Publications and Activities
2021 (Below) / 2014 - 2020 (Click here)


In this section of the website we have information about the activities and publications of Spectrum Institute from 2014 through 2021.  Information and links to documents are listed in chronological order.

December 8, 2021

Commonwealth Club Hosts a "Fee for All" Forum

The panelists in this forum explained how they witnessed or experienced this “fee for all” depleting the assets of a conservatee. The moderator discussed how the Funding and Fees Project of Spectrum Institute plans to address this problem through a study of what has been happening in local courts throughout the state. The project will issue a report and recommendations on how to tame this asset-eating beast.  We are asking individuals, organizations and foundatons to make donations to fund this project.  Once we hve raised $30,000, the study will be initiated.  We anticipate that it will take 10 months to comlete the research, develop the reform proposals, and write the report.  To make a donation, click here.  Then send us an email to let us know that your donation is intended to support the Fee for All study.


November 12, 2021

Registration Still Open for Zealous Advocacy Webinar

Spectrum Institute is presenting a “Zealous Advocacy” webinar on the implications of newly-enacted AB 1194 on California public defenders and court-appointed private counsel in probate conservatorship proceedings. Information is also provided for the courts that appoint the attorneys and the counties that fund indigent legal defense services in these cases. Those who have registered so far include public defenders from several counties, judicial council staff, superior court staff, regional center staff, private practitioners, and conservatorship reform advocates. For information about the one-hour webinar which will occur on November 16 at noon, click here.


November 11, 2021

ABC TV 10 News Story Addresses Problems with Limited Conservatorships

ABC TV 10 in Sacramento aired a news story today introducing its viewers with a special type of conservatorship for adults with developmental disabilities.  Throughout the news segment Barbara Imle discusses problems with the limited conservatorship system and the need for regulation and coordination of the 21 regional centers in California which are supposed to assess proposed limited conservatees to ensure that they are not unnecessarily placed into a conservatorship and, if one is necessary, that it is not overly intrusive. Barbara is a member of the board of trustees of Spectrum Institute.  To watch the news story, click here.  To read the associated print story, click here.


November 10, 2021

ABC TV 10 News Story on New Legal Advocacy Rights Under AB 1194

ABC TV 10 in Sacramento aired a news story today on the new right to counsel provisions of AB 1194 which goes into effect on January 1. Spectrum Institute’s legal director, Thomas F. Coleman, was featured throughout the six-minute episode. Among the issues discussed was the right to counsel of choice for proposed conservatees, mandatory appointment of counsel for those who are unable to retain an attorney, and the duty of lawyers to advocate for the wishes of their clients in these cases. To watch the news story, click here. To read the associated print story, click here.


November 6, 2021

Internship Opportunities Are Available for LGBTQ Legal History Project

Spectrum Institute has internship opportunities available for law students as well as undergraduate students majoring in history or journalism. Students will work under the supervision of three attorneys on a project to commemorate LGBTQ legal trailblazers from the 1970s. Trailblazers include law students, law professors and practicing attorneys who were involved in LGBTQ legal activism during that decade. The internship announcement has been posted at 21 universities. For more information about the internships with the Birds of a Feather history project, click here.


November 4, 2021

New Research Associate Joins LGBTQ Outreach Campaign

Kelly B. Blair has become a volunteer for Spectrum Institute. He will serve as a research associate with the organization’s LGBTQ Outreach Campaign. In particular, Kelly will assist lawyers coordinating the Birds of a Feather commemoration which will recognize LGBTQ legal trailblazers who were active during the 1970s as law students, law professors, or practicing attorneys.

Kelly describes himself as “a jack of all trades.” Since 2005, he has worked as a Program Secretary and Program Specialist at College of the Desert in the EOPS and CARE (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services and Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education) office. EOPS/CARE are two state funded programs that assist low income students and students who are single parents to receive a college education and break the cycle of poverty in their community. Prior to that he worked for MemorialCare Medical Centers in Long Beach as the Executive Secretary to the Vice President of Marketing. Previous employment included work in customer support for various companies in Southern California.

Kelly has volunteered for several not-for-profit organizations, starting with the “No on 64” campaign in Orange County in 1986 to defeat a ballot initiative that would have caused massive intrusions into the civil liberties of persons with HIV or AIDS. It was an exciting time for him as a young college student who was just coming out. He also did volunteer work for the AIDS Walks in Los Angeles.  Since moving to the Desert, Kelly has become a proud and involved union member with CSEA (California School Employee Association).  He is also the organist at Arcadia Congregational Church in Arcadia, Caliornia. Kelly likes learning new skills and is always up for a new challenge. When he’s not working, Kelly enjoys watching motion pictures, listening to music, playing music, dancing, giving flattop haircuts, and hanging out with his close friends.

November 3, 2021

Internship Summary for ADA Judicial Compliance Project

Maria Reyes Olmedo participated with Spectrum Institute as a summer intern with the ADA Judicial Compliance Project.  We are pleased to share Maria's summary of the work that was done and the positive results of these efforts.  Litigants with mental or developmental disabilities will be better off because of Maria's thoroughness and tenacity.  To read the summary, click here

October 25, 2021

Judge Rand Schrader Pro Bono Program Video


UCLA Law School formally launched the Judge Rand Schrader Pro Bono Program today. The program is named in honor of Schrader, who along with Thomas F. Coleman and a few other law students created the first gay law students association in the nation in 1972. Rand went on to become the first openly gay deputy city attorney in Los Angeles in 1974 and the second openly gay judge in the nation in 1980. Retired Superior Court Judge Stephen Lachs spoke during the 8-minute video as did Coleman, the executive director of Spectrum Institute. Judge Lachs is an advisor to the Funding and Fees Review project of Spectrum Institute. Retired Judge Burt Pines, who was the elected city attorney who hired Rand, shared some of his memories of Rand.  To watch the video, click here. (Photo: screen shot from the video)


October 19, 2021

In Memory of Theresa Jankowski

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Theresa Jankowski yesterday. The news was relayed to us by Sharon Holmes, an advisor to Spectrum Institute and a close friend of Theresa. Theresa’s quiet and peaceful life was disrupted in 2017 by an unwanted and necessary conservatorship proceeding in the Los Angeles Superior Court. A retired employee of the FBI, Theresa was residing in an independent living residence when she was targeted by a conservatorship petition filed by a professional fiduciary. Having outlived her relatives, Theresa turned to an estate planning attorney to prepare a trust and powers of attorney. Theresa, then 83 years-old, had about $600,000 in liquid assets and an annuity and FBI retirement account that paid for her living expenses. Theresa appeared in court with her chosen attorney only to discover that the judge would not allow him to represent her. Instead, the court appointed another attorney who then refused to advocate for Theresa’s wishes which were to dismiss the petition and allow her trust and powers of attorney to take effect. Her appointed attorney argued IN FAVOR OF a conservatorship, and in being disloyal to his client also violated ethical rules of confidentiality. Some four years later, Theresa was pressured into a “settlement” where the conservatorship case would be dismissed on condition that she pay the fees of all the attorneys in the case which amounted to about $350,000.  The judge would then allow the trust to take effect. In essence, Theresa was held hostage to a conservatorship with the ransom being the attorney fees. This four-year ordeal took a toll on Theresa and the stress of it no doubt contributed to her demise. Theresa’s battle with the probate court and her mistreatment by the court-appointed attorney will be used as a teaching example of conservatorship abuse in California.  In fact, her case was used to support two provisions in the newly passed AB 1194.  One is a legislative declaration that a proposed conservatee has the right to chosen counsel.  The other is a provision mandating that counsel for a conservatee or proposed conservatee act as a zealous advocate for the client.  Both of these principles were violated in Theresa's case.  The attorney fee abuse Theresa experienced will be discussed at an upcoming  "Fee for All" forum sponsored by the Commonwealth Club of California.   Theresa's unfortunate experiences are inspiring legal reforms. May she rest in peace.


October 13, 2021

Zoom Webinar Specialist to Assist Spectrum Institute

Clara Garcia has offered to assist with the technical aspects of our first Zoom webinar which will be held on November 16.  Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute will be the presenter.  He will explain the duties and risks associated with AB 1194 -- a new conservatorship reform law that takes effect on January 1, 2022. Lawyers, county risk managers, court administrators, and members of the public may register for this event.  We are grateful to have the assistance of Clara for this important event.

Clara is the Director of Programs at Autism Society Inland Empire.  She has been active in the field of social services for the past 26 years in the areas of mental health and drug treatment counseling as well as gang prevention/intervention programs.  Clara has spent the last 14 years serving people in the disability community by promoting inclusion, advocating and educating.  She has created and implemented inclusive programs for special needs children and their typical peers which include a summer camp, play dates, and outings in the community. What stands out most about Clara is the special relationships she builds with families. Because of her genuine care for families, they turn to her for assistance with advocacy, share important family issues and best of all invite her to gatherings where there is always great food! 

Our appreciation is extended to the Autism Society Inland Empire which will be hosting this webinar on Zoom.  The organization promotes systemic reforms by working at the local, state and federal levels in collaboration with community partners and stakeholders.  It provides expertise, leadership, and support around critical issues such as autism assessment, autism services, education issues, employment, housing and more. All of these issues are related to conservatorship reform.


October 12, 2021

New Member of Board of Trustees

Barbara Imle has joined the board of trustees of Spectrum Institute.  She fills a vacancy due to the retirement of Diane Coleman Rogers.  Barbara is a doctoral candidate in the sociology department at Portland State University. Her current research is focused on improving the process of establishing limited conservatorships of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in California.  Emphasis is placed on finding alternatives, such as supported decision-making arrangements.  Barbara, who has disabilities herself, has some 15 years of professional experience working in the disability service delivery system in California.  She was employed by two regional centers. This combination of experiences has provided her with a solid understanding of the complexities related to navigating the disability system, and the challenges that people with disabilities and service agencies face.  Barbara has collaborated with Spectrum Institute on a variety of projects for the past several years.  She is featured in our Pursuit of Justice documentary film. Barbara resides in San Diego.


October 7, 2021

Unpacked:  Podcast on the Origins and Unfolding of Britney Spears Conservatorship

Unpacked is a new investigative podcast that "delves into the world's most curious and complex stories." In this season's first episode, investigative reporter and podcast host Edwina Stott unpacks the story of Britney Spears by talking to the people who were there to examine how the media, her family and the general public have played a part in Britney being forced into a conservatorship and therefore losing control of her career, her money and her life.  Legal aspects of the conservatorship are explained by attorney Lisa McCarley who practices law in probate court and attorney Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute.  For a written description of the podcast episode and to listen to the audio file (27 min.), click here.  


October 2, 2021


October 1, 2021

Episode #1: Historic Right to Counsel Bill Signed By California's Governor

To listen to an audio newscast (2:18 min.) about this important legislation, click here. 

To read the newscast, click here.

October 1, 2021

New TV Series on California's Broken Conservatorship System 

Earlier this year, Sacramento TV Channel 10 produced a five-part series of investigative reports on the broken conservatorship system in California and how it adversely affects the elderly.  Investigative reporter Andie Judson is currently working on a follow-up series which will focus mainly on conservatorships for adults with developmental disabilties and how that part of system is badly broken too.  She recently spent three hours interviewing Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, at his home in Palm Springs.  If all goes well, the new series will air by February 2022.  Below: Coleman, Judson, and a Channel 10 videographer.



October 1, 2021

Monthly Newsetter is Now Available

The October 2021 newsletter of Spectrum Institute is now available online.  To access the current newsletter as well as prior issues, click here


September 28, 2021


The Subcommittee on the Constitution of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today titled "Toxic Conservatorships: The Need for Reform."  In his opening remarks, Senator Richard Blumenthal essentially referred to a "carrot and stick" federal approach to reform.  He called on the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the states with "best practices" guidance that would address three issues: a serious exploration in each case of less restrictive alternatives such as supported decision-making; improving civil rights protections; and better mechanisms to monitor ongoing conservatorships to reduce the risk of abuse.  He also suggested that the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ should focus attention on disability rights violations occurring in conservatorship and guardianship proceedings.  To view this hearing, click here.  For a copy of Spectrum Institute's proposals to the chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, click here.  For a copy of our letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein who sits on the subcommittee, click here.  Some of our recommendations are mirrored by Senator Blumenthal's remarks.  Senator Blumenthal chairs the subcommittee.


September 22, 2021

The Domino Effect: My Life As an Advocate -- An Autobiographical Narrative by Thomas F. Coleman

Each episode of The Freedom Files Podcast has a feature story associated with it.  An early episode focused on the advocacy activities of Spectrum Institute's legal director before he was introduced to the civil rights nightmares of probate conservatorships.  From gay rights to family diversity to singles rights to abuse of teenagers, Coleman's career has focused on equal rights and justice for many oppressed or underserved segments of the population.  To read the story about the advocacy adventures of Thomas F. Coleman from his law school days in 1972 up to the publication of his professional memoirs in 2009, click here. The story has links to photos and documents from each of those eras.


