This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re: Conservatorship of Dorothy
Filed February 11, 2003
Hennepin County District Court
File No. P2001145
David L. Kraker, 3109 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (for appellant Dorothy Jacobson)
Mary Ferris Jensen, 270 Grain Exchange North, 301 Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1032 (for respondent Carol Golder)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges the district court’s order appointing a conservator of her person. Because we conclude that the order was supported by clear and convincing evidence that appellant is an incapacitated person, we affirm.
Appellant Dorothy Jacobson, age 75, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia with possible dementia. In May 2001, the district court committed Jacobson as mentally ill to the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center. The original commitment was for six months, and the district court continued it for an additional six months, to end on May 9, 2002.
In early 2002, Jacobson petitioned the district court under Minn. Stat. § 253B.17 (2000) for release from the commitment, and the district court denied the petition. In its March 2002 order denying the petition (the “.17 order”) the district court found that
if [Jacobson] is not involuntarily committed, [she] would likely * * * fail to provide necessary personal food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. * * * [H]er insight remains very poor. She does not feel that she needs treatment for her mental illness. She is consistently unwilling to engage in talk therapy and can be hostile and irritable with caregivers. * * * She is frequently uncooperative with performing her basic cares. * * * She simply could not live independently at this time * * * .
The Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center had provisionally discharged Jacobson in October 2001, after which she resided at the Whittier Health Center (“Whittier”) in Minneapolis. In January 2002, Carol Golder (“petitioner”), a Whittier social worker who regularly treated Jacobson, petitioned the district court to appoint a conservator of the person for Jacobson. At the April 2002 hearing on the petition, the district court received testimony from petitioner, from Jacobson’s Hennepin County mental-health case manager, and from Jacobson herself.
At the hearing, petitioner characterized Jacobson as “vulnerable” and in need of a conservator because she (1) is often fixated on insignificant matters and “forgets what is going on and what is important”; (2) is in denial with respect to her mental illness, and “if she were alone she would not take care of herself”; and (3) often begins but later refuses treatment from different psychiatrists resulting in a lack of “continuity of care.” Petitioner also maintained that Jacobson lacks sufficient understanding to make responsible decisions independently. Furthermore, Jacobson’s case manager testified that Jacobson “would not feel any obligation to comply” with the terms of her provisional discharge unless someone, such as a conservator, “compelled [her] to do so.” Also at the hearing, the case manager supported the appointment of a conservator and stated that the behaviors described in the “.17 order” are “ongoing concerns.” Finally, the district court received a sworn statement from Jacobson’s physician stating that Jacobson’s “poor decision making” and “paranoid” behavior supported the appointment of a conservator.
In May 2002, the district court issued an order finding that Jacobson “lack[ed] sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning her person” and “demonstrated behavioral defects evidencing inability to meet her needs for medical care, nutrition, clothing, safety, or shelter.” The district court thus granted the petition to appoint a conservator. Jacobson now appeals.
The district court has broad powers in appointing a conservator. See Minn. Stat. § 525.54, subd. 6 (2002). An appellate court “will not interfere with the exercise of this discretion except in the case of clear abuse” of that discretion. In re Conservatorship of Edelman, 448 N.W.2d 542, 544 (Minn. App. 1989) (citation omitted).
Upon petition, the district court, “if satisfied of the need therefor, may appoint one or more persons * * * as guardians of the person * * * of any incapacitated person.” Minn. Stat. § 525.54, subd. 1 (2002). An “incapacitated person” is one who is
impaired to the extent of lacking sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible personal decisions, and who has demonstrated deficits in behavior which evidence an inability to meet personal needs for medical care, nutrition, clothing, shelter, or safety.
Id., subd. 2 (2002). In a proceeding to appoint a conservator,
there is a legal presumption of capacity and the burden of proof is on the petitioner. The standard of proof is that of clear and convincing evidence.
Id. § 525.551, subd. 3 (2002).
Jacobson argues that the district court abused its discretion by appointing a conservator without clear and convincing evidence of the need for one. But a review of the record reveals that there was sufficient evidence to support the district court’s conclusion that Jacobson is “incapacitated” and thus could be helped by the appointment of a conservator.
The statute requires the petitioner to (1) establish that the potential conservatee lacks sufficient understanding to make responsible personal decisions and (2) demonstrate deficits in the potential conservatee’s behavior that evidence an inability to meet personal needs. Id. § 525.54, subd. 1. With respect to the “sufficient understanding” prong of the statutory standard, petitioner testified that Jacobson often “gets focused on things [and] will go over and over and over things, and then she forgets what is going on and what is important.” Petitioner also suggested that Jacobson lacks insight regarding her care needs and testified that Jacobson is in “denial of her mental illness” and her need for psychiatric care. Petitioner further maintained that Jacobson lacks sufficient understanding to make responsible decisions, and Jacobson’s case manager testified that she is “not capable of making the best decisions for herself.” Thus, petitioner produced sufficient evidence that Jacobson is incapable of making responsible personal decisions.
With respect to deficits in behavior evidencing an inability to meet personal needs, petitioner testified that a test administered in October 2001 revealed that Jacobson has difficulty with her short-term memory. Furthermore, at the hearing, petitioner stated that if Jacobson were not subject to a court order or other form of supervision, she would likely discontinue taking her prescribed psychotropic medication. Finally, petitioner testified that Jacobson displays poor personal hygiene and refuses to bathe thoroughly. Thus, petitioner produced sufficient evidence that Jacobson’s mental condition impairs her ability to meet her personal needs.
A review of the record shows that petitioner established, by clear and convincing proof, that Jacobson is incapable of making responsible personal decisions and that her condition impairs her ability to meet her needs with respect to mental health and hygiene. We therefore conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by appointing a conservator of the person.