Janie Hickok Siess

Janie Hickok Siess, a sole practitioner in Lodi, California, has represented Florence Wendland and Rebekah Vinson, the mother and sister of Robert Wendland, since July 1995.  

Their 6-year battle to spare Robert from death by dehydration and starvation ended on a bittersweet note on August 9, 2001 when the California Supreme Court ruled in their favor.  The High Court held that California conservators cannot withhold life-sustaining food and fluids from conservatees who are conscious and have cognitive function unless the conservator proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that to do would be consistent with the conservatee's prior expressed wishes or in his/her best interest.  

Sadly,on July 17, 2001, Robert died at the age of 49 of complications from pneumonia at Lodi Memorial Hospital-West, where he had resided since shortly after his life-altering 1993 motor vehicle accident.  

Ms. Siess, a native Lodian, was educated in local schools there and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting before pursuing her legal studies at the University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, in Sacramento.  After graduating from McGeorge in 1993, she joined the Stockton firm of Brown, Hall, Shore & McKinley, where she practiced until August 31, 2001.

Ms. Siess has, over the years, spoken extensively about the Wendland case, the legal issues it presents, and its implications for conscious, cognitive persons with disabilities.  She has twice taught a continuing legal education course entitled "Active Killing: What the Law Allows" and is presently working on a journal article, intended to serve not only as a chronicle of Robert's case, but a guide for other practitioners who may be called upon to fight similar battles in the future.

Ms. Siess' clients have received significant assistance throughout the pendency of the case from Life Legal Defense Foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in Napa which is dedicated to fighting for the sanctity of all human life.  By the time the trial concluded in December 1997, Life Legal had paid more than $200,000 in legal fees to Siess' former law firm. Ms. Siess has performed legal services for Florence and Rebekah on a pro bono basis since that time, although Life Legal has continued to provide funding for hard costs such as photocopying, filing fees, etc.  

Florence and Rebekah have asked that anyone wishing to honor Robert's memory do so via a contribution to

Life Legal Defense Foundation
P.O. Box 2105, Napa, California.

bulletMs Siess can be reached by email at mailto:jhsiess@attbi.com


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