CPR’s various initiatives on the state and national level seek to advance legal capacity and realize the goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act “to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency” for individuals with disabilities.
CPR has worked with the American Bar Association and various state and national advocacy groups to reform guardianship laws and establish guardianship standards that include mandatory training for guardians. Other efforts have focused on capacity determinations, due process rights, alternatives to guardianship, the restoration of rights for people with disabilities, and informed choice. CPR served as a voting delegate at the Fourth National Guardianship Summit, where leaders in the field adopted key recommendations for reforms in these areas.
Staff have written numerous briefs, papers and articles on these issues, including:
- Steven J. Schwartz, Robert D. Fleischner, Alexander Z. Schwartz & Emily M. Stephens, Realizing the Promise of Olmstead: Ensuring the Informed Choice of Institutionalized Persons with Disabilities to Receive Services in the Most Integrated Setting, 40 of Legal Medicine 63 (2020).
- Cathy E. Costanzo, Kristin Booth Glen, & Anna M. Krieger, Supported Decision-Making: Lessons from Pilot Projects,” 72 Syracuse L. Rev. 99 (2022).
- Morgan K. Whitlatch & Rebekah Diller, Supported Decision-Making: Potential and Challenges for Older Persons,” 72 Syracuse L. Rev. 165 (2022).
- John Cross, Robert D. Fleischner, and Jianne Elder authored the first comprehensive treatise of its kind, Guardianship and Conservatorship in Massachusetts. The last edition by the original authors was published in 2014, after which the treatise has been updated annually by a new group of attorneys. The treatise has been cited as authority by Massachusetts courts.
- Steven J. Schwartz, Abolishing Competency as a Construction of Difference: A Radical Proposal to Promote the Equality of Persons with Disabilities, 47 U. Miami L. Rev. 867 (1993).
- Robert D. Fleischner, Advance Directives for Mental Health Care: An Analysis of State Statutes, 4 Psychol. Pub. Pol’y & L. 788 (1998).
- Robert D. Fleischner and Dara L. Shur, Representing Clients Who Have or May Have “Diminished Capacity”: Ethics Issues, 41 Clearinghouse Rev. 346 (2007).
In Massachusetts, CPR was part of a committee, sponsored by the Massachusetts and Boston Bar Associations and the Probate and Family Court, which ultimately led to the enactment of Article V of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code in 2009. Article V promotes limited guardianships over plenary (full) guardianships and provides important due process protections to people at risk of or under guardianship or conservatorship. In addition, Article V explicitly states that guardianship should be a last resort, sought only after less restrictive alternatives, such as health care advance directives and durable powers of attorney, are deemed inappropriate. CPR was an active participant in a committee appointed by the Chief Judge of the Probate Court to implement the new statute. The Court promulgated new rules, issued dozens of new forms and trained hundreds of judges, court staff, and attorneys.
CPR also developed key components of a curriculum for Massachusetts probate court personnel to provide education on alternatives to guardianship, including an Alternatives to General Adult Guardianship Handbook. CPR provided training on this topic to Massachusetts judges through presentations at the Flaschner Judicial Institute and the annual Probate Court Conference. CPR serves on the Advisory Committee for the Elder Justice Innovation grant that the Massachusetts Courts received from ACL in 2021 to reform its guardianship system and improve access to alternatives.