September 21, 2021

BuzzFeed News Releases Massive Report on Broken State Guardianship Systems

BuzzFeed News has just published the results of a major investigation into state guardianship and conservatorship systems throughout the nation.  According to the report, journalists Heidi Blake, Katie J.M. Baker and their team  "scoured hundreds of thousands of court documents, obtained confidential mental health filings and financial records, examined hundreds of guardianship cases, gathered exclusive data from extensive public records requests, conducted hundreds of interviews, and carried out a detailed review of guardianship laws in all 50 states. [The] investigation reveals an opaque, overgrown, and malfunctioning system wielding vast and frightening power in the dark."  The bottom line: "For people under guardianship, the system can be dehumanizing, dangerous, and even deadly. For the professionals — who can control hundreds of people at a time — it can be very profitable."  To read what they did and what they found during this impressive piece of invetigative reporting, click here.


September 18, 2021

Coming Soon: AudioCast of Spectrum Institute

Spectrum E-News, the editorial and news division of Spectrum Institute, is developing a new information service. AudioCast periodically will release short audio segments focused on news and current events pertaining to conservatorship reform, disability rights, and mental health access. AudioCast, which shoud be operational by October 1, is being produced by Thomas F. Coleman.  Francis Cast, assistant producer, is an intern from Western Washington University where he is studying creative writing.  Audiocast releases will be available on the Spectrum E-News page of our website.  Each episode will also be released to the public through our social media accounts by Eneya Kwesele, an intern from Washington State University.


September 16, 2021

Civil Grand Juries Responding to Our Requests for Investigations of Legal Defense Services

When Spectrum Institute released its report on public funding of indigent conservatorship legal defense programs on September 7, 2021, we send a letter to the civil grand juries in all 58 counties in California.  We invited them to consider investigating whether the legal defense program in their own county was providing effective or defective legal services to adults with mental and developmental disabilities who are entangled in probate conservatorship proceedings.  Are county supervisors adequately funding the program?  Does the service provider – whether it is a county department of public defender, a contract public defender, or a panel of private attorneys operated by the court – have excessive caseloads, inadequate training, performance standards, or quality assurance controls?  Does the county ever audit cases or survey clients or their families about their experiences with the legal service provider?  The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury was the first to respond.  The foreperson wrote to us to acknowledge receipt of what they described as our “complaint.”  She expressed appreciation that we bought his matter to the grand jury's attention.  The Civil Grand Jury in Contra Costa County invited us to complete a complaint form online and submit it to them.  We did.  We were invited to do the same by the Civil Grand Jury in Placer County.  The foreman of the Civil Grand Jury in Lake County sent us a letter acknowledging our request for an investigation, indicating that it would be considered by the full grand jury.  The foreperson of the Orange County Civil Grand Jury wrote: "We will be reviewing the matter you identified."  The foreperson of the San Diego County Civil Grand Jury wrote: "The Grand Jury will review the information you have provided, verify that this matter is within its jurisdiction, and determine whether further investigation is warranted."  The legal advisor to the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury reached out to us and had a lengthy conversation.  The Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury acknowledged our request.  The Tuolumne County Civi Grand Jury responded that they considered the request at plenary meetings in September and October.


September 14, 2021

Senate Committee on Aging Urged to Propose Bold Guardianship and Conservatorship Reforms

The Special Committee on Aging of the United States Senate is in the process of developing legislation to address increasing demands by the public to stop ongoing abuses and exploitation of seniors and people with disabilities in state-operated adult guardianship and conservatorship systems.

Publicity surrounding the conservatorship of Britney Spears has sparked growing interest in such reform by many members of Congress. One of them is Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) who is chairperson of the Special Committee on Aging. A staff member of that committee recently contacted Spectrum Institute. In response, we have submitted four specific actions that Congress should take to tame the estate-grabbing and civil-liberties-destroying conservatorship/guardianship beast. Those actions are:

* Funding positions for lawyers in the Disability Rights Section at Department of Justice (DOJ) who will focus exclusively on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act by judges and attorneys in state guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. Right now, the lawyers in this section are sitting on complaints for years without taking action, probably due to under-funding.

* Funding lawyers in the criminal division of the DOJ and investigators in the FBI who will focus on guardians and conservators who are violating federal criminal laws and thus making seniors and people with disabilities victims of federal crimes. Presently, federal prosecutors and investigators are ignoring these cases, probably due to under-funding.

* Require that a certain percent of federal funds that are allocated to protection and advocacy agencies (like Disability Rights California) must be used to protect the rights of people with disabilities who are entangled in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. Despite receiving tens of millions of federal dollars to protect the rights of people with disabilities, these agencies have been doing almost nothing for this particular population.

* Require that any state or local courts that receive federal funds for any purpose must require attorneys who are appointed by the court to represent protected persons in guardianship or conservatorship proceedings to attend periodic training programs on the application of the Americans With Disabilities Act and section 504 of the rehabilitation act to guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. Right now, the courts (and appointed attorneys) act as though the ADA does not apply to these proceeding, which is not true.

Rick Black, executive director of the Center for Estate Administration Reform, also has been pressing the committee to take bold actions to address guardianship and conservatorship abuses perpetrated by state judges and probate attorneys. 

We are hoping that the interest expressed in conservatorship and guardianship reform by members of Congress, especially by Senator Casey, is not just for publicity purposes.  Time will tell if the Committee proposes meaningful reforms or just offers up more symbolic legislation such as has occurred in the past.


September 13, 2021

Legal Director Quoted in News Story on Right-to-Counsel Provisions of AB 1194

The Southern California Record published a story today about provisions of a bill passed by the California Legislature to ensure that all adults targeted by conservatorship proceedings will have an attorney to defend their rights.  Thomas F.  Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, is quoted extensively in the story.  AB 1194 was sent to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom on September 10, 2021, and is awaiting his approval.  Once signed, it will take effect on January 1, 2021. 

One of the bill's provisions ensures that adults can have a chosen attorney to represent them in probate conservatorship proceedings.  This portion of the bill was inspired by the court's refusal to allow Britney Spears to be defended by the attorney of her choice. 

For those who are unable to retain an attorney, the bill requires the court to appoint a lawyer for the adult, specifying that such appointed attorneys must act as zealous advocates for the expressed wishes of their clients.  This will correct a current problem where some appointed attorneys do not advocate for what their clients wants.  Instead, some act more like social workers, urging the court to do what the attorney personally feels is best for the client.  The Southern California Record is a journal covering the legal system in Southern California. To read the article, click here.


September 10, 2021

California Conservatorship Reform Bill Sent to Governor

AB 1194 protects the right to a chosen attorney, mandates the appointment of defense attorneys for those without counsel, requires appointed attorneys to act as a “zealous advocate” for the client, and guarantees that conservatees receive an appointed attorney in appellate proceedings.  The bill received overwhelming support in both houses of the legislature.  It now awaits the governor's signature.  Spectrum Institute assisted Senate Ben Allen (photo), primary co-sponsor of the bill, to develop the measure's right-to-counsel provisions.  These new legislative mandates will help thousands of seniors and people with disabilities who become entangled in probate conservatorship proceedings.  To read our press release about the new bill, click here.


September 8, 2021

Commonwealth Club Conservatorship Reform Forum Available Via YouTube

The Commonwealth Club of California sponsored a forum last week on conservatorship reform.  Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, was one of the invited presenters.  The organization released the video (1:09) today on its YouTube page.  The video is embedded here for your convenience. 


September 7, 2021

Landmark Report Finds Major Flaws in Conservatorship Legal Defense Programs

A landmark report released today by Spectrum Institute finds that legal defense programs in probate conservatorship cases in California are plagued with problems: inadequate funding, high caseloads, a lack of performance standards, and an absence of quality controls.  It recommends remedial actions by state officials and calls on civil grand juries in all counties to investigate these deficiencies.  The report points to a legal defense program in Nevada that could be a model for reform in California. 

Among the recipients of the report are the Supreme Court, Legislature, and Judicial Council, as well as public defender offices in counties throughout the state.  The report was also sent to civil grand juries in all 58 counties with a request for them to investigate conservatorship indigent defense programs in their jurisdictions. To read the press release, click here.

September 6, 2021

New Intern Joins the Team at Spectrum Institute

Francis Cast is a student at Western Washington University. He is studying creative writing and will receive his Bachelor of Arts degree on June 22, 2022. Francis is taking on the role of Assistant Producer where he will help run and mix AudioCast, a new feature of Spectrum E-News, the editorial and news division of Spectrum Institute. He will also become the institute’s resident poet. Francis is thrilled to be interning for Spectrum Institute, where he will be utilizing his growing skills and knowledge in the audio world and the writing world.

Growing up with a speech disability has made Francis passionate to contribute to advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities. His youthful experience with a communication disability has shaped him into the writer, worker, musician, and overall person he is today. Francis is pleased to be a member of the team at Spectrum Institute. 

When he has the time, Francis enjoys playing chess, learning new musical instruments, exploring the wilderness, and going to museums and art galleries. He has also enjoyed learning Muay Thai from the wonderful people at Pure Fitness Martial Arts. 


September 1, 2021

Episode #3 of The Freedom Files Podcast Now Available

This episode of the podcast series picks up where the second episode left off.  It describes the shift in the advocacy activities of Tom Coleman after his memoirs were published in 2009.  He ventured into the area of abuse of people with disabilities, especially those with developmental disabilities, with the goal of promoting more effective responses to such abuse by government agencies.  While doing that important work, Coleman was introduced to an extremely challenging set of problems with the probate conservatorship system in California.  After investigating a few specific cases of young adults with developmental disabilities whose rights were violated in these legal proceedings, Coleman dug deeper.  To access this and previous episodes, click here.


September 1, 2021

New Monthly Newsletter Published Today

Every month Spectrum Institute publishes a newsletter to inform our advisors, supporters, and the public of the organization's recent activities.  It also highlights news relevant to our campaigns for conservatorship reform, disability rights, and mental health access.  The September 2021 newsletter is filled with information about our internships, a new podcast episode, a new supported decision-making law in New Hampshire, a pending California bill that will affect the mental health access rights of conservatees, links to short videos of interviews with some of our team members, some suggested reading materials, and more.  To access current and former newsletters, click here. 


September 1, 2021

WSU Student Added to Team as Social Media & Podcast Production Intern

Eneya Kwesele is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Washington State University.  She will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in May 2022 in Integrated Strategic Communications with a focus on public relations.   Eneya joins the team at Spectrum Institute to manage our social media outreach program and as a post-production associate with The Freedom Files podcast.  As a first-generation college student and a black woman, Eneya recognizes the importance of advocacy for underrepresented and marginalized populations.  She joined varsity FIRST Robotics in high school and helped pioneer Special Olympics Unified Robotics -- a robotics program for students with disabilities. Working in student government, Eneya also has experience advocating for college students and has served on several campus-wide committees.


September 1, 2021

Gurdeep Singh Raina to Serve as Outside Strategic Consultant

Gurdeep Singh Raina (GS) will be providing the board of trustees with strategic advice on the five pillars of organizational development: funding, campaigns, communication, influencers, and partner networks. He is a doctoral student at Washington State University’s Carson College of Business. As a researcher in Corporate Governance and Strategy, GS 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 trained in Six Sigma and Lean methodology. 


August 25, 2021

Updated Compendium of Daily Journal Commentaries is Available

Over the past six years, the Daily Journal has published 33 commentaries written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman.  The articles have focused on various aspects of conservatorship reform and disability rights.  In a critical but constructive manner, Coleman has made recommendations to improve access to justice for adults with mental and developmental disabilities in judicial proceedings, with a special emphasis on probate conservatorship proceedings.  The recommendations have been directed to officials in all branches and all levels of government,including the California Supreme Court, State Bar, Judicial Council, Legislature, and the United States Department of Justice.  The Daily Journal is California's premier legal newspaper. It is read by thousands of attorneys, judges, legislators, government administrators, and local elected officials.  To access the compendium, click here.



August 24, 2021

Daily Journal Publishes Op-ed on Deficient Attorney Training Program

The Daily Journal legal newspaper published a commentary today critiquing a webinar recently produced by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.  The mandatory training was attended by court-appointed attorneys who represent adults with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship proceedings in California.  The commentary criticizes the presenters and training materials for omitting important topics and for giving misinformation on others.  The article will be included as an exhibit in a report to be released by Spectrum Institute on September 7 about the use of public funds for indigent legal defense services in these proceedings.  The report will be shared with several state officials and agencies, including the California Supreme Court.  To read the commentary, click here.


