Assigned on Briefs December 2, 2016
from the Probate Court for Davidson County No. 14P1510
Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr., Judge
appeal arises from the removal of a conservator. The
Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Services ("the Department") filed a petition in the
Probate Court for Davidson County ("the Probate
Court") seeking removal of Cheryl R. Russell
("Russell") as conservator for Sophia Elaine Taylor
("Taylor"). Russell, Taylor's mother, was
alleged to have interfered repeatedly with Taylor's
medical treatment. After a hearing, the Probate Court removed
Russell as Taylor's conservator and named ComCare, Inc.
("ComCare") as temporary conservator. Russell
appeals to this Court. Finding no abuse of discretion or
other reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the Probate
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Probate
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
R. Russell, pro se appellant.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and,
Brian A. Pierce, Assistant Attorney General, for the
appellee, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and
Substance Abuse Services.
Barbara E. Futter, Nashville, Tennessee, Attorney Ad Litem
for Sophia Elaine Taylor.
Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which W. Neal McBrayer and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.
MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE
born in 1968, suffers from a variety of health problems both
mental and physical. In the interest of her privacy and as it
is unnecessary to the resolution of this appeal, we will
avoid disclosing the precise details of her illness where
possible. Suffice it to say, Taylor's illnesses have
required hospitalization and frequent medication. In
September 2014, Russell, Taylor's mother, petitioned to
be appointed Taylor's conservator. In October 2014, the
Probate Court entered an order appointing Russell as
Taylor's conservator. In February 2016, the Department
filed its own petition, this one seeking to remove Russell as
Taylor's conservator. At this time, Taylor resided at the
Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute ("MTMHI").
The Department's petition alleged that Russell had
interfered with Taylor's medical treatment by many means,
including making excessive phone calls to MTMHI, behaving
abusively toward MTMHI staff, and, most critically, refusing
to consent to the medical regimen recommended by Taylor's
doctors. Both a Guardian Ad Litem and Attorney Ad Litem were
appointed in this case. This matter was tried over three days
in April and May of 2016.
Elazar ("Dr. Elazar"), Taylor's treating
psychiatrist, testified. Dr. Elazar stated that Taylor's
condition could be treated with anti-psychotic medications.
According to Dr. Elazar, Russell refused to allow doctors to
give anti-psychotic medications to Taylor. Dr. Elazar
testified that Russell was concerned that adopting the
recommended treatment would negatively impact Taylor's
white blood cell count. Dr. Elazar stated that this was not a
well-founded medical concern. Dr. Elazar testified:
Q. Dr. Elazar, while Sophia Taylor's been here under your
care, has she made any progress toward being discharged from
Q. Why not?
A. She's still psychotic, violent. She was in . . . 4
point restraints a few days ago.
Q. And why is it that she's not making any progress?
A. I feel it's because we don't have her on
Q. Why isn't she on antipsychotics?
A. Because her mother refuses to let us put her on
antipsychotics. And she refuses to let us communicate to
other doctors to address our concerns.
Barbara Snell ("Dr. Snell"), Taylor's medical
doctor, testified. Dr. Snell testified that while
Taylor's white blood cell count was low at times, this
was being monitored and was not necessarily significant. Dr.
Snell stated that Russell cancelled an appointment the
hospital had set up for Taylor. Dr. Snell testified:
Q. You testified earlier that you thought ComCare would be a
better conservator than Ms. Russell. What are you basing that
A. I'm basing it on the fact that Ms. Russell has
obstructed her psychiatric care for the year plus that
she's been hospitalized here.
Q. By refusing antipsychotics?
A. Refusing to even attempt them. And, in the one attempt,
stopping it while it was still within the parameters given by
the hematologist that would be fine to continue.
Corbitt ("Corbitt"), a social worker at MTMHI,
testified. Corbitt testified as follows regarding certain of
Q. Okay. I believe there was a time period where you were the
designated contact for Ms. Russell with regard to Sophia
Taylor; is that correct?
Q. And do you know how that came about where you were the
A. I'm not for sure how. They said that the treatment
team -- Ms. Russell was making too many phone calls and that
they wanted one particular person to handle all of her calls.
Q. Okay. And once you became the designated contact, do you
know approximately what month that took place?
A. Maybe July of last year. I'm not for sure.
Q. Okay. And so approximately how many phone calls would you
get a day from Ms. Russell?
A. About five to ...