Document Type

Honors Project


Advisor: Patrick Schmidt.


This study examines the conflict between guardianship and the American disability rights movement, specifically the shift from a medical to a capability model of disability. Legal guardianship presents judges with a dilemma of favoring individual autonomy or societal protection. This dichotomy manifests in the construction of state statutes where legislators can influence judicial discretion and sway decisions. Through analysis of state statutes, case law, and interviews with judges in Connecticut and Minnesota, this study found that higher levels of discretion do not necessarily translate to increased protection of individual autonomy or the use of alternatives to guardianship. The research points to the conflict between respect for autonomy and factors of legal inertia as reasons why these alternatives are not used in practice regardless of discretion level. This study prescribes education on these less restrictive alternatives as a possible way to bridge the gap between guardianship and disability rights.



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