July 27, 2021

Commonwealth Club to Sponsor Conservatorship Reform Panel on August 30

On August 30, 2021, The Commonwealth Club of California will host an Internet forum focusing on the need for conservatorship reform. The 90-minute program will start at 9:30 a.m. (PDT) and costs $5.00 for nonmembers.

The mission of The Commonwealth Club is to be the leading national forum open to all for the impartial discussion of public issues important to the membership, community and nation. The club is the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum. Every year, it presents more than 450 forums on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy.

Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, is a panelist at this forum. Other panelists are: Rick Black of the Center for Estate Administration, attorney Lisa McCarley, and Leanne Simmons from @FreeBritneyLA. The panel moderator is Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Club of California. For more information, click here.


July 22, 2021

We Reached Our Fundraising Goal

Last month Spectrum Institute launched a fundraising drive to cover the organization’s basic operating expenses for one year. Our goal was to raise $5,000. Many of our closest supporters responded.  In less than one month we raised $6,200.  Donations ranged from $50 to $2,500. We extend our gratitude to the board members, volunteers, advisors, and other supporters who gave so generously. It is amazing how much the organization is able to accomplish with such a modest budget.  We also extend our appreciation to Loyola Marymount University for providing paid summer internships for two law students.  Another law student is donating pro bono time to the organization, with a fourth student assisting us with social media promotion in exchange for academic credit plus putting in extra time pro bono.  


July 20, 2021

Op-Ed: California Supreme Court Can Fix Conservatorship Lawyering Mess


OP-ED: The Daily Journal published a commentary today pointing to California's top court as the best way to fix a mix of systemic problems that undermine the constitutional right of adults with disabilities to have effective legal representation in probate conservatorship proceedings.  The supreme court has ultimate responsibility for ethical and professional standards for attorneys who practice law in California's probate courts.  It also supervises the State Bar's complaint and discipline system.  With such power comes responsibility.  The commentary, written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman, urges the court to start the process of cleaning up an obvious mess off bad lawyering by convening a Workgroup on Conservatorship Right to Counsel Standards.  The blue ribbon panel would investigate what appears to be a pattern and practice of deficient legal services for conservatees and proposed conservatees and make recommendations on what steps the court should take to ensure that vulnerable adults in these proceedings receive effective legal representation by a lawyer who is loyal and provides zealous advocacy.  The Daily Journal is California premier legal newspaper, read by thousands of attorneys, judges, and public officials.  To read the commentary, click hereREQUEST: Today, a formal request was received by the Supreme Court to create such a workgroup.  It was submitted by Spectrum Institute and 10 other organizations representing a variety of interests and constituencies.  PRESS RELEASE: For a press release about the request, click here. NEWSWIRE:  To read the news release via Newswire, click here.  For a report on the state and national media that published the story on their websites, click here.

CEAR: The Center for Estate Administration Reform (CEAR) forwarded our press release to California Assemblyman Evan Low and Senator Ben Allen urging them to ensure passage of conservatorship reform legislation requiring attorneys to zealously advocate for the rights of conservatees and proposed conservatees.  For a copy of the message, click here.


July 20, 2021

Long Beach Bar Association Supports Our Request to the Supreme Court

Many thanks to Erin Peterson, executive director of the Long Beach Bar Association, for facilitating the association's endorsement of the request we filed today with the California Supreme Court.  It asks the court to convene a Workgroup on Converatorship Right to Counsel Standards.  Erin has been very helpful in the past in arranging for webinars for members of the association on a variety of problems and solutions associated with probate conservatorship proceedings in California. The members of the Long Beach Bar Association include over 400 attorneys, judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court, justices of the California Appellate Court, and other legal professionals from throughout the greater Long Beach area, including many cities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The mission of the Long Beach Bar Association is to serve the members of the Association, lawyers, the judiciary, and the general public by: improving the skills of and providing educational opportunities for lawyers; Creating opportunities for professional collegiality and interaction with the judiciary; and providing assistance and education to the public as they seek to access the legal system.


July 9, 2021

Day of Reckoning is Coming for Britney Spears Court-Appointed Attorney

The Southern California Record published a news story today quoting extensively from an interview with Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, about the consequences that may occur to the court-appointed attorney for Britney Spears.   If what Spears says is true  -- and there is no good reason to doubt her -- she was betrayed by attorney Sam Ingham III in a variety of ways.  At the beginning of the case he argued against her right to have an attorney of her choice.  Throughout the case she says she was abused and exploited by her conservators and yet it appears the attorney never brought this issues to the attention of the court.  Rather than filing a petition to terminate her conservatorship as she wants, he instead asked to resign.  If the court finds that some or all of these matters are true, the judge could order him to repay millions of dollars in legal fees that he received out of her assets.  He could also be referred to the State Bar for investigation and discipline.  To read the story, click here.


July 7, 2021

Daily Journal Op-Ed:  Spears Conservatorship Shows Need for Stronger Laws on Right to Counsel

The Daily Journal published a commentary today written by Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of Spectrum Institute. The article explains how current laws that supposedly protect the right to counsel of choice in a conservatorship proceeding were repeatedly ignored by judges and attorneys involved in the case of Britney Spears. Coleman argues that the California Legislature needs to reaffirm the right to counsel of choice, and specify that every conservatee or proposed conservatee is entitled to be represented by a lawyer who advocates for the client’s expressed wishes and defends their constitutional and statutory rights.  The attorney's loyalties should be to the client, not to the court.  Statements Britney made at the most recent court hearing show that her court-appointed attorney failed her miserably. The op-ed suggests actions that could be taken by the judge in Britney's case to remedy her lawyer's apparent ethical violations and his failure to adhere to the Rules of Professional Conduct. To read the article, click here.  The Daily Journal is California's premier legal newspaper.

Washington Examiner Quotes Spectrum Institute on Growing Public Awareness of Conservatorship Abuses

The Washington Examiner ran a news story today about the growing political interest in conservatorship and guardianship abuses -- noting that politicans from both major paries are now focusing on the issue.  Much of this is due to media attention generated by the Free Britney movement to the conservatorship of pop star Britney Spears.  The story quoted Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute. "Conservatorship abuse is not a partisan issue. Like a contagious disease, it can strike the wealthy or the poor, liberals or conservatives, people of any race or religion,” Coleman told the Washington Examiner. “People know that if this can happen to someone as famous and powerful as Britney Spears, it could happen to them or their parents or grandparents.” To read the full article, click here.


June 30, 2021

We're Half Way to Our Fundraising Goal

Less than a week ago, Spectrum Institute launched a fundraiing campaign to generate sufficient donations to cover the organization's annual operating expenses of $5,000. The first phase of the campaign was an email sent by the Chairperson and Executive Director to their friends and associates as well as the closest supporters of Spectrum Intitute.  We are pleased to anounce that in the last few days we have raised $2,600.  One generous supprorter had his family foundation contribute $1,000.  An advisor to our Funding and Fees Review Project donated $500.  Other contributions ranged from $50 to $200.  The next step to attract donations is a request in the organization's July newsletter.  To commenorate Independence Day, we will be posting a special greeting on several social media patforms wishing people with developmental disabilities the freedom and independence they deserve.  The posting will ask readers for donations to Spectrum Institute to help us advocate for the rights of this population.  Please help us reach our goal by making a one-time or recurring donation.  Click here for our donation page.  Spectrum Institute is a tax-exemt nonprofit organization operating with the assistance of volunteer board members, advisors, interns, and technical specialists.


June 29 2021


Go to the podcast website for more information.  Or click here to go directly to Episode #1.


June 24 2021

Britney Spears Testimony Underscores the Need to Pass SB 724

Testimony from Britney Spears yesterday in court pointed toward a massive denial of the right to effective assistance of counsel.  It also disclosed major violations of her constitutional rights. 

As to the latter, she complained of invasions of: her right to medical privacy; her right to procreate; her First Amendment freedoms of speech and association; and her right to privacy in her own home, having innumerable strangers there all the time without her consent. As a virtual captive, she has been living in involuntary servitude.

As to the former, an alarm bell should have sounded when she testified that she did not know she had a right to petition the court to terminate the conservatorship. Her court-appointed lawyer had a duty to advise her of her rights. If she was not so advised, then her court-appointed attorney was derelict in his duty to advise her and to advocate for her stated wishes. As for her stated wishes, another major newspaper reported that in 2016 and again in 2019, Britney told the court investigator she wanted to end the conservatorship. Her lawyer should have followed up on that by filing a petition to terminate. But no such petition was ever filed. At the get go of this case some 13 years ago, her right to a privately-retained attorney of her choice was violated. She could certainly afford one. Instead, the court imposed an unwanted attorney on her -- one with loyalties to the court. It appears that her appointed attorney has not been advocating for her stated wishes as is required by law.

SB 724 by Senator Ben Allen protects the right to an attorney of one's choice. It also emphasizes that an appointed attorney should be an advocate for a conservatee as specified in the Business & Professions Code and the Rules of Professional Conduct. That code and those rules would not permit an attorney to ignore the wishes of the client and fail to petition to terminate a conservatorship when that is what the client wants to happen. SB 724 cannot be enacted soon enough.

To read the L.A. Times story, click here.


June 16, 2021

ADA Project Reaching Out to California's Superior Court Presiding Judges

The ADA Judicial Compliance Project has been working its way through various phases of educational and advocacy activities. Today we entered phase three. Our legal intern, Maria de los Angeles Reyes Olmedo, sent an email from the legal director of Spectrum Institute to the presiding judges in all 58 superior courts throughout California. The communication reminded them of the ADA duties the courts have to litigants with cognitive disabilities even when a request for accommodation has not been made. For a copy of the email, click here. We are pleased that as a result of Maria’s prior communications with ADA compliance officers, some courts are updating their policies and adding an ADA grievance procedure to their websites.


June 15, 2021

Welcome Konstantine Anthony -- Our New Local Government Advisor

Konstantine Anthony has accepted our invitation to be a local government advisor to Spectrum Institute. He is a member of the Burbank City Council and 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. Konstantine recently tweeted: “One of the most heartbreaking facts in California's conservatorship process is the inability of the conservatee to retain their own legal counsel.” He notes that: “A newly proposed law from Senator Ben Allen (SB 724) seeks to change that.” We look forward to having his help and advice as we advocate for conservatorship reform and seek to protect and advance disability rights.


June 10, 2021

Legal Advisors to Assist Mental Health Project's Consequences Report

Two interns are working on a Consequences Report for the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute. Emmi Deckard, a student from UCLA, is finishing Part One of the report which will focus on adverse consequences to adults with developmental when they are denied prompt and equal access to appropriate mental health therapy when they need it. Kendall James, a student from Loyola Law School, is developing Part Two of the report which will identify legal consequences that should occur to the “gatekeepers” to mental health therapy when they willfully or negligently cause the delay or denial of such services. The initial focus will be on conservators in California and guardians in Washington State. Three attorneys have agreed to serve as legal advisors to Part Two of the report. Evan Nelson is an attorney in California. Information about Evan is found in the Legal Advisors section of the “Team” page on our website. Dan Young and Camille Minogue are attorneys in Washington State. Information about them appears below.

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.

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.


June 9, 2021

Encouraging Alameda Public Defender to Create a Model Program

Spectrum Institute met with the Alameda County Public Defender and his  staff yesterday.  The meeting was part of the research we are doing with our Funding and Fees Review Project.  We explained to Brendon Woods, chief public defender, what the elements would be of a model legal defense program representing conservatees and proposed conservatees.  At the meeting, which lasted an hour, were Thomas F. Coleman, John Di Pietro, and Ben Dishchyan from Spectrum Institute along with Brendon Woods, Youseef Elias, and John Plaine from the Public Defender's Office.  We hope to resume communications in the near future to determine whether Alameda County is interested in creating a legal defense program for conservatorship proceedings that could become a model for counties throughout the state.  (Photo: Brendon Woods)


June 9, 2021

Outreach to ADA Coordinators for California Superior Courts

Maria Reyes Olmedo, legal intern with the ADA Judicial Compliance Project, sent an email yesterday to the ADA Coordinators with all 58 superior courts in California.  The message informed them of a webinar produced by Spectrum Institute for judges and judicial staff about their ADA obligations in connection with court proceedings, especially probate conservatorship proceedings where the court knows that litigants are alleged to have serious cognitive disabilities that may require accommodations in order to ensure access to justice in their cases.  In future emails to these coordinators, we will be seeking information on their grievance procedures as well as what they have in their ADA “toolkit” to assist the court to fulfill its duty to ensure that conservatees and proposed conservatees have effective communication and meaningful participation in judicial proceedings in which they are involuntary litigants.


June 3, 2021

Tweet Supporting Senator Ben Allen's Committment to Passing SB724

Spectrum Institute tweeted its approval of a tweet from California state Senator Ben Allen that he is committed to having SB724 approved by the full Senate in January.  The bill was placed in suspense due to limitations on floor votes due to a Covid-19 backlog.  SB724 has provisions to strengthen the right to counsel for conservatees and proposed conservatees -- seniors and adults with disabilities whose fundamental rights are placedin jeopardy in these legal proceedings.  Spectrum Institute helped shape several aspects of this important legislation. 


