Developments in Mental Health Law

Articles from Vol. 26, No. 2, July

Additional Delay Ordered of Execution to Determine Whether Inmate Competent to Be Executed
For the second time, Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine delayed the scheduled execution of Percy Levar Walton. Walton, now age twenty-eight, received a death sentence after he pled guilty in 1997 to the 1996 murder of three people in Danville, Virginia....
Alaska Supreme Court Rules a Person Can Not Be Involuntarily Committed as "Gravely Disabled" Unless Level of Incapacity Is So Substantial That Person Cannot Survive Safely in Freedom
A number of states in recent years have expanded their civil commitment criteria. Traditionally, involuntary hospitalization was ordered if an individual was mentally ill and a danger to self or others. Some states, concerned that the "danger to self"...
A "Mental Incapacity" Extension of the Time Period Permitted to File a Lawsuit Alleging Inadequate Nursing Home Care Is Not Defeated by a Resident's Prior Establishment of a Power of Attorney
States generally have in place a so-called "statute of limitations" that limits the period of time within which someone can file a lawsuit against someone else. This limit is established to ensure that such lawsuits are initiated in a timely fashion...
Basis for Finding an Inmate Incompetent to Be Executed Expanded; Gross Delusions That Obstruct an Inmate's Rational Understanding of Why the Inmate Is Being Executed Are Relevant; Inmate Entitled to a Fair Hearing and to Submit Own Expert Evidence on the Competency Question
On the final day of its year-long term, for the second year in a row, the United States Supreme Court issued a significant mental health-related ruling. A year earlier the Supreme Court upheld Arizona's ability to (1) limit the scope of the insanity...
Child Witnesses: Implications of Contemporary Suggestibility Research in a Changing Legal Landscape
[W]hen are we going to give up ... listening to children in courts of law?--J. Varendonck (1911) (1) I. Introduction The reliability of the testimony that child witnesses provide at trial has been debated by legal scholars and developmental psychologists...
Court Ordered Grandparent Visitation Does Not Violate the Constitution; Ruling Not Disturbed
Historically, parents had the exclusive right to determine with whom their children could associate. As a result, grandparents lacked any substantive rights regarding the custody of their grandchildren. In recent years, all fifty states have enacted...
"Death Is Different": Limits on the Imposition of the Death Penalty to Traumatic Brain Injuries
"Capital punishment must be limited to those offenders who commit a narrow category of the most serious crimes and whose extreme culpability makes them the most deserving of execution." (1) I. Introduction American legal jurisprudence has long...
Defendant Charged with a Federal Crime Bears the Burden of Proof to Establish a "Duress" Defense Unless Congress Has Specifically Said Otherwise; Conviction of Woman for Violating Federal Gun Control Law Upheld
Courts have long recognized that "duress" constitutes a defense to a criminal charge, with conduct excused that would otherwise be punishable if the defendant acted under duress. Historically, the defense excused criminal conduct if (1) a threat of...
Even When an Individual's Cognitive Abilities Are Compromised by Alzheimer's-Related Dementia, the Individual May Still Be Competent to Execute a Contract; Assertion of Dementia Not Found to Be Sufficient Grounds to Invalidate a Property Settlement Agreement
"Dementia" is the term generally used to describe disorders that, as the result of various biological mechanisms that damage brain cells, cause irreversible cognitive decline. The decline must be severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life and...
Executive Order Issued Banning Purchase of Firearms by Individuals with a Mental Illness Who Have Been Ordered to Receive Treatment in Either an Outpatient or an Inpatient Setting
The Brady Handgun Violence Act (often referred to as the Brady Bill) was enacted by Congress in 1993 to place limits on the purchasing of firearms. It was named after James Brady, who was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., during an attempted assassination...
Investigation of Civil Commitment Proceeding That Preceded Shootings at Virginia Tech Finds Participants Performed Their Responsibilities in Compliance with the Requirements of the Virginia Code but Deficiencies in Civil Commitment System Noted and Recommendations Issued
In the aftermath of the April 16, 2007, shootings at Virginia Tech University, which resulted in the deaths of thirty-three students and faculty members and injured another twenty-four people, attention focused on a civil commitment proceeding conducted...
Mental Health Services Required for Children in Foster Care but Not Necessarily in a "Bundled" Fashion
As states ponder under what, if any, circumstances a parent should be required to relinquish legal custody of a child to enable the child to gain access to state-funded mental health services, states must also resolve what level of mental health services...
Monetary Damages Not Available for Managed Care Organization's Negligent Failure to Authorize Psychiatric Hospitalization and Resulting Suicide Attempt
A series of widely publicized instances of fraud and mismanagement of employee pension funds in the early '70s led to Congressional passage of The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). ERISA also applies to employee health insurance...
New York's High Court Rules That Testimony by a Forensic Psychiatrist That Recounts Third-Party Statements Where the Third Parties Are Not Available for Cross-Examination Violates the Federal Constitution and Is Not Admissible
In recent years forensic evaluators have been encouraged when forming their opinions to expand the information on which they rely beyond just their examination of the defendant and the clinical record to include third-party data from sources such as...
Parents Not Required to Relinquish Legal Custody of Their Children to Obtain State-Funded Mental Health Services for These Children
Frequently having exhausted their own ability to access mental health services needed by their children, parents across the country have given up legal custody of their children and placed them in foster care to obtain access to these services. A national...
"Settled Insanity" Defense Stemming from Abuse of Alcohol or Drugs Recognized but Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Requisite Long-Term, Chronic, and Habitual Abuse; Use of Lay Testimony to Establish Defense Also Addressed
The legal system has long wrestled with the question of whether a psychosis that is the result of substance abuse provides a sufficient predicate for an insanity defense. For example, the Indiana Supreme Court addressed this issue in 1878. Virginia,...