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CA Supreme Court Rules with Autistic Claimant Against Conservatorship

CA Supreme Court Rules with Autistic Claimant Against Conservatorship

September 28, 2020

O.B. is an adult with autism spectrum disorder whose mother and older sister were appointed conservators of her estate in a limited conservatorship. A psychologist testified that O.B. did not require a limited conservatorship, but the judge ruled in favor of conservatorship based on his observations of O.B. in court. O.B. appealed the decision, but the appellate court affirmed. However, the California Supreme Court heard the case and reversed the earlier rulings, deciding in favor of O.B.

In this case, the California Supreme Court held in their opinion:

“…that appellate review of the sufficiency of the evidence in support of a finding requiring clear and convincing proof must account for the level of confidence this standard demands. In a matter such as the one before us, when reviewing a finding that a fact has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, the question before the appellate court is whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence from which a reasonable fact-finder could have found it highly probable that the fact was true. Consistent with well-established principles governing review for sufficiency of the evidence, in making this assessment the appellate court must view the record in the light most favorable to the prevailing party below and give due deference to how the trier of fact may have evaluated the credibility of witnesses, resolved conflicts in the evidence, and drawn reasonable inferences from the evidence.”

“Because the Court of Appeal below took the position that the clear and convincing standard of proof ‘disappears’ on appeal when it rejected O.B.’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we reverse.”

“…To summarize, we hold that an appellate court must account for the clear and convincing standard of proof when addressing a claim that the evidence does not support a finding made under this standard. When reviewing a finding that a fact has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, the question before the appellate court is whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence from which a reasonable fact-finder could have found it highly probable that the fact was true. In conducting its review, the court must view the record in the light most favorable to the prevailing party below and give appropriate deference to how the trier of fact may have evaluated the credibility of witnesses, resolved conflicts in the evidence, and drawn reasonable inferences from the evidence.”

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