First Advisor

Melissa Thompson

Term of Graduation

Winter 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Sociology







Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 175 pages)


In this institutional ethnography, multiple methods are used to explore California’s process of establishing limited conservatorships, which are legal proceedings that limit or terminate civil rights of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). This research uses observations of 93 conservatorship hearings, 16 interviews with people involved in the conservatorship process, and an analysis of over 40 documents related to these legal proceedings. These data are used to answer two questions: 1) what is the process of establishing a limited conservatorship in California; and 2) how is this process experienced by those involved?

Findings break down a complex process and contribute to an empirical understanding of how the combination of knowledge, policy, and institutional ideology shape the lives and freedoms of people with IDD. For example, of the 93 hearings observed, all 93 petitions for limited conservatorships were granted. This study reflects that the process is not individualized, and that people with IDD continue to be viewed as incompetent and unworthy of the civil rights many American adults take for granted. By mapping out the complex process, this research highlights areas for potential change and provides recommendations to make the process more person-centered, and one that prioritizes disability rights over institutional goals.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier