What's New



December 29, 2020

Op-Ed Article Calls on Supreme Court to Set New Tone on Disability Terminology

The Daily Journal published a commentary today written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman focusing on bad linguistic habits of the judiciary in writing opinions. The commentary asks the Supreme Court to direct the reporter of decisions to include a new section in the California Style Manual on disability terminology. When it comes to language that is acceptable in legal briefs and judicial opinions, the California Style Manual is the bible of legal lexicon. The Daily Journal is California’s premier legal newspaper. It is read by thousands of attorneys and judges throughout the state. To read or download a pdf version of the commentary, click here. To read it on the newspaper’s website, click here.


December 18, 2020

Op-Ed: Ending Disability Stigmas in Judicial Opinions

The Daily Journal published a commentary today written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman.  It calls out a recent appellate opinion in California that unnecessarily and inappropriately used a derogatory term to label a woman with cerebral palsy. She had filed an appeal from a court order forcing her to have ongoing visits and mandatory therapy session with her father – someone she accused of sexually assaulting her. The Court of Appeal reversed the order, ruling that a superior court judge does not have authority for force an adult conservatee to associate with a parent over her objections. The ruling was good, with one exception. The caption of the case referred to the woman as “an Incompetent Person.” The commentary explains that as societal attitudes about people with disabilities change, so too must judicial attitudes.  The language that judges use to describe people with disabilities should be respectful, not perjorative. For a pdf copy of the commentary, click here.



December 4, 2020

Several New Testimonials Have Been Added to the Website


Testimonials have been received from filmmaker and author Thomas Lee Wright, UCLA Professor Linda Demer, guardianship reform advocate Dr. Sam Sugar, attorney Evan Nelson, and attorney Lanny Davis.  These individuals have commented on the abilities of attorney Thomas F. Coleman as an educator and advocate.  They emphasize the value of his services as a legal consultant and a speaker at conferences and seminars.  To read the testimonials, click here.




November 17, 2020

Daily Journal Publishes Op-Ed on Jury Trials for Proposed Conservatees


A commentary by attorney Thomas F. Coleman titled "Jury Trials Are an Elusive Right for Proposed Conservatees" was published today in the Daily Journal.  The legal newspaper is read by thousands of judges and attorneys throughout California.  The article explores reasons why public defenders and court-appointed attorneys do not demand jury trials for their clients in probate conservatorship proceedings.  The article also discusses the new guidebook on jury instructions and explains that it is being sent to the California Judicial Council with a request to develop and publish approved instructions for all four types of probate conservatorship cases.   To read the op-ed article, click here



November 14, 2020

Jury Instruction Guidebook Now Available for California Probate Conservatorship Cases


Attorney Thomas F. Coleman has developed a jury instruction guidebook for public defenders and appointed counsel who represent proposed conservatees in California's probate courts.  The initial edition of the guidebook focuses on adults with developmental disabilities who must respond to petitions seeking a limited conservatorship of the person or the estat or both.  A book published by the California Judicial Council contains approved jury instructions for most types of civil cases, including mental health conservatorships.  Probate conservatorship cases are conspicuously absent from the book, despite the fact that more than 5,000 such cases are filed annually in the state.  There are no jury instructions for limited conservatorships despite the fact that the Legislature created this special type of conservatorship for adults with developmental disabilities some 40 years ago.  To access the new guidebook, click here



November 6, 2020

Legal Newspaper Publishes Op-Ed Inspired by #FreeBritney Movement

The Daily Journal published a commentary today focusing on Britney Spears and tens of thousands of other conservtees whose rights are being violated by the probate conservatorship system in California.  The op-ed article was written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman.  It focuses heavily on the court's denial of Britney's right to be represented by counsel of her choice in the legal proceeding.  As a result of the court summarily ruling that she lacked the capacity to retain counsel, Britney has been forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees to this court-imposed attorney over the past several years.  To read the commentary, click here.  The Daily Journal is California's premier legal newspaper.  It is read by thousands of lawyers and judges throughout the state.



