California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fifth Division
Conservatorship of the Person and Estate of D.P., PUBLIC GUARDIAN OF THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, Petitioner and Respondent,
D.P., Objector and Appellant.
FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION [*]
from an order of the Superior Court of the County of Los
Angeles No. ZE041308, Robert Harrison, Judge. Affirmed.
Christopher Lionel Haberman, under appointment by the Court
of Appeal, for Objector and Appellant.
appearance for Petitioner and Respondent.
Public Guardian of the County of Los Angeles (County) filed a
petition under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS Act)
(Welf. & Inst. Code, § 5000 et seq.) for
reappointment as the conservator of appellant D.P., alleging
that he was gravely disabled as the result of a mental
disorder. Following a trial at which the jury found D.P. to
be gravely disabled, the trial court granted the petition and
ordered reappointment of the County as D.P.'s
appeal from the reappointment order, D.P. contends, among
other things, that the trial court committed prejudicial
error by failing to instruct the jury on an element necessary
to the gravely disabled finding. In the published portion of
this opinion, we hold that the trial court properly
instructed the jury using the applicable statutory definition
of gravely disabled. In the unpublished portion this opinion,
we address and reject D.P.'s other contentions on appeal.
We therefore affirm the trial court's reappointment
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Petition for Reappointment of Conservator
February 26, 2018, the trial court notified D.P. and the
County that the one-year LPS conservatorship established for
D.P. under section 5350 would terminate on April 24, 2018. On
March 9, 2018, the County filed a petition for reappointment
as the conservator of the person and estate of D.P., setting
the initial hearing on the petition for April 3, 2018.
Following various continuances and D.P.'s April 16, 2018,
request for jury trial detailed below, the trial court set
the matter for jury trial on July 6, 2018.
trial commenced on July 6, 2018, with Dr. Loreta Mulokas
testifying for the County and D.P. testifying on his own
Dr. Mulokas's Testimony
Mulokas, a board certified geriatric psychiatrist, had
evaluated patients with mental disorders for 32 years. She
had testified as an expert in court over 100 times.
was first admitted to Dr. Mulokas's psychiatric unit at
the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital in May 2017. He was
transferred from a medical floor to the “geriatric
psych ward” due to behavioral issues.
the past year, as the regular psychiatrist in the unit, Dr.
Mulokas saw D.P. on a daily basis during her morning rounds.
She also conducted more in-depth evaluations of him every two
or three months.
preparation for her trial testimony, Dr. Mulokas reviewed
D.P.'s current psychiatric medical records and consulted
with the hospital treatment team involved in his care. Based
on her interviews with D.P., her review of his records, and
her consultations with his treatment team, Dr. Mulokas opined
that he suffered from a mental illness-schizoaffective
disorder bipolar type. He initially presented with symptoms
of paranoia and hallucinations, but had improved with
treatment that included psychiatric medication.
Mulokas confirmed that D.P.'s schizoaffective diagnosis
was consistent with a mental disorder defined in the
DSM-5. According to Dr. Mulokas,
“[s]chizoaffective disorder diagnostic criteria include
psychotic symptoms, which are persistent after mood symptoms
are... resolved....” In the past, D.P. exhibited
“agitated depression with psychotic symptoms, ”
as well as “[paranoia] which led him to hostility,
distrust in [his] treatment team and in roommates, [and]
cause[d] him to become aggressive [and] throw things at
staff... like feces and his diapers....”
behavior had improved recently, but he “still engaged
in socially inappropriate behavior....” In one recent
incident, D.P. “exposed himself inappropriately in the
day room... [by taking] off his wetted diaper... and
[throwing] it on the floor in front of other patients.”
currently prescribed psychiatric medications to treat his
schizoaffective disorder included: a mood stabilizer,
depakote; an antidepressive medication, duloxetine; and
another antidepressant, trazodone. At the time of trial, D.P.
was compliant in taking his medications and did not require
“prompting” to ensure compliance. Although D.P.
believed that he did not need medication and did not believe
he had a mental illness, he accepted the treatment imposed on
him. But, according to Dr. Mulokas, D.P. would still stay in
bed all day unless “prompted” to get up and move
to the day room.
Mulokas explained that D.P. did not have “insight into
his mental disorder, ” i.e., he did not, or could not,
acknowledge or understand that he suffered from a mental
disorder for which he needed treatment. In Dr. Mulokas's
opinion, D.P. could not treat his mental illness on his own
without assistance and could not “provide for his own
basic food, clothing, and shelter [needs] without taking
[his] medication.” Dr. Mulokas believed D.P. needed to
“be treated in [a] secured psychiatric setting with
medical privileges... because he ha[d] certain medical
conditions which [needed] to be closely supervised and
treated.” To her knowledge, D.P. had not
“ever successfully lived independently in the community
without supervision.” When she discussed with him where
he would live if released, he replied, “‘If I go
to the street, I will find out.'” Although D.P. had
supplemental social security income, he did not have veterans
benefits and could not handle his own finances.
Mulokas's opinion, D.P. lacked sufficient insight to be a
“meaningfully [voluntary] patient” and he was
“currently gravely disabled due to a mental disorder
such that he need[ed] to remain in a
believed he had schizophrenia and that he was “manic
depressive.” He admitted he had depression in the past
to the point where he did not want to get out of bed. D.P.
also acknowledged that he needed psychiatric treatment and
was therefore willing to continue to see a psychiatrist and
take his medications on an outpatient basis. He also wanted
to continue treatment for his medical issues, including his
metastatic prostate cancer.
to D.P., if released from the conservatorship, he would
coordinate with a social worker to find housing. Before he
was hospitalized, he lived on the streets; he was not
homeless, he was “a street person.” He received
$800 per month in social security benefits and knew where to
obtain food and clothing.
cross examination, D.P. clarified that he did not believe he
had a mental illness; he had “a psychosis....”
But his psychosis was “temporary” and could be
treated with medication. If he were released from the
conservatorship, he would obtain his medication “from
some doctor somewhere. Either a pharmacy, the [Department of
Veterans Affairs] or a clinic, wherever.” He believed
he needed to be treated by a doctor and take medication and
promised to “follow up” if released.
terms of housing, D.P. explained that he would “work
with the [Department of Veterans Affairs], get some type of
housing or a room, or whatever.” He believed his $800
monthly social security benefit would be “sufficient on
Verdict and Order Reappointing Conservator
testimony and argument, the jury returned a verdict finding
that D.P. was “presently gravely disabled due to a
mental disorder.” Based on the verdict, the trial court
granted the County's petition and issued an order
reappointing the County as the ...