Developments in Mental Health Law

Articles from Vol. 24, No. 1, January

A Pair of Judicial Rulings Order Forcible Treatment of Non-Dangerous Criminal Defendants to Restore Competence to Stand Trial
In December of 2003, a federal district court in Virginia denied a request to forcibly medicate a criminal defendant to restore him to competence to stand trial. United States v. Evans, 293 F. Supp. 668 (W.D. Va. 2003). The court concluded that the...
Defendant Who Received Direct Command from God to Murder Is Unsuccessful in Raising Deific Decree Defense Because the Command Did Not Overcome His Cognitive Ability to Tell Right from Wrong
Most states offer an insanity defense to defendants accused of committing a crime, although the nature of that defense varies somewhat from state to state. The State of Washington has adopted the M'Naghten test and will find a defendant legally insane...
Downward Departure in Sentencing under Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Defendant with Diminished Mental Capacity Prohibited When Possibility Exists That Defendant May Discontinue Medication
Under the federal sentencing guidelines as they currently exist, a federal judge can reduce a sentence below the applicable guideline range "if the defendant committed the offense while suffering from a significantly reduced mental capacity." However,...
Employee Who Was Sexually Assaulted at a Correctional Facility for Inmates with Psychiatric Problems Can Only Turn to Workers' Compensation for Recovery
In general, when employees are injured in the course of work, they must turn to a state-run workers' compensation plan for recovery. These plans are intended to ensure compensation in a quick and reliable manner and do not require employees to show...
Incorporating Mental Health Assessments of Future Dangerousness into Pretrial Detention Decisions: Clinical and Actuarial Assessments of the Risk of Dangerousness Posed by Individuals Can Play an Important Role in Improving Pretrial Detention Decisions Involving Criminal Defendants
Introduction State and federal legislatures have increasingly identified violent crime committed by defendants awaiting trial as a serious problem. In response, a multitude of pretrial detention procedures have been developed to preventively restrain...
Jury Verdicts Split on Medical Malpractice Claims of Negligent Administration of Pain-Relief Medicine by Psychiatrists
The family of a woman who died of an overdose of a strong pain-relief medicine given to her by a psychiatrist was awarded $1.4 million by a Virginia jury. The woman, who suffered from menstrual cramping and endometriosis, obtained four Fentanyl patches...
Law Enforcement Officials as Part of Their "Community Caretaking" Function Are Entitled to Detain and Transport an Individual Who Is Not Suspected of a Crime to a Hospital for the Purpose of Providing Him with Medical or Psychological Assistance; but Medical Staff May Be Liable for Forcibly Administering Tests without the Individual's Consent Absent the Showing of an Emergency
Law enforcement officials are often the first to respond to emergent mental health crises and health care providers at hospital emergency rooms are often the first to treat an individual in the midst of a mental health crisis, frequently after a law...
Life-Time Ban from City Parks Can Be Imposed on Past Sex Offender Who Has Molestation Fantasies While "Cruising"
States and communities across the country have crafted numerous mechanisms to limit the activities of repeat sexual offenders. The City of Lafayette, Indiana, banned one such offender from all of its public parks. In 2003, a three-judge panel of...
Low IQ Score a Relevant Mitigating Factor at Capital Sentencing, Even If It Is Not Directly Connected to the Crime and No Other Evidence of Impairment Is Presented
In Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court established that a defendant's mental retardation is a potential mitigating factor at capital sentencing. Under Texas law, however, a finding of mental retardation was limited to where...
Medicaid-Eligible Adults Who Are Mentally Retarded Can Sue State for Failure to Provide Community-Based Intermediate Care Facilities
The Medicaid Act furnishes funds to the states to help them provide medical assistance to eligible low-income individuals. Although states are not required to participate in such programs, if they accept federal funding they must comply with the Medicaid...
