A December 20, 2022 report from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury finds that the last two years of state legislative reform regarding probate conservatorships should inspire Santa Clara and other counties to carefully review how they handle conservatorship defense cases. The report presents a remarkable introspective and critical look at the level of advocacy proposed conservatees in Santa Clara County receive as well as the time and skill that the local public defender attorneys assigned to the cases are able to wield in their defense.
The Grand Jury found that one attorney from the public defender’s office represents about 300 conservatees each year. In addition, the public defender remains an attorney of record in at least 3,000 old conservatorship cases but does not provide any routine follow-up services in any of them.
The Grand Jury found much to like in the Guardianship Advocacy Program in Nevada as a model for zealous and manageable conservatorship defense. That program provides for case limits of 180 new and ongoing cases for each attorney, on-going review of each conservatee’s case after a conservatorship is established, and written training materials and performance standards for the attorneys. The report concludes by making a number of recommendations, many of which are drawn from the Nevada program and would likely be useful in many other counties throughout California.