Developments in Mental Health Law

Articles from Vol. 25, No. 1, January

A History of Civil Commitment and Related Reforms in the United States: Lessons for Today
I am pleased to be here with you today. The discussions conducted thus far have focused on Virginia's existing civil commitment statute and its procedures, and related successes and failures. My intent here is to add a historical dimension to your...
Burden Placed on Parents to Show School District's Planned Services Will Not Provide the "Appropriate" Education to Which Children with Disabilities Are Entitled
A frequently litigated mental health question involves disputes over the nature of services owed children with disabilities by school systems under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). There are nearly seven million students...
Capital Defendant Not Entitled to New Trial When His Attorney Failed to Investigate a Psychological Report Suggesting a Possible Organic Brain Disorder
A defendant charged with murder and facing a possible death sentence has a right to present mitigating evidence that weighs against the issuance of the death penalty. This can include evidence of a mental illness or mental retardation that demonstrates...
Children's Therapist Can Not Testify at Divorce Proceedings about Mother's Behavior
A court presiding over divorce proceedings in Virginia must consider the "mental condition of each parent" in making custody or visitation arrangements. At the same time, as in most states, statements made to a licensed mental health care provider...
Commonwealth Pays $85,000 after Resident at Geriatric-Psychiatric Facility Attacks Another Resident; Greater Number of Violent Attacks on Geriatric Residents in General Linked to Increase in Lawsuits
A medical malpractice claim brought against the Commonwealth of Virginia following the death of a resident at a state-operated geriatric/psychiatric facility was settled prior to trial for $85,000. Two days after being admitted, the resident was attacked...
Competence to Stand Trial Determination Should Be Closely Reviewed; Stale Evaluations Insufficient Basis for Findings of Competence; Ruling Not Disturbed
The Ninth Circuit ordered a rehearing on a California trial judge's ruling that a defendant was competent to stand trial (CST). Although considerable deference is typically given to a trial judge's factual determinations, the Ninth Circuit held that...
Connecticut Supreme Court Mandates That Juries Generally Be Informed of the Risks Inherent in Eyewitness Identification Procedures When the Eyewitness Has Not Been Warned That the Perpetrator May Not Be Present
A unanimous Connecticut Supreme Court has crafted a jury instruction that generally must be given in trials when an eyewitness identification is entered into evidence. The court noted that psychological studies document that a witness is more likely...
Coverage Denied under Homeowner's Insurance Policy Because Acts That Resulted from Mental Illness Considered "Intentional" Acts; Ruling Not Disturbed
For no apparent reason, a married couple's son shot a woman outside a health care facility. They and their son, who lived with them, were sued by the shooting victim. They attempted to rely on their homeowners' insurance policy to cover damages that...
Death Sentence Overturned Because Defendant's Lawyers Did Not Examine Case File from an Earlier Conviction That Would Have Indicated Defendant's Diminished Mental Capacity
A defendant charged with murder and facing a possible death sentence has a right to present mitigating evidence that weighs against the death penalty. This can include evidence of a mental illness or mental retardation that demonstrates the defendant's...
FDA Publicizes Steps Taken to Warn of Risks Associated with Pair of Drugs Used to Treat Psychiatric Disorders
On September 27, 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted on its Web site a warning that the popular antidepressant Paxil may increase the risk of birth defects if pregnant women take it during the first trimester. The FDA acted after the...
Federal Act Trumps State's Medical Marijuana Law
The federal Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 classifies all controlled substances into one of five schedules, with Schedule I drugs considered to have the highest potential for abuse and to lack any accepted medical use....
Florida Sex Offender Registration and Notification Scheme Upheld; Ruling Not Disturbed
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a series of challenges to the sex offender registration and notification statutes of various states. See Connecticut Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003); Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003). Among the issues...
Guardian Ad Litems, Social Workers Given Immunity for Efforts to Protect Individuals Lacking Decision-Making Capacity; Ruling Not Disturbed
Every state has a mechanism that enables a state or local agency to intervene to protect vulnerable individuals when the care they are receiving is deemed inadequate. This protection is typically afforded children, elder persons, and adults who lack...
High Court of New York Affirms Dismissal of Complaint Focused on Sexual Relationship Occurring during Pastoral Counseling; Ruling Not Disturbed
A married couple obtained individual counseling services from their church pastor. In the course of this counseling, the wife and the pastor developed a sexual relationship that lasted several months. After the husband discovered the affair, the couple...
