As you may remember from my previous post about public conservators having a massive work load, so do the public defenders. Take the following from Disability Right's Publication
"I don’t remember who represented me at the conservatorship hearing. How can I get a lawyer to represent me at the rehearing? If you did not pay for a lawyer to represent you at the conservatorship hearing, you were probably represented by a court-appointed lawyer. Most court-appointed lawyers are from the Public Defender’s Office. You can look up the phone number in the local phone book under "county government." You can ask your patients’ rights advocate to help you contact your public defender or look at the list of public defenders that is located at the back of the material.
I’ve been given the phone number to my public defender whom I’m having a difficult time contacting. When you call the public defender’s office, you should ask the person who answers the phone when would be the best time to reach your attorney. Many public defenders are in court for much of the day instead of being in their office. You can also ask to leave a message on your attorney’s voicemail. When you leave a message, be sure to leave your name, date of birth, phone number, the best time to reach you, and why you called. Make sure you write down when you left the message for your attorney for your own records. Write your attorney if you are having problems with communication, and keep a copy of the letter(s) as a follow-up to a phone call or message."
These are two very common complaints. The public defenders have such a high workload that the conservatee's do not have many chances to talk with them and discuss their case. When the public defender does have time to talk to the conservatee it is usually for a few minutes. The public defender usually asks the following "What are you plans for self care? Where will you go? Do you want to be conserved?" They may also give a brief walkthrough of the hearing to the patient. Overall not more than 15 minutes is given to each patient. This is not enough given the sensitive and complex nature of LPS hearings. The conservatee may be left more confused or not aware of the laws that they have to challenge. Thus they often find themselves "in a panic because they were heading to court to present in front of a judge and some “person I don’t even know” (in other words the PG) would stand and make a case for a patient to be locked up." [Erica Loberg Inside the Insane].. In my opinion this is unfair for the patient who did not ask to be conserved. Even if they have a mental illness, conservatorship is a large deprivation of their natural rights. As one study put it "LPS conservatees often have less rights than prisoners".
If we had more funding for LPS conservatorship and mental illness I would strongly recommend that we place more emphasis on patient education so they understand what is going to happen to them. So many patients do not know what LPS conservatorship is or how they lose their rights in the process. And far too often the conservatees need assistance within a time frame of a few days, but the public defenders are too busy with other case loads so the conservatees find themselves with no answers to their legal questions. With proper funding they will be given a real opportunity to challenge the decisions and not be left in the dark. They have a right to know whats up since everyone else seems to.
Juvenile Dependency and