All conservatorships are taken seriously in California, but some are taken more seriously than others. Why? The severity of a conservatorship case is determined by the state of the conservatee or potential conservatee. While we have made other posts explaining the concept of conservatorship, this article will focus on a vital type of conservatorship in California: the Murphy conservatorship.

By the time you are done reading this post, you will be duly enlightened on the concept of the Murphy conservatorship, why it is applied, and who is eligible to be enrolled in a murphy conservatorship. Stay with us to learn more!

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…or continue reading the article below to learn more about conservatorships and specifically, what a murphy conservatorship is.

Conservatorship in California: A Brief Overview

In the United States, the term “conservatorship” has different meanings in different states. All states in the country have their own laws, and each state adopts policies to suit its own population and standards.

Here’s a good example: the concept of conservatorship may refer to the custody and care for minor children in some states (like Texas). This can happen due to the separation of their parents or situations in which the parents are deemed incapable of taking adequate care of the child. However, in California, conservatorships do not apply to minors.

In California, a conservatorship is a legal process meant to care for an adult who has been deemed unable to care for themselves. This can happen due to incapacitation from accidents, mental disability, or old age. The person or agency appointed by the court to take care of or manage the affairs of another adult is called a conservator. Conversely, the person for whom conservatorship is started in California is called the conservatee.

Now that we’ve covered what a conservatorship is, let’s explore some of the different types of conservatorships available in The Golden State.

Types of Conservatorship in California

The type of conservatorship employed in California is largely dependent on whether or not the adult meets the requirements for conservatorship. Basically, there are two types of conservatorship in California namely Probate Conservatorship and Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship. Here’s an overview of each.

Probate Conservatorship

Probate is divided into two parts: general conservatorship and limited conservatorship. While general conservatorship has to do with the appointment of a conservator to cater to the physical wellbeing of an incapacitated adult as well as to their finances, limited conservatorship only has to do with the care for an adult who has a developmental disability or disorder.

In a limited conservatorship, the adult with a developmental disability can still partially care for themselves. In a probate conservatorship, the court may also appoint a person to be the conservator of the person, the conservator of the estate, or both depending on the needs of the conservatee.

Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorship

This is different from probate conservatorship and has to do with the care and management of the affairs of an adult who has a severe mental disease. Such a person may need intensive mental health disorder treatment in a restrictive facility or environment.

While probate conservatorship is started with the consent of the conservatee, LPS conservative isn’t. This is because the conservatee often can’t give consent due to their mental disease or doesn’t have the mental capacity to give consent to a conservatorship arrangement at all. Like it is in probate conservatorship, the court may also appoint the LPS conservator to be a conservator of the person, conservator of the estate, or both.

The Murphy Conservatorship

murphy conservatorship

Now to the answer you’ve been waiting for! A Murphy Conservatorship is a mental health conservatorship arrangement. It has to do with the care for adults with a severe mental disorder who have pending criminal charges for violent felonies. Provisions for this arrangement can be found under the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act and the Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) of the superior court of California.

A Murphy Conservatorship is a conservatorship arrangement specially designed out of public safety concerns. It is specifically for criminal defendants who have been found incompetent to stand trial under the superior court of California’s Penal Code section 1370. It approves the indefinite commitment of criminal defendants and dangerous individuals who have been deemed as incompetent defendants. This can happen due to severe mental illness or mental disability. Often, it also involves the efforts of a treatment facility or hospital for competency restoration.

Criteria for Establishing Murphy Conservatorship

Most people, especially police officers and prosecutors, raise eyebrows when a defense counsel files a conservatorship petition for a violent criminal with a mental disability or delusional disorder. That is mostly because they think it is in a bid to evade justice. However, that’s often not the case. Any of the following criteria can be used to determine whether or not an incompetent individual meets the requirements for a Murphy Conservatorship for a period of time.

Criminal Activity

A Murphy Conservatorship may be appropriate if the situation involves a violent felony involving untimely death, fatal bodily injury, or threat to the well-being of another individual. This can be:

  • A pending complaint indictment or pending felony charges
  • If probable cause or motive exists in the pending charge, indictment, or complaint pursuant to paragraph 20 of subdivision(a) of section 1368.1 of the penal code
  • An investigation or examination according to section 859b of the same penal code
  • A grand jury indictment or jury trial while the pending indictment hasn’t been dismissed.

Mental Incapacitation

In this situation, the individual may be incapable of comprehending the purpose and nature of the criminal proceedings taken against them. It can also happen if the individual is unable to be of assistance to the defense county counsel in a rational manner. This usually occurs due to a result of grave mental illness or disorder.