HIPAA Did Not Preclude Psychotherapist from Reporting That 16-Year-Old Boy Saw Child Pornography on His Father's Home Computer
A sixteen-year-old boy disclosed to his psychotherapist that he saw (1) pornographic images of children on his father's computer at home and (2) his father sitting naked at his computer in front of a webcam. Although there was no indication the father...
Illinois Limits Placement of Convicted Sex Offenders in Long-Term Care Facilities
Placement in a long-term care facility may be necessitated by a significant cognitive impairment, such as may occur in individuals with dementia. Because of these impairments or other infirmities, residents of these facilities are highly vulnerable....
IOM Report Focuses on Enhancing the Quality of Care Provided Individuals with Mental Health or Substance Abuse Problems
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies in 1999 issued a report entitled "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System" that identified a large number of preventable medical errors. In 2001, the IOM issued a follow-up report, "Crossing...
Lay Testimony to Support an Insanity Defense Permitted Only When Accompanied by Expert Testimony; Testimony by Licensed Clinical Social Worker Excluded
The challenge faced by the defendant at trial was that the court-appointed evaluator had determined that, although the defendant experienced psychotic symptoms (including hearing voices that he believed to be from God) at the time of the offense, the...
Medical Center Has a Duty to Protect Emergency Room Patients from Attacks but Not When the Attack Was a Surprise
The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that although a medical center has a duty to protect emergency room patients from criminal attacks, a hospital is not liable for the injuries that resulted when a teenage boy attacked a woman seated in the waiting...
Misrepresentations by Insurance Plan of Availability of Mental Health Benefits Can Not Serve as Basis for Consumer's Claim of Common-Law Fraud
Individuals contemplating enrollment in a behavioral managed care plan are typically provided a description of available mental health services. When these services are not forthcoming following enrollment, they may file a legal claim against the administrators...
New Standards of Professional Conduct for the Practice of Medicine Issued
The Virginia Board of Medicine has issued new regulations governing the professional conduct of practitioners of medicine (as well as osteopathy, podiatry, and chiropractic), many of which have relevance for mental health professionals. A violation...
New York Enacts Geriatric Mental Health Act
New York has passed legislation entitled the Geriatric Mental Health Act, which has been described as the first enactment in the country designed to address the growing mental health challenges posed by older adults. Beginning April 1, 2006, the law...
New York's High Court Rules That Testimony by Prosecutor's 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 to expand the information on which they rely beyond their examination of the defendant and the clinical record to include third-party data from sources such as family and acquaintances of the...
New York's Involuntary Hospitalization of Sex Offenders upon Release from Prison Ruled Illegal
Since 2001, at least five bills have been introduced but not enacted in New York to establish involuntary civil confinement of sex offenders. In October 2005 it was reported that New York's governor, unwilling to wait any longer for such legislation,...
Officials at Designated Hospital That Refused to Admit Emergency Detainee Can Be Held in Contempt, but Permitted to Refuse Admission If Hospital Lacks Adequate Space or Staff
In a case characterized as exemplifying "a national trend," the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a trial court has the authority to determine that hospital officials violated the law when they refused to admit a man deemed mentally ill and dangerous...
Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Statute Permitting Grandparents to Seek Visitation Rights but Requires That Special Weight Be Given to Parents' Objections
Historically, grandparents had no legal right to continue their relationship with their grandchildren when their own child (the grandchild's parent) died, divorced, or had his or her parental rights terminated. This position was based on the view that...
Parental Rights of Woman with Schizophrenia Terminated for Failing to Take Needed Medication
The Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that a woman's failure to consistently take the medication needed to control her mental illness could serve as the basis for terminating her parental rights. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, the woman lost custody of...
Police Cannot Be Sued under the Federal Constitution for Failing to Enforce a Restraining Order
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 opinion, ruled that the failure of the police to adequately enforce a restraining order does not constitute a constitutional violation and therefore individuals can not pursue a federal claim for harm resulting from...
Psychiatrist's Professional License Permanently Revoked for Sexual Misconduct
Licensing boards and reviewing courts have become less tolerant of sexual conduct by a mental health professional during therapy, with a number of jurisdictions adopting a per se rule that sex with a client violates professional rules of conduct. However,...
Random Drug Tests of State Employees Providing Mental Health Services to Prisoners and to Residents of State Hospitals Upheld; Ruling Not Disturbed
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the Sixth Circuit that upheld a random drug testing program imposed by the State of Michigan on various state employees. Among the employees subject to testing are psychiatrists, psychologists,...
