Saturday, July 24, 2021

Editorials Editorial: Judge sends 47-year message on abuse, duty of guardianships

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board

U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez sent a powerful, 47-year message to the guardianship/conservatorship industry in New Mexico last week. That’s the length of the prison term she imposed on Susan Harris, founder and former president of Ayudando Guardians Inc. of Albuquerque, during a sentencing hearing in Santa Fe.

For Harris, 74, it is in effect a life sentence – one that is more than justified.

It’s also one that others who are given court authority to oversee the lives and finances of vulnerable people incapable of making their own decisions would do well to heed when it comes to exploiting those they are entrusted to safeguard.

The criminal enterprise that operated out of the firm pilfered more than $11 million from client accounts over a decade. Yes, hard as it is to believe, the courts, a state guardianship agency, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs never figured out Ayudando’s principals – Susan Harris and chief financial officer Sharon Moore – were systematically stealing government benefits and other money from their clients to finance a lavish lifestyle for themselves and their families. Illegal perks included Hawaii vacations, Caribbean cruises, cars, RVs and a private box at University of New Mexico basketball games with nightly catering tabs in excess of $3,000.

The criminal case is over, with Moore, William Harris (Susan’s husband and Ayudando guardian representative) and his stepson, Craig Young (Ayudando caseworker) also sentenced to prison.

How could this have happened in an industry overseen in many cases by the courts and, depending on the client, by other state and federal agencies?

In part it’s because we have had a history of ignoring those who need this kind of help and their families when they have complained. In the case of Ayudando, clients who said they weren’t receiving the appropriate money from their accounts simply were disregarded. It took the courage of company employees to come forward as whistleblowers in 2016 and spur a federal investigation that finally brought down this horrific scheme, fueled by what Vázquez characterized as “unbelievable greed.”

There has been plenty of this kind of abuse in the industry, and on occasion it has been prosecuted in New Mexico.

In February of 2019 Paul Donisthorpe was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison after his decade-long scheme to steal roughly $6.8 million from 70 clients of his nonprofit trust company. Desert State Life Management, a state-regulated guardianship and financial firm, was brought down by state regulators who conducted an overdue audit and noticed irregularities. Desert State acted as conservator and fiduciary for developmentally or physically disabled and elderly individuals.

“The victims,” U.S. District Judge James Browning said in passing sentence, “will have to suffer for the rest of their lives so he (Donisthorpe) could live a high-end lifestyle.”

Sound familiar?

Vázquez correctly noted the Ayudando case inflicted damage beyond that suffered by vulnerable clients, including military veterans who relied on Ayudando to manage their government benefits.

“The scope of the defendants’ fraud and their success fooling state and federal agencies for years,” Vázquez said at sentencing, “has done significant damage to the public’s confidence in New Mexico system of guardianship as well as confidence more generally in the government’s ability to protect its most vulnerable citizens and veterans to whom it owes its highest duty of care.”

Following publication of a series of Albuquerque Journal stories beginning in November 2016, the New Mexico Supreme Court and Legislature have taken important steps to improve accountability in the system of guardianships and conservatorships. There is now more transparency. Families have more recourse to intervene on behalf of loved ones, and the state auditor and the Administrative Office of the Courts will provide additional oversight thanks to legislative reforms enacted just this year.

The system is better. But to make a real difference it will require meaningful oversight, actually listening to vulnerable clients and their families and zero tolerance for exploitation – a message delivered loud and clear by Judge Vázquez.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

Full Article & Source:

Investigative Reporter Michael Volpe on Britney Spears

Investigative Reporter Michael Volpe discusses Britney Spears and conservatorship abuse in general in a guest appearance on the GREG PENGLIS internet show.

Michael's interview begins at the 1.03 mark. (The entire show is two hours long, and Michael joins the show after the first hour.)
Click this link to hear Michael Volpe's interview on Action Radio with Greg Penglis

Police arrest Danville woman on elder abuse, neglect charges

By Staff Reports

July 9 deputies with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office responded to a domestic violence call in the 100 block of Laney Road in Danville – and what they found led to the arrest of a Danville woman.

Upon arrival, deputies reported finding an elderly victim who had been beaten. The victim indicated she had been struck on the head multiple times. She was transported to the hospital for her injuries and is expected to recover, according to the MCSO.

Prior to the deputies’ arrival, the alleged attacker had left the scene but was located a short time later in Hartselle.

Investigators arrived on scene and arrested Jessica Nicole Laney, 44, of Danville and charged her with elder abuse and neglect in the second degree. Her bond was set at $50,000.

Additional charges are possible, according to the MCSO.

Full Article & Source:

Friday, July 23, 2021

#FreeBritney movement inspires bill to end exploitation & abuse in guardianship and conservatorship

Bill proposes $260-million for oversight of conservators and guardians
Federal lawmakers are introducing a new bill called the FREE Act to protect Americans in guardianship and conservatorship from exploitation and abuse.
 By: Adam Walser

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — As rallying cries and social media posts calling for a judge to free Britney Spears from conservatorship grow louder, two members of Congress announced Tuesday they’re taking action against guardianship and conservatorship abuse.

Federal lawmakers are introducing a new bill called the FREE Act to protect Americans whose rights have been stripped away under guardianship. The court-appointed guardian (called a conservator in some states) can control every aspect of a person's life including their finances, where they live, and who they associate with or even communicate with. They also lose the right to vote.

The ABC Action News I-Team has been exposing issues with guardianship abuse in Florida for the past eight years.

The proposed law would, for the first time, provide federal protection for people under guardianship.

cover page of free bill.png

“It’s a right versus wrong issue”

In a virtual press conference, Democratic representative Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg and Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina introduced the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation (FREE) Act.

“This is not a right versus left issue. It’s a right versus wrong issue,” said Crist.

The proposed law would allow people in guardianships and conservatorships to petition a court to replace private or professional guardians with public guardians.

Public guardians are paid by taxpayers and would have no financial incentive to exploit people under their care.

“If it can happen to Britney, it can happen to anyone”

Crist introduced another guardianship reform bill in late 2019, after seeing ABC Action News reports on guardians accused of isolating, abusing and financially exploiting seniors here in Florida.

“After your great reporting, and thank you for that, the incidents of how often this is happening in Florida is very troubling,” Crist said at the time.

