Developments in Mental Health Law

Articles from Vol. 23, No. 2, July

911 Report from Neighbor That Person Is Suicidal Is Not Sufficient Basis for Police Officer to Seize Person for Emergency Mental Evaluation When Officer Observed Person and Saw Nothing Indicating a Danger to Self
Riding his bike while intoxicated, a 41-year-old North Carolina man fell down in his neighbor's yard. The neighbor called 911, which led to a report to the police that he was intoxicated and had told his neighbor that he was depressed and going home...
Capital Defendant Found Competent to Waive Right to Counsel and to Waive Right to Present Mitigating Evidence; Competency Evaluation Not Automatically Required When Both Waived
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death penalty issued to a defendant who had represented himself at trial after waiving his right to counsel and who had waived his right to present mitigating evidence during the sentencing hearing. On appeal and now...
Claim against Case Manager and Health Plan for Rampage Following Release of West Virginia Inpatient Dismissed by Fourth Circuit
A lawsuit was brought against an entity that managed the behavioral healthcare component of a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan and one of its case managers for their role in the release of a man from an inpatient mental health care facility....
Classification of Bipolar Disorders and Depression as Mental Disorders Upheld, Thereby Defeating Claims Seeking Long-Term Disability Benefits
A federal court in New York ruled that the administrator of a long-term disability benefit plan did not act unreasonably when it categorized a claimant's bipolar disorder as a mental rather than a physical disability and thereby limited the claimant's...
Duty to Prevent Mentally III Persons from Leaving Their Care Not Imposed on Ambulance Drivers
After returning from a visit to an emergency room, a woman who had been acting strangely for several days continued her strange behavior and complained "[t]hey're coming." At 2 a.m., she left the house where she was staying and began walking down the...
Enhancements of Criminal Sentences for Factors Other Than Prior Convictions Must Be Based on Jury Findings
Mental health professionals often provide testimony at criminal sentencing hearings, including assessments of the dangerousness of convicted defendants. In some states, judges are authorized to enhance the sentence given based on factual findings made...
GAO Issues Report on District of Columbia Mental Health System's Progress in Attempting to Comply with Court Order to Move to Community-Based System
In 1974, a class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of residents of the District who were institutionalized at St. Elizabeths Hospital. In 1975, the court determined that the District had a statute-based...
Georgia Supreme Court Rules Jury Not Required for Determination of Whether Capital Defendant Is Mentally Retarded and beyond a Reasonable Doubt Standard for This Determination Is Constitutional
The Georgia Supreme Court, on a 4-3 vote, ruled the federal constitution does not establish that a jury must determine whether a defendant is mentally retarded in a capital case or prevent the state from requiring that a claim of mental retardation...
HHS Fine Imposed on Ohio Skilled Nursing Facility for Escapes, Assaults by Residents
A long-term care skilled nursing facility (SNF) in Ohio, which participated in the federal Medicare and Ohio Medicaid programs, housed 43 residents, more than two-thirds of whom displayed behavior symptoms of dementia. Facility surveys identified numerous...
Kendra's Law, Which Authorizes Court Orders Mandating Outpatient Treatment, Upheld by State's Highest Court
New York, like many states, has sought means to enhance treatment compliance by individuals with a mental illness who live in the community. The New York legislature in 1999 enacted what is known as Kendra's Law in response to the death of a woman...
Loss of Visitation with Young Daughter and Good Time Credit Not Impermissible Consequences for Prisoner's Refusal to Admit during Sex Offender Treatment Program That He Committed Charged Offense
A convicted sex offender while incarcerated was directed by prison officials to participate in a sex offender treatment program. This program mandated that the offender admit he had committed the offense (sexual assault of a minor) for which he was...
Managed Care Companies Not Subject to State Malpractice Claims for Wrongfully Denying Benefits
In 1974, Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to protect employees participating in employer-sponsored benefit plans by providing a uniform regulatory regime to cover these plans. To this end, ERISA includes expansive...
Mandated Treatment in the Community for People with Mental Disorders: Treating People without Their Consent Has Always Been the Defining Human Rights Issue in Mental Health Law
Introduction Requiring adherence to community-based mental health treatment is now the single most contested human rights issue in mental health law and policy. Although forty United States jurisdictions have statutes nominally authorizing outpatient...
