California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division
Conservatorship of the Person and Estate of K.P.
K.P., Objector and Appellant. PUBLIC GUARDIAN OF THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, Petitioner and Respondent,
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
No. ZE032603 Robert Harrison, Judge. Affirmed.
Christian C. Buckley, under appointment by the Court of
Appeal, for Objector and Appellant.
of the County Counsel, Mary C. Wickham, County Counsel,
Rosanne Wong, Assistant County Counsel, and William C. Sias,
Deputy County Counsel, for Petitioner and Respondent.
K.P. (K.P.) appeals from a judgment entered following a jury
trial on the petition by the Public Guardian of the County of
Los Angeles (public guardian) for reappointment as K.P.'s
conservator under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPSA)
(Welf. & Inst. Code § 5000 et seq.). After a
three-day trial, the jury found that K.P. was gravely
disabled pursuant to the LPSA, and the trial court granted
the public guardian's petition for reappointment. K.P.
argues that the court erred in instructing the jury pursuant
to California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) No. 4000, which
sets forth the elements of a claim that an individual is
gravely disabled. Specifically, K.P. contends that the trial
court erred in omitting a third element from CACI No. 4000,
which required a finding that the individual “is
unwilling or unable voluntarily to accept meaningful
treatment.” We find no reversible error and affirm the
[LPSA] governs the involuntary detention, evaluation, and
treatment of persons who, as a result of mental disorder, are
dangerous or gravely disabled. (§ 5150 et seq.)”
(Conservatorship of John L. (2010) 48 Cal.4th 131,
142 (John L.).) Under the LPSA, the court may
“appoint a conservator of the person for one who is
determined to be gravely disabled (§ 5350 et seq.), so
that he or she may receive individualized treatment,
supervision, and placement (§ 5350.1).” (John
L., at p. 142.) The LPSA defines a person who is
“gravely disabled” as one who is “unable to
provide for his or her basic personal needs for food,
clothing, or shelter.” (§ 5008, subd. (h)(1)(A).)
LPSA conservatorship automatically terminates after one year,
and reappointment of the conservator must be sought by
petition. (§ 5361.)” (John L., supra, 48
Cal.4th at p. 143.)
reappointment pretrial proceedings
April 19, 2018, the public guardian filed a petition for
reappointment as conservator of K.P. under sections 5350
through 5368. On May 5, 2018, K.P. filed a demand for jury
trial readiness conference on June 14, 2018, the public
guardian filed a memorandum dated June 12, 2018, containing
information from Dr. Sara Mehraban, Program Coordinator at
Gateways Satellite, where K.P. was being treated. Dr.
Mehraban observed that recently K.P. had become paranoid. In
May 2018, he was sitting outside and was accidentally
“grazed” by a basketball. He then charged a
fellow resident who he attempted to stab with a pen because
K.P. believed the other individual had intended to hit him
with the basketball. K.P. continued to try to attack the
other resident even with staff intervention, and had to be
hospitalized because he would not let go of the situation and
still wanted to attack the other resident later in the day.
Mehraban reported that K.P.'s mother was of the view that
K.P. does not have a mental illness. K.P.'s mother also
believed that K.P.'s medications were making him act as
he did, and she did not believe that the recent reported
incident of aggression took place. Dr. Mehraban thought
mother's visits were negatively affecting K.P. and
intended to revoke them until K.P. improved. Dr. Mehraban was
aware of the upcoming trial and wanted the court to be aware
of this information.
three-day jury trial commenced on June 20, 2018. K.P.
appeared with his counsel.
to trial the court addressed the ground rules for trial,
emphasizing the need to focus the jurors on the question of
whether K.P. was gravely disabled. The court asked counsel
not to talk about the length of, or results of, a
conservatorship. K.P.'s counsel argued that the jury
should be made aware of the length of the conservatorship and
that forced medication could be administered against a
person's will. The court said counsel should remain
within the framework of CACI No. 4000. K.P.'s counsel
objected to the instruction. The court ordered K.P.'s
counsel not to refer to the time limits of a conservatorship.
counsel then addressed CACI No. 4000, by arguing,
“there was a time where for decades we would have that
element three.” K.P.'s counsel conceded that the
third element had dropped out of consistent use in CACI No.
4000. However, he advocated for its inclusion here because he
intended to show that K.P. was “willing to voluntarily
accept treatment.” K.P.'s counsel acknowledged that
there had been a “so-called ‘Missouri
Compromise'” where the element of willingness and
ability to voluntarily accept meaningful treatment had been
added to CACI No. 4002, in the very last sentence. K.P.'s
counsel argued that this was insufficient because it was
“thrown in at the bottom of some other less
consequential later jury instruction.”
court observed that case law indicated that the version of
CACI No. 4000 the court would provide, properly laid out the
elements that the public guardian needed to prove in order to
show that an individual was gravely disabled. However, the
jury should be able to consider willing, voluntary acceptance
of treatment, therefore it was included in CACI No. 4002.
parties provided their respective opening statements to the
jury. The public guardian said it would prove, beyond a
reasonable doubt, that K.P. had a mental disorder, and that
as a result of that disorder, K.P. was gravely disabled.
counsel outlined the evidence that he would provide to show
that K.P. was not gravely disabled. Counsel argued, “If
anything, the evidence will show that he has a plan to take
care of himself.” Counsel stated:
just keep in mind when you're hearing all this evidence,
and then, ultimately, you deliberate, it's the county
that's got to convince you beyond a reasonable doubt that
he's gravely disabled which means, look, if he's off
conservatorship, he won't have a stable place to stay;
that he can't take care of his basic food, clothing, or
shelter and because it's going to be an issue here, there
is no viable alternative. By ‘alternative' meaning,
look, what his family is able to do to help him out, it's
not enough. He's still gravely disabled. So they have
that extra burden here of showing there is no third-party
assistance to help him out and that, ultimately, he's
unwilling to seek treatment.”
counsel finished with “If anything, the evidence shows
he's willing to continue with his treatment.”
counsel called Karen Celestine (mother), K.P.'s
mother. On direct examination, mother
testified that she believed her son had a mental illness;
that she was willing to help him see a psychiatrist and help
him fill prescriptions; that she believed he needed to
continue taking his medications; and that she would insist
that he take his medications if he resisted taking them.
could not provide housing for K.P. However, she would help
him find an apartment or board and care. She agreed to take
him to a mental hospital if his symptoms returned or he was
resisting taking his medications.
cross-examination, mother was asked about her immediate plan
for finding K.P. housing if he were to win his jury trial.
Mother indicated that she “would find housing, ”
by “looking for him and going to talk to the people
and... getting quotes and stuff.” When asked where K.P.
would be staying during the “interim” period
while she looked for housing, she responded, “Well,
he's at the facility right now. So I don't know how
that works.” K.P.'s medical doctor was still in
place, and for his psychiatric and mental health issues, she
testified “They refer him. He has referrals.” On
redirect, mother indicated that she would work with
K.P.'s current social worker on discharge planning. She
typically worked during the week and visited K.P. on the
Mehraban, the licensed clinical psychologist employed by the
residential agency where K.P. was residing, was called by the
public guardian to offer her expert opinion. She normally saw
K.P. five days a week for ...