But that legislation was stuck in committee, as Congress turned its attention to COVID and the economic downturn.

New attention on the Britney Spears case is now opening the nation’s eyes.

“Her situation is a nightmare. If it can happen to Britney Spears, it can happen to anyone in this country,” Rep. Mace said.

“I think the timing is a big factor,” Crist said. “It has brought so much more light to what millions of people experience across the United States every day with a conservatorship or guardianship.”

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Court monitors and more transparency

The new law would also appoint independent monitors in guardianship and conservatorship cases and would require states to file annual reports with the courts.

Crist is asking for $260 million to fund the reforms.

Congressman Crist believes the bill has strong bipartisan support and could be voted into law within the coming months.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at 
Full Article & Source:

Harris County civil court judge resigns after several allegations of misconduct, officials say

Harris County civil court judge resigns
Harris County civil court judge resigns (Harris County Democrats)

HARRIS COUNTY – A Harris County civil court judge has resigned from his position following several allegations of misconduct, the office of court management said Wednesday.

According to the resignation agreement, George Barnstone was named in six complaints with at least seven allegations of misconduct, including showing bias or prejudice toward litigants and attorneys on the basis of race, sex or socioeconomic status.

The agreement also stated that Barnstone failed to treat attorneys appearing in his court with patience, dignity and courtesy, as well as, failing to require and maintain order and decorum during his proceedings.

Barnstone signed the resignation agreement on July 12, and his decision was approved on Monday.

Barnstone, according to the agreement, will forever be disqualified from judicial service in Texas, including sitting or serving as a judge, standing for election or appointment to a judicial office, performing or exercising any judicial duties or functions of a judicial officer or former judicial officer, including the performance of wedding ceremonies, expect permitted by law.

Full Article & Source: 

Suspect Arrested on Charges Related to His Mother’s Death


Boulder County, Colo. -

On July 13, 2021, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested 55-year old Jeffrey Apprill on charges related to the death of his mother, Karen Apprill. Jeffrey Apprill was lodged at the Boulder County Jail for the charges of Tampering with a Deceased Human Body, a class three felony, Criminal Exploitation of an At Risk Person (more than $500), a class three felony, At Risk Negligence Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, a class five felony, Caretaker Neglect Against an At-Risk Person, a class one misdemeanor, and Concealing a Death, a class one misdemeanor.

Case Summary

On August 28, 2020, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to check the welfare of 78-year-old Karen Apprill who had reportedly not been heard from for more than a week and her son and caregiver, Jeffrey Apprill, had been admitted to a local hospital. Deputies determined Karen lived in a home in the 3900 block of Bosque Court in unincorporated Boulder County.

Deputies responded to the home and after knocking on the door, calling phone numbers associated with the home, and speaking with friends and neighbors entered the home to check on Karen. Deputies discovered a decomposing body inside of the home. Detectives obtained a search warrant for the home and based upon initial observations it was believed the individual, later identified as Karen Apprill, had died seven to ten months prior to the discovery.

During the autopsy, Karen’s body was described as being in the advanced stages of decomposition and both antemortem and postmortem trauma was discovered. Karen’s cause of death was listed as undetermined and the mechanism of death could not be determined.

In the following months detectives worked with Boulder County Adult Protective Services and served multiple search warrants. Based on statements and physical evidence investigators are not able to determine the cause and manner of Karen’s death however they were able to establish probable cause to arrest Jeffrey Apprill for the above listed charges.

BCSO case number 20-3843

/s/ Commander Jason Oehlkers


Thursday, July 22, 2021

“In 1934, My Life Snapped”

Hollywood has long abused conservatorships. I spent the past decade studying one of the darkest cases.

By Liz Brown
Harrison Post circa 1920. Liz Brown

I’m still thinking about the nail polish. Of all the details from Britney Spears’ explosive statement last month protesting the conservatorship that has controlled her life for the past 13 years, that’s the one I keep coming back to.

“I saw the maids in my home each week with their nails done different each time,” she told the judge. The 39-year-old singer had been told she couldn’t get acupuncture, massages, or hairstyling because of COVID-19 restrictions, and yet she could see that the people who came to clean her home were getting their nails done.

This level of vigilance—clocking the smallest changes in the behavior and appearance of those around you, scouring for clues to the world outside—shows how profound Spears’ isolation has been. As the public learned last month, a declaration of incompetence is a chillingly effective form of confinement.

Some in Hollywood have long weaponized these systems to seize control of the wealthy and vulnerable. I know, because I’ve spent the past decade retracing the dark saga of Harrison Post, a vulnerable, wealthy gay man who was taken captive and defrauded by his own family under the guise of “protection.” This was in the 1930s, and back then it was called a “guardianship,” but Spears’ testimony—an anguished plea delivered so fast that the judge kept asking her to slow down—was eerily familiar.

Harrison Post was a Hollywood socialite and the secret lover of my wealthy great-granduncle, William Andrews Clark Jr., or Will Clark. To say that Will was “wealthy” is a bit of an understatement: He was the son of Sen. W.A. Clark, who was one of the “Copper Kings” of Montana and who, at the dawn of the electrical age, owned nearly half the red ductile metal in the country. He’s the Clark in Clark County, Nevada, and the Clark who helped give us the 17th Amendment, because the mining tycoon so flagrantly bribed state legislators to appoint him to the Senate that the electoral system was changed to give the vote to the people instead of politicians.

Will, his son, founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He helped establish the Hollywood Bowl. He is buried in the largest mausoleum in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the one that’s surrounded by a small lake. (His second wife, Alice McManus Clark, is also buried there—she was my grandmother’s aunt and namesake, and that is my connection to the Clark empire.)

Despite his great wealth and his part in creating two of L.A.’s most enduring cultural institutions, Clark isn’t widely known today, unlike peers such as J. Paul Getty. And that’s partly because in his own time, Clark was extremely guarded. Unlike his father, who liked to give speeches, Will did not hunger for public acclaim. An amateur violinist and an ardent bibliophile, he was a reticent sort. He had secrets, and one of the biggest was his romance with Harrison Post. Their relationship and the way it transformed Harrison’s life—from shop clerk to socialite millionaire to exile—is the subject of my book, Twilight Man.