May 25, 2021

Dr. Ginny Focht-New Becomes Advisor to the Mental Health Project 

Ginny Focht-New, PhD, PMH-CNS, BC has accepted our invitation to be a Mental Health Advisor to Spectrum Institute.  She is currently 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).


May 20, 2021

Right to Counsel Bill Advances to Senate Floor in California

SB724 by Senator Ben Allen would improve the right to counsel in probate conservatorship proceedings by: guaranteeing the right to counsel of choice; mandating the appointment of counsel for conservatees and proposed conservatees in the superior court and on appeal; and require counsel to act as a zealous advocate for the conservatees or proposed conservatee consistent with the Business and Professions Code and the Rules of Professional Conduct.  This is a major improvement over existing law because superior court judges sometimes refuse to allow litigants in these cases to have the attorney of their choice, superior courts and appellate courts have not been appointing counsel at all in some cases, and appointed attorneys often fail to advocate for the client's stated wishes or defend their rights as a zealous advocate would do.  The bill has bipartisan support.  It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday on a vote of 7-0 and now proceeds to a floor vote.  Spectrum Institute was instrumental in the development of SB724 and has been promoting these reforms for several years.


May 19, 2021

Nevada Attorneys Become Guardianship Advocacy Advisors

Two attorneys from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada have agreed to be guardianship advocacy advisors to Spectrum Institute. The Center operates a Guardianship Advocacy Program where a staff of 14 attorneys represent hundreds of clients in adult guardianship proceedings.  A video interview with its executive director, Barbara Buckley, explains how the program operates -- with recruitment practices, training, performance standards, and quality assurance controls that make it a model program that should be replicated in states throughout the nation. 

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.


May 18, 2021

Loyola Law Student is Approved for Internship Program 

Loyola Law School in Los Angeles has given approval for Kendall James to be an intern with Spectrum Institute.  Kendall joins two other Loyola law students and one undergraduate student from Washington State University as summer interns.  Kendall is a first year law student with the intentions to obtain her Juris Doctor degree in 2023. She graduated from Texas Christian University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communication Studies, where she served her local community through school-based organizations and conducted research for professors regarding big industries and minority representation. For the past three years, as well as being a student, she has been working as a tutor for student-athletes and with school programming to ensure access to academic resources.  Kendall will be assigned to the Mental Health Project to develop a report on the legal consequences to so-called "gatekeepers" to mental health therapy when they willfully or negligently contribute to the denial of such services to adults with developmental disabilities who need such services.  Gatekeepers include primary care physicians, insurance companies, guardians or conservators, service providers or coordinators, health care agents, and parents who have assumed a caregiving role for their adult children.


May 17, 2021

California Judicial Council Admits Lacking Basic Conservatorship Data

Spectrum Institute sent an administrative records request to the Judicial Council on April 27, 2021.  It asked for records showing the number new probate conservatorship petitions filed in the superior courts throughout the state in 2019 and 2020.  It also asked for records showing the number of conservatees with active cases during those years.  The Council responded on May 14 indicating that it had only partial data on new filings and that it had no records showing the number of conservatees with active cases.  As a result of this new information, Spectrum Institute has written to the Judicial Council and the Chief Justice urging them to fix this void in data collection and reporting.  The letter concludes with this observation:  "Administrative leadership of the judicial branch cannot provide responsible oversight, engage in proper budgetary planning, or make improvements in the administration of justice in conservatorships without such basic data."  For a copy of these materials, click here.


May 13, 2021

Civil Rights Report Sent to California Governor

Spectrum Institute sent a report to California Governor Gavin Newsom today.  Civil Rights Agencies MIA for Conservatees with Developmental Disabilities calls on the governor to investigate a void in civil rights advocacy that is adversely affecting tens of thousands of conservatees and proposed conservatees with developmental disabilities.  For a copy of the report, click here.  For a copy of the press release about the report, click here.  To watch a 5-minute video announcement about the report and previous attempts to convince state civil rights enforcdment agencies to protect this vulnerable class of individuals, click here.


May 13, 2021

Spectrum Institute Opens Twitter Account

Our social media intern, Sarah Barlow, has opened an account for Spectrum Institute on Twitter.  The account is located at: Follow us @Spectrum_1987


May 13, 2021

Spectrum Institute Opens Instagram Account

Our social media intern, Sarah Barlow, has opened an account for Spectrum Institute on Instagram.  It is located at:


May 7, 2021

Report Sent to the California Judicial Council

Spectrum Institute submitted a report today to the Judicial Council of California.  We received notification on May 11 that the report was distributed to all members of the Judicial Council. The report documents the need for the council to make an effort to collect and report data from the superior courts on probate conservatorship proceedings.  The current collection and reporting process is woefully inadequate. 

The following is an excerpt from the transmittal letter:

As I once asked in an op-ed published in the Daily Journal, titled We Count What We Care About, “How much does the judiciary care about the thousands of probate conservatees who are under its protection?” I am sorry to say that my answer was: “In a world of ‘counting equals caring’ the answer appears to be that these judicial protectors are not really concerned about their protectees.”  Please prove me wrong. Start counting and sharing reliable conservatorship data with the public. This report documents the current data deficiency and suggests ways to fill this informational void. The likely passage of several legislative bills this year, with resulting increases in the judicial workload in conservatorships, requires better planning. The time to start that planning is now.

To read the report, click here.


May 6, 2021

Limited Conservatorship Advisor Joins Team at Spectrum Institute

We are pleased to announce that Barbara Imle has accepted our invitation to be a Limited Conservatorship Advisor to our organization.  Limited conservatorships are protective proceedings for adults in California who have developmental disabilities.  Barbara will work with the legal director to develop a DDS Conservatorship Oversight Project.  The Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which oversees and funds 21 regional centers located throughout the state, should be providing guidance to and monitoring the activities of regional centers in connection with their role in establishing limited conservatorships.  Barbara is a doctoral candidate in the sociology department at Portland State University, OR. Her current research is focused on the process of establishing limited conservatorships of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in California. Barbara, who has disabilities herself, has some 15 years of professional experience working in the disability service delivery system in California.  She was employed by two regional centers. This combination of experiences has provided her with a solid understanding of the complexities related to navigating the disability system, and the challenges that people with disabilities and service agencies face. Barbara is passionate about reforming the process of establishing adult conservatorships in a way that values and protects the individual rights and freedoms that so many adults take for granted. For a copy of Barbara's thesis for her Master of Arts degree in sociology, click here.


May 5, 2021

Op-Ed:  Civil Rights Agenies are Missing in Action for California Conservatees

The Daily Journal published a commenary today titled "Civil Rights Agencies in California are MIA for Conservatees."  The commentary was written by Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute.  It discusses how the state's Department of Justice, Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and Department of Developmental Disabilities -- all of which have civil rights enforcement powers -- are failing to protect people with diabilities whose rights are routinely violated by judges and court-appointed attorneys in probate conservatorship proceedings.  The paper is read by 7,000 attorneys, judges, legislators, and lobbyists in California. For a copy of the commentary, click here.


May 3, 2021

ADA Judicial Compliance Project is Being Initiated


The arrival of an intern from Loyola Law School later this month will enable Spectrum Institute to formalize an ADA Judicial Compliance Project.  The Project will analyze the policies of California’s judicial branch entities and the practices of their officers, employees, and agents to determine if they are in conformity with state and federal disability nondiscrimination laws.  Emphasis will be placed on determining whether these policies and practices enhance access to justice for litigants with mental disabilities, especially adults who find themselves entangled in probate conservatorship proceedings.  The project will be directed by attorney Thomas F Coleman with research assistance from law student Maria Reyes Olmedo.


May 1, 2021

Development Associate to Assist Spectrum Institute with Fundraising

We are pleased to announce that Jessilyn Matthias has volunteered to serve as a Development Associate for Spectrum Institute.  Jessilyn lives and works in Moscow, Idaho.  She is a Program Technician at the University of Idaho Center on Disabilities and Human Development (CDHD) where she does education research for the Idaho Living Well grant project.  One goal of the project is to improve education and advancement opportunities for direct support individuals who assist people with disabilities.  She also writes articles for the CDHD in-house newsletter and gives presentations on self-advocacy.  Jessilyn has a B.A. degree in English and Technical Communications from Eastern Washington University, and an M.S. degree in Adult Organizational Learning and Leadership from the University of Idaho.  She has experience as a successful grant writer and researcher for the Spokane Civic Theatre in Spokane, Washington, and for the Moscow Habitat for Humanity in Moscow, Idaho.  Jessilyn has right-hemiplegia cerebral palsy and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of four.  She has experienced mental health challenges in her life and is therefore very interested in supporting our Mental Health Project.  Jessilyn looks forward to helping Spectrum Institute raise funds through grant writing and to being part of the organization’s team. 


May 1, 2021

Students Join Our Team as Summer Interns

Ben Dishchyan: After earning a B.B.A. in finance from Loyola Marymount University, Ben Dishchyan made the decision to attend law school. He currently is a first-year law student graduating in May 2023 from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California. Prior to attending law school, Ben worked in the elder care industry, placing elders in affordable board and care facilities that met thier medical and personal demands. Being a licensed insurance broker, he also has knowledge in the sales and consulting of the insurance market. After law school, Ben’s goal is to serve the public need and be a successful public interest attorney. At Spectrum Institute he will use his work experience and knowledge to provide legal research and advocacy to further the mission of the organization.  Ben's primary assignment will be assisting with the Funding and Fees Review Project.

Maria de los Angeles Reyes Olmedo: A legal summer intern, is a second-year law student attending Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Maria was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and they are a non-binary Mexican immigrant and first-generation higher education student. Maria attended Cal Poly Pomona for their undergraduate studies, majoring in Gender, Ethnic, and Multicultural Studies, with a focus on Latinx/Chicanx Studies, and minoring in Spanish. They enjoy conducting research and writing, and presented their original research titled “Existimos porque resistimos: Lyrics of Revolution and Resistance in Latin America” at the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Scholars Conference in 2017. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant exposed Maria to the difficulties experienced by those who live in underserved communities and form part of disenfranchised groups. Maroa is passionate about becoming an active advocate for underserved people and will pursue a policy and advocacy-oriented public interest career post-graduation. Maria's primary assignment will be assisting with the ADA Judicial Compliance Project.

Sarah Barlow is a student at Washington State University Everett.  She will receive her bachelor's degree in Integrated Strategic Communication in August 2021.  Sarah has loved storytelling since she was 12 years old.  Over the years, Sarah has acquired a variety of skills including public speaking, public relations, marketing, and journalism.  Every day she works to refine and enhance these skills further.  Sarah will work as a social media manager for Spectrum Institute, managing and editing our accounts with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Get Response, Google, and YouTube.  She will also be an assistant producer with The Freedom Files podcast.  When she is not working on her storytelling skills, Sarah is out traveling and enjoying time with her friends.


May 1, 2021

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

Spectrum Institute is pleased to participate in National Mental Health Awareness month by placing a commemorative poster on the home page of our website and including the poster in our May newsletter.  May was first designated as a time to promote the importance of mental health in 1949 by an organization known as Mental Health America.  Spectrum Institute considers mental health to be such an important matter for adults with developmental disabilities that we created our own Mental Health Project several months ago.  The project advocates for the civil right to mental health services for this special needs population.  For more information about the project and its activities, click here.


May 1, 2021

May Newsletter is Available

The May Newsletter of Spectrum Institute is available in three formats.  It is sent to interested individuals and organizations by email.  It is also available in pdf format and it is available as a webpage


May 1, 2021

Internship Page Has Been Added to the Website

We have added an internship page to our website.  The page contains a listing of available internship positions for college students, as well as the name, photo, and short biography of the new interns for the summer of 2021 and the interns who served us so well for in the spring.  To visit the new webpage, click here.


April 26, 2021

Video Blog: DOJ Investigation of Alameda County Has Conservatorship Implications

This video blog from Spectrum E-News discusses a recent press release from the United States Department of Justice about its investigation of ADA violations by Alameda County against adults with mental illnesses. The investigation has implications for the way in which state and local agencies are processing probate conservatorship cases. Perhaps the DOJ will open a new investigation into the failure of these officials and government employees to seriously search for less restrictive alternatives for conservatorships for seniors with cognitive challenges and adults of all ages with developmental disabilities. The DOJ investigation has conservatorship implications for the entire state of California.  To watch the 4 minute video, click here.  For a pdf of the slide show used in the video blog, click here.


