ILNews

Mental-health facility report not same as charging instrument

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The due process protections applicable to a charging instrument in a criminal case aren’t applicable to a report filed after someone is detained in a mental-health facility, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In Commitment of A.L., No. 49A02-1001-MH-76, A.L., whom the appellate court noted may have already been released from detention, challenged the trial court’s order of temporary commitment. She argued the trial court committed fundamental error by letting Wishard Health Services, Midtown Health Center state one ground for involuntary commitment in a pre-hearing report following emergency detention and then state an additional ground for commitment at her final hearing. She also claimed the order wasn’t supported by clear and convincing evidence.

A.L. was taken to Wishard from the Statehouse after asking officials to help her get access to “child papers and wills” in Monticello, Ind. She was admitted based on emergency detention. She was later committed after a hearing for a period of no more than 90 days.

Wishard cited severe disability as the reason for involuntary commitment in the physician’s report but then also listed dangerousness at her hearing. A.L. believed that Wishard had to give her pre-hearing notice of every ground that supported its request for temporary involuntary commitment. She didn’t object to the “dangerous” claim at the hearing, but she claims it was a fundamental error that the court can review on appeal.

A.L. compared the report to a charging instrument in a criminal case and claimed there was a “fatal or material variance” between the report and the evidence presented at trial. But the judges rejected her argument because she cited no authority to support her position and because the charging instrument serves a different purpose than the report filed in the instant case.

The charging instrument gives a defendant notice of the crime she’s charged with so she can prepare a defense; the report is to inform the trial court that a mental-health facility has examined the detainee and whether she is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled and requires continuing care, wrote Senior Judge Betty Barteau. In addition, A.L. was represented by counsel at her hearing.

“After considering these factors, we conclude that any error in the trial court’s admission of evidence or consideration of Wishard’s argument as to A.L.’s dangerousness was not a blatant violation of our concepts of fundamental fairness and did not cause substantial and apparent harm to A.L.,” she wrote.

Even if they didn’t consider whether A.L. was dangerous, the appellate judges also found sufficient evidence to support the order because Wishard proved by clear and convincing evidence that she was gravely disabled.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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