September 30, 2020

Long Beach Bar Association Hosts Capacity Assessment Webinar

Thomas F. Coleman presented a webinar today on capacity assessments in probate proceedings.  The webinar was sponsored by the Long Beach Bar Association.  For access to the handout, which includes links to reference materials online, click here.

Coleman is the author of a recent report" "Capacity Assessments in California Conservatorship Proceedings:  Improving Clinical Practices and Judicial Procedures to Better Protect the Rights of Seniors and People with Disabilities.  The report has received positive reviews.*

*  Elder law attorney Cheryl Mitchel says: “This report is a must-read for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of why the current conservatorship system is broken and the steps that must be taken to improve it.”  National reform advocate Dr. Sam Sugar, calls the report a “landmark document” which “offers a sobering and cogent analysis of how this ‘system’ intended to assist those in need has instead become a tool of government overreach.”  Rick and Terri Black, founders of the Center for Estate Administration Reform say: “This report addresses a critical component of adult conservatorship adjudication. What process should be used to fairly and appropriately remove a person’s rights?”  Writing to the author, Kevin Bigelow of the National Adult Protective Services Association said: “You have pursued this topic with the same combination of professionalism and ability to explain complex issues clearly that I have seen in your other work.”



August 1, 2020

Compendium of Commentaries is Updated

Over the past few years, the Daily Journal legal newspaper has published 22 op-ed articles and commentaries written by Thomas F. Coleman.  The subject matter covers different aspects of disability and the law: conservatorship reform, access to justice, ADA accommodations, professional responsibility, voting rights, disability and abuse, the right to therapy, appellate practice, legal education, and the legal capacity to make decisions.  To access these articles, click here.

July 1, 2020

Capacity Assessment Report Sent to California Government Officials

After 15 months of reviewing capacity assessment laws and procedures applicable to probate conservatorship proceedings, a report has been sent to the Governor, Chief Justice, and Legislature in California.  The study was authorized by the board of tustees of Spectrum Institute.  The report, written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman, has received excellent reviews from advocates and educators whose activities have focused on conservatorship and guardianship proceedings and on issues involving the legal capacity of seniors and people with disabilities to make decisions in their lives. Staff at the California Law Review Commission studied the 129-page report, noting that it “includes more than forty distinct recommendations to various governmental entities, including the California Legislature.” To access the report and recommendations, as well as several reviews, click here.



May 12, 2020

New Report Released on Capacity to Consent to Sex


A new report on capacity to consent to sex has received excellent reviews from an adult protective services training professional and from a former prosecutor with decades of experience in cases of abuse of elders and dependent adults.  The report is titled Capacity to Consent to Sex: Legal Standards & Best Practices for Adult Protective Services.  The report is written and published by attorney Thomas F. Coleman. In addition to guiding APS workers, the report may help organizations and agencies assisting sexual assault victims.  Since the issues of sex and capacity may arise in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, the report is also a resource for lawyers, court investigators, guardians ad litem, and capacity assessment professionals who are involved in such cases.  To read or download the report, click here.

April 22, 2020

Daily Journal Publishes Op-Ed on Capacity to Litigate

The Daily Journal legal newspaper published a commentary today focusing on constitutional issues involved in the appointment of a guardian ad litem when a judge is concerned that a party to a case is “an incapacitated person” or lacks legal capacity to make decisions. The article was written by attorney Thomas F. Coleman. It references the case of Bradford Lund, grandson of the late Walt Disney, as an example of the need for more clarity in California law concerning the criteria for incapacity to litigate and the procedures to be used in making such a determination. To read the commentary, click here.


January 9, 2020

Op-Ed:  Conservatees Are Legally Entitled to Better Therapy Options

The Daily Journal has published a commentary by attorney Thomas F. Coleman explaining how conservatees with developmental disabilities have the legal right to receive prompt and effective mental health therapy to treat trauma and other mental health conditions. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) procedures that attempt to change conduct are not a substitute for therapy that addresses the underlying causes of troubling symptoms. The denial of access to such therapy services can give rise to civil and criminal liability for conservators and are providers. To read the commentary, click here.