April 20, 2021

Op-Ed:  California Supreme Court is Responsible for Complaint System Accessibility

Today the Daily Journal legal newspaper published a commentary by Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute.  The article calls attention to a major problem with the complaint and discipline system of the State Bar of California: It is not accessible to people with cognitive disabilities.  This is especially true for seniors experiencing cognitive decline or adults of all ages with developmental disabilities who often find themselves ensnared in probate conservatorship proceedings in which their assets or basic liberties are in jeopardy.  Because of the nature of their disabilities, these involuntary litigants would not know when their attorneys are cutting corners, willfully providing deficient legal services, or violating professional ethics.  As a result, they are in no position to file complaints against such attorneys with the State Bar.  The commentary suggests ways in which the State Bar, which is an arm of the Supreme Court, can modify the complaint system to make its benefits available, even if only indirectly, to this class of vulnerable individuals.  To read the commentary, click here.  The Daily Journal is read by 7,000 attorneys, judges, legislators, business executives, and government administrators in California.  To see the article on the Daily Journal website, click here.


April 19, 2021

California State Bar Complaint System is Not Accessible to Clients with Cognitive Disablities

Spectrum Institute has sent a report to the California Supreme Court and the State Bar of California to alert both entities that the State Bar's complaint and discipline system for attorneys is not accessible to litigants with cognitive disabilities in probate conservatorship proceedings.  Because such litigants lack the ability to identify deficient legal services or to complain about them, the public entities responsible for the complaint system to investigate and discipline bad attorneys must make modifications to the policies and procedures of that system to make its benefits available, directly or indirectly, to the disabled clients of such attorneys.  To read the report, which was sent today to the Supreme Court and State Bar, and which will be the focus of comments at the meeting of the State Bar Board of Trustees on Friday, April 23, 2021, click here.


April 16, 2021

Progress Report Sent to the Funding and Fees Review Team

Spectrum Institute announced the formation of an Attorney Fee Review Team on December 28, 2020. The review was intended to focus on two types of attorney fees in probate conservatorship cases.  One is attorney fees paid from the assets of conservatees to a wide range of attorneys involved in these cases.  The other is fees paid from county funds for legal services provided to indigent conservatees.  The study is being donducted by the legal director of Spectrum Institute with the help of a research associate.  A law student intern will join the research project in May.  Reports and recommendations will be reviewed by a diverse team of advisors.  The study has been renamed as the Funding and Fees Review Project.  Today the legal director sent a progress report to the advisors about the preliminary research that has been done to date. The report informs the advisors of the direction the study is headed.  To read the report, click here.


April 13, 2021

Conservatorship Reform Presentation Encourages More Focus on Solutions

Attorney Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, made a 45-minute presentation yesterday at a National Guardianship Symposium.  His presentation identified the many parts of California's probate conservatorship system that are broken -- offering specific reform proposals and identifying the officials and agencies to whom each one should be directed.  The approach he suggested for California could be adapted to any of the other 49 states which have guardianship or conservatorship systems that are not functioning as they should be.  Spectrum Institute can be commissioned to perform a problem/solution agency-specific plan for any state.  Contact us if you are interested in discussing this for your state.  To watch the video of Coleman's presentation, click here.  Or you can copy and paste the following link in a new window.


April 11-12, 2021

Day Two of National Guardianship Symposium Focuses on Solutions

Attorney Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, will present on day two of AAAPG's National Symposium on guardianship reform.  The zoom forum is sponsored by Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships.  On the first day of the symposium (April 11) a variety of speakers share stories of how they or their families were victimized by abusive guardianship proceedings.  The second day includes presenters offering suggestions on how to tame the guardianship beast.   Coleman's presentation, which occurs at 11:15 am (EDT) on April 12 is titled Conservatorship Reform: Shifting the Focus from Complaints to Solutions.  He explains how various local, state, and federal officials and agencies have jurisdiction to improve one or more parts of the complex conservatorship system in California.  The key to reform is crafting a specific reform proposal and pitching it to an official or agency with authority to deliver.  Presenting a good proposal to the wrong official or agency wastes valuable time and resources. The examples that Coleman provides for California can be adpted to guardianship reform efforts in other states. To view his PowerPoint presentation, click here. To read the program for both days, click here.  For a press release, including information on how to register ($15) and attend either day, click here.


April 10, 2021

Video Blog Invites Comments on the Consequences of Denying or Delaying Therapy

A 3-minute video message from the team at the Mental Health Project has been added to the Video Blog page of Spectrum E-News.  Tom Coleman explains the purpose of a new editorial reporting series titled Consequences.  Through independent research and with input from people with disabilities, families, service providers, and advocates, intern Emmi Deckard will start the series off with an investigative report on the consequences to adults with developmental disabilities when they are denied prompt and equal access to effective mental health therapies when they are needed.  Project Director Tina Baldwin explains the importance of having the report include the insights of people who observe or directly experience the consequences we are focusing on.   Emmi Deckard makes her own pitch for input from people involved in person-centered planning process for and with adults who are part of this special needs population.  To view the video, which has closed captioning, click here


April 7, 2021

Distinguished Legal Advocate Becomes Advisor to Mental Health Project

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.


April 7, 2021

Spectrum Institute sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee of the Calfornia Legislature in support of SB 724 which affirms and strengthens the right to counsel for conservatees and proposed conservatees.  The letter provides reference materials and legal precedents that support each of the four major components of the right to counsel protections in the bill. For a copy of the letter, click here.  For a letter of support from the National Coalition on the Civil Right to Counsel, click here.   To read the Judiciary Committee Report which was filed today, click here.  There is no known opposition to the bill. Update (May 3, 2021):  The bill passed unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee on April 13 and unanimouslyut of the Appropriations Committee on May 3.  To see the votes, click here.


April 6, 2021

SB 724 Strengthens the Right to Counsel

When California State Senator Ben Allen (photo) first introduced Senate Bill 724 on February 18, 2021, it was a modest proposal.  At that stage, the bill specified that if a conservatee or proposed conservatee expresses any preference for a particular attorney to represent them, the court shall allow it even if the attorney is not on the court's list of approved attorneys.  While the bill may have been inspired by a judge's refusal to allow Britney Spears to have her attorney of choice, others have experienced the same denial of counsel, such as 84 year-old Theresa Jankowski in Los Angeles or 24 year-old Elizabeth H. in Solano.  The bill was a modest way of protecting the right to counsel.  Now, however, Senator Allen has amended the bill to provide additional protections.  Courts in Sacramento and elsewhere will no longer be able to deprive proposed conservatees of the right to counsel altogether.  If they don't have an attorney of choice, the court must appoint one to represent them.  Further, any ambiguity in the role of counsel will be removed.  The amended bill says that such attorneys shall act as a zealous advocate for the client.  No more acting as a "best interests" attorney or de-facto investigtor for the court.  Finally, the bill will require appellate courts to appoint counsel for conservatees whose cases come before them in appeals or writ proceedings.  No more situtions where a conservatee like Catherine Dubro was treated as though she did not exist, even though she was a respondent in an appellate proceeding where tens of thousands of dollars of her assets were at stake.  While the amended bill does not contain all of the elements that Spectrum Intitute would have liked -- such as authorizing the Judicial Council to develop performance standards for appointed attorneys in conservatorship proceedings, it is a major advancement for the right to counsel in California.  For that Senator Allen should be commended.  For a copy of the amended bill, which comes up for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 13, click here.


April 5, 2021

Washington Supreme Court Brief Filed Today

Spectrum Institute and Mental Health Advocacy Services filed a motion and memorandum today in the Washington Supreme Court in the case of Dorothy Helm O'Dell.  Ms. Helm produced compelling evidence that she was financially exploited in a guardianship proceeding in Washington State and is asking the Supreme Court to review her case in order to secure justice for herself.  The motion and memorandum filed today ask the court to recognize that this is not an isolated problem and to grant review in order to put into place protections that will reduce the risk that other vulnerable adults will be victimized in the future by professional fiduciaries.  Many thanks to Washington attorney Cheryl Mitchell for being the attorney of record for the two organizations and to attorney Dan Young and his colleague Camille Minogue for their guidance.  The Law Office of Dan Young represents Ms. Helm.  For a copy of the amici curiae (friends-of-the-court) motion, click here.  For a copy of the memorandum, click here. (Image by Top 10 website)  Update (April 14):  The Supreme Court accepted the brief for filing and will consider it when deciding to grant review.  For a copy of the court's order, click here. 


April 4, 2021

Video Blog Posted Today on Autism Awareness +

Spectrum E-News posted a video blog today titled Autism: from awareness to acceptance to appreciation.  In the blog, attorney Thomas F. Coleman acknowledges that April has been designated by some organizations as Autism Awarness Month.  One group has called for a redesigntion to Autism Acceptance Month.  In the blog, Coleman takes it one step further -- to appreciation.  He calls out four autistic individuals to whom he expressed his appreciation.  With the help of family, friends, and supporters, these individuals fought back against an oppressive conservatorship system and in the process they advanced civil rights for all people with disabilities who are targeted by these proceedings.  To watch the 3-minute video, click here.


April 2, 2021

Legal Newspaper Publishes Commentary on Grand Juries

The Daily Journal legal newspaper published a commentary today about how civil grand juries can become a new method to promote probate conservatorship reform.  Although conservatorship proceedings occur in state court, many of the functions pertaining to conservatorships or less restrictive alternatives are functions of county government.  Grand juries have the authority to investigate inefficiencies or dysfunctional aspects of county government operations.  The commentary suggests that a top investigative priority for grand juries should be the manner in which county governments fund the legal services provided to indigents who become targets of conservatorship petitions.  For a copy of the commentary, click here.


April 2, 2021

Our April Newsletter is Available

The April 2021 newsletter of Spectrum Institute has just been released.  Please share it with your friends and colleagues.  The newsletter contains a variety of articles about our activities during the month of March.  For a pdf copy of the newsletter, click here.  If you would like to read it online, click here


April 1, 2021

New Advisor to Mental Health Project

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. 


March 29, 2021

Washington State Radio Station Focuses on Guardianship Abuse

Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of  Spectrum Institute, appeared today on The Morning News with Mike DavisMike interviewed Tom about the case of Dorothy Helm O'Dell.  Tom explained how Dorothy fought back and refused to surrender to exploitative and abusive legal maneuvers which a judge in Yakima County allowed to happen and the Court of Appeal swept under the judicial rug. Dorothy's petition to the Washington Supreme Court is pending.  To listen to the 5-minute radio segment, click here and then click on "open this page in a new window."

Thanks to an excellent defense provided by attorney Dan Young, Dorothy escaped without being forced into a guardianship.  However, her assets were entirely depleted by the fees charged by the professionals who tried to take control of her life.  A petition for review is asking the Washington Supreme Court to place controls in the guardianship system that will prevent fees from being awarded when fiduciaries do not act in good faith. Such controls would benefit a variety of vulnerable adults, such as seniors with cognitive challenges, adults struggling with mental illnesses, and adults of all ages with developmental disabilities.  For a press release about the case, click here.  To read the essay titled Dorothy Won't Surrender, click here.  Dorothy's case highlights the need for guardianship reform in Washington State.  Perhaps Congress should include Washington in its agenda if it holds hearings into abusive guardianship practices by state courts that violate the federal civil rights of Americans.  For a copy of a letter from Spectrum Institute and 14 other organizations calling for congressional hearings, click here.


March 24, 2021

Public Defender Conservatorship Training Uses Spectrum Institute Materials

The California Public Defenders Association is conducting a webinar today and tomorrow to train attorneys on how to effectively represent clients who have been targeted by probate conservatorship petitions.  The lead presenter on day one is Susan Sindelar, a deputy public defender in Santa Barbara County. Written materials accompanying her presentation include two publications released by Spectrum Institute.  One is our 2020 Capacity Assessment Report.  The other is a set of model jury instructions we developed for limited conservatorship cases. 


March 22, 2021

News Story Explains Our Call for Congressional Hearings

A story was published yesterday by Union Square Times focusing on the letter sent by Spectrum Institute and 13 other organizations to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).   The letter called for congressional hearings into abusive practices in conservatorship proceedings in California and guardianship proceedings in other states.  Nadler is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.  To read the story, written by Juliette Fairley, click here.


March 21, 2021

An Essay for World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), March 21, is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012.  Tina Baldwin, chair of the board of trustees of Spectrum Institute has written an essay to commemorate the occasion.  To read the essay, click here.