In 1919, the shy widower walked into a boutique in San Francisco that catered to wealthy customers, and there he met the dashing, dark-eyed clerk, Albert Weis Harrison. Within months, the young man left his position, joined Will in Los Angeles just in time for the debut of the L.A. Phil, and changed his name to Harrison Post. Next came servants; glamorous friends like Alla Nazimova, Carole Lombard, and Greta Garbo; a villa in West Adams; a beachfront mansion on the swanky Gold Coast, and a 13-acre estate in the Pacific Palisades.

When Harrison’s sister Gladys fatefully arrived from Chicago, there was room for her, too.

In newspapers, Harrison was identified as “clubman,” “art collector,” or “Hollywood millionaire.” There were other words that people used for Harrison, like degenerate, but those were whispered or written in anonymous letters. At that time, violating Section 286 of the California Penal Code, or engaging in sodomy, carried a penalty of five years in prison. Even a misdemeanor charge of “conspiracy to commit acts tending to lower the morals of the community” could result in a prison sentence, not to mention public ruin. Every so often Harrison was romantically linked in the press with a starlet, a tactic likely intended to counter the rumors that trailed him. When the neighbors complained about the risqué parties he held in his near-windowless villa, and the district attorney ordered that he vacate the property in West Adams, he and Clark decamped to Europe for several months. Their money gave them options that were unavailable to poorer men, but it also made them bigger targets.

In the world of wealth management, Harrison was an interloper. He didn’t ascend into that rarified sphere as a man did, through the accumulation and control of capital, but as a woman was expected to—through a relationship to such a man. His position in that inner sanctum was considered suspect by many. Harrison was also Jewish. He never acknowledged his heritage, but others did. “Small, dark, and with Semitic cast” was how Clark’s accountant and biographer, William D. Mangam, described the former clerk who infiltrated the Los Angeles Athletic Club and other bastions of elite whiteness. In an era of restrictive housing covenants prohibiting nonwhite people from owning property in Los Angeles, Harrison was awash with real estate holdings. That would change.

In March 1934, Harrison experienced some kind of collapse. The medical records are scant. In later years, Harrison mentioned having had a “nervous breakdown,” though he also told people he’d had a stroke. In one document, a doctor described him having “a lesion on his brain.” Whatever led to his illness, he was convalescing in a luxury sanitarium that June when Clark died suddenly of a heart attack. Within days, Harrison’s sister Gladys petitioned the court to have him declared incompetent, and she was subsequently appointed the guardian of his estate, which totaled well more than $200,000, or nearly $4.5 million today. By then, Gladys was married to a car salesman named Charles Crooks, a name I almost didn’t believe the first time I saw it.

Clark, mindful of his lover’s fragile health, had established a $100,000 trust for Harrison, and yet the Crookses claimed this was insufficient. Gladys wasted no time “economizing.” She moved her brother to a cheaper sanitarium where a patient had hanged herself with a stocking, then deemed that institution too expensive and brought him back to his estate in the Palisades. She replaced his longtime staff and installed a rotating squad of male nurses. Harrison would later claim he’d been medicated against his will, “held in complete physical restraint,” and recorded with Dictaphones to be sure he wasn’t conspiring to escape. The court required Gladys to submit expense reports, and the itemized details are often unsettling. One of her first purchases was barbed wire. The Crookses also installed a burglar alarm. More than once they repaired the front gate. Were they trying to keep people out—or keep someone in?

Gladys told the court she needed to raise funds to maintain Harrison’s care. She sold his Rolls-Royce, Plymouth Coupe, horses, antiques, silver, and art. She auctioned off his books to his friends and peers. At the public dismembering of Harrison’s beloved library, George Cukor bought nine volumes of William Pater, and J. Paul Getty, the most aggressive bidder, scooped up editions of Charles Dickens, D.H. Lawrence, Arnold Zweig, and Goethe’s Faust. Later, Gladys would tell Harrison the books had been “misplaced.”

It wasn’t all deprivation and theft. She took Harrison to the circus and the movies. She bought a croquet set. She spent 51 cents on candy for “Mr. Post” and, with breathtaking pettiness, reimbursed herself for the expense.

Forced medication, surveillance, self-dealing—in Spears’ dramatic statement last month, I heard echoes of Harrison’s gothic ordeal. In both cases, the so-called incompetent was deemed vulnerable to influence and deception and therefore had to be protected against “designing or artful persons,” to quote Gladys’ petition. And in both cases, the court delivered the vulnerable person to that very fate. When Spears told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny that “my dad made me feel like I was dead,” I thought of Harrison’s case file, where the word deceased has been scratched out and replaced with incompetent. And then I discovered yet another echo when I read the name of the pop singer’s court-appointed attorney: Samuel D. Ingham III.

I know this name well, because the doctor who testified to the Superior Court of Los Angeles in 1934 that Harrison Post should be declared incompetent, because of the “lesion on his brain,” was a neurologist named Samuel D. Ingham. Ingham III, who resigned as Spears’ attorney after her statement to the court, confirmed to me in an email that Samuel D. Ingham was his grandfather. “I was aware that he did competency assessments for juvenile offenders, but was not familiar with the Post case,” he wrote.

Much of the information about Spears’ conservatorship is sealed from public view. Meanwhile, in the wake of the singer’s anguished statement, the case continues to unfold. Spears has now been approved to hire her own attorney and has pressed further to have her father removed from the conservatorship. She has not yet formally moved to end the arrangement, but she has said she does not want to submit to further evaluation to have her rights restored.

Few people in these arrangements are ever restored to competence. Harrison Post was. On March 9, 1936, the court declared, “Harrison Post is now sane and competent and capable of taking care of himself and his property.” By then, there was little of his property left. Gladys had dissolved and cashed out the trust Will Clark had established for her brother. With those funds in her possession, she didn’t need to bother with expense reports and attorneys.

At least Harrison was free. But this is where the plot swerves yet again. In the past, Harrison had found sanctuary with Clark in Europe, and that was where he turned in 1938. With a masseur named Oscar Tryggestad, one of the male nurses from his care, Harrison traveled to a small town on the Geiranger Fjord in Norway, an idyllic setting to recuperate from the horrific captivity he’d endured—and just in time for the Nazis to invade. “In 1934,” Harrison once wrote, “my life snapped,” and now it was going to snap again. But he had survived Gladys. And he—a gay Jewish man—would survive the Nazis.

