Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In Re Conservatorship of Bower (Cal. Ct. App. - May 16, 2016)

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 at all.”

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."

Not good.