Stacey Nelson and Chris Hodgson

The State of North Carolina declared Stacey Nelson incompetent and appointed a public guardian to make decisions for her after an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2009. She talked to her guardian repeatedly about getting her competency reinstated. The guardian failed to tell Stacey that she had the right to ask the clerk of court to restore her of competency, and the guardian refused to help Stacey move forward with her request.

In May 2015, when she was seven months pregnant, Stacey suffered domestic violence at the hands of her now-former husband. Despite the incompetency declaration, Stacey was able to have her marriage annulled and to secure a domestic violence protection order – all without any assistance from her guardian.

But then she became worried about her ability to protect her son. “My ex, with his record of domestic violence prior to me and with me… and then with me being incompetent, if the state said I was unfit to take care of him, they could just come in and take him out at any time,” Stacey explained.

Unable to convince her guardian to move ahead with restoration, Stacey called Disability Rights NC. Attorneys Chris Hodgson and Holly Stiles took her case.

“They helped me with getting everything figured out, what needed to be done legally,” Stacey said. “We got all the medical records and everything. I had doctors write character letters and everything. And all my doctors were for me for having my competency.”

In March 2017, Stacey had a hearing before a clerk of court on her motion for restoration. When she explained to the judge how she had gotten out of her marriage and taken action to protect herself and her son, the judge was impressed. Stacey had her competency restored that same day.

“I don’t believe without Chris or Holly that I could have done it on my own,” Stacey said.