You read about all sorts of depressing things when you look at the Ninth Circuit and California Court of Appeal opinions. Murders. Rapes. Child abuse. Lots of nasty, nasty stuff. Stuff that ends of making you alternately happy to be where you are and yet saddened by the human condition.
This opinion is a different type of non-uplifting story. It's not a criminal case, which is where most of the ugly stuff appears. But it still tells a tale that's part of the There-But-For-The-Grace-Of-God-type of opinions:
Sometime around 2007, when David would have been about 51 years old
(and Lynn about 47), David was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, otherwise
called FTD. Frontotemporal dementia is a term that describes a group of mental
disorders affecting both an individual’s memory and personality. Often the afflicted
person will begin to act out of character. In David’s case, his dementia
appears to have precipitated a craving for alcohol and a hostility toward his family (his
wife Lynn and their three young adult children). . . .
The record does show David’s condition has been more specifically
classified as “semantic” dementia, which impairs parts of the brain affecting language.
While David appears to have lost the ability to articulate words, or read or write, there is
some indication in the record he can communicate his thoughts and feelings through
gestures, like a thumbs up sign for yes or crossing his arms over his chest for no.
Whether or not his thoughts and feelings are themselves the product of his dementia
appears to be an open question.
Beginning in 2007, Lynn began to manage the couple’s real property
empire alone. During this period, David began more and more to perceive his wife Lynn
and his children as his enemies. He wasn’t exactly banished, like Rochester’s wife in
Jane Eyre, to an attic, but – apparently, at Lynn’s direction – he did begin living in a
cottage in back of the family home.
Perhaps because of this estrangement from his family, in June 2009, David
signed a power of attorney form giving his sister Andrea control over all his financial
matters. A little more than a year later, in September 2010, Andrea caused David to file a petition for dissolution of his marriage to Lynn. But the proceeding went nowhere. In
March 2011, at Lynn’s behest, the family law court dismissed the dissolution action,
finding that David lacked the “necessary mental capacity to form or express his
independent resolve, free of any undue influence, to legally dissolve his long term
marriage based on irreconcilable differences.” The family law judge continued: “The
evidence is overwhelming that David lacks the requisite mental capacity to maintain
these proceedings and any evidence to the contrary is characterized as de minimis, if any
As if to confirm the family court’s characterization of David’s lack of
capacity, the day after the family law judge dismissed the dissolution action there was an
incident in the family home that prompted his temporary hospitalization under section
5150 of the Civil Code. A gun was visible on a counter and David made “shooting
motions” toward Lynn and his daughter Rachel. The incident prompted Lynn to call the
police, who took David to the “psych ward” at UCI Medical Center. (David’s inability to
speak would have, if anything, made the gesture more objectively frightening since it
could have conveyed more than just ineffable antipathy.)
David was soon transferred, at Lynn’s direction, from the UCI center to a
facility called Silverado. Andrea, however, objected to Silverado, and took David from
Silverado to her own home in Escondido. There he developed a habit of breaking into
neighbors’ houses to take beer from their refrigerators."