Court declines to review commitment cases differently

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The Indiana Court of Appeals declined Thursday to change how it reviews cases dealing with involuntary commitment.

In The matter of the commitment of S.T. v. Community Hospital North, In-Patient Psychiatric Unit, No. 49A04-0910-CV-617, 23-year-old S.T., an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who uses a wheelchair, appealed her temporary involuntary commitment. Although the ordered up-to-90-day commitment has already passed, the appellate court addressed her appeal anyway.

S.T. tried to kill herself by overdosing on Tylenol. S.T suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a non-specific mood disorder, and attention deficit disorder. She also engaged in behavior associated with pica, an eating disorder in which people eat non-food items.

When staff tried to remove earrings from S.T.’s digestive tract, she ripped out her IVs and the procedure had to be stopped. She also was verbally abusive and threatening to staff members. After this, the trial court ordered the involuntary commitment.

The appellate court spent the majority of the opinion explaining why it would not reconsider the standard in which it reviews involuntary commitments, as S.T. urged.

S.T. argued for a de novo review, but the cases she cited don’t allow for the appellate court to usurp the trial court’s authority to weigh evidence and resolve factual disputes, or for the Court of Appeals to review sufficiency of evidence with no deference to the trial court, wrote Judge Melissa May.

“The determination of dangerousness under the involuntary commitment statute has always been a question of fact for the trial court to decide,” she wrote. “S.T. has not directed us to uncontroverted facts in the record that would change that determination into a question of law that we could review de novo.”

The appellate court also rejected the argument that a new standard should be adopted because the well-established one wasn’t being applied consistently. A review of 67 decisions over the last 25 years showed the opposite, noted the judge.

After explaining the standard in more detail, the appellate court affirmed S.T.’s commitment. Based on testimony from S.T. and the hospital, the court found three facts indicating she was a danger to herself: her behavior toward hospital staff due to her mental illness, her continued attitude of “hopelessness” about obtaining medication through Veterans Affairs, and the possibility of escalated risk of danger to herself as a result of pica.

Combining that with the fact she originally was admitted because of an overdose, she exhibited destructive and angry behavior while there and it was exacerbated by a nonspecific disorder and her PTSD, there was sufficient evidence to support her involuntary commitment for up to 90 days.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.