California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

4000. Conservatorship - Essential Factual Elements

[Name of petitioner] claims that [name of respondent] is gravely disabled due to [a mental disorder/impairment by chronic alcoholism] and therefore should be placed in a conservatorship. In a conservatorship, a conservator is appointed to oversee, under the direction of the court, the care of persons who are gravely disabled due to a mental disorder or chronic alcoholism. To succeed on this claim, [name of petitioner] must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the following:

1. That [name of respondent] [has a mental disorder/is impaired by chronic alcoholism];

2. That [name of respondent] is gravely disabled as a result of the [mental disorder/chronic alcoholism]; and

3. That [name of respondent] is unwilling or unable voluntarily to accept meaningful treatment.

Directions for Use

Element #3 may not be necessary in every case (see Conservatorship of Symington (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 1464, 1467 [257 Cal.Rptr. 860] ["[M]any gravely disabled individuals are simply beyond treatment."]).

Sources and Authority

Welfare and Institutions Code section 5350(d) provides, in part: "The person for whom conservatorship is sought shall have the right to demand a court or jury trial on the issue whether he or she is gravely disabled."

Welfare and Institutions Code section 5008(h)(1)(A) provides, in part: " '[G]ravely disabled' . . . [means a] condition in which a person, as a result of a mental disorder, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter."

Welfare and Institutions Code section 5008(h)(2) provides, in part: " '[G]ravely disabled' means a condition in which a person, as a result of impairment by chronic alcoholism, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter."

"The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (the act) governs the involuntary treatment of the mentally ill in California. Enacted by the Legislature in 1967, the act includes among its goals ending the inappropriate and indefinite commitment of the mentally ill, providing prompt evaluation and treatment of persons with serious mental disorders, guaranteeing and protecting public safety, safeguarding the rights of the involuntarily committed through judicial review, and providing individualized treatment, supervision and placement services for the gravely disabled by means of a conservatorship program." (Conservatorship of Susan T. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1005, 1008-1009 [884 P.2d 988, 36 Cal.Rptr.2d 40].)

"The right to a jury trial upon the establishment of conservatorship is fundamental to the protections afforded by the LPS. As related, that right is expressly extended to the reestablishment of an LPS conservatorship." (Conservatorship of Benvenuto (1986) 180 Cal.App.3d 1030, 1037 [226 Cal.Rptr. 33], internal citations omitted.)

"Noting that a finding of grave disability may result in serious deprivation of personal liberty, the [Supreme Court] held that the due process clause of the California Constitution requires that proof beyond a reasonable doubt and jury unanimity be applied to conservatorship proceedings under the LPS Act." (Conservatorship of Benvenuto, supra, 180 Cal.App.3d at p. 1038, internal citations omitted.)

"We . . . hold that a person sought to be made an LPS conservatee subject to involuntary confinement in a mental institution, is entitled to have a unanimous jury determination of all of the questions involved in the imposition of such a conservatorship, and not just on the issue of grave disability in the narrow sense of whether he or she can safely survive in freedom and provide food, clothing or shelter unaided by willing, responsible relatives, friends or appropriate third persons." (Conservatorship of Davis (1981) 124 Cal.App.3d 313, 328 [177 Cal.Rptr. 369].)

"The jury should determine if the person voluntarily accepts meaningful treatment, in which case no conservatorship is necessary. If the jury finds the person will not accept treatment, then it must determine if the person can meet his basic needs on his own or with help, in which case a conservatorship is not justified." (Conservatorship of Walker (1987) 196 Cal.App.3d 1082, 1092-1093 [242 Cal.Rptr. 289].)

"Our research has failed to reveal any authority for the proposition [that] without a finding that the proposed conservatee is unable or unwilling to voluntarily accept treatment, the court must reject a onservatorship in the face of grave disability. . . . Some persons with grave disabilities are beyond treatment. Taken to its logical conclusion, they would be beyond the LPS Act's reach, according to the argument presented in this appeal." (Conservatorship of Symington, supra, 209 Cal.App.3d at p. 1469.)

"The party seeking imposition of the conservatorship must prove the proposed conservatee's grave disability beyond a reasonable doubt and the verdict must be issued by a unanimous jury." (Conservatorship of Susan T., supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 1009, internal citation omitted.)

Secondary Sources

2 California Conservatorship Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 2005), Ch. 23

24 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 281, Guardianship and Conservatorship: Appointment of Conservators (Matthew Bender)

26 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 304, Insane and Other Incompetent Persons, Part I, "Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and Related Proceedings" (Matthew Bender)

(New June 2005)