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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Spectrum Institute is pleased to participate in National Mental Health Awareness Month by placing a commemorative poster on the home page of our website and including the poster in our May newsletter.  May was first designated as a time to promote the importance of mental health in 1949 by an organization known as Mental Health America.  Other organizations, such as the American Hospital Association, National Council for Behavioral Health, and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, are raising awareness this month of the importance of mental health care.  The County of San Diego has chosen “Hope for […]

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Conservatorship Reform: From Complaints to Solutions

Attorney Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, made a 45-minute presentation on April 12, 2021, at a National Guardianship Symposium.  His presentation identified parts of California’s probate conservatorship system that are broken – which is all of them.  He offered specific reform proposals and identified the officials and agencies to whom each one should be directed.  The approach he suggested for California could be adapted to any of the other 49 states which have guardianship or conservatorship systems that are not functioning as they should be – which is all of them.  Spectrum Institute can be commissioned to […]

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Consequences of Violating the Right to Therapy

This series will explore the potential consequences of violating the right to mental health therapy – consequences to individuals with developmental disabilities, their families, and to those who are the gatekeepers to such services such as professional guardians and primary care physicians. Reports will also delve into the financial consequences that the deprivation of mental health therapy can have on state and local resources, such as extra burdens being placed on entitlement programs, law enforcement services, and judicial proceedings. The series will be based on articles that have been produced by college interns working under the supervision of Tina Baldwin, […]

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A Grand Jury Method for Conservatorship Reform

By Thomas F. ColemanLos Angeles Daily Journal The top-down approach to conservatorship reform has been tried for nearly 15 years with very little success.  Perhaps it is time for reform advocates to use a more grass-roots process. When a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times exposed major problems with California’s probate conservatorship system in November 2005, there was a swift reaction from elected officials in all three branches of state government.  The pattern of corruption and dysfunction that emerged from the newspaper’s review of 2,400 conservatorship cases could not be ignored. The chief justice convened a probate task […]

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Autism Awareness Month

World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognized day on April 2nd every year, encouraging member states of the United Nations to take measures to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders including autism and Asperger syndrome throughout the world. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly through a resolution adopted on December 18 2007. (World Autism Awareness Day, Wikipedia) Various organizations in the United States have built on this resolution to designate April of each year as Autism Awareness Month.  Some, such as the Autism Society have expanded the concept to Autism Acceptance Month.  That organization’s website states: “This April, the Autism Society of America celebrates differences as it […]

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Dorothy Won’t Surrender

Some Washington Judges Don’t Care a Lot by Thomas F. Coleman Last week I started to watch the movie I Care a Lot.  This award-winning film depicts the way in which vulnerable adults are often targeted in guardianship scams orchestrated by unscrupulous fiduciaries who enlist the help of care providers, real estate agents, and attorneys – all of which is accomplished with a judicial nod and wink.    I was so upset just 15 minutes into the film that I stopped watching it.  I plan to resume when I feel strong enough to endure the frightening scenarios it depicts. Perhaps my […]

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