County's Attempt to Depublish Scathing Legal Rebuke Denied

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Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992 - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDY MAGNEY
  • Photo courtesy of Judy Magney
  • Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992
The California Supreme Court has rejected without comment Humboldt County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck's bid to have a scathing appellate opinion about his office’s conduct depublished.

The case centers on the county’s legal fight against Carlotta couple Judy and Dick Magney, who successfully challenged attempts by Adult Protective Services and the Public Guardian’s Office to override Dick Magney's legally binding advance directive in order to force medical treatment (“Profoundly Disturbing,” Jan. 12).


While the county was able through the Humboldt County Superior Court to temporarily seize control away from the Magneys, the appellate panel found that was only accomplished by misleading the court using an "appallingly inadequate" request with "glaringly incompetent and inadmissible evidence" and "multiple levels of hearsay."

"We cannot subscribe to a scenario where a governmental agency acts to overturn the provisions of a valid advance directive by presenting the court with an incomplete discussion of the relevant law and a misleading compendium of incompetent and inadmissible evidence and, worse, by withholding critical evidence about the clinical assessments and opinions of the primary physician because that evidence does not accord with the agency's own agenda," the opinion states.

"No reasonable person, let alone a governmental agency, would have pursued such a course."

The panel of three appellate court justices also found that Blair Angus — the county's deputy counsel who appears to be in the running for a Humboldt County judgeship — seemed to have the view "that if Humboldt needed to be duplicitous to get an order compelling treatment, so be it."

With the state Supreme Court’s decision not to step in, the opinion continues to stand as case law in California and the county is responsible for the attorney fees that Judy Magney incurred while staving off the county's intervention.

Eureka attorney Allison Jackson, who represented the Magneys in the legal saga that spanned several months in 2015, said she and Blanck will now discuss a possible settlement.

If an agreement is not reached, the case will be sent back to Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen, who initially denied Judy Magney's request for attorney’s fees.

“I will remain always hopeful, and guardedly optimistic, that the members of the Board of Supervisors will intercede with their counsel, to give their counsel clear direction that this matter needs to be concluded,” Jackson said. “That means the county needs to acknowledge what happened, settle with Mrs. Magney, and take a look and make structural changes … to its legal office and have some discussion about what occurred with Adult Protective Services so this doesn’t happen again."

County spokesman Sean Quincey referred the Journal back to the statement he released for the story “Profoundly Disturbing” in the wake of the appellate court decision.

"This was a difficult case for all involved, with no easy answers and no winners," he said at the time. "While we respectfully disagree with the court's findings, we do not intend to re-argue the case in the court of public opinion. Due to privacy laws and regulations, we are unable to comment further."

A World War II movie buff who enjoyed fast cars and tinkering with wood stoves, Dick Magney died in October of 2015 at the age of 74 due to a series of long-standing health ailments.

While he lived long enough to see the county fail in its attempt to overturn his advanced health care directive, the former truck driver’s last months were shrouded in the uncertainty of the ongoing case, which included unfounded accusations of neglect against his wife.

Jackson said Judy Magney’s main concern is making sure no one else endures the same treatment.

“There is no way to compensate Mrs. Magney for what happened to her in this horrifying process,” Jackson said. “Nothing. She is the kindest woman. … This is to make sure she isn’t financially devastated from their actions and that this doesn’t happen again.”

David Levine, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, said he could see no basis for requesting depublication of the decision other than the county trying to minimize the embarrassment stemming from the strong appellate rebuke.

In fact, Levine said he found the ruling to be extremely helpful in laying out what steps should be taken — and who is authorized to take them — in a scenario where an advance directive is being challenged.

The law professor called Angus’ conduct in the case “disturbing” and said the case should receive “substantial attention” during any vetting process for a judgeship. That being said, the appellate court could have been harsher, according to Levine.

He noted that the panel didn’t continuously reference Angus by name in the opinion, often referring to her as county counsel.

“They could have been even more unkind, in other words, and they could have referred it to the (state) bar,” Levine said.

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