The Constitution vs. Convenience: AZ Legislature Defends Constitutional Rights in Guardianship & Conservatorship
SB1291 Probate Reform Bill Passes Committee with Unanimous, Bipartisan Support Responding to Issues Brought Forward by Victims and Advocates
PHOENIX, March 31, 2023--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On Wednesday of this week the Arizona House of Representees Hearing Room 4 was packed with victims of probate abuse and their advocates in attendance to tell their stories and show support for SB1291 sponsored by Sen. John Kavanagh-R. The bill brings sweeping changes to Arizona Revised Statutes Title 14 guardianship and conservatorship laws. The testimony and committee comments offered a passionate look into the issues with opposition to the bill citing issues of convenience and desire to keep the lower evidentiary threshold. (Full hearing video here)
Rep. Analise Ortiz-D prior to the hearing said, "There is never a time when it is appropriate to overlook anyone’s constitutional rights. This bill will make certain that anyone in guardianship or conservatorship proceeding in Arizona will have the right to a trial by jury, to be present in court, and know full well what their rights are." Freshman Representative Alex Kolodin-R submitted a strike-all amendment to the introduced bill, adding in language that provides for stronger constitutional protections, in cooperation with Sen. Kavanagh.
In response to probate attorney Yvette Banker’s testimony opposing the increased evidentiary threshold from "preponderance of evidence" to "clear and convincing" and the right to a jury trial Kolodin said, "It seems to me, and I’m frankly surprised that you differ with me – especially as a lawyer- that the actual standard for depriving someone of their liberty ought to be beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that’s probably what the Constitution requires." When the roll call was taken, Democrats and Republicans alike expressed their support for due process and protecting the rights of all, passing the bill unanimously.
Sherry Lund, founder of "5-14 Protecting Liberty", whose national decade-long fight against the loss of liberty through probate court abuse inspired Sen. Kavanagh to take up the bill, watched in the hearing room as testimony took place. After the hearing Lund said, "The disconnect between reality and fiction was played out in full view of the Arizona House Judiciary today. The only people opposing protecting the Constitutional Rights of private citizens were the people who stand to gain financially by keeping the standard low, violating the laws and rights of people, in contrast to a room full of people with personal experiences in being deprived contact with family members, bankrupted by a court ordered fiduciary, or who were powerless as precious loved ones were left to languish, overly medicated in a care center. There is no excuse for the courts, attorneys or anyone else to violate the laws or the rights of a person or their family in probate court or any other court."
The pathway to final passage requires a full vote on the House floor, then a return to the Senate for passage of the strike-all amendment before heading to Governor Katie Hobbs.
About 5-14 Protecting Liberty: Developed by a grassroots coalition of citizens who have experienced abuse, separation from loved ones, the loss of individual liberty, personal property and finances in the probate system. 5-14 Protecting Liberty is dedicated to protecting the rights of all.
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