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Communication Breakdown: Bertha Bernal’s Family Struggles to Talk to Her, as Suspicions Arise Over Her Voting Status

Artvoice is engaged in the effort to reunite Bertha Bernal with her loving children. That matters more to the average American Citizen than we may realize. We are talking about a core belief of Christendom and the Western Civilization. Whether you believe it to be the 4th or the 5th commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother” is pretty high up the list.

Cat, Sandi and Anthony’s quest is one that speaks deeply to our sense of right and wrong. They will not resign themselves to allowing their Mom to pass away isolated from the people she loves the most.

They will not – even if that’s the stated resolution of California Probate Court. But how do you overcome a court decision?

Conservator Suzette Smith and Caregiver Malia Soliven.

The situation escalated like a nightmare: Probate Court assigned professional strangers over family members to manage Bertha’s life. Court-appointed Conservator Suzette Smith and Caregiver Maila Soliven implemented ever more limiting measures for visitation. With the COVID Pandemic, visitations stopped altogether. Videophone calls were promised, but never happened.

All that’s left is a weekly phone call. A phone call without any respect or privacy.


The clock is ticking for 93-year-old Bertha, and for all of us. For Bertha’s fate is not indifferent for you and I. She may be the one kept hostage to the broken down Conservatorship System, but this lessens our freedom too. R&B iconic singer Reverend Salomon Burke sang and summed this beautifully: “None of us are free if one of us is in chains.

You can read our previous articles, here:

‘We Want to See Our Mom Before She Dies’ – California Probate Court and Abusive Conservatorship System Denies Children of 93 Year-Old Visitation

Bertha Bernal, a Prisoner to California Probate Courts Deserves to Be Reunited With Her Family

Terrible Story: Three Children Fight to Save Their Mom From California Probate Court-Ordered Isolation and Terror

Bertha Bernal’s Children Get to See Their Mom – in the Hospital! the Drama Continues

Whistleblower on Bertha Bernal’s Situation: “I Believe It Is Elder Abuse!”


Daughter Sandi and Bertha Bernal.

Bertha’s daughters, Sandi and Cat have been going around California, together with an advocacy group for the rights of elders under Conservatorship. They are taking the fight to the California Legal Establishment in a big way. Sandi took the time to explain how the phone calls between Bertha and her children have been happening.

“Every Wednesday night we are supposed to get a call from Mom, between 6 and 7 pm – this timeframe was decided by the Conservator,” Sandi explained. “After COVID we were advised by an Elder Rights Ombudsman that, since the Activity Center was closed, our visitation with Mom would now be via Zoom calls, like the rest of the world is doing.”

That Bertha’s children visitation could only be virtual would already be hard enough. But it gets worse: the Zoom calls NEVER happen. The caregiver tries to call Cat, Anthony and Sandi – but each and every time the call will not come through, failing to connect and dropping.

We are talking about each and every time. What are the statistical odds of that happening? The caregiver Malia Soliven is quick to guarantee that her iPhone works fine – just not when calling Bertha’s children, apparently.

The family is left wondering if that is not happening on purpose.

“That has been going on for several weeks. The public defender got involved and reached out to [Conservator] Suzette’s counsel, but nothing ever came of it, and now we’re back to having just the phone calls.”

So, Bertha Bernal’s children can’t visit their Mom, they can’t even see her via video calls.

All that’s left is a weekly opportunity to talk to her on the phone. Maybe. Because there is a particularly cruel aspect to those calls: if any of the children miss the incoming call from the caregiver – even for a few seconds – they miss the opportunity.

“We cannot text the caregiver back – she does not reply. The Elder Rights Ombudsman told us that Malia has blocked our numbers. So, if we miss a call, we have to wait a whole week to talk to Mom.”


Bertha and Cathleen at the Hospital. One of the rare opportunities to catch up.

When the calls do come through, there is still much cause for concern regarding how Bertha has been faring in Malia’s care.

“Mom‘s voice always sounds intimidated. When we ask her questions, like how she’s doing, and just random normal family questions, she reacts with a nervous laugh or a pause.”

The daughters will try any manner of getting through to their Mom, including changing the language spoken.

“I speak to her in Spanish, as I think Cathleen also does, sometimes. We ask her ‘what’s wrong’ and ‘can you talk?’ She will nervously say, in Spanish, ‘No.’ I ask Mom if Maila is standing right beside her, and she’ll say ‘Yes’, in Spanish.  Maila’s native language is very similar to Spanish, so I believe she understands what we’re saying.”

One thing never changes in those calls.

“Mom always asks when will she see us again, says that she’s missed us and loves us” Sandi takes a deep breath before continuing. “Personally, it’s a weekly heartache. For the last 11 years these people dictate everything, and when it comes to visitation, they do what they want, even if it breaks the law and stomps on Mom’s civil rights.”


Document from 2018 raises questions about Bertha Bernal’s voting status.

The developments in Bertha’s case are progressing fast. Now, Cat, Sandi and Anthony are further having to look into disturbing evidence pointing to strange and potentially illegal things happening with their Mom’s voting rights.

Artvoice has reported on available evidence that suggests that Bertha Bernal may have been emitted a ballot in the 2018 electoral cycle, even though she was a  91-year-old dementia patient.


The California Elections Code section 2208  establishes a presumption that “a person is competent to vote regardless of his or her conservatorship status.”

