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In re Guardianship and Conservatorship of Hites

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP and CONSERVATORSHIP OF ROBERT HITES, JR., ROBERT HITES, JR., Ward-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Bethany J. Currie, Judge.

         The ward appeals the order appointing his parents as co-guardians and co-conservators. AFFIRMED.

          Magdalena Reese of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer & Reese, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Judy Johnson of JDJ Law Firm, PLLC, Des Moines, for appellees.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Greer, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Robert Hites, Jr. (Robert) is a twenty-five-year-old man with a high school diploma and some college course credit. In August 2018, a Lincoln, Nebraska, police officer found him at the state capitol declaring incoherently he wanted to speak to the governor. The Nebraska court involuntarily committed Robert and informed his parents, Robert Sr. and Cheryl. Providers at the hospital diagnosed Robert with paranoid schizophrenia.

         While Robert was undergoing inpatient mental-health treatment, Robert Sr. and Cheryl petitioned in the Iowa courts for temporary and permanent orders appointing them guardians and conservators. The Iowa district court granted the request temporarily. Robert sought interlocutory review from the temporary order. Our supreme court denied review. After Robert discharged from the Nebraska psychiatric hospital, he returned to Iowa to live with his parents. They obtained for him insurance coverage and a case manager and took him to a mental-health provider for treatment and medication management.

         Following a hearing, the court found Robert's condition met the requirements for appointment of a guardian or conservator under Iowa Code section 633.3(23) (2018). It appointed the parents as Robert's permanent co-guardians and co-conservators. In its decision, the court noted Robert refuses to take his medication and is unable to work. Robert gets confused easily and cannot concentrate over the loud voices in his head. The court determined Robert needs someone to ensure he receives proper treatment, takes his medication, maintains his insurance coverage, and participates in mental-health services. The court did not believe Robert could live independently for any extended period. It also determined a limited guardianship was not appropriate.

         Robert appeals the district court's decision. His parents have waived filing of a brief.

         Parties try actions for the involuntary appointment of guardians and conservators at law. See Iowa Code § 633.33. Thus, we review for the correction of legal error. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Conservatorship of Deremiah, 477 N.W.2d 691, 692 (Iowa Ct. App.1991). We are bound by the findings of fact if supported by substantial evidence. Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(a). Substantial evidence exists if we may reasonably infer the finding from the record. Deremiah, 477 N.W.2d at 693.

         To start, we presume the proposed ward is competent. See Neidermyer v. Neidermyer, 22 N.W.2d 346, 350 (Iowa 1946). The party seeking the guardianship has the burden to show by clear and convincing evidence the proposed ward is incompetent. Iowa Code § 633.551(1), (2). A person is incompetent when they meet one of these conditions:

a. [They] have a decision-making capacity which is so impaired that the person is unable to care for the person's personal safety or to attend to or provide for necessities for the person such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical care, without which physical injury or illness may occur.
b. [They] have a decision-making capacity which is so impaired that the person is unable to make, communicate, or carry out important decisions concerning ...

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