Trusts and Estates

Conservatorship of E.B.

Cite as A157280
Filed February 27, 2020
California Court of Appeal, First District, Div. Five

By Golnaz Yazdchi
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

Headnote:  LPS Conservatorships – Compelling Testimony of Proposed Conservatee

Summary:  LPS conservatees are similarly situated to persons found not guilty by reason of insanity and individuals subject to other involuntary civil commitments for purposes of the right against compelled testimony.

E.B. was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  The public guardian sought an LPS conservatorship, alleging that E.B. was unable or unwilling to accept treatment voluntarily, and unable to manage his own financial resources.  At trial, the court compelled E.B. to testify, over his written objection.  The public guardian called two other witnesses, a psychiatrist who had evaluated E.B., and a mental health clinical specialist that served as E.B.’s case manager, both of whom testified that E.B was unable to care for himself or manage his own financial resources.  After a jury trial, E.B. was found to be gravely disabled, and placed under an LPS conservatorship.

Held: Affirmed.  LPS conservatees are similarly situated to persons found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGIs), sexually violent predators (SVPs), and mentally disordered offenders (MDOs) —none of whom are compelled to testify against themselvesin that they are subject to involuntary commitment for an indefinite period of time, resulting in a deprivation of civil liberties.  The public guardian made no showing justifying unequal treatment of a proposed LPS conservatee for purposes of the testimonial privilege.  Nevertheless, although E.B. should not have been compelled to testify against his will, the trial court’s error was harmless because E.B.’s testimony was not essential to the verdict.  The public guardian had two other witnesses who were familiar with E.B. and who testified that he could not care for himself due to his mental illness.

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