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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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