Developments in Mental Health Law

Articles from Vol. 24, No. 2, July

Child Sexual Abuse Victims Can Be Required to Undergo a Mental Health Evaluation to Determine Credibility of the Report of Abuse; Ruling Not Disturbed
Because criminal charges of sexual assault often center on the reports of the purported victim, the credibility of these reports is often critical. Defendants in such cases may seek a mental health evaluation of the victim to determine whether there...
Connecticut Physicians Who Submitted Reports about the Competence of a Psychiatrist to Practice Safely Were Not Entitled to Absolute Immunity
State licensing boards or a corresponding legislatively designated agency typically have the authority to investigate licensed practitioners and to discipline them for unprofessional conduct. However, these boards and agencies generally have limited...
Conviction of Legal Guardian for Felonious Neglect of the Medical Treatment of an Incapacitated Person Upheld
The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a woman for violating a statutory provision that makes it a felony for any "responsible person" to abuse or neglect an incapacitated person when that abuse or neglect results in serious bodily injury...
Death Penalty for Juveniles Convicted of Murder Held to Be Unconstitutional Because a National Consensus Opposes Its Use and Juvenile Offenders Are Less Culpable Than Adults
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on convicted murderers who were younger than 18 at the time of the crime. The Court concluded that such executions violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition...
Death Sentence Reversed Because Prosecution Failed to Provide Defense with a Parole File Containing Exculpatory Mental Health Evidence; Ruling Not Disturbed
In Brady v. Maryland (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court established that the prosecution has a responsibility to provide the defense with material, exculpatory evidence in its possession and that a failure to do so is grounds for overturning a conviction....
Defendant Facing Capital Punishment Can Argue That "Flynn Effect" and Standard Error of Measurement Should Be Taken into Account When Determining Whether IQ Score Established That He Is Mentally Retarded
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia (2002) that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on a defendant who is mentally retarded. However, the Supreme Court left it to the states to define what constitutes mental retardation...
Dismissal of a Lawsuit Asserting That Licensure Testing Procedure for Professionals Violated the ADA for Failing to Reasonably Accommodate an Examinee's Mental Disability Is Reversed and Remanded for Further Consideration
Many professionals, including physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and attorneys, are required to be licensed in the state in which they desire to provide services. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits states...
Employment Contract Intended to Limit Psychologist's Ability to Compete with a Group Practice after Employment Relationship Ends Is Not Enforceable
When mental health professionals join a group practice, their employment contract may include a restrictive covenant that is intended to limit their ability to compete with the group practice for a period of time should the employment relationship...
First Report of Adverse Health Events in Minnesota Hospitals Issued
The Minnesota Department of Health in January of 2005 released its first annual public report of adverse health events in Minnesota hospitals. This document notes that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released in 2000 a landmark report entitled "To...
Florida Guardianship Proceedings in Schiavo Case Did Not Violate Federal Law; Efforts to Override Judicial Order Discontinuing Life-Sustaining Nutrition and Hydration Also Struck Down; Rulings Not Disturbed
A series of closely-watched judicial rulings and legislative enactments were issued that addressed the withdrawal of the nutrition and hydration tube of Theresa (Terri) Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged woman in Florida. On several occasions the U.S....
Force Used by Police in Detaining Individuals with a Mental Disorder Found to Be Excessive in Three Cases; Rulings Not Disturbed
It has been estimated that 15-20 million American adults have a serious mental illness and that 25-40% of the individuals with a mental illness in this country will come into contact with the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. This...
Grandparent Visitation Order Based on Diagnostic Evaluation of Parent, Children, and Grandparents Upheld; Ruling Not Disturbed
Historically, grandparents had no legal right to petition for court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren. Today, every state has enacted legislation that authorizes such orders under certain circumstances despite the objection of the children's...
Judge Cannot Compel Medical Exam and Evaluation of Depressed Woman When She Is Capable of Exercising Informed Consent
A Virginia law authorizes judicial orders compelling individuals to submit to a medical examination and evaluation (VA. CODE [section] 37.1-134.21). A circuit court judge issued such an order for a fifty-one-year-old woman who was suffering from morbid...
Jury Rejects "Zoloft Defense" in Murder Trial Focused on 12-Year-Old Boy's Killing of His Grandparents
In South Carolina, a jury found Christopher Pittman guilty of the killing of his grandparents. Pittman, who is now 15, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the killings that occurred when he was 12 years old. Pittman had come to live with his grandparents...
Juvenile Sex Offenders and the Virginia Transfer Statute: Let Treatment Fit the Crime
"Mankind seems to be averse to the science of government." John Adams in a letter to George Wythe, 1776 Introduction In response to public perception that violent juvenile crime is on the rise, (1) nearly all state legislatures have broadened...
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Requirements in Kansas Do Not Apply to Sex between Age-Mates When Injury Is Not Suspected
Kansas, like all states, mandates that suspected child abuse or neglect, including sexual abuse, be reported to a designated state agency. Under the relevant Kansas statute, a wide range of professional groups, including mental health professionals,...
Mandatory Disclosure of Sexual History in Conjunction with a Treatment Program for a Convicted Sexual Offender as a Condition of Probation Struck Down
The courts continue to wrestle with the nature of the conditions that can be placed on sexual offenders who are permitted to return to the community. An individual convicted of possessing child pornography after he ordered a child pornography video...
