A team of 44 volunteers supports the activities and projects of Spectrum Institute. We have a five-member board of trustees who govern the organization. Seven volunteers work with the executive director to handle our research, technology, development, and outreach activities. We have 5 student interns. The Disability and Guardianship Project has 3 legal advisors who are periodically consulted by its legal director. It also has 12 advisors on the Attorney Fee Review Team. The director of the Mental Health Project has 12 mental health advisors with whom she shares information and seeks advice about the project’s activities. The organization also has four student interns. We are accepting applications for summer interns from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and hope to have summer interns from UCLA and Washington State University as well.
1717 E. Vista Chino A7 – PMB384
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Governing Board (Officers and Trustees)
Operations – Research, Technology & Development
Mike Kiraly MPA is a research advisor to the Birds of a Feather project. He teaches social science classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and is a member of national honor societies for political science and history. For 27 years, he was the director of library operations at Sonoma State University, supervising reference, cataloging, multimedia, and collection development. He was also a senior legal analyst for the California Department of Justice.
Local Government Advisor
Konstantine Anthony serves as a member of the Burbank Advisory Council on Disabilities. Konstantine says that his advocacy for disability rights stems from his autism diagnosis and witnessing the discrimination his fellow disabled Americans experience every day. He is currently a candidate for the position of chair of the Disabilities Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Konstantine lists conservatorship reform as one of his political priorities. He studied film at San Francisco State University with a diverse group of students from all over the world. In 2004, he moved to Burbank, where he became a union actor in film and television. Konstantine spends as much time with his 9 year-old son as possible. For the last few years, Konstantine has regularly attended Burbank PFLAG meetings to support and learn from the LGBTQIA+ community. He believes that California must abolish the subminimum wage, end conservatorship abuse, and invest in accessible infrastructure for every city and town.
After representing children and families in the Los Angeles child welfare system as well as treating patients, Meriam Bendat, J.D., Ph.D., founded Psych-Appeal — the nation’s first private mental health law firm in 2011. Since then, Dr. Bendat has helped patients and providers successfully challenge the denials of mental health treatment through administrative appeals and impact litigation, recovering millions of dollars in wrongfully-withheld benefits. Dr. Bendat is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of California as well as a psychotherapist licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. With a background in law, clinical psychology, marriage and family therapy, and psychoanalysis, he serves as a consultant to national mental health advocacy organizations and frequently makes presentations on access to treatment and mental health parity. Dr. Bendat is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association Committee on Government elations and a distinguished Ittleson Consultant to the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. He has lectured at universities around the country, including Yale Medical School, Butler Hospital (Brown University), UCLA, and Antioch University. We are pleased that Dr. Bendat has accepted our invitation to be an advisor to the Mental Health Project.
Anthony Chicotel is a staff attorney for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). His expertise is in the rights of long-term care consumers, conservatorships, and health care decision-making. Prior to working at CANHR, Tony was a senior staff attorney for Elder Law & Advocacy’s Nursing Home Rights Enforcement Project in San Diego. He received his J.D. from Ohio State University’s College of Law and a Masters in Public Policy from U.C. Berkeley. He is an adjunct professor at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law and has written and lectured extensively about the rights of elderly Californians. Tony is the author of a legal guidebook titled “California Conservatorship Defense: A Guide for Attorneys.” He often is called to testify as an expert in elder law issues before various committees of the California Legislature.
Attorney Jenny Farrell has accepted our invitation to be an advisor to the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute. Having an attorney with experience in mental health law will be of great value to the project. Ms. Farrell serves as the Executive Director of Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS). MHAS has been a leader in the disability rights movement and specifically in the fight for equal rights for people with mental health disabilities for over forty years. Through a combination of direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, education, and technical assistance, MHAS advocates for the civil rights, full inclusion, and equality of adults and children with mental health disabilities. As Executive Director, Jenny is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs, and strategic plan of the organization. Jenny earned her B.A. degree in Government from Smith College and her J.D. degree from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in the State of California.
