Trusts and Estates

Conservatorship of J.Y.

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Cite as A157323
Filed May 21, 2020, First District, Div. Two

By Daniel C. Kim
Weintraub Tobin Chediak Coleman Grodin Law Corporation

Headnote: LPS Conservatorships – Right Against Compelled Testimony

Summary: LPS conservatees have a constitutional equal protection right not to testify against themselves in conservatorship proceedings.

The Contra Costa County Public Guardian served as the Lanterman-Petris-Short (“LPS”) Act conservator of J.Y.’s person beginning in 2004 and was successively reappointed each year through 2018. In 2018, the Public Guardian petitioned for reappointment and J.Y. objected, requesting a jury trial. At trial, over her objection, J.Y. was compelled to testify during the Public Guardian’s case in chief, along with two experts who opined that J.Y. was gravely disabled. The jury found J.Y. was gravely disabled, and the court reappointed the Public Guardian as conservator of J.Y’s person for a further year.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal as moot, because the conservatorship had expired. The court nevertheless exercised its discretion to rule on J.Y.’s argument that compelling her to testify as a witness against herself violated her state and federal equal protection rights, because similarly situated individuals found not guilty by reason of insanity (“NGI”) have a statutory right against such compelled testimony. The court concluded that LPS conservatees are similarly situated to NGI’s for purposes of the right against compelled testimony because they too are subject to the possibility of “an unbroken and indefinite period of state-sanctioned confinement.” Additionally, the court found that there was no justification for disparate treatment. As such, LPS conservatees have a right against compelled testimony.

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