Conservatorship of Margaret L. (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 675 The Fourth District Court of Appeal held that when appointed counsel in a conservatorship appeal fails to discover an arguable issue, the Court of Appeal must independently review the record upon request. Civil commitment to a mental hospital threatens a person’s dignity and liberty on as massive a scale as that traditionally associated with criminal prosecutions and hence it is not too burdensome for the appellate court to review the record for arguable issues. The court stated, “We did not find it too burdensome under these circumstances to expend two or three hours to review this sparse record for arguable issues. Such cases, after all, terrorize us with the prospect of extra work.” (Id. at 682).
In the realm of dependency court, this rings especially true. Without the proper attorney, the parents are often forced to enter a plea of not guilt. Usually the court will still make a true finding on the petition and the parents are ordered to services. During the detention hearing, the court will find that the children will need to be removed and the parents ordered to return for the jurisdiction/ disposition hearing. During the J&D hearing this is the only time that evidence will be heard in front of the court. Even then the hearing is very short (around 10 min) and the review of the report is perfunctory at best. I understand that there is a dearth of time but sometimes the reviews are ridiculous short. If parent's counsel sets it for contested matter,, then that hearing will be equally short and shallow. This is a large issue because there are often issues that may lead to fewer services or a shorter time line to unsupervised visits. Without proper review the parent is often denied their right to a complete hearing.
This is also an important matter in the fact that the conservatee's record often contains misstatements or partially incorrect information. Having taken care of clients and been in cases myself I can attest that this does not happen. Almost never. Too often the counsel is overworked and does not have time to review the case properly. I have seen clients ask their counsel to contest that there are lies in the file, but their attorney dismisses them or simply enters that the conservatee will contest the conservatorship. There are no serious evidentiary hearings set for the conservatee. and as a result, many conservatees have complained about inaccurate dates and statements. Take it from the conservatee's point of view. If someone wrote many inaccuracies about you but the court decided to take as a fact would you not feel slighted. As if your opinion or view of reality was not serious taken into consideration. All of these people talking about your life but you have no say.
That is all I have for today. Remember that for all those case workers and attorneys as your client's opinions matter. You're supposed to be helping and doing all of this for them not yourself.
Juvenile Dependency and