Trusts and Estates

Conservatorship of M.M.

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Cite as B293676
Filed August 29, 2019
California Court of Appeal, Second District

By Golnaz Yazdchi
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

Headnote:  LPS Conservatorships – Statutory Time Limitations for Commencing Jury Trials – Waiver

Summary:  The statutory time limit for commencement of a jury trial following a proposed conservatee’s demand is not mandatory, and failure to commence trial within statutory confines is not grounds for earlier expiration of the conservatorship. 

M.M. had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, and was unwilling to accept psychiatric treatment and voluntary psychotropic medications.  The Public Guardian initiated LPS conservatorship proceedings.  The court appointed the Public Guardian as the temporary conservator, pending determination of the underlying conservatorship petition.  On August 16, 2018, M.M. demanded a jury trial.  The LPS Act provides for trial no later than 25 days after the demand.  As a result of M.M.’s counsel’s schedule, his requested continuance, M.M.’s request for a court-appointed expert to evaluate M.M., and the judge’s unavailability, M.M.’s trial commenced 61 days after his jury demand.  M.M. did not object at trial.  At trial, the jury found M.M. to be gravely disabled.  The court granted the conservatorship petition, and appointed the Public Guardian as M.M.’s conservator for an approximate one year term.  M.M. appealed solely on the grounds that the court denied his right to a jury trial within 25 days of his demand, and sought termination of his conservatorship 36 days earlier than ordered.

Held: Affirmed. M.M. forfeited any objection to the claimed error because he did not raise the objection in the lower court.  Moreover, the continuances were largely at the request of M.M.’s counsel to accommodate counsel’s schedule, and M.M.’s counsel agreed to a later trial date based on the judge’s availability.  Finally, the LPS Act’s jury trial deadlines are directory rather than mandatory, and failure to commence trial within the statutory time frame is not grounds to terminate the conservatorship earlier than it would otherwise expire.

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