ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Representatives Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, and Nancy Mace, R-South Caroline, introduced a new bill to help combat conservatorship abuse inspired by the Britney Spears controversy.
“Britney Spear’s conservatorship is a nightmare that shines a light on our state’s broken system.,” Crist wrote on Twitter. “Proud to lead the fight in Congress to bring an end to these abuses with the #FreeAct!”
The bill would provide four measures to lessen the potential for misconduct in both guardianships and conservatorships.
First, all Americans would have the right to petition the court to have their private guardians or conservators replaced with a public one without having to prove any abuse.
Second, anyone under a guardianship and conservatorship would be assigned a caseworker to monitor potentially abusive situations and inform them of their rights.
Third, all caseworkers and public guardians and conservators would need to disclose their financial records to make sure there are no conflicts of interests. It also allows states to hire caseworkers, guardians, and conservators to meet the bills demands.
Fourth, states would need to submit reports on the status of guardianship and conservatorship in their jurisdiction as part of increasing transparency.
“Abusive conservatorships can be an unending nightmare, and tragically we don’t know how many people are being held captive against their will under the broken guardianship system,” Crist said. “We do know, however, that we need federal safeguards to protect persons under guardianship from abuse and exploitation.”
Advocacy groups have praised the bill, saying it will bring much needed reform to prevent the abuse of someone’s civil liberties.
“CEAR is very encouraged by the changes Congressman Crist’s FREE Act will bring about if made federal law,” said Rick Black, Director of the Center for Estate Administration Reform. “If a young vibrant wealthy celebrity like Britney Spears can be exploited for 13 years by a court system anyone can. Most victims lack her voice and too many vulnerable adults, seniors and the developmentally disabled, are being abused by the predatory legal community who routinely leverage the dysfunction of our nation’s equity court to exploit the vulnerable. These county courts must have oversight, and we are encouraged with what the future may hold if the FREE act becomes law.”