Trusts and Estates

Conservatorship of T.B.

Cite as A167919
Filed February 27, 2024
First District, Div. Two

By Erika J. Gasaway
Hopkins & Carley

Headnote:  LPS Conservatorships – Right to Trial Within Ten Days of Demand

Summary:  Failure to comply with the requirement in newly enacted Welfare and Institutions Code section 5350, subdivision (d)(2), that trial must begin within ten days of demand is discretionary, not mandatory, grounds for dismissal.

An amendment to Welfare and Institutions Code section 5350, subdivision (d)(2), which is part of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (“LPS Act”), became effective January 1, 2023.  It requires that, when a person for whom a conservatorship is sought under the LPS Act demands a court or jury trial on the issue of whether the person is gravely disabled, such trial “shall commence within 10 days of the date of the demand” and “[f]ailure to commence the trial within that period of time is grounds for dismissal of the conservatorship proceedings.”

In an issue of first impression, the appellate court interpreted the new amendment as “directory” rather than “mandatory,” such that the trial court has discretion whether to grant dismissal for failure to comply with the timeline.  In this case, the trial court abused its discretion by focusing only on the availability of counsel and the court in granting continuances for 171 days after the demand for trial, rather than all the circumstances listed in California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1332(d).  However, the appellate court affirmed the conservatorship order because there was no prejudice to the proposed conservatee by the delay.

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