reason that they were unable to make decisions on their own- same.

The people going through the process need someone who can stand up for them, who has no other interests, he said.

In Oregon, some counties and courts already appoint an attorney to represent a person who needs to be represented in a guardianship proceeding.

The new law will codify this process.

“It takes what is currently an informal, haphazard and not entirely efficient system,” Steele said, and creates “a real system of rights protection.”

“Even if the person has to enter into guardianship”, he added, “part of his rights, at least the rights of treatment, will be protected”.

“When you bring in a lawyer early on, it’s just inevitable that a closer look will take place,” Dembrow said.

Thanks to the new law, lawyers will be provided in much the same way the public defender system works, and lawyers will be paid out of the same funds, he said.

“The job of this lawyer is to do what’s best for the protected person,” Dembrow said. “It’s going to mean making sure they get the care they need, but at the same time making sure their rights are respected.”

– Lizzy Acker

503-221-8052, [email protected], @lizzzyacker



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