March 17, 2021

Webinar Today for Long Beach Bar Association

Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, is a guest speaker at a webinar hosted today by the Long Beach Bar Association.  Coleman's lecture identifies 11 specific problems with the probate conservatorship system in California along with a suggested solution for each one of them.  Attorneys who attend the webinar may receive one hour of continuing education credit approved by the California State Bar.  In addition to members of the local bar association, other lawyers attending the webinar include public defenders from 12 counties in California and staff attorneys from the California Legislature.  For a copy of the pdf of Coleman's PowerPoint presentation, click here


March 15, 2021

A Call for Hearings by California Assembly Committee

Spectrum Institute sent a letter today to Assemblymember Mark Stone (photo) reminding him that the problems with the conservatorship system we brought to his attention four years ago still persist.  Now, as then, we call on him as chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee to conduct oversight hearings to identify systemic problems and develop solutions.  Our letter informed him that we recently wrote to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee of the United States Congress calling for hearings into the ongoing violations of the federal civil rights of seniors and people with disabilities that are being perpetrated by California's conservatorship system.  How much more appropriate it would be for hearings to be conducted in Sacramento rather than Washington D.C.  For a copy of our letter to Chairman Stone, click here.


March 13, 2021

Civil Rights Rule Maker Updating California's ADA Regulations

The Fair Employment and Housing Council will meet on March 19, 2021 at 1:00 p.m.  The meeting is open to the public and accessible online.  The Council is charged by law to adopt regulations to interpret and implement state statutes prohibiting discrimination.  Among those statutes is Government Code Section 11135 which prohibits disability discrimination by state agencies and by programs funded by the state.  This statute applies to superior court proceedings, including probate conservatorship proceedings.  For more than one year, Spectrum Institute has been in communication with the Council about the importance of adopting specific relations that make it clear to judges and appointed attorneys that they have duties to protect the right of conservatees and proposed conservatees to effective communication and meaningful participation in these proceedings.  This may require judges modifying court policies or attorneys to provide disability accommodations to clients with cognnitive disabilities.  To read an email sent to the Council on this matter, click here.  To access the meeting online at 1:00 p.m. on March 19, click here.


March 13, 2021

California State Bar Trustees to Hear from Spectrum Institute

Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute will speak at a meeting of the Calfornia State Bar Board of Trustees on March 19.  Coleman will urge the Bar to devote time and resources to address the problem of deficient legal services being provided to low- and moderate-income Californians who become entangled, involuntarily, into probate conservatorship proceedings.  In addition to initiating pro-active measures to address this problem – which the State Bar has not yet done – Coleman will suggest that the State Bar should support bills that protect the right to counsel and oppose those that diminish this right by undermining access to a competent attorney who provides zealous advocacy adhering to ethical rules of loyalty and confidentiality.  To read an email Coleman sent to the Trustees about these issues, click here.  The meeting is open to the public online.  The public comment segment will occur shortly after the meeting begins at 9:00 a.m. on March 19.  For information on how to access the meeting, click here.


March 9, 2021

British Podcast Shines Light on Abusive Conservatorships in Calfornia

Defiance News has just released several episodes of a podcast focusing on the abusive conservatorship of entertainer Britney Spears and several other cases involving civil rights violations by the conservatorship system against adults whose ages range from 30 to 80.  Part III of the series prominently features the advocacy activities of Spectrum Institute.   For more information about the episode, click here.  To listen to this segment (54-min), click here


March 9, 2021

Organizations Call for Congressional Hearings into Rights Violations in State Conservatorship and Guardianship Proceedings

Several advocacy organizations have joined a letter sent today from Spectrum Institute to United States Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY). Nadler (photo) is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. The letter urges the committee to hold hearings on violations of civil rights that routinely occur in guardianship and conservatorships proceedings in state courts throughout the nation.  It encourages the committee to draft legislation that will strengthen the role of the federal government in protecting the constitutional right of due process and federal civil rights of Americans who are drawn into these proceedings. Joining our letter is: Harvard Law School Project on Disability (Massachusetts); TASH (Washington, DC); Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships (Florida); National Disability Institute (Washington, DC); Washington Autism Alliance (Washington); Center for Estate Administration Reform (North Carolina); Mental Health Advocacy Services (California); Bettys' Hope (California); Kasem Cares (California); People First of Washington (Washington); Self Advocates in Leadership (Washington); Sage Eldercare Solutions (California); and Hearing Loss Legal Fund (Utah). To read a copy of the letter, click here.


March 9, 2021

Records Requests Being Sent to All California Superior Courts

No state official or agency in California keeps statistics on probate conservatorship cases. How many new petitions are filed annually in the state? How many open cases are there? In other words, how many seniors and people with disabilities are superior court judges in California protecting through conservatorship orders? As attorney Thomas F. Coleman once wrote in an op-ed article published in the Daily Journal legal newspaper: “We Count What We Care About.” The Chief Justice and Judicial Council apparently don’t care very much.  They have not been counting the number of adults who are being protected by the superior courts throughout the state. Spectrum Institute intends to find out the answer. Our intern, Emmi Deckard, is sending out administrative records requests under Rule 10.500 of the California Rules of Court. The requests ask each superior court for records showing the number of new petitions filed in 2019 and 2020 and the number of open cases at the end of each of those years. We have already received partial information from the Alameda Superior Court. It is unfortunate that we have to do something that the Judicial Council should itself have been doing for years. However, rather than complaining we are rolling up our sleeves, so to speak, and seeking the information ourselves.  We will share our findings when this research project is complete.


March 9, 2021

Professor Emeritus Becomes Advisor to Mental Health Project

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. 


March 6, 2021

Spectrum Institute Adds New Board Member

Sheri Kellogg has become a member of the board of trustees of Spectrum Institute.  She has been a resident of Napa, California since 1971. After growing up in that community, Sheri raised three children in Napa, each of whom attended local schools and then went on to obtain college degrees.

Sheri has contributed to her community over the years as an entrepreneur in a mix of areas, ranging from real estate lending to owning a caregiving franchise in both Napa and Redding for  nearly a decade. The primary focus of her caregiving business was to advocate for the needs of seniors and those with different abilities while at the same time promoting their ability to be as independent as possible.

Sheri’s passion for advocating for these often-marginalized members of society comes from her experience as a single mother for 23 years as well as being someone who believes in the value of the elderly and those with different abilities. While she was the owner of two Comfort Keeper’s franchises, Sheri gained a greater understanding that elderly and differently-abled individuals need strong advocacy in addition to caregiving services.  They also need help navigating through the maze of social service systems in order to secure the financial and other assistance for which they are eligible.

Sheri has recently been supporting the advocacy goals of Spectrum Institute through her expertise as a Brand and Marketing Strategist. She has honed successful techniques for using social media platforms to educate the public on important issues, while at the same time attracting people to participate as volunteers or donors to help an organization more effectively advance its mission. Sheri is sharing those techniques with the executive director and social media coordinator of Spectrum Institute, coaching them as they implement various strategies for growth and awareness of Spectrum Institute’s purpose.

We are pleased to welcome Sheri Kellogg to the board of trustees.


March 5, 2021

Mental Health Project Gains New Advisor

We are pleased to announce that Jose R. Rosario has accepted our invitation to be an advisor to the Mental Health Project. Jose is a speaker, author, and above all, an advocate. As a member of many diverse identity groups, Jose recognizes that common experiences bring people together and that taking stock of who we are gives us power. Jose wants to inspire others to acknowledge their identities, share their stories and empower those who are underrepresented to rise. As a mental health professional, Jose understands that this empowerment, and the creation of a space to be vulnerable, can lead to individual and group growth, awakening agents for change. Jose 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, Jose 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.


March 4, 2021

March Newsletter is Now Available

Spectrum Institute has just released the most recent issue of the organization's online newsletter.  It is a function of Spectrum E-News, our news and editorial division.  Thanks to Emmi Deckard, a college intern from UCLA for her assistance in producing the newsletters for February and March.  The current newsletter has a special message from Tina Baldwin, director of the Mental Health Project.  With the addition of several new advisors, it shows that our organization is growing.  There are also news items about our activities with the California Supreme Court and California Legislature.  To access a pdf version of the newsletter, click here.


March 4, 2021

Video Blog on Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

The Video Blog of Thomas F. Coleman is a function of Spectrum E-News, the editorial division of Spectrum Institute.  Today’s blog discusses March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  Each March, organizations and individuals throughout the United States engage in a variety of activities to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all areas of community life, as well as awareness to the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.  To access the 4-minute blog, click here.


March 3, 2021

California Bill is a Trojan Horse Diminishing the Right to Counsel


A bill was recently introduced in the California Assembly that undermines the right of people with communication disabilities to have a legal defense attorney in probate conservatorship proceedings. 

Under the bill, if a court-appointed attorney personally believes the conservatee or proposed conservatee is unable to communicate, the bill mandates that the attorney inform the court.  The judge may then determine the inability to communicate without an evidentiary hearing, without even laying eyes on the litigant, and without the need for an ADA assessment, and without the need for any expert evaluation.  If the judge determines the individual is unable to communicate – whatever that means – the judge must remove advocacy counsel and appoint a guardian ad litem.  The GAL, of course, has no ethical duties of confidentiality or loyalty to the client. 

The Daily Journal legal newspaper has published an op-ed by Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Insttitute, which explains some of the dangers of AB596. 

Perhaps the author of the bill, Assemblymember Janet Nguyen, would benefit by hearing from California disability rights advocates.  She introduced the bill at the request of the California Lawyers Association – a trade group representing the interests of the lawfirms who practice in probate court.  The staff member assigned to the bill is Emily Humpal. 

For a pdf copy of the article, click here.

A video blog was made to discuss the bill and its implications.  To watch the video, click here.

Spectrum Institute's Chairperson, Tina Baldwin, sent the following email today to all members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee:

Dear Legislative Director:

I want to bring to your attention two problems with AB-596 – a Bill Pertaining to Appointed Counsel in Probate Conservatorship Proceedings. The bill has two parts and both are seriously are flawed. I would like to request that you also share this email with the Assemblymember.  Thank you.
I have attached a copy of a recent article written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, in which he discusses the problems. It was published today in the Daily Journal, California Lawyer.  Here is the link to the article: Daily Journal.

If passed this bill will have a serious negative impact on the right to counsel for many adults including seniors, people with disabilities, and people who experience a medical emergency such as aortic dissection which can leave them not only quadriplegic but also unable to speak. This bill could potentially impact anyone -- even you. 

Please contact Tom if you have any questions.
Tina Baldwin,
Chairperson, Board of Trustees
Spectrum Institute


March 1, 2021

Spectrum E-News Launches New Video Blog


Spectrum E-News, the editorial division of Spectrum Institute, has initiated a video blog.  The blog will feature periodic commentaries and news announcements from the organization's executive director.  The first blog, released on February 28, explains the importance of a recent order of the California Supreme Court depublishing an opinion of the Court of Appeal.  Such an order deprives an opinion of any precedential value, making it binding only on the parties to the case.  Unpublished opinions cannot be cited as precedent in future cases.  In this situation, the depublication order was issued in the Conservatorship of O.B. in response to a request from Spectrum Institute.  We objected to the opinion because it deemphasized the importance of courts and attorneys seriously considering less restrictive alternatives prior to an adult being placed under an order of conservatorship.  To access the new video blog page on the website, click here.


February 27, 2021

Advisor Reviews and Offers Suggestions on Capacity Assessment Report


Marshall Kapp, J.D., M.P.H., a legal and mental health advisor to Spectrum Institute, has submitted the following review of a report titled “Capacity Assessments in California Conservatorship Proceedings.”  The report was written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman and submitted to the Chief Justice, Governor, and Legislature on July 1, 2020. 




Thanks for the opportunity to review this excellent report.  My general impression is that the report is so thorough in content, clearly written, comprehensively supported, and specific enough in its recommendations for action that elected officials ought to be able to understand the points you are trying to convey.  I’m sorry but not surprised that no official response has been forthcoming yet; judging by what I see on the nightly news, California has a plethora of problems vying for attention.


In terms of prioritizing recommendations, obviously those not requiring huge outlays of new dollars are most likely to be received positively.  In general, recommendations requesting educational activities are less threatening than recommendations calling for actual change in behavior/activity, such as establishing new governmental or private bodies.


Thanks again for the opportunity to review and learn from your impressive work on capacity assessment.


Best wishes,




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). 


February 25, 2021

Legal Director to Offer Conservatorship Reform Strategies at National Forum

Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship is sponsoring a national Guardianship Symposium to be held online on April 11-12, 2021.  Registration is required.  During this two-day forum experts will interactively explore the growing threat of abusive guardianships and conservtorships and offer strategies for reform.  The first day will identify problems with these "protective" systems.  The second day will focus on solutions.  Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, is scheduled to speak on day two.  His presentation -- Shifting from Complaints to Solutions -- will identify specific areas of the California conservatorship system needing reform, offering concrete proposals to bring about needed reforms.  From his presentation, attendees with learn: (1) how to divide the conservatorship (guardianship) system into discrete segments; (2) how to identify deficiencies in that segment pertaining to policies or practices; and (3) how to craft solutions for each segment and then pitch them to the appropriate official or agency with jurisdiction to implement each proposal. To register for the forum, click here.

