Crist, Mace Introduce FREE Act to Protect Americans in Conservatorships From Abuse and Exploitation

Washington, DC – U.S. Representatives Charlie Crist (D- St. Petersburg) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) announced introduction of the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation (FREE) Act, legislation which would establish federal safeguards through a four-pronged approach to protect Americans under guardianship and conservatorship from abuse and exploitation.

Specifically, the FREE Act would:

  • First, give all Americans the right to petition the court to have their private guardian or conservator replaced with a public guardian or conservator without needing to prove misconduct or abuse.
  • Second, guarantee that anyone under guardianship or conservatorship be assigned an independent caseworker to monitor for signs of abuse or neglect and inform the individual under guardianship or conservatorship of their rights. 
  • Thirdrequire all caseworkers and public guardians and conservators to disclose their finances to ensure that there are no financial conflicts of interest. The bill also includes grants to states to hire caseworkers and additional public guardians or conservators to meet the demands under the bill.
  • Fourth, provide much needed transparency by requiring states to submit annual reports on the state of guardianship and conservatorship in their states.

“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. We do know, however, that we need federal safeguards to protect persons under guardianship from abuse and exploitation,” said Rep. Crist. “That’s why I was proud to join Rep. Mace in introducing legislation that would give persons under guardianship an escape hatch out of abusive guardianships, a caseworker to monitor for signs of abuse and advise them of their rights, and increased transparency because sunshine is the best disinfectant. Under the FREE Act, we would Free Britney along with the countless number of seniors and persons with disabilities being abused and exploited by the broken system.”

“Britney Spears conservatorship is a nightmare. If it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone. Conservatorships undoubtedly protect countless vulnerable Americans from abuse, but the case of Britney Spears reveals a darker side to a system meant to protect people,” said Rep. Mace. “In some cases, conservatorships can rob capable and innocent Americans of their money, careers, and even basic human rights, like the right to reproduce in Spears case. To see a woman like Britney Spears have her most basic human rights permanently stripped away from her under the guise of ‘protection’ should be illegal. Our bipartisan bill will do more than #FreeBritney, it will give anyone in a conservatorship the right to petition the court for a public guardian with absolutely no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise. This is a solid first step toward conservatorship reform. I want to thank Ms. Spears for her courage in coming forward.”

“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.”

“Britney Spears’s constitutional rights were violated when a dysfunctional court system placed her under conservatorship, one that has endured for 13 years due to conflicts of interest afflicting those tasked with acting in her best interests,” said Lisa MacCarley, California Probate Attorney and #FreeBritney supporter. “Ms. Spears is not alone. Her case exemplifies rampant abuses affecting thousands of elderly and disabled Americans. The #FreeBritney movement is hopeful that federal legislation proposed by Congressman Crist will serve as an important first step toward addressing this injustice.”

“This bill goes a long way at protecting the rights and civil liberties of every American citizen who might be the subject of a Guardianship proceeding,” said Hillary Hogue with Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship. “Justice requires transparency. This bill will provide the data that is so needed but has always been non-existent.”

Text of the bill can be found HERE

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