New Supported Decision-Making Law in New Hampshire

By Thomas F. Coleman The State of New Hampshire has just enacted Senate Bill 134 — a supported decision-making (SDM) statute.  The law could help some adults with mental or developmental disabilities avoid being placed under an order of guardianship.  A set of legislative “findings” expresses a clear preference by the Legislature for less restrictive alternatives to guardianship to be considered before the state encroaches on an individual’s liberties.  One of the findings states: “Supported decision-making is a process which preserves the self-determination of adults with disabilities by providing them with accommodations and supports to enable them to make life […]

» Read more

California Grand Jury Association Urged to Focus on Conservatorship Reform

Dear Officers and Directors, Until today when I came across your website, I was unaware of the California Grand Jury Association. Earlier this year, I wrote a commentary discussing the power of civil grand juries to identify systemic flaws in the probate conservatorship system in California and to suggest reforms.  A copy of the commentary is attached.  Please share it with your chapters and members. I realize that civil grand juries are not authorized to investigate state officers or agencies.  Even with that limitation, there is much to investigate regarding the role of county officials with respect to the conservatorship […]

» Read more

Podcast Episode #2 – The Domino Effect: My Life as an Advocate

This episode of the podcast series gives the audience a glimpse into the past of the Tom Coleman and takes a virtual walk down memory lane, reminiscing about life growing up in Ferndale, Michigan, his entry into law school in Detroit, and his move to Los Angeles where he began his lifetime role as a legal advocate at Loyola Law School.  The episode touches on a few phases of Tom’s advocacy for various causes — from his focus on LGBT rights and sexual civil liberties in the 1970s, to privacy rights, hate crimes, domestic partner benefits and recognition of family […]

» Read more

Supreme Court Asked to Strengthen Right to Counsel for Thousands of Conservatees

The California Supreme Court was asked today to convene a blue-ribbon panel to review deficiencies in the way legal defense services are being provided to adults who are entangled in probate conservatorship proceedings.  The request was submitted by Spectrum Institute and a variety of organizations involved in disability rights, elder care, and mental health services, along with a national coalition advancing the right to counsel.  Spectrum Institute is a nonprofit advocacy organization in the forefront of  conservatorship reform.  The request is available online: click here to download. The request cited various ways in which the right to counsel has been […]

» Read more

Spears Conservatorship Shows Need for Stronger Laws on Right to Counsel

The Daily Journal has published a commentary written by Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of Spectrum Institute. The article explains how current laws that supposedly protect the right to counsel of choice in a conservatorship proceeding were repeatedly ignored by judges and attorneys involved in the case of Britney Spears. Coleman argues that the California Legislature needs to reaffirm the right to counsel of choice, and specify that every conservatee or proposed conservatee is entitled to be represented by a lawyer who advocates for the client’s expressed wishes and defends their constitutional and statutory rights.  The attorney’s loyalties should be […]

» Read more

Check out The Freedom Files: A Pursuit of Justice Podcast.

Listen as your host Thomas F. Coleman addresses freedom of choice in matters such as health care, finances, living arrangements, sexual relationships, marital status, social interactions, and recreational activities.  The tactics used and lessons learned while advocating on those issues — police oppression, LGBT+ rights, hate crimes, family diversity, singles’ rights, and trafficking of abused teens — can be adapted to develop winning advocacy strategies for today’s activities which are directed towards conservatorship and guardianship reform as well as mental health rights for people with developmental disabilities. For access to the Episode #1 feature story, video version, and audio version, […]

» Read more

CNN Quotes Legal Director of Spectrum Institute

CNN Entertainment has released a story about the conservatorship of Britney Spears.  The story quotes four prominent attorneys knowledgeable in California law.  One of them is Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute. The story focuses on the apparent refusal of the attorney appointed by the court to represent Britney Spears to file a petition to terminate the proceeding despite his client’s expressed wishes that it should end.  The legal experts consulted by CNN were unanimous that such a refusal by the appointed attorney could result not only in his removal from the case by the judge, but also […]

» Read more

Webinar for California Judiciary

In a new webinar from Spectrum Institute, attorney Thomas F. Coleman discusses the duties that judges and judicial staff in California have under state and federal disability nondiscrimination laws to ensure that people with cognitive disabilities have access to justice in judicial proceedings. Special emphasis is placed on probate conservatorship proceedings where the court is informed from the very start that a proposed conservatee may have serious mental disabilities that could hinder communications and prevent meaningful participation in the proceeding. Coleman stresses that the court has a sua sponte responsibility to assess the ADA needs of such litigants and then […]

» Read more

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month – a time to bring attention to the large number of people who have this form of dementia and to make a societal commitment to improve treatment and eventually find a cure.  Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease that kills nerve cells and tissue in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think and plan. Ultimately, if they live long enough, those with the disease will lose their ability to communicate, recognize family and friends, and care for themselves. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million individuals in the […]

» Read more

Report to California Governor Calls for Better Civil Rights Protection

Spectrum Institute, a nonprofit advocacy organization, today sent a report to Governor Gavin Newsom documenting the lack of civil rights protections for adults with developmental disabilities who become ensnared in probate conservatorship proceedings. The problem is not the law.  There are plenty of statutes and regulations to protect this vulnerable class of individuals from acts of discrimination and injustice.  The problem is with the agencies who are supposed to enforce these civil rights laws.  They aren’t doing the job entrusted to them by the legislature. The Attorney General’s office has been repeatedly approached to investigate civil rights violations of conservatees […]

» Read more
1 2 3