In Bertha’s case, the document we had access to is a recommendation from a Court Investigator (the document, it bears repeating, is from 2018). The assessment from the Court Investigator does recommend she be allowed to vote.


 (f) An individual with a disability who is under a conservatorship may be registered to vote if he or she has not been disqualified from voting.

So, even if Bertha did indeed vote in the 2018 election, that is not, in itself, illegal.

However, was the elderly dementia patient able to pick a candidate, or even meaningfully retain the names of the contenders? It really seems extremely unlikely.  From all accounts, Bertha was in no condition to do that.

The California legislations states that “[a] person may be declared mentally incompetent and therefore disqualified from voting only if […] a court or, in certain cases, a jury finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person cannot communicate […] a desire to participate in the voting process. […] or is gravely disabled, as specified.”

Let’s repeat the part that interests us, here: “A person may be declared mentally incompetent and therefore disqualified from voting” if the court finds she is “gravely disabled, as specified.”

It stands to reason that Bertha’s grave dementia diagnostic would most probably fall under the “gravely disabled” circumstances. But HOW would the court get involved in a situation like this?

The California Elections Code section 2209  provides that “during the yearly or biennial review of probate conservatorships”, […] the court investigator must review the Conservatee’s capability of communicating, […] a desire to participate in the voting process.”

During the review of the conservatorship, the court investigator has to make the call as to whether the conservatee has the desire – but also the capacity – to remain in the voter rolls.

“[I]f the conservatee has not been disqualified from voting and the investigator determines that the conservatee cannot currently communicate a desire to vote, the investigator must inform the court, and the court must hold a hearing regarding capability.”

Bertha was in no condition to vote, neither in 2018 nor in 2020.

So, what happened with the Court-ordered investigation in the case of Bertha Bernal?

If we were to take the information from the 2018 Court Investigator’s Report at face value, we would have to believe that Bertha Bernal had no visible reaction at all about the legal fight that her children Cat, Sandi and Anthony were then waging to get her conservatorship back.

The document states she did not react as to whether or not she wanted to go to the audience; she did not say whether she wanted the current conservators to continue their work; she did not say whether she wanted her children to be her new conservators; she had no reaction to the possibility of the court finding her incapable for medical consent.

But then, BOOOM: Bertha reacts and expresses her wishes to… VOTE.

Yes, you read it right. According to this court document, in 2018, Bertha Bernal had no regard or no mental capacity to care for any of the circumstances of her life, she just wanted to engage in the democratic process.

That’s treating the family, and the rest of us, like idiots. Bertha was either a) intimidated into silence when presented with the questions about her children’s legal quest to be reunited with her, or else she was b) prodded and rehearsed into manifesting “a will to vote”.

There is no world were Bertha would be too affected by dementia to react to the actions of the people she loves the most, too affected by dementia to show any visible reaction to life-changing issues as they are put in front of her, and STILL be interested in – and considered fit to – vote.

Bertha’s children have no doubts: Bertha did not vote and could not vote, two years ago, but – rather – the only explanation for an eventual vote by Bertha in 2018 would have to be that voter fraud was committed with her ballot.

So far, the family has no evidence of that being the case. But, given the atmosphere of unaccountability in the Probate System, it’s really hard for them to dismiss the possibility right away.

The warriors fighting for their Mom: Cathleen, Anthony and Sandi.

This unsettling revelation for the Bernal family is also a legitimate concern for American society in general. The siblings became very concerned, and decided to investigate what was Bertha Bernal’s voting status now in the 2020 election cycle.

Just ask the Conservator would be so simple, but that never yields any response.

After doing some networking, Sandi and her husband Mark have uncovered documentation – that they showed Artvoice – that would suggest that Bertha’s voting status had since 2018 been changed to inactive.

This would seem to dispel the worry about voter fraud being committed in Bertha’s name in 2020, were it not for the fact that Judicial Watch has uncovered millions of inactive voters still included in the rows of California.

This reality, and also the suspicions that certainly remain about Bertha’s voting status during the 2018 cycle, are making the family want to delve further into these disturbing facts.

Once again, just asking the Conservator would be so simple, but that never yields any response.

The questions remains: Bertha’s voting status was changed from 2018 to 2020 how?

Bertha’s life is decided without regard for her rights.

If we are to refer to the legislation we quoted above, the Court Investigator would have to make the call, during the yearly visit, that Bertha no longer presented conditions and/or manifested the will to vote.

Once that happened, the Probate Court would have to schedule a hearing, with or without the presence of Bertha.

“Unless it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the conservatee cannot communicate a desire to vote, the court must affirm the Conservatee’s right to register to vote,” states California legislation.

So, this would have to mean that several court filings and hearings took place regarding Bertha Bernal’s life and voting rights, in the last couple of years.

And in NOT ONE of them, was the family notified in any capacity. Before or after.

Artivoice has reached multiple times to Conservator Suzette Smith for comments, with no success. We think Bertha Bernal’s family deserves an answer, maybe even an explanation from Ms. Smith.

Cat, Sandi and Anthony will not watch sheepishly as their Mom passes away isolated from the ones she loves the most, surrounded by hostile people.

They will not – even if that’s the stated resolution of California Probate Court. But how do you overcome a court decision?



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Frank Parlato

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