Trusts and Estates

Ca. Trs. & Estates Quarterly 2016, Volume 22, Issue 2

QUASI-JUDICIAL IMMUNITY IN CONSERVATORSHIPS: A GUIDE FOR CONSERVATORS AND THEIR COUNSEL

By Michelle L. Barnett, Esq.,* Charles Riffle, Esq.,* and Sarah Brooks, Esq.*

In 2014, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in McClintock v. West1 held that a guardian ad litem in a family law case was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity in a subsequent tort action initiated against her by her former ward. In 2015, in the unpublished decision Burk-Soorani v. Simon,2 the Second District Court of Appeal extended quasi-judicial immunity to a professional conservator who was sued in a tort action for elder abuse and wrongful death after she made healthcare decisions for a conservatee. The reasoning of the Fourth and Second District Courts of Appeal suggests that California courts may soon extend the protection of quasi-judicial immunity to conservators. But should they?

This article will examine the history of the quasi-judicial immunity doctrine, the application of the doctrine in California and elsewhere, and whether quasi-judicial immunity is warranted in the context of California conservatorships. As this article will demonstrate, the state’s comprehensive statutory framework governing conservatorships renders quasi-judicial immunity unnecessary for the conservator of the estate. And whether a conservator of the person is cloaked with the protection of quasi-judicial immunity should hinge upon whether the conservator acted within the scope of his or her authority in a matter "intimately related to the judicial process."3

I. THE DOCTRINE OF QUASI-JUDICIAL IMMUNITY

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