Full Article & Source:

Ohio man establishes $1 million caregiver relief program for Alzheimer and dementia caregivers

by: WKBN Staff

HUDSON, Ohio (WKBN) – A man from Strongsville is turning his love for his wife and his dedication to her care into a gift that will help others.

Jan Castora has donated $1 million to the Greater East Ohio Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to establish a caregiver fund that will be used to provide care for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When Castora’s wife Josephine was battling a form of dementia, all he could think about was keeping her in their home “for her comfort, for her safety and for her dignity.”
He would get her up in the morning, help her get dressed, cook breakfast and help her with her hygiene. But he soon realized that he needed help. Over time, Mrs. Castora lost her ability to speak. She also lost control of her hands, arms and legs. At first, she could balance on her legs with help. Then because she couldn’t walk, someone would have to pick her up from her wheelchair to where she needed to go.

Castora ended up hiring a couple of ladies who would help him with his wife. He said it was a lifesaver.

“There is nothing more challenging than the sacrifices you have to make to provide care for a loved one,” Castora said. “You have to give up your life and it is a tremendous sacrifice…The stress, the helplessness, the care does not change tomorrow. It doesn’t get better. You have nothing encouraging to look forward to. It’s very depressing,” he said.

Josephine Castora died on Oct. 7, 2019.

Castora’s $1 million donation in Josephine’s name was used to create The Jan & Josephine Castora Family Caregiver Relief Program.

The following counties are eligible for the program:

  • Ashtabula
  • Belmont
  • Carroll
  • Columbiana
  • Coshocton
  • Cuyahoga
  • Geauga
  • Guernsey
  • Harrison
  • Holmes
  • Jefferson
  • Lake
  • Lorain
  • Mahoning
  • Medina
  • Muskingum
  • Portage
  • Stark
  • Summit
  • Trumbull
  • Tuscarawas
  • Wayne

The caregiver relief program is for caregivers who currently do not have paid help. To find out about eligibility requirements, go to or call 216-206-8389.

Full Article & Source:

Britney Spears Is One of a Million Adults in Conservatorships. Here's What Advisors Should Know.

Michael Hackard
by Jane Wollman Rusoff
Increasingly, many older people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are living under conservatorships, which allow others to manage their affairs. From a legal standpoint, a financial advisor can become a conservator.

But Michael Hackard, a veteran estate and trust attorney specializing in elder law, doesn’t recommend it. His clear advice to advisors: “Don’t become a conservator,” as he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.

Pop star Britney Spears’ legal fight to end her 13-year-long conservatorship is hot news, but many non-celebrities try, with frustration, to break free of theirs too when the need for total control may be unwarranted.

More than 1 million U.S. adults are in a conservatorship, also called a guardianship, according to the Justice Department’s Elder Justice Initiative.

Spears, 39, has been in a conservatorship, petitioned by her father, James Spears, since 2008, when the singer was deemed dangerous to herself because of mental health and substance abuse issues. Her estate is reportedly worth more than $60 million.

At a June 23 hearing, she asked to be free of what she called an abusive conservatorship. And on July 14, the court granted her the right to appoint her own lawyer.

That day, she said she wanted to press charges against her father for conservatorship cruelty.

Bessemer Trust, the co-conservator of Spears’ estate (there is a separate one for her person), had earlier asked to resign the position, and the court granted the request.

In the interview, Hackard, founder of Hackard Law in Sacramento, California, and author of “Alzheimer’s, Widowed Stepmothers & Estate Crimes” (2019), discusses “restoration proceedings” — such as Spears’ action — to dissolve a conservatorship, also known as a guardianship.

All of this is against a background of what Hackard calls a poorly regulated “industry of for-profit conservators” — “runaway fiduciaries” — in California, where the Spears case is being litigated. 

An alternative to conservatorships and what has become “a trend,” Hackard points out, is “supported decision-making,” a less restrictive approach that has been adopted by 12 states. California isn’t among them.

ThinkAdvisor interviewed Hackard on July 14. He was on the phone from Sacramento. As for advisors becoming conservators, he argues: “It’s probably best left to family members or a professional conservator.”

Here are highlights of our interview:

THINKADVISOR: How often do financial advisors run into clients who need a conservator?

MICHAEL HACKARD: They’re running into it now with regularity because people are living longer; baby boomers have come into older age.

A FINRA rule says that advisors can put a hold on disbursements if there’s suspected financial exploitation. Under the federal Senior Safe Act, advisors have immunity from disclosing people they suspect [of having impaired decision-making ability].

But it doesn’t give them immunity with regard to communications with nongovernment agencies.

Suppose an FA has a client they suspect is in cognitive decline. Can they recommend to the client’s trusted contact, as defined by FINRA, that they should look into the matter?

Yes. They could say, “I suspect there are severe memory problems or judgment issues.” The trusted contact could talk to other family members to address it.

But if the financial advisor goes much beyond that, they could potentially be responsible for an invasion of privacy. It’s case by case.

Can a financial advisor be a conservator?

From a state law perspective, they could. But it might well conflict with their own professional [advisor] requirements or licensing. 

It’s probably best left to family members or a professional conservator.


My advice to any financial advisor: Don’t become a conservator. As a fiduciary, they’ll pick up all kinds of potential liability; and depending on the state, their fees will have to be approved by the court every year or two.

How is the relationship with an FA impacted if the client is under a conservatorship?

When someone becomes conserved, they no longer have contractual rights, so the conservator takes over the finances of the conservatee. Therefore, in a sense, the financial advisor has a new client.

But the conservator might have his or her own preferences for an advisor. In one case I’m dealing with, involving about $100 million, the conservator has her own preferred financial advisor.

I’m sure that the people who are conserved had an advisor; but in all likelihood, they were different from the one the conservator picked.

So, if a client is under a conservatorship, the conservator could very well make them leave their existing advisor?

They can leave them easily.

Is there an alternative to a conservatorship?

A couple of years ago, the American Bar Association came out with a resolution that the states ought to enact statutes for “supported decision-making.” 

That’s now a trend and gives conservatees much more autonomy. About a dozen states allow this approach [including Colorado, Delaware, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia].

What does it entail?

An individual with dementia, for example, is able to contract with, say, a financial advisor as to supported decision-making for their financial affairs and a health care professional for their health care affairs.

