California’s AB937, introduced by Assembly Member Bob Wieckowski, codifies basic personal rights for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The right to have visitors, the right to receive phone calls, and the right to receive mail are already part of California law. However, these personal rights are often violated by court appointed conservators seeking unbridled power over vulnerable individuals.
Section 2351 of the Probate Code is amended to read:
(a) Subject to subdivision (b), the guardian or conservator, but not a limited conservator, has the care, custody, and control of, and has charge of the education of, the ward or conservatee. This control shall not extend to personal rights retained by the conservatee, including, but not limited to, the right to receive visitors, telephone calls, and personal mail, unless specifically limited by court order.
In favor of the bill are California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform (CARR), numerous Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, and elder advocates throughout the state. Families of abuse victims strongly favor the rights stated in AB937.
Opposing the bill is the California Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians and Public Conservators. Santa Clara County Public Guardian Don Moody and Director of the California Department of Social Services Will Lightbourne are also on record as opposing personal rights for conservatees.
Opposition from Moody and Lightbourne is not surprising. Moody’s department unlawfully imprisoned and isolated conservatees Gisela Riordan and Lillie Scalia for years. The abuse began when Lightbourne was Santa Clara County Social Services Agency Director. After moving to Sacramento, Lightbourne publicly supported ongoing abuse by Moody. Riordan and Scalia regained their rights only after coverage by the ABC7 I-Team in San Francisco.
Maria Jordanou was similarly imprisoned and isolated by the San Joaquin County Public Guardian. Jordanou died in captivity, unaware that her family was desperate to contact her.
Jean Swope suffered similar abuse at the hands of a court appointed private conservator in San Bernardino County. Swope was imprisoned and isolated for fifteen months. Her personal rights were restored by a restraining order against continued isolation. That effort cost Swope’s family $70K in legal fees.
AB937 does not change California law. The bill simply clarifies existing personal rights and codifies those rights into the Probate Code.
The full Assembly will vote on AB937 on Thursday, May 16, 2013. Letters of support can be sent to:
Legislative Aide Heather Falkenthal
Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski
Office: (916) 319 – 2025
Fax: (916) 319 – 2125