The PDF in which this article appears can be found in Bifocal Vol. 44 Issue 3.
When interning with the ABA Commission on Law and Aging (“COLA”) during Summer 2022, one of my large assignments was to research state legislature guardianship reform for the 2022 state legislative cycle. I tracked bills that were passed and signed by governors, along with bills which failed at various stages, to determine trends that may occur in the future. The research I conducted helped my supervisors present their findings at the National Guardianship Association Conference in Dallas, Texas in October. This research also assisted with the upcoming 2022 Adult Guardianship Legislation Review and Report which COLA will publish in early Spring 2023.
When speaking with my supervisors about the project and my research, I learned that typically, bills do not pass the first time they are introduced and will be reintroduced another year with modifications. One of the biggest trends present in 2022 was an increase in different types of registries.
Alabama, Florida, and Maryland all established new guardianship or elder abuse registries. Alabama passed HB 105, Elder Abuse Conviction Registry; the Governor signed the bill on March 24, 2022. This bill, also referred to as “Shirley’s Law”, requires the registry to include names of people who were criminally convicted of elder abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. The bill is named after Ms. Shirley Smith who was the victim of financial exploitation in 2017. Ms. Smith’s caregiver wrote fraudulent checks and forged Ms. Smith’s signature, stealing thousands of dollars from the woman whom she was supposed to protect. Ms. Smith’s daughter hopes that this type of law can extend to other states.
Florida’s state legislature passed HB 1349, Guardianship Data Transparency; and was signed by the Governor in June of 2022. This new state law requires Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation and Court Clerks to create and establish a statewide database of guardianship data. In addition to creating this database, they will also need to share, and report certain data when requested. The registry is supposed to become available by July 1, 2023. The proposed new database may only be accessed by judges, magistrates, court clerks and other court support staff. This new law will also require the Office of Public and Professional Guardians to post searchable profiles. These profiles will include education and bonding requirements, if there were any substantiated complaints, and if there were any disciplinary actions from the Department of Elder Affairs.
Maryland passed SB 357 which established a working group before creating a vulnerable adult registry. The Governor signed this into law on April 21, 2022. The Maryland law creates a working group to study best practices for a vulnerable adult registry. The working group will then make recommendations to change and improve the state law. The findings will be reported by June 30, 2023.
While these states have all developed registries, each registry is slightly different. Alabama focuses on elder abuse, Florida emphasizes data about guardians, and Maryland established a working group before creating a vulnerable adulty registry. Both Florida and Maryland anticipated completion dates at the end of June, or the beginning of July of this year, and Alabama anticipated establishing the registry by January 1, 2023. Even though there are three new registries, the public will still not have access to any of these new registries. In 2018, the National Adult Protective Services Association (“NAPSA”) created a report where 26 states had some sort of adult abuse registry. Alabama, and Maryland did not have adult abuse registries in 2018 when that report was established. Florida had one, but it was removed in 2000 and has not been reestablished since. It is possible that in 2023 there will be other states which establish adult abuse registries, or guardianship registries more similar to the new Florida state law. Only time will tell to determine the success of the new laws and registries. Be on the lookout for the full 2022 state legislative review coming shortly in early 2023.
- 2022 Md. Laws 190, 2022 Md. SB 357.
- Ala. Code §38-9G-1 et. al. (2022).
- FLA. STAT. ANN. § 744.2112. (West 2022).
- Jim Ash, Bill Creates a Statewide Guardianship Database, The Florida Bar, (Mar 14, 2022), https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/bill-creates-a-statewide-guardianship-database/
- National Adult Protective Services Association, Adult Protective Services Abuse Registry National Report, (2018), https://www.napsa-now.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/APS-Abuse-Registry-Report-2.pdf
- Typhani Gray, ‘Shirley’s Law’ Passed, Honors Alabama Woman who Suffered Elder Abuse, WKRG, (Sep 22, 2022), https://www.cbs42.com/alabama-news/shirleys-law-passed-honors-alabama-woman-who-suffered-elder-abuse/