What would that mean for FAs?

They would need to look at the local law. There would probably be contractual provisions that could be put in to protect them because when things go wrong, they can go real wrong.

But the idea is for people to keep their liberty, self-determination and autonomy. With a conservatorship, all that’s generally lost because the conservatee loses the right to contract, marry, vote, be employed. 

It’s said that convicted murderers in the local prison have far more rights than a conservatee.

What are the challenges for someone who wants to end a conservatorship, like Britney Spears says she does?

Conservatorships are secret. A lot of people in a conservatorship can’t escape them.

[When they try] in a restoration proceeding, [attorneys] can’t look at the court records to see what the court has allowed and not allowed.

This is Britney Spears’ effort — to get her rights and freedom back as a citizen. You can see why in a case like hers, a supported decision-making arrangement [would be appropriate].

She could have her own financial advisor and her own health advisor. But California [where her case is being litigated] has no statute on supportive decision-making.

In the Spears case, Bessemer Trust, the financial co-conservator with her father, Jamie Spears, asked to resign. Please discuss.

I can see why they wanted to resign. They probably don’t like their name in the news for alleged abuse against a conservatee, particularly a really famous conservatee.

I would think that the court will let them resign, with some conditions.

Why are conservatorships so commonplace and hard to get out of?

In general, the courts should consider the least restrictive alternative because conservatorships take people’s freedom and autonomy away. But [less restrictive alternatives] are given short shrift in the annual review of conservatorships. 

The American Bar Association says that annually, there ought to be at least consideration of a less restrictive alternative so that the conservatorship can be dissolved or unwound. But that’s not being considered as part of the review.

Recently released was a TV documentary series, “The Price of Care,” about the California conservatorship system, and for which you were interviewed. Why is it controversial?

There’s an industry around conservatorships: for-profit conservators. And it’s a major problem. 

For example, California has about 1,200 for-profit fiduciaries who might be serving as conservators. They are lightly regulated; the oversight is very, very poor.

The Legislature is looking at changing the rules, but it hasn’t happened yet. You see runaway fiduciaries. This is part of the court system for conservators. It’s really incestuous.

And who’s paying the fiduciary, the fiduciary’s lawyer, their subcontractors [et al.]? The conservatee.

All’s well until the money runs out. At that point, the [paid] professional conservator isn’t going to stay. So the court will appoint a public guardian, who [likely] will get paid with taxpayer money.

How bad can the looting get?

I’ve seen some atrocious situations that start with a lot of money; but by the time the conservator, their lawyers, their advisors [et al.] are paid, homes get sold because whoever has been chosen to provide care for the conservatee may be really expensive.

I’m not saying that 100% of conservatorships go wrong, but I don’t think our laws have caught up with the reality.

What’s blocking the reform?

When legislative changes are proposed, the for-profit conservatorship organizations fight upgrading the laws to reflect the reality that our citizens should have better protections.

Do they do that because they’re getting paid high fees?

Yes. It’s that simple. I understand that people have to make a living, but we need to assess the policies.

Are conservatorships overused?

I’m in a field that deals with elders. I see the sad cases — the dementia, Alzheimer’s. About 6.5 million people have Alzheimer’s.

I deal with clients who I think may have it but maybe aren’t diagnosed with it. So they’re in need of help, and some are going to be in need of a conservatorship.

But probably a smaller percentage of these clients can be helped by a trusted contact or family member. 

(Pictured: Michael Hackard)

Full Article & Source:

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Grandson files appeal to return Disney ranch dispute in Wyoming

Bradford Lund, grandson of Walt Disney.

 by Ellen Gerst

The grandson of Walt Disney is continuing his legal battle with his own trustees for the ownership of a family ranch in Teton County.

Since September 2020, Bradford Lund has been attempting to keep Eagle South Fork, a 110-acre ranch in Wilson, in the family in keeping with his father’s wishes.

Lund’s trustees are reportedly in the process of selling the ranch for an estimated $35 million to an undisclosed buyer, after the first potential buyer backed out in the midst of the litigation.

Right now, the case has been dismissed to Los Angeles County Superior Court, after Lund’s trustees argued it would be more convenient for them to have it tried in California. A motion to keep the case in Wyoming was denied in April.

On July 7, Lund and his attorneys filed an appeal of that decision in Wyoming Supreme Court, in hopes of keeping the ongoing case nearer to the ranch itself.

“It’s a Wyoming ranch,” said Sandra Slaton, Lund’s attorney based in Arizona. “It should be tried before a Wyoming jury.”

Slaton said keeping the case in California serves the trustees interests, since Wyoming is one of only a handful of states that don’t recognize out-of-state lis pendens, or notices of pending litigation. In most states, a lis pendens clouds the title of land to be sold and often delays the sale. Moving the case to Wyoming would likely discourage a buyer from going through with the disputed deal.

Currently, the sale is slated to go through this fall.

According to Slaton, an attempt to file a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles to pause the sale was denied earlier this year.

“It has been very traumatic for me,” Lund said last week. “It’s got some great memories and a lot of good scenery that everybody loves up there. It’s prime property.”

Lund has been locked in a dispute with his trustees for years over the distribution of his inheritance. Every five years between Lund’s 35th and 45th birthdays — all of which have now passed — he was intended to receive around $20 million of that money.

But based on the trustees’ claims that he is mentally incompetent, the money has been withheld. While rejecting a settlement in 2019 which would have awarded Lund around $200 million, a judge in California ruled to appoint a guardian ad litem for Lund in the case — a move usually reserved for children or those who can’t understand the proceedings themselves.

“Do I want to give 200 million dollars, effectively, to someone who may suffer, on some level, from Down syndrome?” Judge David Cowan said in the hearing, according to court filings. “The answer is no.”

Lund does not have Down syndrome, according to a test of his genes often cited by his attorneys. Two other judges in California and Arizona, where Lund spends most of his time, also previously ruled he was competent enough to handle the matter.

A civil rights claim filed against Cowan was dismissed last week, since he is protected by judicial immunity and the case moved to another judge’s docket. The guardian ad litem was also removed from Lund’s case.

Lund and his twin sister, Michelle, each own 50% of the ranch through their respective trusts.

In January, Lund’s team of trustees gave him about a week’s notice to come up with $35 million of his own money — not drawn from his trust — to buy the ranch outright, or else it would be eligible for sale.

