Appeals Court-Mother Lacked Standing to Appeal Probate Court’s Order Relating to Her Son’s Rights

A brief summary of the recent decision the California Court of Appeal- Second District, Division Three.

Conservatorship of Gregory D. (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 62. Filed March 5, 2013.

The background in this case is that Gregory is a developmentally disabled adult, in his mid-20s. He was diagnosed with autism as a child. His parents, Joseph D. (Joseph) and Linda, obtained a divorce, and Gregory resided with each of his parents, at their respective homes, on alternating weeks. In 2005, Gregory reached the age of majority (18). In 2008, he moved into his own apartment, with supportive services which enable him to live independently.

In 2004, Linda and Joseph filed competing petitions to be named as the limited conservator of their son Gregory. In 2005, they entered into a settlement agreement setting the terms for Gregory’s limited conservatorship. Pursuant to said settlement agreement, Joseph withdrew his petition for conservatorship and stipulated to Linda’s appointment as Gregory’s conservator.

Linda contended that the visitation order of November 18, 2011, violated Gregory’s constitutional rights to liberty and privacy; the order directing termination of My Life Foundation as Gregory’s supported living services care provider was in excess of the trial court’s jurisdiction; and the order mandating disclosure of Gregory’s medical, financial and personal records to his parents violates Gregory’s constitutional and statutory rights of privacy.

Ultimately, the issue for the Honorable Court to determine was whether Linda has standing to assert these arguments.

The Court determined that the Conservatee’s mother lacked standing to appeal order on conservators’ petition setting his visitation schedule, directing change in his living services vendor and ordering disclosure of his personal, medical and financial records. Mother, who alleged only violations of nonappealing adult conservatee’s rights, was not an aggrieved party for purposes of appeal under Code of Civil Procedure section 902. “`One is considered “aggrieved” whose rights or interests are injuriously affected by the judgment.’ (County of Alameda v. Carleson (1971) 5 Cal.3d 730, 737 [97 Cal.Rptr. 385, 488 P.2d 953] ….) Conversely, `A party who is not aggrieved by an order or judgment has no standing to attack it on appeal.’ (Niles v. City of San Rafael (1974) 42 Cal.App.3d 230, 244 [116 Cal.Rptr. 733].)” (El Dorado Irrigation Dist. v. State Water Resources Control Bd. (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 937, 977 [48 Cal.Rptr.3d 468], italics omitted.)

The Court determined Probate Code section 1829, pertaining to the establishment of a conservatorship, provides: “Any of the following persons may appear at the hearing to support or oppose the petition: [¶] (a) The proposed conservatee. [¶] (b) The spouse or registered domestic partner of the proposed conservatee. [¶] (c) A relative of the proposed conservatee. [¶] (d) Any interested person or friend of the proposed conservatee.” (Italics added.)

This provision entitled Linda to participate in the conservatorship proceeding in the court below. However, merely because Linda was authorized to appear in the matter did not mean she was entitled to prosecute an appeal from the trial court’s order.

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