Due process requirements for involuntary hospitalization

J.R. v. Hansen, 803 F.3d 1315 (11th Cir. 2015)

Florida’s statutory structure for involuntary commitment of persons with intellectual disability violates the 14th amendment, as it allows for indefinite commitment without periodic review

Background: Plaintiff-Appellant J.R., an intellectually disabled man with an IQ of 56, was charged with sexual battery and, after being found incompetent to stand trial, was admitted to non-secure residential services under F.S.A. § 393.11. He claimed that Florida’s involuntary commitment laws denied due process because they permitted the State to keep intellectually disabled people committed indefinitely without periodic review. When a person is admitted, the circuit court that first ordered the admission keeps jurisdiction over the order, and the person “may not be released except by order of the court.” The court, however, is “never required to review a continuing involuntary admission” (emphasis in original). Admitted persons may only challenge their support plans in administrative proceedings, but administrators cannot change or vacate the admission order or require release. Thus, the only means of securing release was by writ of habeas corpus.

Holding: The Eleventh Circuit held that Florida’s statutory scheme was facially unconstitutional because it violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to require periodic review of continued commitments “by a decision-maker with the duty to consider and the authority to order release.” Even if the statutory scheme did require administrative agencies to conduct period reviews, however, it would still be facially unconstitutional because the agency did not have the authority to order release nor was it required to petition the circuit court.

Notable Points:

The availability of habeas corpus does not provide constitutionally adequate process: The Eleventh Circuit, relying on Williams v. Wallis, 734 F.2d 1434 (11th Cir. 1984), stated that “habeas corpus is not adequate in and of itself” and “can be at most a backstop.” The Court distinguished habeas from periodic review because habeas is only available if a petitioner seeks it.

Found in Found in DMHL Volume 34, Issue 4