The trustees also said they would be taking a 2% “marketing fee” for facilitating the sale, which lawyers say is extremely unusual. Under trust law, trustees are obligated to make decisions with only the good of their beneficiary in mind — in this case, Lund.

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A bipartisan bill seeks to ‘Free Britney’ and others who ask a judge to replace their guardian or conservator.

Credit...Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

By Aishvarya Kavi

Prompted by growing public outrage over Britney Spears’s conservatorship, two members of the House of Representatives have proposed a bill that, if passed, would create a pathway for Ms. Spears and other individuals to ask a judge to replace their private guardian or conservator.

The legislation, known as the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, or the FREE Act, was introduced on Tuesday by co-sponsors Representative Charlie Crist, Democrat of Florida, and Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina.

Under the bill, individuals would have the right to ask that their private guardian or conservator, who is appointed by the judge, be replaced with a public guardian employed by the state, a family member or a private agent, which the bill argues would provide more accountability. Currently, individuals typically must prove in court that abuse or fraud has occurred in order for a guardian to be replaced. The legislation could also help remedy the dearth of data on guardianships and conservatorships in the United States.

“We want to make sure that we bring transparency and accountability to the conservatorship process,” Ms. Mace said in an interview with Mr. Crist ahead of the announcement. “The Britney Spears conservatorship, it’s a nightmare. If this can happen to her, it can happen to anybody.”

The legislation, which refers to Ms. Spears as a pop icon, was proposed as the “Free Britney” movement has gained impressive traction, including among lawmakers, after a New York Times documentary this year revealed Ms. Spears’s years long struggle under her conservatorship, which began in 2008 and gave her father broad control over her life and finances. In 2019, Ms. Spears told a Los Angeles judge that under the conservatorship, she felt forced to a stay at a mental health facility and to perform against her will.

The singer’s testimony last month, in which she told a judge that the conservatorship was “abusive” and that it had “traumatized” her, has increased scrutiny of such arrangements.

The bill argues that Ms. Spears’s unsuccessful petitions in court to remove her father, Jamie Spears, as conservator show that her right to due process has been violated. However, the legislation falls far short of systemic reforms many advocates have called for. It would not make it easier to end such a guardianship or conservatorship, nor would it encourage state courts, which largely oversee such arrangements, to use alternatives.

The National Center for State Courts estimated that, in 2011, there were 1.5 million active guardianships alone. (A conservator generally controls an adult’s financial affairs, while a guardian control all aspects of a person’s life. But in practice, there can be little difference between the two arrangements.) Most involve seniors or individuals with disabilities. Individual cases show how little agency an individual can have in a guardianship, but there is no data about how many have petitioned to be freed.

“Guardianship is extremely restrictive,” said Prianka Nair, co-director of the Disability and Civil Rights Clinic at Brooklyn Law School. “One thing that would be extraordinarily helpful is to have legislation that actually says guardianship should be the last measure and that courts should consider other less restrictive ways of providing decision-making support.”

Mr. Crist said that the bill was designed to be narrow in order to attract bipartisan support.

“We’ve tried to be very smart and focused,” he said. “That gives us a much greater opportunity to have success.”

The bill would also fund states to assign independent caseworkers to individuals under guardianship or conservatorship to monitor for signs of abuse. States who accept the grant must then require caseworkers and guardians to provide financial disclosures, an effort aimed at preventing fraud.

A previous measure aimed at reforming guardianships, introduced in 2019, failed to move beyond the House Judiciary Committee. But with lawmakers, advocates and Ms. Spears’s supporters teaming up to promote the current legislation and boost awareness, all parties are encouraged.

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A bipartisan bill seeks to ‘Free Britney’ and others who ask a judge to replace their guardian or conservator.

N4T Investigators: Tucson nursing home nurse fired after patient sexual abuse allegations

by Chorus Nylander

TUCSON (KVOA) - The Pima County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an alarming allegation made against a now-former Certified Nursing Assistant at the Life Care Center of Tucson. 

After repeated inquiries from the N4T Investigators, the Sheriff’s Department confirmed its investigating one allegation of sexual abuse against a patient at the facility but would provide no details on the patient or nurse and withheld the police reports on the case. 

When the N4T Investigators tried to get ahold of the management at the Life Care Center of Tucson, our calls were not returned from anyone at the local facility but instead its corporate office Life Care Centers of America, which sent us the following statement: 

“Residents are our highest priority at Life Care Center of Tucson. Our number one goal is to do everything within our power to ensure our residents’ safety and well-being. We continually strive to deliver quality service to our residents, and we respond immediately to concerns regarding their care. 

Recently, we received a report that alleged a certified nursing assistant (CNA) abused a resident. The CNA was immediately suspended while we conducted a thorough internal investigation. The allegations were unsubstantiated. In addition to our own internal investigation, we reported the allegations to the local police, appropriate state agencies and the resident’s family. 

While our internal investigation did not substantiate the alleged abuse, we terminated the CNA for other violations of our facility’s Code of Conduct, policies and procedures. Although our reporting procedures worked appropriately, we have taken the opportunity to re-educate our staff about Life Care’s Abuse Policy, requirements to report suspected abuse and the Elder Justice Act. 

Due to HIPAA regulations, and out of respect for the resident, we cannot provide any further details. However, we are fully cooperating with all authorities that are conducting their own investigations. 

We take great pride in the care and services our staff provide to our residents and their families. Our dedicated caregivers work very hard to make this facility one that is known for its professionalism and compassion in the delivery of service to our residents, and we will continue to take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents.”

Cody Bell, Executive Director 

The N4T Investigators spoke with Katlyn Monje with the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault. She said that in Arizona the sexual abuse of people in nursing homes is unfortunately not unheard of.  

“This population [in nursing homes] with sexual assault is significantly underreported,” Monje said. 

She said not only is it underreported but also hardly ever prosecuted. 

“There’s a lot of perpetrators out there not being held accountable,” Monje said. 

We also spoke to Lynne Cadigan, a local attorney who has defended the victims in several similar cases. She said that nursing homes are a prime target for sexual abusers. 

“Nursing homes are a breeding ground for perpetrators to roam around and perpetrate on these helpless victims,” Cadigan said. 

Cadigan believes part of the issue is due to how these types of centers are operated. 

