Guardianship has long been the primary method of handling decision making for individuals with intellectual and mental health disabilities. But is it the best method? At this Advocacy in Action webinar held on May 7, 2014, three experts in the field discussed guardianship and its alternatives. Topics included the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the theoretical underpinnings of the movement toward preserving the autonomy of individuals with intellectual and mental health disabilities. The Protection and Advocacy system’s involvement was also discussed and a supported decision making pilot project in Massachusetts was featured.


Rebekah DillerRebekah Diller is an assistant clinical professor and director of The Guardianship Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. The Guardianship Clinic represents clients in all aspects of adult guardianship proceedings and related civil matters, with an emphasis on promoting alternatives to guardianship, and engages in law reform projects to promote accountability within the guardianship system. Last year, The Guardianship Clinic released a major report, Guardianship in New York: Developing an Agenda for Change, which synthesized reform recommendations from a wide-ranging group of judges, attorneys, advocates, service providers, and court personnel. Prior to joining Cardoza, Professor Diller was Deputy Director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, where Diller spearheaded research, advocacy, and litigation to expand access to justice for low-income families. Her work included a campaign to remove restrictions on legal services lawyers that resulted in Congress lifing a ban on the collection of attorney fees by federally funded legal services programs, co-authoring several groundbreaking reports on court fees and debtors' prison, and litigating against unconstitutional conditions on federal grant programs. Previously, she was an attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, Housing Works, and Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens. Diller has testified before committees in both houses of Congress and her work has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Time, Newsweek, and many other outlets. Diller is a magna cum laude graduate of NYU School of Law wher she was Order of the Coif, a member of the NYU Law Review, and an Arthur Garfield Hays fellow. 

Robert FleischnerRobert Fleischner is an attorney and assistant director at the Center for Public Representation, a national public interest law firm located in Northamption, Massachusetts. He has represented people with disabilities since 1973 when he graudated from Boston College Law School. He has litigated prison and juvenile justice reform cases, guardianships, fair housing, civil commitment, right to treatment, and right to community service cases in several states. He is the co-author of Guardianship and Conservatorship in Massachusetts, 2d Edition, published by Lexis and has published several law journal articles. Bob has served on the faculties of Western New England University Law School and Smith College School for Social Work, teaching courses on juvenile justice and disability law. 

David HuttDavid Hutt is a Senior Staff Attorney with the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the membership organization for the federally established Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System and Client Assistance Programs (CAP), located in every U.S. state and territory. The P&A System provides legal advocacy services to individuals with disabilities on a range of issues, and investigates allegations of abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities. David assists the P&As on special authority allowing access to facilities, issues involving P&A investigations of abuse and neglect, and most recently guardianship and supported decision making. He also provides training and technical assistance on employment law, and works on issues related to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Prior to his current responsibilities, David developed and managed the Social Security Administration Representative Payee Review Project for NDRN, and provided training and technical assistance on vocational rehabilitation law. Before joining NDRN in 2006, David was a staff attorney at Legal Services of Central New York, dealing with cases involving employment discrimination under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, vocational rehabilitation, Medicaid, consumer debt, accessibility issues, and social security return-to-work rules. David earned a B.A. from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and holds a J.D. and Ph.D. in political science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. 


Robin Thorner, Supervising Attorney at Disability Rights Texas, Challenging Guardianship and Pressing for Supported Decision-Making for Individuals with Disabilities

Kristin Booth Glen, University Professor Emerita at City University of New York School of Law and Surrogate at New York County (retired), The Perils of Guardianship and the Promise of Supported Decision Making

David Hutt, Senior Staff Attorney at National Disability Rights Network, The Disability Rights Treaty and Advocacy Strategies Using International Human Rights

guardianship-webinar-powers-slides.pdf770.6 KB
guardianship-webinar-fleischner-hutt-slides.pdf1.18 MB
Guardianship Alternatives webinar transcript.pdf382.15 KB