February 25, 2021

Supreme Court's Conservatorship Order Sends Message on Less Restrictive Alternatives

The California Supreme Court issued an order yesterday directing the reporter of decisions not to publish an opinion of the Court of Appeal in the Conservatorship of O.B. (Case. No. S266033). In an appeal from an order granting a conservatorship of a young autistic woman, the Court of Appeal had affirmed the order, issuing an opinion that it certified for publication. Such an order makes the opinion binding law throughout the state. The opinion gave short shrift to the statutory requirement that less restrictive alternatives must be considered and ruled out. That was of little concern to the appellate court. Spectrum Institute asked the Supreme Court to order the opinion depublished, arguing that the wording of the opinion could be interpreted by attorneys and judges that the matter of less restrictive alternatives was not that important. The Supreme Court granted the request. As a result, the appellate opinion may not be cited as precedent in the future. Such depublication orders are rare. The action of the Supreme Court to issue such an order here sends a signal to appellate justices and trial court judges not to treat the matter of less restrictive alternatives so lightly. For a copy of our request to the Supreme Court spelling out the arguments for depublication, click here. For a v-blog commentary about the significance of this Supreme court order, click here.


February 23, 2021

National Disability Rights Network Endorses the Civil Right to Mental Health Therapy

The statement of legal principles supporting the right of adults with developmental disabilities to full and equal access to mental health therapy has been endorsed by the National Disability Rights Network.  NDRN is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities.  P&As and CAPs work to improve the lives of people with disabilities by guarding against abuse; advocating for basic rights; and ensuring access and accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, voting, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  The legal principles were formulated last year by the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute and have been endorsed by several state and national organizations.  To read the principles and the list of endorsing organizations, click here.


February 21, 2021

Conservatorship Bill Introduced to Protect Choice of Attorney

California State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced a bill last week that would require judges to allow conservatees and proposed conservatees to be represented by the attorney of their choice. Allen's legislative district includes a large area on the westside of Los Angeles as well as several beach cities to the south. Senate Bill 724 would add subdivision (d) to Probate Code Section 1471, stating: “If a conservatee, proposed conservatee, or person alleged to lack legal capacity expresses any preference for a particular attorney to represent them, the court shall allow representation by the preferred attorney, even if the attorney is not on the court’s list of a court appointed attorneys” Spectrum Institute has reached out to the senator’s legislative director to discuss the bill. If enacted into law, SB 724 would help solve one part of a much broader set of problems concerning the right to counsel for seniors and people with disabilities in probate conservatorship proceedings. For a report on the need for more comprehensive legislation, click here.


February 20, 2021

Distinguished Professor Becomes an Advisor to Our Projects

Marshall B. Kapp, J.D., M.P.H. (Colleges of Law & Medicine) has accepted our invitation to be an advisor to both the Guardianship Project and the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute.  Professor Kapp 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).  He is Professor Emeritus from the School of Medicine at Wright State University, where, from 1980 through 2003, he was a faculty member in both the Departments of Community Health and Psychiatry and taught courses on the legal and ethical aspects of health care.  He also was Director of WSU's Office of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology and held an adjunct faculty appointment at the University of Dayton School of Law. We look forward to receiving his advice on our effort to reform conservatorship and guardianship systems as well as our effort to promote the right to mental health therapy for adults with developmental disabilities.


February 16, 2021

Facebook Outreach to Califonia Assemblywoman about AB 596 (Appointed Counsel)

Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute, posted today on the Facebook page of California Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen, expressing concerns about AB 596 -- a bill she introduced dealing with appointed counsel in probate conservatorship cases.  The wording of her bill creates a potential for mischief -- the possibility that seniors and other adults with cognitive disabilities may be deprived of counsel without due process of law.  Coleman asked for an opportunity to speak with her staff about this.  For a report showing the need for more comprehensive legislation to protect the right to counsel in these cases, click here.   


February 11, 2021

Latest Edition of Monthly E-Newsletter is Released

Spectrum E-News, the editorial and news division of Spectrum Institute, has released its monthly newsletter. The February 2021 edition reviews the growth and activities of the organization in January. We saw an influx of college interns to help staff our projects and the addition of mental health professionals as advisors to our Mental Health Project.  There were also additions to our Attorney Fee Review Team – a project examining how public and private funds are being used to pay for legal services in probate conservatorship cases in California. The e-newsletter is being sent to recipients via email. It is also available online and in a pdf format. We appreciate the assistance of UCLA student Emmi Deckard who helped edit and produce this edition of the newsletter.


February 10, 2021

Dr. Nirbhay N. Singh Becomes an Advisor to the Mental Health Project

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.


February 9, 2021

B is for Broken:  Upcoming Conservatorship Webinar for Long Beach Bar Association 

Probate Conservatorships: A Broken System Needs Fixing.  That's the focus of a one-hour lunchtime webinar being presented by the Long Beach Bar Asociation on March 17, 2021.  As attorney Thomas F. Coleman walks through the probate conservatorship process – from start to finish – he will identify ways in which the system is failing adults with cognitive disabilities, whether they are seniors with dementia or young adults with developmental disabilities.  For each systemic flaw that he identifies, a specific reform will be suggested.  Some will require new legislation.  Others will require new court rules.  But in the meantime, there are some DYI repairs that attorneys and state an local bar associations can do to make the system operate more fairly.  For a copy of the bar association's announcement, click here.


February 8, 2021

Spectrum Institute Solicits the Views of Experts on Judicial Ethics

Attorney John Di Pietro, research associate with Spectrum Institute, is reaching out to judicial ethics scholars at universities throughout the United States. He is inviting them to review our report to the Supreme Court of California titled The Domino Effect: Judicial Control of Legal Services. They are being asked to share their views on the ethics of judges controlling and managing legal services programs involving attorneys who appear before them or their courts. Is it stepping over the ethical line when instead of impartially deciding cases, judges engage in actions that expressly or implicitly influence how attorneys represent their clients? Should judges control the income stream of attorneys who appear before them by deciding whether to appoint them to a case, how much they are paid, as well as whether and how many future cases they are appointed to? Should the judges be training or coaching the attorneys who appear before them?  We look forward to receiving feedback from these scholars. For a sample of an email sent to these professors, click here.


February 7, 2021

Mental Health Project Sends Letter to Washington State Legislator

Tina Baldwin, director of the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute sent a letter to Senator Karen Keiser, chair of the Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee of the Washington State Legislature. It was also shared with other legislators and staff on the committee.  The letter informed them of the economic impact that the denial of appropriate mental health services can have on adults with developmental disabilities who are employed. Violations of the right to prompt and effective mental health therapy can adversely impact state entitlement programs.  They can also have detrimental effects on workers in financial and other ways. To read the letter, click here.  (Photo: Sen. Karen Keiser)


February 5, 2021

Website Designer Joins Team at Spectrum Institute

Jennifer Coleman will be designing and developing a new website for Spectrum Institute.  The executive director has selected a design template and Jenny has started the planning process.  Our website will soon have a fresh new look and will be more user friendly.  Jenny is a multidisciplinary creative professional, graphic and web designer.  She is the owner of Solstice Marketing Design.  Jenny's other professional and personal passion is horse riding and training.  She is the owner of Solstice Sporthorses in Paris, Kentucky.

February 4, 2021

Loyola Law School Offering Students Internships with Spectrum Institute

Michael Waterstone, Dean of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, recently intoduced us to Sande L. Buhai, director of the school's Public Interest Law Department.  She is posting an announcement regarding the availability of summer and fall internships for students with Spectrum Institute. Interns will be assigned to a variety of research and advocacy projects designed to secure equal rights and justice for people with cognitive and communication disabilities. Students will work under the direction of attorney Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute.  Coleman is an alumnus of Loyola, graduating from the law school in 1973.  To read the announcement, click here. Udate:  (2-6-21)  Four students have inquired about the internships.


February 3, 2021

Technology Consultant Joins the Team at Spectrum Institute

Alex Sansevieri has become a technology advisor to Spectrum Institute. Alex has been working as an IT advisor, troubleshooter, and technician for individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations for two decades. He has extensive knowledge in networking as well as a variety of technology solutions -- from onsite to the cloud. Alex is the owner of Sansevieri Technology Consulting.  We are pleased that we will have the benefit of his advice and assistance as Spectrum Institute continues to develop and expand our programs and activities.


February 3, 2021

Pioneer of LEGOŽ Therapy Becomes Advisor to Mental Health Project

Daniel B. LeGoff. Ph.D., LS. has accceted an invitation to be an advisor to our Mental Health Project.  He is a licensed and board-certified pediatric neuropsychologist and the pioneer of LEGOŽ Therapy. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral conditions in infants, children, and adolescents. He is the author of LEGOŽ-Based Therapy: How to build social competence through LEGOŽ-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.


February 3, 2021

Oregon Health and Science University Professor to Advise Mental Health Project

Randall Phelps, M.D., Ph.D. has accepted an invitation to be an advisor to our Mental Health Project.  He is a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, Institute on Development and Disability, Oregon Health and Science University. Dr. Phelps attends on interdisciplinary teams to provide diagnostic assessments and care to children with developmental disabilities and/or behavioral conditions throughout the state of Oregon and surrounding states.  He is co-editor of Trauma, Autism, and Neurological Disorders Integrating Research, Practice, and Policy (Springer 2018) Topics featured in the book include: the neurobiological contributors to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and its diagnosis in children with a history of trauma; interventions for trauma and stressor-related disorders in preschool-aged children; reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis and care in a cultural context; special population consideration in ASD identification and treatment; and trauma and neurodevelopmental disorders from a public health perspective.


February 3, 2021

Co-Authors of Physchological First Aid Book Become Advisors

The co-authors of Psychological First Aid for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse have accepted our invitation to be advisors to the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute. The book provides a complete, structured, and evidence-based program for providing therapy to survivors of sexual abuse with developmental disabilities.

Aafke Scharloo MSc. is a clinical psychologist and remedial educationalist who has pioneered international approaches to helping people with intellectual disabilities recover from sexual abuse. Aafke is a consultant on special cases throughout the Netherlands and lectures internationally on issues concerning people with an intellectual disability, sexual abuse, maltreatment and trauma.

Martine Spijker MSc. is a healthcare psychologist, EMDR-practitioner and psychotraumatherapist. She co-founded a treatment centre for helping children and young adults with mild intellectual disabilities and trauma. Martine also runs a private practice specialising in treating trauma and sexual abuse in children, teenagers and young adults.

Simone Ebbers MSc. is a healthcare psychologist, child psychologist, EMDR-practitioner and sexologist. She runs a private practice assessing and treating trauma and sexual abuse, and specializes in working with people with intellectual


January 31, 2021

Social Media Advisor Providing Guidance on How to Attract More Support

We are grateful to Sheri Kellogg, an experienced brand strategist, for sharing her skills to help Spectrum Institute expand support for the organization and its activities. Sheri has honed successful techniques for using social media platforms to educate the public on important issues while at the same time attracting people to participate as volunteers or donors to help an organization more effectively advance its mission. She is sharing those techniques with the executive director and social media coordinator of Spectrum Institute and coaching us as we implement her suggestions. Sheri provides marketing and advertising consulting services thrugh her 365 Biz Agency located in Napa, California.  Prior to her career as a brand strategist, Sheri was a franchise owner of Napa Comfort Keepers, a business providing in-home care for seniors and people with disabilities.


January 31, 2021

List of Advisors to the Mental Health Project Continues to Grow

Gary LaVigna, Ph.D. has become an advisor to our Mental Health Project.  He 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)


January 30, 2021

Another New Advisor for the Mental Health Project

A person in a suit smiling

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceWe are pleased to announce that Thomas Buckley, Ed.D. has accepted our invitation to be an advisor to the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute.  Dr. Buckley 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.


January 29, 2021

Sharing Information with BuzzFeed News About Conservatorships

In response to a request for information about conservatorships of young adults in California, Spectrum Institute sent documents to their investigative reporter. A film clip was also shared. The story they are working on appears to focus on guardianship interventions involving young people – a population that is often neglected in stories written about financial exploitation of seniors. We shared with the reporter a synopsis of six young adults with varying types of developmental disabilities whose civil rights were violated in conservatorship proceedings. We look forward to reading the story when it is eventually released.


January 28, 2021

Retired California Judge Becomes an Advisor to the Attorney Fee Review Study

Retired Superior Court Judge Stephen Lachs has become an advisor to the Attorney Fee Review Study being conducted by Spectrum Institute. The study is examining how public funds as well as the personal assets of seniors and people with disabilities are being used to pay for lawyer's fees and legal services in probate conservatorship proceedings in California. Preliminary research suggests that public funds are sometimes subsidizing deficient legal services. Anecdotal evidence shows that attorney fee awards being made by judges from the assets of conservatees are sometimes excessive and unreasonable. Judge Lachs, and other team members, will help Spectrum Institute identify problems in both areas of concern and review proposed solutions. Lachs served as a superior court judge for 20 years. His first assignment was in the mental health division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Prior to his appointment to the bench by Governor Jerry Brown in 1979, Lachs was a supervising attorney in the public defender’s office in Los Angeles County.  Lachs lives with his spouse in Rancho Mirage.


