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Name: Conservatorship of Christopher B.
Case #: C077467
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/28/2015

Because trial court did not have jurisdiction to reconsider its unambiguous, but mistaken, dismissal of criminal charges, there was no criminal indictment to support a Murphy conservatorship. Following a bench trial in probate court in September 2014, the court imposed a “Murphy conservatorship” over Christopher B. This conservatorship is a renewable one-year civil commitment for criminal defendants who are otherwise incompetent to stand trial for a felony involving death, great bodily harm, or a serious threat to the physical well-being of another and who do not have the prospect of a restoration of competency. On appeal, Christopher argued that there was insufficient evidence of a pending information or indictment in underlying criminal proceedings, which is a jurisdictional prerequisite for a Murphy conservatorship. This argument was based on the fact that, in June 2013, the criminal trial court granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss pending criminal charges against Christopher. However, at later hearings, the criminal court attempted to clarify that only the criminal complaint in the case was dismissed and not the indictment. Held: Order imposing conservatorship reversed. After a judgment has been entered, a trial court retains jurisdiction to correct a clerical error, but it does not have jurisdiction to correct judicial error (i.e., an error in rendering a deliberate exercise of judicial discretion). Here, the trial court’s unambiguous order dismissing the entire case was a judicial error and its subsequent orders “interpreting” the dismissal order were void. The Public Guardian was foreclosed from raising an issue related to possible defects in the order of dismissal under Penal Code section 1385 because the prosecution failed to raise a contemporaneous objection to the defects. Accordingly, there was insufficient evidence of a pending indictment.