Reforming Civil Commitment in Virginia
I am truly honored to welcome you today to this conference that is sponsored by the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Virginia State Bar. When I began my tenure as Chief Justice, one of my most important priorities was to reform Virginia's mental...
Reforming Civil Commitment: Serving Consumers' Needs While Protecting Their Rights
Preface I am pleased to be here and to share the podium with the Chief Justice. For many years I have studied the laws that affect people with mental illness and have many thoughts about what these laws should look like. But I have been asked to...
Request for New Trial and Opportunity to Raise Insanity Defense Based on Newly Discovered Evidence of Dissociative Identity Disorder Refused
The use of diagnoses of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) tends to be particularly controversial in the legal system. Concerns have been raised about the validity of this diagnosis, its identification,...
Requirements for Forcibly Medicating a Defendant Found Incompetent to Stand Trial Delineated by Fourth Circuit
The U.S. Supreme Court in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), held that the government may involuntarily medicate a criminal defendant to render the defendant competent to stand trial even though the defendant does not pose a danger to self...
Sex Offender Registration and Therapy Cannot Be Imposed as a Condition of Parole on Texas Inmates Convicted of a Non-Sexual Offense without a Hearing in Which They Are Found to Constitute a Threat to Society Because of Their Lack of Sexual Control; Ruling Not Disturbed
Texas sometimes requires sex offender registration and sex offender therapy as a condition of release on parole from incarceration. While SVP commitment requires a hearing and is generally limited to offenders convicted of a specified sexual offense,...
Showing That a Father Poses a Serious Risk of Psychological or Emotional Harm to His Children Is a Sufficient Basis to Award Custody to Grandparents; Ruling Not Disturbed
Following a divorce, a bitter court battle over who should have custody of the children from the marriage often ensues. The dispute may focus on who is the children's "psychological parent" (i.e., the parent to whom the children are most emotionally...
Social Workers Immune from Liability for Failure to Adequately Investigate and File Documents concerning Reported Child Abuse; Ruling Not Disturbed
Every state has a mechanism for the reporting and investigation of child abuse and neglect, with many states, including Virginia, establishing similar mechanisms for abuse and neglect involving "aged or incapacitated adults." The United States Supreme...
Sovereign Immunity Bars ADA Suit against a State for Failing to Fund Community-Based Services through Medicaid
In many states there is a shortage of community placements and services for individuals with a developmental disability, even though these states created an entitlement to these community programs under their Medicaid program. Because the absence of...
States Can Limit the Number of Individuals with a Developmental Disability Participating in a Community Placement Medicaid Waiver Program without Violating the ADA
The federal Medicaid Act furnishes funds to the states to help them provide care to eligible low-income persons. Although states are not required to participate, if they accept this federal funding, which all fifty states do, they must comply with...
Statute of Limitations Held to Bar Personal Injury Suit against Catholic Diocese Based on 25-Year-Old Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse
A man who alleged that he recently recovered memories of sexual abuse some twenty-five years earlier by a nun who taught at his Catholic school had his lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Richmond dismissed because the claim was barred by the Virginia...
Texas Supreme Court Upholds SVP Commitments and Concludes That Incompetent Individuals Can Be Committed; Ruling Not Disturbed
Like at least sixteen other states, Texas permits a court to commit individuals who suffer from behavioral abnormalities that make them likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence. Unlike other states, persons adjudged to be a sexually violent...
Use of Five-Point Restraints on Inmates for 46-48 Hours without Procedural Checks Ruled Unconstitutional
Incarcerated individuals with a mental illness may be particularly prone to engage in disruptive behavior. When an inmate engages in disruptive behavior, correctional officials may respond in various ways. They may reduce the inmate's privileges, place...
Virginia Supreme Court Rejects Constitutional Challenges to Sexually Violent Predator Commitment Law
The U.S. Supreme Court in Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997), and Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002), defused most federal constitutional challenges to the civil commitment of sexual offenders under the sexually violent predator (SVP) statutes...
Wife Was Competent to Execute a Settlement Agreement Even Though Treating Psychiatrist Testified That When He Saw Her Four Days Later She Was in "Acute Stage" of Bipolar Affective Disorder
To be binding, both parties to a contractual agreement must be mentally competent. Under Virginia law, each party is presumed to be competent and a party later seeking to establish incompetence has a "heavy burden" to show by clear and convincing evidence...

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.