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Conservatorship of Person and Estate of D.C.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division

August 29, 2019

Conservatorship of the Person and Estate of D.C. LOS ANGELES COUNTY OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC GUARDIAN, as Conservator, etc., Petitioner and Respondent,
v.
D.C., Objector and Appellant.

          APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. ZE042151, Robert Harrison, Judge. Affirmed.

          Jean Matulis, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Objector and Appellant.

          Mary C. Wickham, County Counsel, Rosanne Wong, Assistant County Counsel, and William C. Sias, Senior Deputy County Counsel, for Petitioner and Respondent.

          GRIMES, ACTING P. J.

         D.C. appeals the appointment of a conservator under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 5000 et seq.) after a jury found her to be gravely disabled due to a mental disorder. She contends the trial court failed to timely advise her of her right to a jury trial and improperly granted a conservatorship without an evidentiary hearing after her counsel submitted on the petition. She also claims the jury trial she received did not cure the prejudice of the denial of her right to an earlier trial; the order that she be medicated without her consent is not supported by substantial evidence; and ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 14, 2017, the Los Angeles County Office of the Public Guardian filed a petition for the Appointment of Conservator of the Person and Estate for D.C. In support of the petition, the County filed an application for a Mental Health Conservatorship Investigation, which included a declaration executed by two medical doctors recommending a conservatorship. The doctors declared D.C. had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was unable to accept voluntary treatment, and a conservatorship was required because D.C. is unable to provide for her personal needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

         The report appended to the declaration stated that D.C. suffers from polysubstance abuse disorder, and had been placed on a Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150 psychiatric hold on July 14, 2017, after she threatened to hit her mother and “burn the house down with [her mother] in it.” Responding officers saw furniture strewn about the home and holes in the walls. At the psychiatric emergency department, D.C. displayed tangential and disorganized thinking, and was so agitated she had to be sedated. D.C. tested positive for amphetamine, and had a severe lice infestation and scabies.

         D.C. was admitted to the psychiatric hospital on July 18, 2017. She suffered from rapid mood swings, could not answer questions, and was seen talking to herself and laughing. It was difficult to treat her extensive lice infestation because she could not understand the need for treatment.

         D.C.'s Mental Health Information System report revealed that D.C. had many psychiatric encounters in Los Angeles County, starting in 1996. She had 10 psychiatric hospitalizations from 2010 to 2017. She was hospitalized in August 2015 when she threatened to kill family members, after she stopped taking her psychiatric medications. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, paranoid type, and had been discharged with antipsychotic mediation.

         The report opined that D.C. is gravely disabled due to her psychiatric illness. She needs frequent redirection for self-care, and is unable to communicate in a clear manner. D.C. denied any mental illness or the need for medications.

         On August 14, 2017, the trial court appointed the Public Guardian as the temporary conservator, and temporary letters of conservatorship issued that same day.

         An initial hearing was set for August 28, 2017. The conservatorship investigator's report was filed that day. According to the report, D.C. denied that she suffered any mental illness or that she was gravely disabled.

         D.C. was present in court, and her counsel represented that D.C. would submit on the petition. Counsel “spoke with [D.C.] about the rights, powers, and disabilities involved in the conservatorship, ...


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