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Conservatorship of Person and Estate of Estate of Jesse G.

California Court of Appeals, First District, Second Division

June 23, 2016

Conservatorship of the Person and Estate of JESSE G.
JESSE G., Objector and Appellant. PUBLIC GUARDIAN OF MENDOCINO COUNTY, Petitioner and Respondent,

         Mendocino County Super. Ct. No. SCUKLPSQ15-1789, Hon. Richard Henderson Trial Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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         Attorneys for Objector and Appellant: Under Appointment by the Court of Appeal Jeremy T. Price, Jonathan Soglin

         Jeremy T. Price and Jonathan Soglin, under appointments by the Court of Appeal, for Objector and Appellant.

         Katharine L. Elliott, Acting County Counsel, and Rebecca L. Chenoweth Deputy County Counsel, for Petitioner and Respondent.


         Kline, P.J.

         Appellant Jesse G. appeals from the trial court’s orders appointing the Mendocino County Public Guardian (public guardian) conservator of his person and estate pursuant to section 5350 of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS Act) (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 5000, et seq.), [1] and imposing certain special disabilities. On appeal, he contends substantial evidence did not support either the court’s finding that he was gravely disabled (§§ 5008, subd. (h)(1)(A); 5350), or its imposition of the special disability denying him the right to refuse treatment related to his grave disability (§ 5357, subd. (d)). Because we conclude substantial evidence did not support the court’s finding that appellant was gravely disabled, we shall reverse the order appointing a conservator.


         On April 9, 2015, the public guardian filed an LPS Act conservatorship petition for appointment of a conservator of appellant’s person and estate, pursuant to section 5350, and also seeking imposition of several special disabilities, pursuant to section 5357. On May 7, the public guardian filed an investigator’s report, pursuant to section 5354, recommending the appointment of an LPS Act conservator and imposition of the requested special disabilities.

         After appellant informed the court of his intention to contest the petition, the court held a bench trial on June 29, 2015. Dr. James Holden testified for the public guardian as an expert on the issue of grave disability. On June 16, Dr. Holden had interviewed appellant for 65 minutes and had reviewed numerous documents, including a recent functional assessment and psychological evaluation, the conservatorship investigator’s report, and recent hospital treatment and progress notes. Dr. Holden testified that appellant had recently been hospitalized after bystanders who saw him near or on a bridge over the Russian River became concerned and called police. The police took

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him to a hospital, where he was evaluated, found to be gravely disabled due to a mental disorder, and hospitalized pursuant to section 5150. Appellant was homeless at the time.

         Appellant had a history of “[m]ultiple” prior hospitalizations in both Texas and California. He had been diagnosed during his most recent hospitalization with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. He had previously been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, as well as various substance abuse disorders, including amphetamine abuse, cannabis abuse, benzodiazepine dependence/abuse, caffeine-related disorder, and nicotine dependence/abuse. Appellant told Dr. Holden that he has taken psychiatric medications since childhood, starting with medication for attention deficit disorder. He also reported that he has had auditory hallucinations since childhood, but said, “[l]uckily I know the voices aren’t real. When I put the right kind of energy out, they go away.”

         Dr. Holden further testified that appellant had not been compliant with his medications at the time of his most recent hospitalization, and had a history of being noncompliant. At the time Dr. Holden interviewed him, appellant was on his medications and told Dr. Holden that he would contact his former psychiatrist and continue taking his medications if released from conservatorship. Appellant said he believed there were two medications that were particularly helpful to him: Zyprexa and Invega. Even on these medications, however, he continued to experience auditory hallucinations, which he had described as being “just pissed-off white kids. They are listening to us right now. They go away when I am around good energy and good memories.” Appellant also exhibited “paranoid ideations” during the interview, saying that the police and some of the medical staff had plotted against him and inaccurately described his condition. With schizoaffective disorder, the symptoms can be kept under control “[t]o a degree. There can be residual symptoms even with the medication.”

         Appellant told Dr. Holden that he had a friend he wanted to stay with. The friend, Mike Elmer, called Dr. Holden and told him that he knew appellant’s father well and had prior experience helping appellant. Nevertheless, after evaluating appellant, Dr. Holden concluded “that he currently remains gravely disabled. I didn’t find a verifiable plan, [a] realistic verifiable plan to provide for his own food, shelter, and clothing or the presence of a third person that could assure those things were provided for him.” When the court asked how appellant’s mental condition interferes with his ability to provide for his food, shelter, and clothing, Dr. Holden stated, “It disrupts his thinking, his logic, reasoning. It’s led him to live out in the woods on various occasions. And [to] have aspirations to live a free lifestyle that I felt would be very difficult for him to pull off. I felt he would be very easily taken advantage of and has

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been in the past, I believe.” Dr. Holden further testified, however, that appellant had said he did not want to live on the streets anymore, and “would eventually like to end up in a house of his own.”

         Appellant testified, as part of the public guardian’s case in chief, that he first learned of his schizophrenia diagnosis when he was 17 years old, and he began “breaking down and hearing voices” when he was 22. He did not really believe the voices were real, but nonetheless thought “there is some sort of motivation somewhere to where these people are bothering me. I don’t really think I have a mental condition. I think [I] am being victimized by other people that are jealous of me.” When asked if he did not believe he has a mental illness, appellant responded, “No. I didn’t say I don’t have mental conditions, but it doesn’t make me ill. [¶]... [¶] I don’t really think I have a mental condition. I am actually a very intelligent person.” Appellant believed people victimized him because they had taken his kindness for weakness and they stole things from him.

         Appellant testified that the medications he was taking-Cogentin, Trileptal, Perphenazine, and Invega-helped, but also believed that “it really doesn’t matter if I take them or not, because it is more of a psychological problem and drugs... just null [sic] the pain, but they-they can’t-they can’t really heal schizophrenia.” Regarding Dr. Holden’s testimony that appellant had said he believed the police and medical personnel had plotted against him, appellant testified that that was not true, and that the people who called the police “made up a story saying I was going to jump.... [They] were saying I was waiving [sic] my hands, that I was... going to jump or something. That is an absolute lie.” Instead, appellant testified, “I was lured up there by four of these kids who have just... been out to get me.” As he was lying in the sun, “these kids came along and they started throwing pebbles at me, started calling me names and stuff. So I went out there to see what their deal was, I got to the top [of] the bridge and the four of them weren’t even facing me. They had their backs turned to me, like they were scheming something, whatever. So I walked... across to the middle of the bridge, looking around, kind of enjoying the view and stuff.” Appellant believed the claim that he was waving his hands and looking like he was going to jump “was a false report.”

         When asked about a statement he made to Dr. Holden that voices spied on him through his eyes, appellant said, “that was more of a religious belief” than anything else, “because it’s the truth.” He affirmed that he would take his medication if he were not on a conservatorship because it did help his vision and helped him to relax, even though it could not stop the voices. Regarding his specific plan to provide for himself, appellant testified that he had a ...

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