A Murphy Conservatorship program may also be in order if as a result of grave mental illness, the individual is at risk of danger of causing physical harm or substantial danger to others. This sometimes occurs due to severe mental illness caused by chronic alcoholism, drug abuse, delusional disorder, and other similar issues.

Creating a Murphy Conservatorship

Let’s say these criteria are met beyond a reasonable doubt in a conservatorship investigation. The court then has an indefinite commitment to place the individual under a Murphy Conservatorship.

At this point, the Office of the Public Guardian is contacted to deploy a representative. This representative files a conservatorship evaluation report in a bid to carry out the provisions of the Welfare & Institutions Code (WIC) sections 5008, 5330-5368. The purpose of this step is to determine if a Murphy Conservatorship is the best move for the defendant.

What Happens When a Person Is Placed Under Murphy Conservatorship?

First, the court and perhaps a conservatorship investigator must agree that the conservatee is best placed in a mental health facility where they will be best served and cared for by qualified professionals. At that point, a public conservator is appointed according to the authorization of the LPS act.

Responsibilities of the Murphy Conservator

The Murphy conservator appointed in the Murphy Conservatorship cares for the conservatee for the period of one year during which they are in the care of the mental care facility. The conservatorship lasts during the conservatee’s confinement in the mental care facility or hospital for competency restoration (which may be a state hospital). It is important to note that the county bears the cost of the placement in a treatment facility and treatment of the conservatee at the treatment facility.

During this period, the conservator is responsible for decision-making regarding the conservatee’s mental health treatment, treatment services, and treatment method as long as the purposes of treatment align with that of the court. The Murphy conservator is also responsible for the approval of antipsychotic medication or psychotropic medications for the conservatee until they attain mental competence.

Duration of the Murphy Conservatorship

If the conservatee doesn’t show any sign of mental competence at the end of the first year, a Murphy conservatorship can become a long-term commitment. The conservatorship is reestablished annually until there is a restoration to competency.

Reestablishment and Termination of Murphy Conservatorship

Just like an LPS conservatorship, Murphy conservatorships are not necessarily long-term commitments. The maximum commitment is designed to only last for a year. During that year, the conservator consults with the doctors and case managers to ensure that they are kept abreast of the mental health situation of the conservatee.

The conservator also makes plans towards the possible termination of the Murphy Conservatorship at the end of the one-year duration period. If the Murphy Conservatorship succeeds the one-year period after comprehensive evaluation services, the conservator must file for reestablishment. Here’s how that works.


The court expects the conservatee to return to competency, thereby canceling their grave disability status and trial competency. The Murphy conservator must be able to prove that the conservatee is still gravely disabled when seeking the reestablishment of a Murphy Conservatorship for another year. This can be done only with the recommendations of the treatment provider.

When the expiration of the first year draws near, the mental health professionals provide the Murphy conservator with a report as well as a recommendation of whether or not the conservatee has regained mental competency. The report and recommendation are presented to the court as evidence of the doctor’s declaration.

The court process for the reestablishment of a Murphy Conservatorship is the same as the initiation of conservatorship proceedings. The conservatee must be present and duly represented by the public defender or county counsel at the hearing for the establishment and re-establishment of the conservatorship.


As pointed out above, the Murphy conservator makes plans for the possible termination or reestablishment of the Murphy Conservatorship arrangement during the initial year. The conservator works for hand in hand with the doctor and mental health professionals in the facility where the conservatee is being treated to give the conservatee enough chance to regain their mental competency.

In a bid to achieve this, the conservator may wish to place the conservatee in a less restrictive environment for the purpose of documentation and extensive evaluation. A mental health professional or doctor may also recommend at the end of the year that the patient is now competent, which would result in the termination of the Murphy Conservatorship.

Get Help with Legal Documents

You now know that a Murphy Conservatorship is applicable only to someone who, by virtue of their severe mental disability, is incompetent of standing trial or criminal charges for a violent crime that has been committed. The main purpose and objective of the Murphy Conservatorship arrangements are to ensure that incompetent criminal defendants who fall under this category are restrained and prevented from being of public danger to society.

While a legal professional or a defense attorney does a great job in the fulfillment of some legal objectives, these legal professionals are not always needed. You can save hundreds of dollars in attorney fees by getting the legal documents you need from us! At A People’s Choice, our team of experts is always ready to provide you with comprehensive and up-to-date legal documents at affordable costs to make your legal journey worthwhile. Reach out to us today to get started on conservatorship and more!