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Judges uphold involuntary commitment

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When a defendant has been previously committed to a state institution because he was found incompetent to stand trial, that state institution may be considered a community mental health center for purposes of a report required under Indiana Code 12-26-7-3(b), the Indiana Court of Appeals held Monday.

A.J. challenged his commitment to Logansport State Hospital after he was initially committed because of incompetency to stand trial. A.J. had many health issues, including deafness and partial blindness, hypothyroidism, and an IQ of 65. He was on probation for a criminal confinement conviction when he was charged with two counts of child molesting. The trial court ordered him evaluated, and the two psychiatrists found it unlikely A.J. would ever be restored to competence to stand trial.

A.J. was ordered committed to Logansport State Hospital. Hospital staff later petitioned for A.J. to remain at Logansport, alleging he suffered from a psychiatric disorder, a developmental disability, and that he was gravely disabled. The trial court granted the petition for involuntary commitment, finding him to be dangerous.

In A.J. v. Logansport State Hospital, No. 66A05-1012-MH-805, A.J. claimed that Logansport didn’t follow the requirements of I.C. 12-26-7-3, which says a commitment petition proceedings record must include a report from a community mental health center. A.J.’s petition includes a report from Logansport, which he claims is a state institution and not a CMHC.

After examining the definitions of state institution and CMHC, the Court of Appeals concluded that in this case, a state institution may be considered a CMHC for purposes of providing the report. The judges also concluded that there is sufficient evidence to support the finding that A.J. is dangerous.

The appellate court also held that in determining whether regular commitment to a state institution is appropriate for a patient against whom criminal charges are pending, the trial court’s mere consideration of the state’s interest in restoring competency doesn’t per se violate the patient’s due process rights. But, the state’s interest in providing restoration services must also be legitimate, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

A.J. can’t be held perpetually at Logansport solely for competency rehabilitation services if he isn’t expected to attain competency in the foreseeable future, wrote the judge. The judges affirmed his commitment, and noted that trial court must review his care and treatment at least on an annual basis.

Judge L. Mark Bailey concurred in a separate opinion, to express concerns he has written about in a past decision regarding the adequacy of current criminal justice procedures to resolve issues presented by defendants with chronic mental illness.

“Assuming that A.J. ever attains competency, the resolution of the pending criminal charges will likely turn on whether, at the time of the alleged acts of molestation, A.J.’s mental disease was such that he cannot be held criminally responsible for his actions. This is where defendants like A.J. fall into Indiana’s twin ‘black holes’ of incompetency to assist defense counsel and competency restoration services,” he wrote. “There are no simple answers in the treatment of chronic mental illness, whether in a criminal or civil context, but A.J.’s case is an example of an area where the law must do better.”
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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