Jones’s measure to ensure confidentiality in conservatorship cases approved by Senate committee

Conservatorship battles becoming too public as seen in Britney Spears’s case

Conservatorship legislation authored by Senator Brian W. Jones (R-Santee), and based on recommendations of the California State Auditor, was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The overwhelming majority of conservatorship cases involve private family matters that really shouldn’t be subject to public hearings,” stated Senator Brian W. Jones.  “This measure will make privacy the standard rule while still allowing a court to make an occasional exception.”

Specifically, Jones’s Senate Bill 578 requires “LPS conservatorship” proceedings to be held in closed court, except in rare cases where the court finds public disclosure outweighs the benefit of keeping the matter private.  LPS conservatorships are generally those involving involuntary commitment of mentally ill persons who are dangerous or unable meet their basic needs as defined under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967.  In a July 2020 report, the State Auditor General found that California’s 58 county courts have varying standards about whether LPS conservatorship hearings are public or closed.  The State Auditor recommended that the standard become uniform throughout the state.

“Our legislation will protect the dignity of vulnerable Californians and ensures they retain their right to privacy, no matter what courthouse they visit,” continued Jones.  “Senate Bill 578 is not based on the Britney Spears celebrity conservatorship saga, although that case certainly has highlighted the public’s interest in conservator law.”

SB 578 is now awaiting hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.