Postpartum Psychosis and Women Who Kill Their Children: Making the Punishment Fit the Crime
Legislation that makes possible a reduction in the sentencing of these women while still holding them accountable for their crimes provides for a just means of responding to the mental disorders they experienced due to the physiological effects of...
Psychotic Disorder Does Not Preclude Individual from Being Found Competent to Be Executed
Percy Levar Walton, who was sentenced to death for killing three neighbors in 1996 in Danville, Virginia, was found competent to be executed by a federal district court in Virginia. Following conflicting evidence on whether Walton was competent to...
Request to Forcibly Treat Non-Dangerous Criminal Defendant to Restore Competence Denied
In one of the first applications of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Sell v. United States, 123 S. Ct, 2164 (2003), a federal district court in Virginia denied a request to forcibly medicate a criminal defendant to restore him to competence...
Rulings That Alcohol Abuse Does Not Have to Be Specifically Delineated in Capital Jury Instructions as a Potential Mitigating Factor Not Disturbed
The Supreme Court declined to review a ruling of the Fifth Circuit that rejected a capital defendant's argument that the jury during his sentencing hearing had been provided inadequate instructions regarding his alcohol abuse. Texas law delineates...
Ruling That Dismissed Suit Claiming Jail Provided Inadequate Training to Officers on How to Manage Inmates with a Mental Illness Not Disturbed
As recognition grows of the large percentage of jail and prison inmates who have a mental disorder, questions arise as to how to respond to such individuals during incarceration. A suit filed in a federal court in Tennessee attributed the death by...
Ruling That High School Teacher Can Be Fired for Non-School Related Activities as Member of Organization That Advocates Pedophilia Not Disturbed
The Supreme Court declined to review a ruling of the Second Circuit that held that a school board could fire a high school teacher who belonged to an international organization that advocated the legalization of sexual relations between men and boys....
Ruling That Incompetence during Post-Conviction Appeals of a Death Sentence Can Stay These Proceedings Not Disturbed
Criminal defendants typically pursue a series of appeals after receiving a death sentence. If sentenced in a state court, they are required to initially pursue their appeals in the court system of that state. After exhausting those appeals, they may...
Ruling That Permanent Guardian Should Be Appointed for a Woman with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Not Disturbed
The Supreme Court declined to review a ruling of the Appeals Court of Massachusetts that upheld the appointment of a permanent guardian for a woman with an obsessive compulsive disorder. The Massachusetts test for appointing a guardian is that there...
Ruling That Upheld Officer's Interrogation of a Suspect with a Mental Illness and Daughter Hospitalized for Behavioral and Drug Problems Not Disturbed
Police interrogations of individuals with a mental illness suspected of a crime and alleged child victims of sexual abuse have raised considerable concern in recent years. The Supreme Court declined to review a ruling that involved both. In May...
S. 1194: Mentally III Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2003: 93% of All Counties Are without Any Program to Keep Non-Violent Defendants with a Mental Illness from Crowding Their Jails and Committing More Crime
I have been involved in Federally-funded research on mentally ill offenders since the publication of my first book, Community Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System, in 1976. I currently direct the Research Network on Mandated Community Treatment...
Settlement Approved of Lawsuit Designed to Supply More Home and Community Based Services for Individuals with Mental Retardation Who Are Eligible for Medicaid but Have Been Placed on Waiting Lists
The settlement of two class action lawsuits that focused on the lack of community services for individuals with mental retardation has been approved by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Plaintiffs had alleged that the state...
Suspect's Youth, Inexperience Not a Required Consideration When Determining Whether Suspect in "Custody" and Miranda Warnings Necessary
Police officers are required to provide Miranda warnings before questioning a suspect that is in their custody. The Supreme Court has ruled that a person is in "custody" if a "reasonable person" would feel that he or she was not at liberty to end the...
The Virginia Human Rights System: Foundation for Respect: The Most Basic Right of All Is the Right to Be Heard Because It Expresses Respect for the Person and Treats Him or Her with Dignity
Introduction I have toiled in many vineyards over the years, but I can assure you that I have done nothing more gratifying, or more important, than serve in Virginia's human rights system. I am proud to have played a part in the creation of this...
West Virginia High Court Upholds Sex Offender Lifetime Registration and Public Notification Via Internet Requirements
In a ruling that tracks the reasoning applied by the U.S. Supreme Court in resolving similar federal claims, the high court of West Virginia ruled that the state's Sex Offender Registration Act (Act) and its imposition on certain sex offenders, in...