Psychiatrist-patient privilege; defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to present a defense

State v. Fay, 326 Conn. 742 (Conn. 2017)

The Connecticut Supreme Court rules that where a defendant shows a “compelling need” for privileged psychiatric records of a homicide victim as material to his defense, “the interests of the accused must prevail over the victim's psychiatrist-patient privilege” and an in camera review of the records may be undertaken.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 3

Criminal responsibility; self-induced intoxication

State v. Eager, 398 P.3d 756 (Haw. 2017)

The Hawai’i Supreme Court reverses felony assault conviction of defendant whose psychotic condition at the time of the assault was found by the trial court to be “self-induced” due to the defendant’s failure to take his medication. The Supreme Court rules that state law requires such intoxication be caused by the introduction of substances into the body,
not the failure to introduce substances.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 3

Liability for harm by patient to third parties; “special relationship” doctrine

Rodriguez v. Catholic Health Initiatives, d/b/a Chi Health, et al., 899 N.W.2d 227 (Neb. 2017)

Nebraska Supreme Court rules that psychiatric hospital and involved medical staff asserting custodial authority over a patient due to the patient’s mental illness and danger to self or others have a duty to take action to prevent harm to “reasonably identifiable” third parties.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 3

“Special duty” doctrine

McLaughlin v. City of Martinsburg, 2017 WL 3821808 (W.Va. Sept. 1, 2017)

West Virginia Supreme Court denies plaintiff’s claim that police officers were liable under “special duty doctrine” for negligently failing to take into protective custody a person with mental illness who was reported to be acting strangely and who was later struck and killed by an automobile.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 3

Sexually dangerous individual; proof of likelihood to re-offend

In the Interest of Danny Robert Nelson, 896 N.W.2d 923 (N.D. 2017)

North Dakota Supreme Court orders release of person from commitment as a sexually dangerous individual after finding the evidentiary record fails to show that the person “has a present difficulty of controlling his behavior.” A dissenting opinion argues that the Court goes beyond the requirements of the law and impermissibly substitutes its judgment for that of the district court.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 3

Sexually violent predators; proof of likelihood to re-offend

In the Matter of the Detention of Troy Belcher, 399 P.3d 1179 (Wash. 2017)

Washington Supreme Court rules that an adult’s convictions as a juvenile can be “predicate offenses” supporting a finding that the person meets the criteria for continued civil commitment as a sexually violent predator.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 3

Liability to injured third parties; special relationships; duty of care

Gottschalk v. Pomeroy Development, Inc., 893 N.W.2d 579 (Iowa 2017)

The Iowa Supreme Court holds that the state owed no duty of care to a private facility resident who was sexually abused by another resident who had been discharged by a court from a state violent sex offender program and then ordered by another court into the private facility due to dementia; further, no duty of care was owed to the private facility.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Outpatient commitment

In the Matter of the Mental Commitment of J.W.J., 895 N.W.2d 783 (Wis. 2017)

Wisconsin Supreme Court rejects argument by plaintiff subjected to repeated renewals of his outpatient commitment order that, because these repeated commitments have not resulted in his “rehabilitation” from paranoid schizophrenia the state cannot continue to forcibly treat him under the outpatient commitment statute

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Criminal sentencing of juveniles; right to new sentencing hearing

In re Kirchner, 393 P.3d 364 (Cal. 2017)

California Supreme Court rules that inmate sentenced 20 years ago as a juvenile to life imprisonment without parole under standards violating Miller v. Alabama was entitled to seek relief through a habeas corpus action and is entitled to re-sentencing under the Miller standards.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Judicial authorization of treatment with psychotropic medication over objection

In the Matter of C.B., 392 P.3d 598 (Mont. 2017)

Montana Supreme Court upholds District Court order in involuntary commitment case in which the Court also authorizes the administration of involuntary medication when it “may be necessary.”

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Involuntary commitment hearings; judicial authorization of treatment; due process

In the Matter of N.L., 71 N.E.3d 476 (Mass. 2017)

Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that Massachusetts statutes give individuals in involuntary commitment hearings and in judicial authorization of treatment hearings the right to request and obtain a continuance of the hearing beyond the otherwise statutorily required time frames.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Involuntary medication to restore competency to stand trial; due process

Washington v. Lyons, 2017 WL 2438687 (Wash. Ct. App. June 6, 2017)

Washington State Court of Appeals holds that a defendant has a due process right to obtain and present expert testimony on whether the findings required under Sell for involuntary medication to restore competency to stand trial have been proven by the state.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Involuntary commitment hearings; right to effective representation by counsel

In re Henry B., 159 A.3d 824 (Me. 2017)

Maine Supreme Court holds that individuals subject to involuntary commitment proceedings have the right to effective representation by counsel, and may claim ineffective counsel as part of an appeal of commitment.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Involuntary commitment; due process

Doe v. Florida, 217 So.3d 1020 (Fla. 2017)

The Supreme Court of Florida rules that the constitutional due process rights of individuals in involuntary commitment hearings include the right to have the judicial officer physically present for such hearings. A local court’s plan for the judicial officer to be present through videoconferencing is disapproved.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Sexually Violent Predators and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In re Chapman, No. 27705, 2017 S.C. LEXIS 29 (Feb. 15, 2017)

The South Carolina Supreme Court rules that a person has a due process right to effective assistance of counsel during civil commitment proceedings for sexually violent predators, but that a claim contesting such commitment due to ineffective assistance of counsel must be raised in a habeas corpus petition as South Carolina statutory law does not provide for making such a claim on direct appeal.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 1

Involuntary Commitment and Loss of Right to Possess Firearms

In re Vencil Appeal of Pa. State Police, 152 A.3d 235 (Pa. 2017)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court interprets Pennsylvania statute governing challenges to loss of right to possess firearms following involuntary civil commitment for mental health treatment, holding that when reviewing a physician’s decision to involuntarily commit an individual, a court must find that the physician’s decision was supported by a preponderance of the evidence available to the physician when the decision was made.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 1

Criminal Sentencing; Mitigating Factors Due to Mental Illness

Wampler v. State, 67 N.E.3d 633 (Ind. 2017)

While finding no error in the sentencing decision of the trial court, the Indiana Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision, reduces the sentence of an offender with a history of mental illness in recognition of the illness’s impact on the offender’s behavior.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 1