Disability Rights Advocates File Petition Challenging the Constitutional Validity of the Care Act

Implementing this new system will harmfully impact individuals with disabilities and particularly Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Press Release

Disability Rights Advocates File Petition Challenging the Constitutional Validity of the Care Act

Click here for CARE Court Myths & Facts.

(Sacramento, CA) - Today, on behalf of the thousands of California’s with disabilities who can be targeted and impacted by CARE Court, Disability Rights California (DRC), Western Center on Law & Poverty, and The Public Interest Law Project filed an original petition for writ of mandate to the California Supreme Court. As Petitioner, Disability Rights California challenges the constitutional validity of CARE Court.

The CARE Act created a new court-ordered system of involuntary outpatient treatment. In doing so, it strips Californians with disabilities of fundamental rights protected by the California Constitution and subjects them to a court process that violates their due process rights. This will bring Californians with disabilities into court under an alarming new legal standard – whether there is the likelihood of a person’s mental health condition deteriorating or relapsing. Current legal standards do not allow for courts to speculate into a person’s future mental health condition.


Since CARE Court was first announced by the California Health and Human Services agency (CalHHS) and Governor Gavin Newsom in March 2022, DRC and our allies stood in strong opposition to the harmful impact of implementing this new system—that will particularly impact Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Pioneers of the disability and mental health consumer movement have fought for decades to achieve equity and inclusion and to remove stigma. This critical work was designed to recognize the rights of individuals with disabilities to live self-determined lives, thrive in our communities, and be treated with the dignity that is inherent within us. 

On September 14, 2022, Governor Newsom signed SB 1338 (Umberg), enacted as the “CARE Act”, into law. With one signature, the Governor restricted due process rights and created additional barriers for some of the most vulnerable individuals across the state to long-term health and stability.

The CARE Act expands an already problematic system into a framework of coerced, court-ordered mental health treatment that goes back to the country’s horrific history of ableism and subjecting disabled people to being a separate class. 

Why this case is important & the concerns

The CARE Act creates a new court-ordered system of involuntary outpatient treatment. The Act:

  • Takes away fundamental rights protected by the California Constitution, including the fundamental right to make decisions over personal medical treatment and where to live. Not only does this violate the autonomy of individuals with disabilities, but it further traumatizes, erodes trust, and eliminates the opportunity for people to meaningfully engage on their own terms and attain positive long-term outcomes. 
  • Uses terms that are unclear and leaves parties with uncertainty and speculation as to who will be affected and under what rules. The eligibility criteria, for example, will lend itself to biased and discriminatory enforcement and decision-making. 
  • Specifically targets people diagnosed with schizophrenia, treating people differently based solely on diagnosis rather than the severity of the need.  This only perpetuates racial inequity among communities of color, including Black and Latinx people who are disproportionately over-diagnosed and misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.  
  • Offers no solutions for the two crises CARE Court claims to solve – the shortage of affordable, accessible housing and adequate mental health care. 


Vanessa Ramos, a person with lived experience, Community Organizer, DRC, says, “For me as a person living with a schizoaffective diagnosis and other disabilities, I am concerned and fearful of the CARE Act. What’s worked for me is access to voluntary community-based services. I truly believe that if we invest in these resources and solutions, people like me do heal.”

Keris Jän Myrick, a person with lived experience, says, “When people are told they have to go to court to get what they should be getting voluntarily in the community, they then only get a care plan that subjects them to services that still do not meet their cultural needs. That is not compassion, that is not care, that is not helping people in their true recovery.” 

Kelechi Ubozoah, a person with lived experience, says, “Our mental health system is already underfunded, understaffed, and going through a crisis of its own. As a black woman, I always have to consider the role that historical racism plays in my treatment and care. We should be moving in the direction of alternatives that are human rights based and center the voices of people with lived experiences.”  

Helen Tran, Senior Attorney, Western Center on Law and Poverty, says, “The CARE Act unnecessarily involves our court systems to force medical care and social services on people. We are opposed to this new system of coercion. The state’s resources should, instead, be directed at creating more affordable, permanent supportive housing and expanding our systems of care to allow everyone who needs help to quickly access them.” 

Nubyaan Scott, Attorney, DRC, says, “The state must create and regularly fund permanent, accessible, affordable housing. The CARE Act does not address any of these root issues. We need community-based services that are easy to find and that provide voluntary treatment for people with mental health disabilities.” 

Mike Rawson, Director of Litigation, Public Interest Law Project, says, “While the intersecting crises of homelessness and serious mental illness demand effective actions and significant resources, the Care Act provides neither. Instead of coordinated community care and permanent housing, the CARE Act sets up a compulsory new court system authorizing the deprivation of liberty and autonomy in conflict with Californians’ basic constitutional rights. Such coercive systems and treatments have been proven ineffective and will only serve to perpetuate institutional racism and worsen health disparities.”  

Sarah Gregory, Senior Attorney, DRC, says, “The CARE Act seeks to trade in people’s fundamental rights in favor of an ineffective short-term system. DRC and its allies will continue to fight for permanent housing and voluntary services.”  

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938


Disability Rights California (DRC) – Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.

Public Interest Law Project provides crucial litigation and advocacy support to local legal services and public interest programs throughout California. Our policy and legal work has centered on housing and community development, public benefits, health, welfare, and civil, consumer, and economic rights since 1996. For more information visit: https://www.pilpca.org

Western Center on Law & Poverty - Fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes, through the lens of economic and racial justice. https://wclp.org.