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Name: In re Daniel S.
Case #: D042710
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/11/2004
Subsequent History: None

Appellant mother was a chronic paranoid schizophrenic, who had gone off her medication and refused to let family members in to see her then nine-month old son. The minor was placed in protective custody, and mother was placed on a section 5150 hold. Mother was still hospitalized at the time of the jurisdictional hearing. She was informed about the time and place of the hearing, but was incoherent and agitated, and social workers did not believe she was “processing anything.” Hospital personnel also told the social worker appellant could not attend the hearing because she remained “too much of a risk.” The court appointed a guardian ad litem for appellant, who appeared at the jurisdictional hearing along with counsel. Counsel presented no evidence and submitted. The court found the petition true, and ordered reunification services. On appeal, appellant contended that the jurisdictional and dispositional orders had to be reversed because she was not properly noticed of the hearing, and because the guardian ad litem was appointed without notice to her or an opportunity to be heard. The appellate court here agreed that appellant was not properly served with notice of the hearings. Appellant’s mental illness provided good cause to dispense with service of notice to her. However, because she had a temporary conservator, service should have been made on that person. Further, the court should not have appointed a guardian ad litem without notice and an opportunity for appellant to be heard. However, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. There was ample evidence that appellant was unable to understand the proceedings, and needed a guardian ad litem. Further, the jurisdictional and dispositional findings would have been the same regardless of whether appellant received notice or whether a guardian ad litem was appointed. Further, it was not error for the guardian ad litem to allow submission without argument, as there was a benefit to be had by submission. (It prevented the court from inquiring whether there was a basis to deny services under section 361.5, subd.(b)(2).)