“These institutions are run by profit and when you’re run for profit that’s when you run into issues with inadequate staffing, training, lack of supervision and background check,” Cadigan explained. 

The Life Care Center of Tucson has an A rating from the Arizona Department of Health but according to State records in 2018 received a complaint about allegedly abusing a patient. The State investigator found the facility did not report the allegation to the state within five days per state law and recommended more training. According to records, the facility is back in compliance. 

On Google, it has 3.5 stars and more than a dozen bad reviews, many detailing similar stories of abuse, none described are sexual, but some said their loved ones were left to sit in their own waste for hours before getting care from a nurse.

That’s exactly what Leanna Schooley said happened to her mother, who died in the facility last year. 

“Place needs to be shut down plain and simple. It’s hard to hear your mother cry over the phone about the treatment she’s getting,” Schooley said. 

Leanna says the staff did not try and save her life when she got sick, claiming her mother told them not to resuscitate her, but Leanna had a power of attorney for her care and says she was never consulted. 

“I have to live with the fact I don’t think I did enough for her and I truly think they killed her,” Leanna said. 

A major change is in the works for nursing home oversight. In May Governor Ducey announced he wants the current board that oversees nursing home licenses out of the picture and is transferring the responsibility to the State after several reports of issues, that change is expected in about a year. 

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Albuquerque couple sentenced to federal prison in Ayudando Guardians case

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Albuquerque couple sentenced to federal prison in Ayudando Guardians case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Susan K. Harris, 74, and William S. Harris, 60, both of Albuquerque, were sentenced today in federal court for conspiracy  to defraud the United States and other financial crimes committed in connection with the operation of Ayudando Guardians, Inc., a non-profit corporation that previously provided guardianship, conservatorship and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs.

Susan Harris was sentenced to 47 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. William Harris was sentenced to 15 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Both will be required to pay the entire amount of stolen funds as restitution to the victims. 

A superseding indictment filed on Dec. 5, 2017, charged Susan Harris, William Harris, Sharon A. Moore, 64, and Susan Harris’ son, Craig M. Young, 53, with various financial crimes, including conspiracy  to defraud the United States, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

Susan Harris pleaded guilty on July 11, 2019, to conspiracy, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. William Harris pleaded guilty on June 25, 2019, to conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit money laundering. Both Susan Harris and William Harris were originally scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2020, but failed to appear for their sentencing hearing. A bench warrant was issued for their arrest and the U.S. Marshals Service arrested them in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on April 15, 2020, after they fled New Mexico.

According to their plea agreements and other court records, Susan Harris acted as president and was the 95-percent owner of Ayudando, while Moore acted as chief financial officer and was a five-percent owner. They engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct from November 2006 to July 2017 that included unlawfully transferring money from client accounts to a comingled account without any client-based justification.  They wrote and endorsed numerous checks, often of more than $10,000, from these comingled accounts to themselves, family members, cash and other parties where payment would benefit their families.

Susan Harris took steps to maintain Ayudando’s appearance of legitimacy, including submitting a proposal to the New Mexico Office of Guardianship that contained numerous false representations, including a false claim that Young was a nationally certified guardian at the time of the submission.

William Harris, who worked as a guardian, admitted that he knew that Moore was siphoning payments to clients from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration and using the money to benefit herself, Harris, and their co-conspirators. Harris specifically admitted receiving, endorsing, and depositing dozens of checks drawn on Ayudando accounts for his own personal benefit. Harris admitted to his involvement in a money laundering scheme, using an Ayudando corporate credit card for personal expenses, knowing that it would be paid for with client money. He also admitted his role in a loan application for the stated purpose of expanding the Ayudando business with the actual intent of using the money to “pay back” clients whose money had been taken without authorization.

The stolen funds were used to fund an extravagant lifestyle, including the purchases of homes, vehicles, luxury RVs and cruises, as well as a private box at “the Pit” at the University of New Mexico. The stolen funds were also used to pay for more than $4.4 million in American Express charges incurred by the defendants and their families.

“The sentences that the defendants have received today are just, and the defendants are fully deserving of them,” said Fred J. Federici, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “The defendants’ conduct in preying upon individuals with special needs, who they were entrusted to protect, was both loathsome and contemptible. We hope that these sentences serve as a warning to others that we will seek to hold accountable anyone who chooses to violate federal law by abusing any similar position of trust for personal enrichment.”

“Taking advantage of disabled veterans and other vulnerable Americans deserves a harsh penalty, especially when those entrusted with their finances instead use the money for vacations and other expensive perks,” said Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office. “The FBI will never stop trying to hold such criminals accountable and making sure their victims get justice.”

“This final phase of the investigation will hopefully give some closure to the many victims who have suffered as a result of the selfish acts of the defendants,” said Sonya K. Chavez, United States Marshal for the District of New Mexico.  “We at the United States Marshals Service will continue to work diligently with our partners to protect the citizens of New Mexico, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

“The criminal actions by these defendants were truly brazen and egregious,” stated IRS - Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Albert Childress. “Instead of helping people who placed their trust in them, the defendants were greedy and helped themselves to their clients’ money. They must now pay the consequences for their bad deeds.”

“Today's sentencing reflects the egregious crimes committed by the defendants, who not only violated the public’s trust but also the trust of a vulnerable population who relied upon them to manage their benefits. We will continue to join our law enforcement partners in investigating organizations and individuals who misuse Social Security benefits that they agreed to manage on behalf of beneficiaries,” said Adam Schneider, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, Dallas Field Division. “I thank our law enforcement partners for their outstanding investigative work and the District of New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in bringing these individuals to justice.” 

“Criminal acts by would-be fiduciaries are most heinous because they violate veterans’ trust and put in jeopardy the benefits on which they are dependent,” said Special Agent in Charge Rebeccalynn Staples, Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General. “This sentence should send a clear message that the VA OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ferret out those who would defraud VA and steal the benefits of deserving veterans.”

Young pleaded guilty on Nov. 12, 2019, and was sentenced on June 11, 2020, to five years and 11 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Young was ordered to pay approximately $6.8 million in restitution to the victims of the fraud scheme.

Moore pleaded guilty on July 11, 2019, and was sentenced on March 2, 2020, to 20 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Moore was ordered to pay the entire amount of stolen funds as restitution to the victims. 

