Published on: Friday, August 19, 2011
During the past year, University of St. Thomas School of Law Associate Professor Jennifer Wright continued to advance issues in elder law as part of the Interprofessional Center. She has written several articles involving issues regarding guardianship and the elderly, including “Protecting Who from What, and Why, and How?: A Proposal for an Integrative Approach to Adult Protective Proceedings”, 12 The Elder Law Journal 53 (2004); and “Guardianship for Your Own Good: Improving the Well-Being of Respondents and Wards in the U.S.A.”, 33 International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 350 (2010).
In the past year, Wright has presented repeatedly on the topic of elder law mediation in guardianship, including many CLE presentations to attorneys and mediators. Wright presented her scholarly work in progress at the January 2011 AALS Annual Conference under the title “Diminished but not Defunct: Making Mediation Work in Elder Guardianship”. She was later invited to present an expanded version of this paper at an international conference on aging in Seoul, South Korea in June 2011, under the name “Use of Mediation in Guardianship Proceedings to Protect and Enhance the Dignity, Voice, and Rights of Elders.” Wright expects to publish the final version of her research on elder law mediation in guardianship in the Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law and Policy, in spring of 2012. Also during this past year, Wright has developed a proposal for a new Mediation Clinic at the law school and has been a leader in the Minnesota bar in developing training, resources, and best practice standards for elder law mediation in the state.
Professor Jennifer Wright teaches the Elder Law Practice Group at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, where she teaches and supervises law students who aid elderly clients in long-term care and financial abuse situations as part of the Interprofessional Center. Wright is also a member of the Governing Council of the Elder Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association, having just completed a term as Chair[not anymore], and a member of the Friends of the Skyway Senior Center Board. Wright chaired the 2010 Elder Law Institute, the premier practitioners’ conference on elder law in the state of Minnesota.
Wright has been working and writing in the area of guardianship for several years. Her general expertise is in elder law with emphasis on elder law mediation, Medicaid, guardianship and conservatorship, long-term care rights and issues, and vulnerable adult protection from financial exploitation. Although Wright has written several articles encompassing all of these areas, her scholarly writings have primarily been focused on guardianship and elder law mediation. Her focus on guardianship is a result of her extensive experience both with scholarly research on the topic as well as with representing elders. Wright worked for ten years as a staff attorney for Oregon Legal Services, specializing in elder law. She was the statewide elder law resource for this organization and presented many continuing legal education seminars on issues involving guardianship law, nursing home law, Medicaid and Medicare, advanced directives and end-of-life decision-making, and ethics. During her time with Oregon Legal Services, Wright authored the Oregon Elder Abuse Prevention Act.
Wright states that she finds that often guardianship in practice ignores the letter and intent of guardianship statutes as well as a great deal of social science and research regarding the well-being of the elderly. “Guardianship, while intended to protect and improve the well-being of incapacitated elders, can often have the opposite effect in practice,” she states. Wright has been working for a long time to try to ascertain more effective and appropriate ways to address the dilemmas presented by vulnerable elders who have difficulty making reasoned decisions for their own well-being. Wright explains that this is a problem that will become more pressing as the population ages.