May 19, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: All Prospective Guardians Must Undergo Statutory Vetting Process Prior to Appointment

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Interest of Arguello on Thursday, February 7, 2019.

Adult Guardianship—Court Visitor—Judicial Appointment of Permanent Guardian—Conflict—Visitor’s Report

Arguello is an adult resident of Pueblo who suffers from dementia, developmental disability, and mental health illness. The court appointed Baslick as emergency guardian when medical decisions needed to be made and family was unavailable. Baslick works for Colorado Bluesky Enterprises, Inc. (Bluesky), which provides Arguello with case management services. Soon after Baslick’s appointment, several individuals petitioned the court to be appointed permanent guardian.

The court appointed a court visitor to prepare a visitor’s report concerning all prospective guardians. The first visitor’s report did not recommend Baslick because of her employment with Bluesky and the existence of a potential conflict of interest under C.R.S. § 15-13-310(4), which precludes a long-term care provider from also serving as a guardian. After several hearings and finding no suitable guardian from among the petitioners, the court sua sponte appointed the Arc of Pueblo (ARC) as the permanent guardian. Bluesky and Baslick moved for reconsideration, and the district court denied the motion.

On appeal, Bluesky argued that it is not a long-term care provider under the statute and the court erred in applying the statutory prohibition to Baslick. Here, while Bluesky may not fall “squarely” within the definition of a long-term care provider, the facts demonstrate a potential conflict of interest between Bluesky and Baslick that rendered her unsuitable as a guardian for Arguello. Bluesky provides substantial assistance to Arguello in the form of case management services. As guardian, Baslick would be able to recommend increased funding for Arguello and thereby generate revenues for Bluesky. She would also have oversight of Bluesky’s case management services and could be hesitant, as a Bluesky employee, to question Bluesky’s actions. Accordingly, the district court’s conclusion is supported by the record, and the court acted within its discretion in finding that Arguello’s best interests would not be served by appointing Baslick.

Bluesky next contended that the court violated the statutory mandate in C.R.S. § 15-14-305(1) by appointing ARC without first appointing a visitor and receiving a report. The court is required to appoint a visitor for every petition for guardianship filed, and all prospective guardians must undergo the statutory vetting process set forth in C.R.S. §§ 15-14-304 and -305 before appointment may occur. The trial court erred in sua sponte appointing a guardian who did not go through this process.

The order appointing ARC as guardian for Arguello was reversed, and the case was remanded to appoint a visitor and follow the statutory procedure to appoint a guardian for Arguello. The order was otherwise affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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