The Albuquerque Field Office of the FBI and the Phoenix Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Complex Assets Unit and the U.S. Marshals Service, the Criminal Investigations Division of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and the Dallas Field Division of the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy Peña and Brandon L. Fyffe prosecuted the case.

# # #


#FreeBritney - How the pop star’s conservatorship battle could change lives around the country

By Kayla Molander

SYLVANIA, Ohio (WTVG) - The hashtag #FreeBritney is about letting pop star Britney Spears make her own decisions, but disability activists say it can end up helping people across the country take control of their own lives.

Spears is being allowed her own lawyer and is asking to press charges against her father, Jamie Spears, for conservator abuse. The pop princess has been living under a conservatorship for the last 13 years. It limits her ability manage her finances and make decisions about her life. Now she’s fighting back.

“I feel like it’s brought light to something that we’ve been trying to bring light to for a very long time,” says Dawn Bentley, with the Ability Center of Greater Toledo.

Britney Spears is not the only adult in this country with a court-appointed conservator. Here in Ohio, an adult guardian is the equivalent of California’s conservator. It is a person who is court-appointed to make decisions on behalf of another adult who has been deemed mentally incompetent.

“The reason guardianships exist so that someone who is unable to care for themselves or their property can be properly cared for,” says Nicolas Linares, an attorney with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick.

Linares specializes in trust and estate law, including probate matters, such as guardianships. He says that the Spears case is so unusual that it likely won’t have much influence in case law that shapes future guardianships.

“I find that it’s most common that the types of people that have guardianships are elderly people, those with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” he says.

But guardianships are also commonly given to people with disabilities. That’s how disability advocates, like the Ability Center, often get involved in the process. She says parents or guardians of children with disabilities often start to think about guardianship when their child is in high school.

“High school is a scary time for parents of youth with disabilities... when you start to think about what does adulthood look like for my child?”

Bentley says that guardianships grow from good intentions, but she advocates for less extreme alternatives.

“You’re taking away their independence,” she says.

According to Linares, in Ohio judges must consider those alternatives before appointing a guardian. He also says that those being put under the care of a guardian (known as wards) have a right to their own legal representation. Wards can also contest the appointment of a guardian, and have the right to request the guardianship be reevaluated annually, which would allow a person who has gained their competency to regain their decision-making power.

As Britney Spears publicly fights for her own power in court, Bentley says that the case is changing the conversation about guardianship nationwide.

“For so long, guardianship was looked at as the rights of the guardian, and what they oversee, and now people are starting to see that it’s about the person and what their rights are, and what independence means to them,” she says.

Bentley says that watching the Spears’ case has been empowering for others with disabilities who want to gain more independence. She also says it is opening the door to conversations about alternatives to guardianship, something that disability advocates have been trying to educate the public about for years.

The Ability Center has a guide to guardianship alternatives which is attached below.

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Britney Spears gets own lawyer in bid for freedom

It was an emotional hearing in the legal battle over Britney Spears' conservatorship. A judge in Los Angeles ruled that the pop star may choose her own lawyer.
Rally on Wednesday in Washington in support of Britney Spears

Superstar singer Britney Spears will be represented in the future by Mathew Rosengart, who previously worked with renowned clients such as Sean Penn, Keanu Reeves and Steven Spielberg.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny on Wednesday, July 14 approved Spears' hiring of former federal prosecutor Rosengart, who called on Spears' father to immediately resign as her conservator.

"The question remains, why is he involved,'' Rosengart said outside the courthouse. He said he would work quickly and aggressively to end the conservatorship of Britney's father, James Spears.

The 39-year-old pop star took part in the hearing by phone. "My dad needs to be removed today,'' Spears said, adding that she would like to see him charged with abusing his position.

Britney Spears' new lawyer Mathew Rosengart wearing a suit and tie and glasses
Mathew Rosengart is Britney Spears' new lawyer

Denied 'normal' things

She rejected more "stupid'' psychological evaluations, however, saying she did not want to give people the opportunity "to question my intelligence for the millionth time.''

She described how her 68-year-old father has denied her everyday items such as cups of coffee, her driver's license and "hair vitamins." 

"If this is not abuse, I don't know what is,'' Spears said, at times breaking into sobs. The singer said she was fearful of her father, and recalled that "I thought they were trying to kill me'' in the early years of the conservatorship as she was being overworked and constantly examined.

"I'm not a perfect person ... but their goal is to make me feel like I'm crazy," Spears told the judge.

James Spears' attorney, Vivan Thoreen, said in court that her client would not be stepping down as Rosengart demanded, adding that he has always had his daughter's best interests at heart.

Thoreen claimed that Britney Spears had a host of inaccurate beliefs, among them that "her father is responsible for all the bad things that have happened to her.''

Fans and supporters of Britney Spears holding up signs
The #FreeBritney movement has gone viral in recent months

Britney feels exploited

Britney had already made accusations against her family, guardians and attorneys in an emotional speech three weeks ago during another court hearing.

In a June hearing, Spears — who catapulted to global stardom with hit albums  "...Baby One More Time"(1999) and "Oops!...I Did It Again" (2000) — had called for an end to guardianship over her person and finances. She said she felt exploited and controlled by her family and by managers, and that she was not permitted to make decisions about her own life.

Following a mental breakdown, Britney Spears has been under court supervision since February 2008, with her family having sought the conservatorship for her protection, they said.

Initially, James Spears managed both the financial assets and private concerns of his pop star daughter. Since 2019, he has been in charge solely of finances. Spears' fortune is estimated at $60 million.

#FreeBritney gets a win 

In court on Wednesday, attorney Rosengart called into question whether the conservatorship should ever have been put into place, adding that he and his legal team would be taking a close look at the details of the arrangement. "This is not working," he said outside the courthouse. "We know that.''

Many celebrities and fans have expressed their support for the singer on social media as part of the #FreeBritney movement. Meanwhile, hundreds of supporters have repeatedly taken to the streets in Los Angeles, Washington, London and other cities demanding freedom for Spears.

Supporters cheered the Wednesday decision to appoint Rosengart, with Spears thanking her "awesome" fans on Twitter and Instagram. With a new lawyer, things are now looking up, she said. 

"I feel gratitude and blessed," the star wrote, saying she had celebrated the victory by riding horseback and doing cartwheels.
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