Marshall B. Kapp, J.D., M.P.H. (Colleges of Law & Medicine) was educated at Johns Hopkins University (B.A.), George Washington University Law School (J.D. with Honors), and Harvard University School of Public Health (M.P.H.). Now a Professor Emeritus, he was the Founding Director of the Florida State University Center for Innovative Collaboration in Medicine and Law from 2010 through 2017, with faculty appointments as Professor, Department of Geriatrics, FSU College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine and Law in the FSU College of Law. He also was a Faculty Affiliate of the FSU Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy and the FSU Institute for Successful Longevity. He currently is an Adjunct Professor, Stetson University College of Law (teaching in the Elder Law LLM program) and an Adjunct Professor at the FSU College of Law (teaching in the Juris Masters program). Earlier, Kapp served as the Garwin Distinguished Professor of Law & Medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Law and School of Medicine and as Co-Director of the School of Law’s Center for Health Law and Policy (2003-2009).
Camille Minogue is a lawyer in the State of Washington. After a 25-career year as an actuary, Camille undertook legal studies and became a lawyer in 2020. She has worked in the Law Offices of Dan R. Young since 2015 fighting for truth and justice alongside Dan. Camille also holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Washington State University and is a fourth-generation Washingtonian.
Evan Nelson is a civil litigator in Walnut Creek, California. He is of counsel to the Law Office of Jonathan McDougall. Evan represented family members as objectors in a conservatorship case the Alameda County Superior Court and as appellants in the California Court of Appeal. Evan recently filed a major civil lawsuit against the Alameda County Superior Court and 22 other defenants for violating the civil rights of an elderly woman during the course of a conservatorship proceeding. The lawsuit seeks damages for the woman and changes in policie and practices of the court so that such injustices do not happen to other seniors and people with disabilities in the future.
Dan Young has been practicing law since 1978. He is the owner of Law Offices of Dan R Young, a two-person general practice firm engaged primarily in civil litigation in Seattle, Washington. The firm is committed to helping people who are oppressed or exploited by those in positions of power. He graduated from Stanford University and received a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
Guardianship Advocacy Advisors
Jim Berchtold managed the Center’s Civil Law Self-Help Program from 2009 to 2017 when he took charge of the Guardianship Advocacy Program. He now heads up the Center’s Consumer Rights Project which, among other things, protects seniors and adults with disabilities from unnecessary guardianship and financial exploitation. Jim graduated magna cum laude from the University of Utah in 1992 and from the University of Utah College of Law in 1996, where he was a William H. Leary Scholarand served on the Board of Editors of the Utah Law Review.
Debra Bookout joined the staff of Legal Aid Center in the Consumer Rights Project in 2013. The following year, she began representing vulnerable adults in the Guardianship Advocacy Program. Debra served on the Commission to Study the Creation and Administration of Guardianships in Nevada’s Courts from July 2015 through September 2016. Debra was promoted to Lead Attorney of the Guardianship Advocacy Program in July 2019. Debra earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in 1986 and received her Juris Doctor from the University of Texas School of Law in 1992.
Funding & Fees Advisors
was only allowed to be the
conservator for her fiancé
David Rector after the court
depleted David’s assets with
payments of fees to the
conservator and attorneys.
Attorney Ben Bartlett is a
member of the Berkeley
City Council. He is working with constituents to reform conservatorship proceedings in the probate court in Alameda County.
Attorney Cheryl Mitchell
is an academic and legal
educator with a passion for
justice. She would like to
see systemic reforms in the
way that attorney fees are
calculated and awarded.
Supervisor Nate Miley is
an honorary member of the
team. He will participate
through his representative
to identify solutions to the
attorney fee problem.
Dr. Gloria Duffy, CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California, published “Courts should not be a vehicle for elder financial abuse” in the East Bay Times.
Sharon Holmes saw
Theresa Jankowski suffer
“legalized extortion” when
lawyers wanted hundreds of
thousands of dollars in fees
in exchange for a dismissal
of her conservatorship case.
Deputy Public Defender
Susan Sindelar has handled
scores of conservatorship
cases. She brings to the fee
study the perspective of a
legal advocate who is paid
from county funds.
Antony Chicotel is a staff
attorney with California
Advocates for Nursing
Home Reform. He is the
author of California
A Guide for Advocates.
Alameda County Public
Defender Brendon Woods
(photo) is represented on
the team by John Plaine, the
attorney assigned to the
office’s probate conservatorship desk.