Mental Health Care Provider Not Liable for Negligent Hiring of Employee Who Later Raped Patient at Residential Treatment Facility
In part because relatively low wages are typically offered, it can be a challenge to find qualified staff to provide care to individuals with a mental disorder. When a staff member abuses these individuals, the question may arise whether the employer...
Mental Health Courts: Moving beyond the Drug Court Model: MHCs Are Relatively New in the Realm of Therapeutic Adjudication. of Particular Concern Is Whether the Basic Drug Court Model Is Appropriate for Dealing with the Special Issues Presented by Offenders with a Mental Illness
Introduction Therapeutic courts have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity. These courts provide an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system and focus on rehabilitation rather than deterrence or retribution. (1) Rather than rely on...
Missouri Court Rules Individual Need Not Be Competent before a Sexually Violent Predator Commitment Hearing Can Be Held; Supreme Court Declines Review
Many states in recent years have enacted laws that permit convicted sexual offenders to be civilly committed as a sexually violent predator upon the completion of their criminal sentence. It is well established that a criminal defendant must be competent...
New Mexico Permits Defendant to Assert at Pretrial Hearing That Mental Retardation Precludes Death Penalty; If Not Established at This Hearing, Defendant Can Still Introduce Related Evidence during Sentencing Phase and Jury Must Unanimously Determine That Defendant Not Mentally Retarded before Turning to Possible Aggravating Factors
State courts continue to wrestle with the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), which established that a mentally retarded defendant cannot receive the death penalty under the Constitution. ...
New York Antidiscrimination Insurance Law Does Not Require Parity in Coverage for Physical and Mental Disabilities
Efforts have been launched across the country to enhance the benefits available to individuals with a mental illness under employer-provided health care plans. Such plans often include long-term disability insurance coverage that provides income or...
Paraphiliac Pedophile's Acceptance of Responsibility for the Sexual Exploitation of Children Is Grounds for Sentence Reduction
The future of the federal sentencing guidelines is somewhat in doubt following the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004). Under the guidelines as they currently exist, however, a trial judge in the federal...
Patient Confidentiality Not Violated When Physicians in Same Medical Office Communicated about Patient's HIV Status
The District of Columbia, where this case arose, has recognized the tort of breach of the confidential physician-patient relationship. A patient, who was HIV positive, brought a lawsuit against a physician and his medial office, claiming such a breach....
Physician at Virginia Mental Health Facility Ordered Reinstated
Ending a long-standing employment dispute at Western State Hospital, the Virginia Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement of a physician who had worked for six years as an internist at the state-run facility. The physician had been fired on May 15,...
Psychiatrist and Psychologist Not Liable for Traffic Accident That Occurred When Patient Fell Asleep While Driving after Taking Prescription Medication
In 1997, a registered nurse fell asleep at the wheel and struck another vehicle head on, killing the driver of that vehicle. Initially, a wrongful death action was brought against the nurse. However, during a deposition the nurse disclosed that...
Psychotherapist Alerted by a Patient's Immediate Family of a Threat by the Patient Can Be Held Liable for Failing to Warn the Patient's Victim; Expert Testimony Not Required to Establish Liability
Tarasoff v. Regents of Univ. of California, 551 P.2d 334 (1976), the first judicial opinion to rule that a psychotherapist may have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to protect a third party who has been threatened by the psychotherapist's patient,...
Ruling That Dismissed Substantive Due Process Challenge to Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law Not Disturbed
Every state requires that various convicted sex offenders register with a state entity, typically a law enforcement agency, upon the completion of their prison term. This information is generally made available to the community by some means, which...
Sufficient Facts Alleged regarding Suicide of Detainee to Permit "Deliberate Indifference" Lawsuit Targeting Jail Staff to Continue
Suicides and suicide attempts by jail and prison inmates with a mental disorder are unfortunately not a rare event. Following an inmate suicide, a lawsuit may be filed that asserts that correctional officials did not take adequate steps to prevent...