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Judge: fundamental error rule doesn't apply to civil cases

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge disagreed with the decision of his fellow panel members to allow a man committed to a psychiatric unit to argue the trial court committed fundamental error by not issuing an order scheduling a hearing within three days of receiving the petition for involuntary commitment.

M.E., a military veteran who suffers from chronic illness and has a history of involuntary commitments, displayed behaviors that led to his admittance to the inpatient psychiatric unit of the VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. Six days later, a petition was filed to involuntarily commit him for at least 90 days; seven days later, the trial court appointed counsel for M.E. and set a hearing on the petition for the following week. M.E. was ordered to be committed at the hearing.

M.E. didn’t object at trial on any of the bases he asserted as error on appeal, so the majority reviewed his appeal to determine if M.E. established the trial court committed fundamental error. M.E. argued his rights were violated by the trial court when it didn’t issue an order scheduling a hearing within three days of its receipt of the petition to involuntarily commitment him and by not making a timely determination that M.E.’s prehearing detention was supported by probable cause.

Judges Paul Mathias and Terry Crone ruled M.E. did not establish fundamental error and upheld the trial court’s order of regular commitment in In the Matter of Commitment of M.E. v. V.A. Medical Center, No. 49A04-1102-MH-63.

Judge L. Mark Bailey concurred in result, but disagreed with the majority’s decision to allow M.E. to argue fundamental error so as to avoid procedural default.

“I acknowledge that a civil commitment is a significant deprivation of liberty and that this Court has, in the past, entertained an appellant’s argument that a civil commitment is analogous to a criminal trial,” he wrote. “I, however, do not feel at liberty to take the approach of applying the fundamental error rule to civil judgments.”

Bailey pointed out that the Indiana Supreme Court has not embraced the idea and he disagrees with undertaking a fundamental error analysis where waiver would suffice.
 

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  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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