Retired Superior Court Judge Stephen Lachs served as a superior court judge for 20 years. His first assignment was in the court’s mental health division.
Mental Health Advisors
Thomas Buckley, Ed.D. has an impressive curriculum vitae. For the past two years, he has been the Director of Population Health at YAI — a world class organization providing exceptional-quality, culturally competent, person-centered services and supports to over 20,000 persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Prior to that, Dr. Buckley was the CEO and founder of The Buckley Medical Home — operated by a collaborative transdisciplinary team offering a healthcare delivery approach focusing on the whole person with an Intellectual/Developmental Disability (I/DD) and/or mental health conditions including progressive dementia. He also serves on the board of directors of the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities. CARF International is an independent nonprofit organization that has accredited over 57,000 agencies, certifying that they meet specialized standards of care for mental health.
Simone Ebbers MSc. is a healthcare psychologist, child psychologist, psychotraumatherapist and EMDR-practitioner. Simone has been working in secondary and higher vocational education. She also worked as a behaviour specialist within a treatment centre for children and teenagers with a mild intellectual disability and psychiatric issues. Since 2013 she runs a private practice assessing and treating trauma and sexual abuse, and specializes in working with people with intellectual disabilities. Next to the clinical work, Simone also works as an educator, trainer, supervisor and adviser. In 2002, she wrote a study book on sexuality and sexual abuse for care providing professions. She is also co-author of: Psychological First Aid for people with intellectual disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse.
Ginny Focht-New, PhD, PMH-CNS, BC is a Clinical Associate Professor and the Clinical Director for the Clinical Services for Vulnerable Adults clinic at Widener University. She is a certified psychiatric clinical nurse specialist with an additional certification in biofeedback and with the NADD (an association for people with intellectual differences and mental health needs). Ginny has been teaching social work students since 2006. Her courses range from research, interpersonal processes, treating trauma, to assessment and diagnosis of mental health conditions, and working with people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. In addition, Ginny has supported people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (ID) in several capacities for 50 years. Most recently she has provided consultation in several states. Ginny has been a therapist for almost 30 years. She has also provided legal expertise, has numerous presentations, and also has publications in a variety of journals. Ginny’s research interests focus on the education of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her professional publications include: “Transformation through health teaching for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities: A qualitative study.” Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 50(2), 129–139 (2012).
Reverend William C. Gaventa is the chair of the National Collaborative on Faith and Disability and Director of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. As writer and author, Rev. Gaventa served as Editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health from 1996-2010. He edited the newsletter for the Religion and Spirituality Division of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, was an adviser for the Spiritual and Religious Supports Series for Exceptional Parent Magazine, and was a columnist for Insight, the national newsletter of the Arc USA. Rev. Gaventa is the author of Disability and Spirituality: Recovering Wholeness (Baylor University Press – 2018)
Dr. Matthew P. Janicki is co-chair of the National Task Grroup on Intellectual Disability and Dementia Practices. He is a member of the Federal Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services. Dr. Janicki is an associate professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Chicago. He is also a research professor with the University of Maine’s Center on Aging. Dr. Janicki is the author of many books and articles on aging, dementia, public policy, and rehabilitation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Dementia, Aging, and Intellectual Disabilities: A Handbook.
Biza Stenfert Kroese is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and a Senior Researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, UK, and Chair of CanDo, a support service for parents with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Stenfert Kroese is co-author of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for People with Intellectual Disabilities: Thinking Creatively (Palgrave Macmillan 2017). The book is based on the authors’ clinical experiences and introduces novel approaches on how to adapt CBT assessment and treatment methods for individual therapy and group interventions. It explains the challenges of adapting CBT to the needs of clients with intellectual disabilities and suggests innovative and practical solutions.
