CACI 4000 Conservatorship—Essential Factual Elements

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

4000 Conservatorship—Essential Factual Elements

[Name of petitioner] claims that [name of respondent] is gravely disabled due to [a mental disorder/impairment by chronic alcoholism] and therefore should be placed in a conservatorship. In a conservatorship, a conservator is appointed to oversee, under the direction of the court, the care of persons who are gravely disabled due to a mental disorder or chronic alcoholism. To succeed on this claim, [name of petitioner] must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the following:

1.That [name of respondent] [has a mental disorder/is impaired by chronic alcoholism]; [and]

2.That [name of respondent] is gravely disabled as a result of the [mental disorder/chronic alcoholism][; and/.]

[3.That [name of respondent] is unwilling or unable voluntarily to accept meaningful treatment.]

Directions for Use

There is a split of authority as to whether element 3 is required. (Compare Conservatorship of Symington (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 1464, 1467 [257 Cal.Rptr. 860] [“[M]any gravely disabled individuals are simply beyond treatment”] with Conservatorship of Davis (1981) 124 Cal.App.3d 313, 328 [177 Cal.Rptr. 369] [jury should be allowed to consider all factors that bear on whether person should be on LPS conservatorship, including willingness to accept treatment].)

Sources and Authority

Right to Jury Trial. Welfare and Institutions Code section 5350(d).

“Gravely Disabled” Defined. Welfare and Institutions Code section 5008(h).

“The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (the act) governs the involuntary treatment of the mentally ill in California. Enacted by the Legislature in 1967, the act includes among its goals ending the inappropriate and indefinite commitment of the mentally ill, providing prompt evaluation and treatment of persons with serious mental disorders, guaranteeing and protecting public safety, safeguarding the rights of the involuntarily committed through judicial review, and providing individualized treatment, supervision and placement services for the gravely disabled by means of a conservatorship program.” (Conservatorship of Susan T. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1005, 1008–1009 [36 Cal.Rptr.2d 40, 884 P.2d 988].)

“LPS Act commitment proceedings are subject to the due process clause because significant liberty interests are at stake. But an LPS Act proceeding is civil. ‘[T]he stated purposes of the LPS Act foreclose any argument that an LPS commitment is equivalent to criminal punishment in its design or purpose.’ Thus, not all safeguards required in criminal proceedings are required in LPS Act proceedings.” (Conservatorship of P.D. (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th 1163, 1167 [231 Cal.Rptr.3d 79], internal citations omitted.)

“The clear import of the LPS Act is to use the involuntary commitment power of the state sparingly and only for those truly necessary cases where a ‘gravely disabled’ person is incapable of providing for his basic needs either alone or with help from others.” (Conservatorship of K.W. (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 1274, 1280 [221 Cal.Rptr.3d 622].)

“The right to a jury trial upon the establishment of conservatorship is fundamental to the protections afforded by the LPS. As related, that right is expressly extended to the reestablishment of an LPS conservatorship.” (Conservatorship of Benvenuto (1986) 180 Cal.App.3d 1030, 1037 [226 Cal.Rptr. 33], internal citations omitted.)

“[T]he trial court erred in accepting counsel’s waiver of [conservatee]’s right to a jury trial … . (Estate of Kevin A. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 1241, 1253 [193 Cal.Rptr.3d 237].)

“ ‘The due process clause of the California Constitution requires that proof beyond a reasonable doubt and a unanimous jury verdict be applied to conservatorship proceedings under the LPS Act.’ An LPS commitment order involves a loss of liberty by the conservatee. Consequently, it follows that a trial court must obtain a waiver of the right to a jury trial from the person who is subject to an LPS commitment.” (Conservatorship of Heather W. (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 378, 382–383 [199 Cal.Rptr.3d 689].)

“We … hold that a person sought to be made an LPS conservatee subject to involuntary confinement in a mental institution, is entitled to have a unanimous jury determination of all of the questions involved in the imposition of such a conservatorship, and not just on the issue of grave disability in the narrow sense of whether he or she can safely survive in freedom and provide food, clothing or shelter unaided by willing, responsible relatives, friends or appropriate third persons.” (Conservatorship of Davissupra, 124 Cal.App.3d at p. 328.)

“The jury should determine if the person voluntarily accepts meaningful treatment, in which case no conservatorship is necessary. If the jury finds the person will not accept treatment, then it must determine if the person can meet his basic needs on his own or with help, in which case a conservatorship is not justified.” (Conservatorship of Walker (1987) 196 Cal.App.3d 1082, 1092–1093 [242 Cal.Rptr. 289].)

“Our research has failed to reveal any authority for the proposition [that] without a finding that the proposed conservatee is unable or unwilling to voluntarily accept treatment, the court must reject a conservatorship in the face of grave disability. … Some persons with grave disabilities are beyond treatment. Taken to its logical conclusion, they would be beyond the LPS Act’s reach, according to the argument presented in this appeal.” (Conservatorship of Symington, supra, 209 Cal.App.3d at p. 1469.)

“The party seeking imposition of the conservatorship must prove the proposed conservatee’s grave disability beyond a reasonable doubt and the verdict must be issued by a unanimous jury.” (Conservatorship of Susan T., supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 1009, internal citation omitted.)

“Although there is no private right of action for a violation of section 5152, ‘aggrieved individuals can enforce the [LPS] Act’s provisions through other common law and statutory causes of action, such as negligence, medical malpractice, false imprisonment, assault, battery, declaratory relief, United States Code section 1983 for constitutional violations, and Civil Code section 52.1. [Citations.]’ ” (Swanson v. County of Riverside (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 361, 368 [248 Cal.Rptr.3d 476].)

Secondary Sources

15 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Wills and Probate, § 1007
3 Witkin, California Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Actions, § 97
2 California Conservatorship Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar) Ch. 23
32 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 361A, Mental Health and Mental Disabilities: Judicial Commitment, Health Services, and Civil Rights, § 361A.30 et seq. (Matthew Bender)