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ABC10 releases year-long investigation of California's conservatorship industry

Investigative reporter Andie Judson champions this ABC10 Originals series, “Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships”.
Credit: ABC10/KXTV

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One year in the making, ABC10 Investigative Reporter Andie Judson closely examines California's conservatorships and what's being done to regulate the $13-billion-dollar industry in her 5-part series, "The Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships."

The series will air every day on Late News Tonight at 11 p.m. starting Monday, May 24 through Friday, May 28 on ABC10.

Many may have heard of conservatorships recently by way of Britney Spears or the Golden Globe winning Netflix film, “I Care a Lot," but for Judson it all started with a tip from a woman who became one of the sources in the series.

"I called and during our hour long conversation, she explained how her mother was under a conservatorship and what that meant," Judson remembers. 

Not familiar with conservatorships prior to that conversation, she recognized how "incredibly important" it was that a conservator is able to hold that much power over another person.

"A conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee") who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances," according to Judicial Council of California.

🡆 Watch all week on LNT at 11 p.m.

Gonzalo Magaña, Executive Producer of ABC10 Originals team, said what began as an initial pitch about fiduciaries turned into an in-depth look at conservatorships in California — the immense power and control conservators and fiduciaries have over other people’s lives and their money — with little oversight and accountability from state regulators resulting in abuse of our most vulnerable population, the elderly.  

“It’s a really complex system,” is a common sentiment many have shared with Judson throughout the course of the series. 

"I believe just because something’s complex doesn’t mean that we aren’t entitled to understand it," Judson said. "In fact, isn’t that more reason to be shining a light on it for our community?" 

For a year, Judson and the ABC10 Originals team delved into California’s conservatorship system. She says they scoured hundreds of court documents and spoke with dozens of people from attorneys, judges, and California legislators to those under conservatorships and their family members to create the series. 

The investigation was underway during the coronavirus pandemic providing additional hurdles securing and performing in-person interviews and access to important documents.

"I am so proud of the ABC10 journalists who worked tirelessly to bring the stories of those impacted to life," Jill Manuel, Director of Content at ABC10, said.

ABC10 Photojournalist Victor Nieto served as the lead photojournalist, editor on the project and helped conduct the investigation. Digital Producer Sabrina Sanchez served as associate producer and helped conduct research, and lead the social and digital rollout alongside Content Producer, Mike Bunnell. Photojournalists Tyler Horst and Rory Ward served as producers and editors of the year-long investigation.

"I hope this series helps communities throughout California better understand how our conservators, fiduciaries and probate courts are operating," Judson said.

Risa Omega, President and General Manager of ABC10, wants the series to not only educate ABC10 viewers on how conservatorships work but also help people protect themselves and their loved ones in the future.

"We hope shining a light on the systemic problem will lead to new laws and protocols that will regulate fiduciaries and hold them accountable for their practices," Judson said.



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