Gary LaVigna, Ph.D. is the Clinical Director of the Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis in Los Angeles. He spends much of his time consulting with organizations on establishing nonaversive behavior support plans for individuals exhibiting severe and challenging behaviors and presenting seminars on the topic throughout the world. Dr. LaVigna’s work is reported in numerous articles and his coauthored books, such as Alternatives to Punishment, Progress Without Punishment and The Periodic Service Review: A Total Quality Assurance System For Human Services and Education. He is also coauthor of New Directions in the Treatment of Aggressive Behavior for Persons with Mental and Developmental Disabilities. (Nova Science Publishers, Ltd. 2015)
Daniel B. LeGoff. Ph.D., LS. is a licensed and board-certified pediatric neuropsychologist and the pioneer of LEGO® Therapy. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral conditions in infants, children, and adolescents. He is the author of LEGO®-Based Therapy: How to build social competence through LEGO®-based Clubs for children with autism and related conditions (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2014). Action for Aspergers says this about the book: LEGO-Based Therapy defines a particular therapeutic approach. Its aim is to provide a social development intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs). LEGO-Based Therapy teaches turn taking, sharing, making eye contact when needed and social rules adherence (using greetings). Children are encouraged to swap roles and tasks and engage in intelligent conflict resolution and social problem solving with very little adult intervention.” More recently, Dr. LeGoff wrote How Lego-Based Therapy for Autism Works. Through a series of case studies, the book explains how and why Lego therapy helps to promote the development of social skills for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and related conditions.
James A. Mulick, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus in the departments of pediatrics and psychology at Ohio State University and at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. His research has focused on developmental and behavioral pediatrics, emphasizing the application of behavior analysis in the treatment of autism and other developmental disabilities. As a member of the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Mulick advocates for the right of individuals with developmental disabilities to effective treatment. He is a fellow of four Divisions of the APA: Div. 1 (Society for General Psychology); Div. 25 (Behavior Analysis); Div. 33 (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities/Autism Spectrum Disorders); and Div. 37 (Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice). Dr. Mulick is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Psychological Association, the John W. Jacobson Award for Critical Thinking from Div. 33, and the Karl F. Heiser APA Presidential Award for Advocacy. He is a published author in the scientific literature in his specialties and an editor or co-editor of 16 books, to most of which he was also a chapter contributor. Dr. Muick studied psychology at Rutgers College in New Brunswick, NJ, and earned his doctorate at The University of Vermont.
José R. Rosario is a speaker, author, and above all, an advocate. As a member of many diverse identity groups, José recognizes that common experiences bring people together and that taking stock of who we are gives us power. José wants to inspire others to acknowledge their identities, share their stories and empower those who are underrepresented to rise. As a mental health professional, José understands that this empowerment, and the creation of a space to be vulnerable, can lead to individual and group growth, awakening agents for change. José is a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at Clark University studying the factors associated with collective trauma and healing within silenced communities. From this passion, José launched The Phoenix Empowered, an organization focused on mental health disparities in minoritized groups. In addition, he is an Expressive Arts Facilitator through the PeaceLove Studios.
Nirbhay N. Singh, Ph.D., FAPA, FAPS, BCBA-D, is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. He is also the CEO of MacTavish Behavioral Health LLC, an agency devoted to training, research and consultation focused on people who are disabled or disenfranchised. Formerly, Dr. Singh was a Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Clinical Psychology at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. He is the author of 750 publications, including 26 books. His research interests include mindfulness, mental health, assistive technology, intellectual and developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, post-coma patients, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. Among his recent books, Dr. Singh has edited Early Intervention for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (with Lang and Hancock), Handbook of Evidence-Based Practices in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Handbook of Positive Psychology in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (with Shogren and Wehmeyer). For about 30 years, Dr. Singh was an expert consultant in psychology, psychopharmacology, protection from harm, special education and mental health with regard to the care of people with disabilities for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington, DC. The DOJ investigates violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
Outside Strategic Advisor
Gurdeep Singh Raina (GS) is a doctoral student at Washington State University’s Carson College of Business. As a researcher in Corporate Governance and Strategy, he explores the impact of diversity in organizational upper echelons on the performance outcomes. He is also a passionate educator and has been involved in teaching business courses to WSU seniors and juniors. GS received his Bachelor of Engineering (Production) and MBA (International Business) in India and has over 14 years of work experience in India, China, Hong Kong, and the USA. His work mostly involved the transformation and reinvention of business models to enhance organizational efficiencies that result in improved top and bottom lines. He is also trained in Six Sigma and Lean methodology. Gurdeep will be providing the board of trustees with strategic advice on five pillars of organizational development: funding, campaigns, communication, influencers, and partner networks.