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COA: filing of commitment report is a procedural requirement

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In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals had to decide whether the timely filing of a doctor’s report in an involuntary commitment is a jurisdictional prerequisite or a procedural requirement.

In Involuntary Commitment of S.S., No. 49A02-1011-MH-1251, S.S. appealed the denial of her motion to correct error which she filed after the probate court found she was gravely disabled and ordered her to be temporarily committed. S.S. was admitted to Wishard Health Services in Indianapolis on Sept. 16, 2010. Wishard filed the application with the probate court to have her involuntarily committed at 11:30 a.m. that day. Dr. Michael DeMotte examined S.S. September 21 and concluded she needed to continue to be detained. Wishard submitted his report at 11:46 a.m. that day.

Although S.S.’s commitment has since expired, the Court of Appeals still addressed her appeal because this issue is likely to recur. S.S. argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to preside over her commitment proceedings because DeMotte’s report was filed after the period of her detention had ended, so her due process rights were violated. The report was filed 16 minutes late based on the time periods dictated by statute.

S.S. argued this tardy filing of the report stripped the probate court of its jurisdiction to preside over her preliminary hearing and that the timely filing of the report is a jurisdiction prerequisite. Wishard argued that the timely filing of the report is a procedural requirement, without statutorily imposed consequences for untimely filing.

The judges agreed with Wishard. Should the trial court lose jurisdiction over the case, the detained person would be deprived of a forum to seek an order of release, wrote Judge James Kirsch. Regarding S.S.’s due process concerns, Wishard’s failure to comply with the time frame was de minimis with no resulting harm to S.S., the judge continued. Had the report been filed just before the end of S.S.’s detention period, she likely would have had an extended period of detention during the statutorily created 24-hour time frame in which the trial court must consider the report and act.

“The probate court acted in a timely fashion upon receipt of the report, set the matter for hearing, and entered its order of temporary commitment within the time frame established by statute. Thus, there was no prejudice to S.S. As previously stated, we acknowledge the extreme importance and constitutional dimension of the liberty interests of detained persons, but also acknowledge that those interests must be balanced by consideration of the safety interests of the detained person and society,” he wrote.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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