‘Free Britney’: Lawmakers Unveil Bill Spurred by Movement
Driven by growing public outrage over Britney Spears’ trusteeship, two members of the House of Representatives have proposed a bill that, if passed, would create a path for Ms Spears and others people to ask a judge to replace their private guardian or curator.
The legislation, known as the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, or FREE Act, was introduced on Tuesday by the co-sponsors, Rep. Charlie Crist, Democrat of Florida, and Rep. Nancy Mace, Republican of Carolina. South.
Under the bill, individuals would have the right to request that their private guardian or curator, who is appointed by the judge, be replaced by a public guardian employed by the state, a family member or a private official, which, according to the bill, would provide more accountability. Today, people usually have to prove in court that there has been abuse or fraud in order for a guardian to be replaced. The legislation could also help address the lack of data on guardianship and guardianship in the United States.
“We want to make sure that we bring transparency and accountability to the trusteeship process,” Ms Mace said in an interview with Mr Crist ahead of the announcement. “Britney Spears’ guardianship is a nightmare. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.
The legislation, which refers to Ms Spears as a pop icon, was proposed as the “Free Britney” movement gained popularity, including among lawmakers, after a New York Times documentary revealed this. Ms. Spears’ years of struggle under her tutelage, which began in 2008 and gave her father extensive control over his life and finances. In 2019, Ms Spears told a judge in Los Angeles that under guardianship she felt forced to stay in a mental health facility and perform against her will.
The singer’s testimony last month, in which she told a judge the guardianship was “abusive” and that she “traumatized” her, intensified scrutiny of those arrangements.
The bill argues that Ms Spears’ unsuccessful court applications to remove her father, Jamie Spears, as a Tory show her due process rights have been violated. However, the legislation falls far short of the systemic reforms called for by many advocates. It would not facilitate the termination of such a guardianship or trusteeship, nor would it encourage state courts, which largely oversee these arrangements, to use alternatives.
The National Center for State Courts estimated that in 2011 alone there were 1.5 million active guardianship. (A curator usually controls an adult’s financial affairs, while a guardian controls all aspects of a person’s life. But in practice, there may be little difference between the two arrangements.) Most are about elderly or disabled people. Individual cases show how little power an individual may have in a guardianship, but there is no data on how many people have applied to be released.
“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 extremely helpful would be to have legislation that actually says guardianship should be the last measure and that courts should consider other, less restrictive means of providing decision support. “
Rick Black, executive director of the Center for Estate Administration Reform, a nonprofit advocacy group that helped shape the bill, said he was encouraged, though there is still a long road to reform. .
“The FREE Act is just the start,” said Mr. Black. “But that will lead to discussions to hopefully give us statistics to help quantify the problems to help introduce real reforms and prosecute those who carry out these crimes.”
Mr Crist said the bill was designed to be narrow in order to attract bipartisan support.
“We tried to be very smart and focused,” he said. “It gives us a much greater opportunity to be successful. “
The bill would also fund states to assign freelance social workers to those in guardianship or guardianship to watch for signs of abuse. States that accept the grant must then require social workers and guardians to provide financial information, an effort to prevent fraud.
A previous measure to reform guardianship, introduced in 2019, did not go beyond the House Judiciary Committee. But with lawmakers, advocates and supporters of Ms Spears teaming up to promote the current legislation and raise awareness, all parties are encouraged.
“We are all benefiting from the momentum given by the Free Britney movement,” said Mr. Black.
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