Despite what New Mexico justice and the Developmental Disabilities Council Trusteeship Office reported to the Interim Health and Human Services Committee, New Mexico’s guardianship system continues to be in crisis.
Abusive guardianship continues to occur, sponsored by predatory lawyers and sanctioned by district court judges. The Guardianship Law, 45-5-101 to 45-5-617, was established in 2012 to protect and preserve the welfare and property of the incapacitated person. However, this is not what we believe is happening.
Unethical professionals continue to abuse the system. The persons who control the outcome of the guardianship case are the requesting lawyer and the judge of the district court. The judge grants the power to the appointed guardian and curator who controls all aspects of the life of the “protected person”, including the person’s place of residence, the drugs prescribed and to be taken, the doctors that the person can consult , who can consult and talk to the individual and, of course, to their money and property.
Additionally, some courts in New Mexico have ignored the legitimate written guidelines, wills, and trusts that were prepared. For true guardianship reform to occur, judges must appoint guardians and curators who understand, respect and defend the wishes and best interests of the “protected person”.
This is exactly why family members and guardianship advocacy groups should be recognized as the experts when it comes to hearing and understanding our loved ones. Family members should also have an “equal voice” at the decision-making table. We are the eyes and ears on the ground. We live daily experiences with our loved ones. We know the individual, their likes, dislikes, triggers, medical history, hopes and dreams.
A corporate tutor and a curator are complete strangers who are involved in a profit making process. Our heads of state must address these injustices to ensure that the human rights, civil rights and protection of their financial assets of our most vulnerable populations are respected and protected. The media must continue to report these concerns – the public has a right to know.
David Heeter, Lorraine Mendiola, and Jorja Armijo-Brasher are members of the New Mexico Family Guardianship / Conservatorship Informal Coalition. This coalition, established in 2018, is a grassroots effort of local New Mexicans and national groups and organizations working to raise awareness of injustices in the current guardianship system.