Medical Board Complaints against Physicians for Their Involvement in the Executions of Criminal Offenders Are Dismissed
Complaints filed against a pair of physicians with their respective state medical boards for their involvement in the executions of criminal offenders have been dismissed. The American Medical Association, through its Council on Ethical and Judicial...
Mentally Retarded Defendant Incompetent to Waive Miranda Rights and Confess to Murders; Ruling Not Disturbed
The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a criminal defendant who was mentally retarded after it found that she was incompetent to waive her Miranda rights. As a result, the confessions she had given the police were suppressed and a new...
New Orleans Police Shooting Could Lead to Changes in Information Provided to Louisiana Police When Responding to Requests to Take Individuals with a Mental Illness into Custody for Evaluation
A judge or a parish coroner in Louisiana can issue a protective custody order directing a person to be taken into custody and transported to a treatment facility for immediate examination if a "credible person" has signed a statement that the person...
Peer Review Records Must Be Given to P&A Investigating Possible Incidents of Abuse and Neglect Notwithstanding a State Law That Prohibits Their Disclosure
Congress enacted in 1986 the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act (PAMII) because of concerns that (1) individuals with a mental illness are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and serious injury and (2) state systems for monitoring the...
Privatization by Puerto Rico of Prison Inmates' Medical and Mental Health Services Upheld for the Time Being; Ruling Not Disturbed
Since the 1970s, class action lawsuits have been brought against many states challenging the medical and mental health care provided in their correctional systems. In part because many of these lawsuits deeply enmeshed the federal courts in the supervision...
Proceedings Begin to Determine Whether Daryl Atkins Is Mentally Retarded and Thus Not Subject to the Death Penalty; Questions Arise about Increasing IQ Score
In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court established that it is unconstitutional to issue the death penalty to a mentally retarded offender, but provided limited guidance to states attempting to implement this mandate. The Virginia General...
Requiring an Employee to Undergo a Psychological Test as a Condition of Employment Does Not Violate the Fourth Amendment Because Such Tests Do Not Constitute a "Search"
Psychological examinations are required as a condition of employment in a number of fields. Because the exams may explore relatively private and sensitive matters, various employees have filed lawsuits to exempt them from such requirements. In Indiana,...
Speculation Arises Following Red Lake High School Shooting on Role of Antidepressant Medication
In the wake of the shootings at Red Lake High School in Minnesota on March 21 in which a 16-year-old high school student shot nine people and then himself, family members speculated that the antidepressant Prozac may have played a role. The niece of...
State Board Can Insist as a Condition for Reinstating a License to Practice Medicine That a Physician Submit to a Psychiatric Exam by a Medical Professional Pre-Approved by the Board; Ruling Not Disturbed
A Rhode Island court upheld a decision by that state's Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (Board) that a physician was not fit for practice and could only apply for reinstatement after she had undergone a psychiatric examination by a medical...
State-Issued Report Proclaims New York's Kendra's Law Mandating Outpatient Treatment a Success during Its First Five Years; Critics Dispute Analysis
The Office of Mental Health for the State of New York has issued a five-year evaluation of that state's assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law. Widely known as Kendra's Law, it was enacted in 1999 in response to the death of a woman pushed in front...
Teacher Claimed Constitutional Rights Violated When Arresting Police Officers Failed to Adequately Question Credibility of Special Needs Student Who Asserted Teacher Sexually Fondled Him in the Classroom; Teacher's Lawsuit Dismissed; Ruling Not Disturbed
In Rhode Island, a high school special education teacher was arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old male student during class. On the day of the purported incident, the student had gone to the principal's office and claimed that the...
The Sacrifice Wrought by a Costly and Fragmented Mental Health Care System: Parents Forced to Relinquish Custody to Obtain Care for Their Children
Introduction The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents (1) have a fundamental constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children. However, thousands of parents are forced to sacrifice this right and relinquish custody of their...
Time Period for Woman to File Malpractice Claim Asserting She Was Not Warned Her Mental Illness Medication Might Cause Birth Defects Begins at Time of Child's Birth, Not When Ultrasound First Showed Existence of Birth Defects
Every jurisdiction imposes a limit on how long individuals can wait to file a lawsuit that claims they were injured as the result of the malpractice of a health care provider. This limit, which is typically one or two years in length, generally runs...
Virginia Enacts Law That Prevents Expressions of Sympathy by Health Care Providers from Being Used in Subsequent Lawsuits; Coalition Seeks to Go Further
Virginia joined a number of states that have enacted legislation that permits health care providers to express sympathy to a patient or a relative or representative of the patient without that expression being admissible in a civil action brought by...
Virginia School Board's Offer of Educational Placement That Employs the TEACCH Method Found to Be Inadequate for Young Boy Diagnosed as Severely Autistic
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all states receiving federal funds for education are required to provide disabled schoolchildren with a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE). To meet this requirement, educational...
Virginia Supreme Court Clarifies Scope and Operation of Sexually Violent Predator Commitment Law
Legislation that permits prison inmates to be involuntarily hospitalized as a sexually violent predator (SVP) upon the completion of their prison term has been widely enacted across the country. Courts asked to review this legislation have generally...
Yates' Conviction Reversed for State's Use of False Testimony by Mental Health Expert concerning "Law & Order" Episode
The Court of Appeals of Texas reversed the capital murder conviction of Andrea Yates obtained in connection with the drowning deaths of her young children in a bathtub in their home. At trial, Yates asserted an insanity defense and four psychiatrists...