January 27, 2021

Mental Health Project Gains an Advisor from the United Kingdom

Biza Stenfert Kroese has accepted an invitation to become an advisor to the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute. She 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.


January 24, 2021

New Social Media Coordinator for Spectrum Institute

Brent Druding has joined the team at Spectrum Institute to serve as our social media coordinator. Brent will be sharing information about our organization and its various projects through social media platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter, as well as through targeted email communications. He will tailor our social media outreach to audiences who will benefit by becoming aware of our research, educational, and advocacy activities. Brent will help us connect and commuicate with individuals, organizations, and networks, including people with disabilities, their families and supporters, their advocates, and their service providers. Outreach will also be directed to lawyers, guardians, conservators, psychologists, social workers, nonprofit organizations, and government officials and agencies. We are grateful to Brent for his willingness to assist Spectrum Institute to advance our mission in this way.


January 23, 2021

William C. Gaventa, M. Div. is an Advisor to Our Mental Health Project

We are pleased to announce that Reverend William C. Gaventa has accepted an invitation to be an advisor to the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute. He 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)


January 23, 2021

Matthew P. Janicki, Ph.D. is an Advisor to Our Mental Health Project

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Matthew P. Janicki has become an advisor to the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute. Dr. Janicki is co-chair of the National Task Group 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.


January 22, 2021

Mental Health Project Explains the Right to a Support Person as an ADA Accommodation

The Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute has prepared an informational brochure explaining that people with disabilities, especially those who have cognitive disabilities, are entitled to have a support person as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As with any accommodation, the individual is entitled to an effective support person. To be effective, the support person must be someone the individual chooses or agrees to. Otherwise, the “accommodation” may produce anxiety or distress rather than support. For a copy of the new brochure, click here.


January 21, 2021

Research Associate Added to the Attorney Fee Review Team

Attorney John Adam Di Pietro has agreed to participate as a research associate on the Attorney Fee Review Team. He will work closely with the project’s legal director to investigate how probate court judges throughout California are currently awarding attorney fees in conservatorship proceedings. His background in municipal law will benefit the study as we examine how county funds are being used to provide legal services to indigents in these cases. John’s legal practice for the past 44 years has involved legal representation for businesses as well as local governments. He received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. John lives with his spouse in Palm Springs, California.


January 20, 2021

New Administration Offers Hope for Vigorous Civil Rights Enforcement at DOJ

The inauguration of Joe Biden as President and Merrick Garland as his nominee to be Attorney General offers hope to those of us who have looked to the U.S. Department of Justice to protect civil rights and to enforce federal nondiscrimination laws. The DOJ has been in a civil rights coma for the last four years. It is about to wake up. When it does, Spectrum Institute plans to remind its leaders of the need for DOJ investigations into violations of federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, by judges, attorneys, and court-appointed agents in state guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. We will be sending letters to various officials in the DOJ, with specific requests for DOJ assistance to deal with ongoing federal law violations by these state actors. The letters will be posted here after they have been sent.


January 17, 2021

Register for Town Hall Zoom Forum on California Conservatorships on Feb. 1 -- Open to the Public -- Free

A grassroots coalition of conservatorship reform advocates is sponsoring a Town Hall forum on Zoom on February 1, 2021 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm (pacific time). Register here.

Victims of probate court injustices, family members, and community leaders will join with legal advocates to discuss ongoing and systemic problems with the probate conservatorship system.

Hear the stories of victims such as former football quarterback Erik Kramer. Listen to Kerri Kasem, daughter of the late radio personality Casey Kasem, share the pain that families often experience. Learn of the impact on local communities from community leaders such as Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and Berkeley City Councilman Ben Bartlett. #FreeBritney movement leaders will explain why they are protesting the 13-year conservatorship nightmare of superstar Britney Spears. Learn how the rights of young adults with developmental disabilities are routinely violated. Legal experts will share suggestions for legislative and judicial reforms. Become educated on the issues and then join with others to expand the coalition working for change.

The public is welcome to attend. There is no fee.  For more information, including instructions on how to register for the Zoom forum, click here.


January 13, 2021

Our Staffing is Augmented by Three More College Interns

Three more college students have accepted internships with Spectrum Institute for the next few months. Tanner Coe, a third-year student at UCLA, will work with Tina Baldwin to develop the Mental Health Project. Tanner is a Regents Scholar who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in public affairs with a minor in disability studies. Emmi Deckard, also a junior at UCLA will work with Tom Coleman as an associate producer for The Freedom Files – a podcast cosponsored by Spectrum Institute. She will also write feature stories about podcast episodes and edit our monthly newsletter for Spectrum E-News – a new division of Spectrum Institute. Emmi writes for the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at UCLA. She is pursuing a disability studies minor. Trinity Pierce, a junior at Washington State University, will serve a dual role as an associate producer for the podcast and a feature story writer for Spectrum E-News. Trinity is majoring in multimedia journalism as well as Japanese.  She has experience working as a journalist with The Daily Evergreen, a student newspaper distributed at 200 campus locations and which has 70,000 online readers each month. These three students will join our intern Maia Gryskiewicz, a junior at Washington State University.  Maia will record each podcast episode and do post-production video and audio editing to make the video and audio products ready for distribution.  We are grateful for the assistance of Angela Schweigert, a staff member at Washington State University, for helping us secure the two interns from that educational institution. We also appreciate the help and support we received from Pia Palomo and Cyndi Tando, staff memers at UCLA, for facilitating the two internships from that camus.


January 11, 2021

Presention to Washington State Certified Professional Guardian Board

Tina Baldwin, director of the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute made a presentation today to the Certified Professional Guardian Board of the State of Washington. She advised the board that in mid-December, the CDC added people with Down syndrome to list of those most at risk of severe COVID. She emphasized that COVID-19 is 10 times deadlier for people with Down syndrome.  She encouraged the board to share this information with guardians. Since many guardians are responsible for the care of people with Down syndrome, they should be monitoring closely to ensure that residential staff are providing the same level of precaution as they do for seniors. For her full remarks to the board, click here.  (Photo: Tina Baldwin)


January 9, 2021

Commonwealth Club CEO Gloria Duffy Joins the Attorney Fee Review Team

Dr. Gloria Duffy has become a member of the Attorney Fee Review Team. She has been the president and CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California since 1996. The organization is the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum. Every year, it presents hundreds of forums on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy. Dr. Duffy has initiated several special projects at the Commonwealth Club, including Voices of Reform (now the independent organization California Forward). These efforts have convened experts and stakeholders in challenging fields to build consensus for solutions and action. She recently wrote a commentary titled “Courts should not be a vehicle for elder financial abuse.” It was published on January 6, 2021 in the East Bay Times. In the article, Dr. Duffy explains how she personally witnessed her mother’s assets being depleted by court-authorized attorney fee awards in a conservatorship proceeding. The article calls for major reforms in how attorney fees are calculated and awarded in these cases. To read the commentary, click here.


January 6, 2021

Alameda County Public Defender is Added to the Attorney Fee Review Team

Brendon Woods, Public Defender for Alameda County, has joined our Attorney Fee Review Team.  His office employs 100 lawyers, 40 support staff, and 18 investigators.  Brendon has been with the Public Defender's Office in Alameda County for 24 years.  He started as an interviewing attorney in 1996 and rose through the ranks until he became the chief public defender in 2012.  He has served as the president of the California Public Defender's Association.  In 2018, Brendon successfully advocated to the Board of Supervisors for the elimination of fines and fees for criminal defendants in Alameda County, citing the significant financial burden for low-income people.  John Plaine, the attorney assigned to the office’s probate conservatorship desk, will represent Brendon on the review team. 


January 5, 2021

Welcome to Our New Podcast Intern

Spectrum Institute is pleased to announce that Maia Gryskiewicz has accepted an Production/Journalism internship position with our organization. She will assist in the production of The Freedom Files – a Pursuit of Justice Podcast that will be hosted by attorney Thomas F. Coleman and co-sponsored by Spectrum Institute. Maia will record the interviews on Zoom, edit them for distribution on You Tube, and edit a second audio-only version for distribution on the podcast’s website, Facebook page, and through other podcast distributors. She will also summarize the content of the podcast episodes to share them online with potential audiences. Maia describes herself as “an enthusiastic and ambitious third-year student studying Multimedia Journalism and Digital Technology and Culture at Washington State University.” She will graduate in May 2021. Maia explains that she is passionate about visual communication and loves combining her writing skills with her design skills to craft beautiful, high quality brand communications and material. We look forward to working with Maia on this important new venture.


January 5, 2021

Acclaimed Videographer Becomes an Advisor to Our New Podcast

Adam Soch, a videographer and editor with two decades of experience in pre to post production projects, has agreed to serve as an advisor to The Freedom Files – a Pursuit of Justice Podcast. Adam has filmed and/or edited: live performances, documentary films, tv pilots, web, educational and promotional videos, projection design for performances and movie trailers. Here is how Adam describes his history with and love of videography: “I have had the opportunity to go around the world and create videos that will make a difference: Africa, India, Eastern Europe, Eurasia or South and Central America are just a few places I have made documentary films. I work on projects that are close to my heart. Issues like teen pregnancy, overpopulation, sexually transmitted diseases, mistreatment of ethnic groups, religious fundamentalism, inequality, the environment, global hunger, women's and gay rights.” We are grateful to have someone of Adam’s experience and immense talent to be a coach, mentor, and advisor to us on this project.


January 5, 2021

New Endorsement of Civil Right to Mental Health Therapy Statement of Principles

Different Brains has endorsed the statement of principles underlying the civil right of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to prompt and appropriate mental health therapies when they are needed.  Different Brains is an organization that encourages understanding and acceptance of individuals who have variations in brain functions and social behaviors known as neurodiversity. The organization was founded by Harold “Hackie” Reitman, M.D. (Photo) Hackie is an author, filmmaker, retired orthopedic surgeon, former professional heavyweight boxer, and president (and current board member) of The Boys and Girls Club of Broward County.


January 3, 2021

Inquiry Sent Today to UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program

Spectrum Institute sent a message today to the director of the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California’s Berkeley campus. The message informs the director of an opportunity for students affiliated with the program to investigate and report on systemic and systematic problems with the probate conservatorship system in California. Her attention was specifically drawn the study we have launched that will investigate the way in which public and private money is being used to finance deficient legal services for seniors and people with disabilities who are targeted by and ensnared in these proceedings. For a copy of the message, click here.


January 2, 2021

Inquiry Sent Today to Public Defenders in California

The study by Spectrum Institute into attorney fees in probate conservatorship cases in California has begun.  An inquiry was sent today to the public defenders in all 58 counties.  It asks them to provide information foundational to our review of the use of public funds to pay for legal defense services in these cases.  To read the email message, click hereUpdate: (1-12-21)  Public defenders from the following 51 counties have responded with relevant information: Alameda, Amador, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Fresno, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Merced, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Nevada, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juaquin, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba. Not respondng are: Alpine, Calaveras, El Dorado, Glenn, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, and Trinity.


January 2, 2021

Welcome to Our New Board Member

Brook J. Changala has become a member of the board of trustees of Spectrum Institute.  Brook is a civil law attorney with experience in probate litigation.  He attended UCLA where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in history.  He graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 2006.  Brook has represented Spectrum Institute before the California Supreme Court in connection with an amicus curiae letter and brief in important probate and conservatorship litigation.  He is the treasurer and a board member of the LGBT Attorneys and Allies Section of the Long Beach Bar Association.  Brook’s first involvement in disability rights occurred in connection with an internship he did with the Disability Rights Legal Center in Los Angeles.  He will be advancing his commitment to equal rights for seniors and people with disabilities as a member of the board of trustees of Spectrum Institute.  Brook is serving as a member of the newly formed Attorney Fee Review Team.


January 1, 2021

Judicial Council Asked to Authorize Probate Conservatorship Jury Instructions

Spectrum Institute sent a letter today to California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in her capacity as chairperson of the Judicial Council. The letter asks the Council to authorize its Civil Jury Instruction Advisory Committee to develop a set of approved jury instructions for probate conservatorship proceedings. Such instructions are absent from the current jury instruction manual. Accompanying the letter is a set of model jury instructions for limited conservatorship proceedings developed a few weeks ago by Thomas F. Coleman, legal director of Spectrum Institute. A copy of the letter was sent to Court of Appeal Justice Martin J. Tangerman (photo) who chairs the Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions. For a copy of our letter, click here