On September 25, 2014, Santa Clara County Public Guardian Don Moody was “escorted from his office” according to San Jose Inside. Moody is on administrative leave following two consecutive Civil Grand Jury reports of serious deficiencies.
A grand jury report out this summer—the second in as many years—noted that Moody fails to track the amount of work and number of clients he handles. The people he hires to manage clients’ property don’t go through a thorough background check, the report found. Instead of having a panel of experts determine whether to assume control of a person’s estate, effectively revoking their civil rights, the decision lies with one person. And for years, countless referrals from the court have reportedly fallen through the cracks.
The latest grand jury report was spurred by a complaint that the office mishandled a case in which a client died before being conserved by the county.
The 2013 Civil Grand Jury report noted that written procedures at the Public Guardian’s office were not current. In some cases, procedures were years out of date.
The 2014 Civil Grand Jury report noted that written procedures at the Public Guardian’s office had current dates, but content was not current. Procedure 804.0 (slideshow above) concerning “Client Visitors, Phone Calls, Personal Mail” is of special interest given Moody’s history of unlawful imprisonment and isolation of conservatees.
In 2012, the Public Guardian was isolating conservatees from family and friends. No visitors. No phone calls. No mail. The 2013 Civil Grand Jury investigation was initiated in response to a complaint filed by this Examiner.
Conservatee Gisela Riordan was unlawfully imprisoned and isolated at San Jose assisted living facility Villa Fontana for over two years. Conservatee Lillie Scalia was isolated for a year. Both women had families who wished to visit them and to care for them. Moody used his victims’ own funds to pay to the unlawful imprisonment and isolation.
ABC7 I-Team investigated numerous abuses by Moody’s office. See video above.
Media coverage and citizen advocacy led to passage of Assembly Bill 937 (2013), which clarified that conservatees have the right to receive visitors, phone calls, and personal mail. Governor Brown signed the bill on August 19, 2013. The bill amended Probate Code 2351(a) as of January 1, 2014.
2351. (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.
Procedure 804.0 fails to comply with the legislative intent or the plain language of AB 937. Conservatees have an immediate right to have visitors. The Probate Code does not modify the right such that elderly or disabled individuals can only receive visitors after a week’s delay or if the Public Guardian decides to cooperate with the visit.
The plain language of the Code is clear. Conservatee’s have the right to receive visitors, unless specifically limited by court order. The 2015 Civil Grand Jury might find Procedure 804.0 to be of interest.