Developments in Mental Health Law

Articles from Vol. 26, No. 1, January

A Cloudy Crystal Ball: Concerns regarding the Use of Juvenile Psychopathy Scores in Judicial Waiver Hearings
Arrogant, shameless, immoral, impulsive, antisocial, superficial, alert, self-assured, boastful, callous, remorseless, charming, irresponsible. This is the poisonous mix of traits that make up the psychopathic personality. Psychopaths file in and out...
Alaska Supreme Court Joins Other States in Ruling That, Unless There Is an Emergency, Psychotropic Medication Can Be Administered over Objection to an Involuntarily Hospitalized Person Only If a Judge First Finds That the Medication Is in the Person's Best Interests and No Less Intrusive Treatment Is Available
Joining other state high courts (Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio), the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that, absent an emergency, psychotropic drugs can not be administered over objection to an individual who has been involuntarily committed...
Before Liability Can Be Imposed, Plaintiff Must Show Not Only That a Patient's Suicide Was Foreseeable, but Also Establish the Applicable Standard of Care, That the Psychiatrist Breached This Standard, and That the Breach Was a Proximate Cause of the Suicide
A significant risk of mental illness is suicide. Because mental health professionals should be aware of this risk of suicide in general, it has been argued that when a client's suicide is foreseeable, a failure to take steps that might have prevented...
Citing School District's Authority to Protect and Promote the Mental Health of Its Students, Ninth Circuit Upholds Administration of a Psychological Survey to Elementary School Children That Probes Various Sexual Topics; Ruling Not Disturbed
A graduate student in psychology worked with a California school district to develop and administer a psychological assessment questionnaire for first, third, and fifth grade students. The announced goal of the survey was to "establish a community...
Claim That State Violated ADA by Not Providing Sufficient Funding for Home and Community-Based Medicaid-Funded Services for Adults with a Developmental Disability Not Barred by Sovereign Immunity
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits public entities, including any state government, from excluding from their services, programs, or activities any qualified individuals with a mental or physical disability. However,...
Constitutional Claim for Forcible Removal by Police from Home for Mental Health Treatment Dismissed; Ruling Not Disturbed
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit dismissed a woman's claim that police officers violated her Fourth Amendment rights when they entered her home without a warrant and allegedly used excessive force in removing her from her home...
Conviction of Mother Who Had Been Found Guilty of Criminal Charge for Failing to Maintain Adequate Home Conditions for Child Who Committed Suicide Overturned
The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a mother who had been found guilty of creating a risk of injury to a child with a cluttered and unclean home that placed her son in a situation that was likely to injure his mental health....
Correct Calculation of Inmate's Score on Designated Actuarial Instrument a Prerequisite for an Inmate to Be Civilly Committed in Virginia as a Sexually Violent Predator
Virginia, like a number of other states, has enacted statutory provisions for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators. Va. Code [section][section] 37.2-90 to -920 (2006). This law is unique, however, in that Virginia was the first state...
Courtroom Can Be Cleared before a Child Victim Testifies; Ruling Not Disturbed
Because of the potential importance and impact of judicial decisions, the general rule in the United States has been that the public can observe courtroom proceedings. However, various exceptions to this rule have been proposed, particularly when relatively...
Criminal Defendant Found to Lack Rational Understanding of the Proceedings and Determined to Be Incompetent to Stand Trial
In a relatively infrequent ruling, the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia found a criminal defendant incompetent to stand trial because the defendant lacked a rational understanding of the proceedings. Under the established...
Defendant Who Initiates an Appeal of His Death Sentence Can Not Later Waive the Appeal, Even Though He Has Been Found Competent and His Waiver Is Determined to Be Voluntary
Although not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2004), two mental health-related syndromes have been identified by some mental health professionals as germane to prison inmates awaiting execution. One of these,...
Experience Can Qualify an Individual as an Expert Witness and a Licensed Professional Counselor Can Provide Testimony That a Purported Victim of Child Sexual Abuse Suffers from PTSD
Lay witnesses testifying in a court proceeding generally can only describe what they observed and are not allowed to give their opinions about inferences to be drawn from these observations. In contrast, expert witnesses may do so if their opinion...
Federal Judge Enjoins California Law That Would Limit the Access of Minors to Violent Video Games
A federal district court judge in California joined a number of other federal judges in questioning the constitutionality of a law limiting the access of minors to violent video games. The California law defined a "violent video game" in part as one...
Forced Grooming Found to Constitute Patient Abuse and to Be Grounds for Removal of Psychiatric Nurse from Her Position
The level of grooming and personal hygiene can be a source of ongoing tension and conflict between residents and staff in a facility for individuals with a mental disorder. A failure to attend to grooming and hygiene may antagonize staff and other...
Fourth Circuit Rejects Various Mental Health-Related Claims Asserted by Capital Defendant and Affirms Death Penalty; Ruling Not Disturbed
In reviewing the appeal of Brandon Wayne Hedrick, who was convicted by a Virginia jury of capital murder, the Fourth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals rejected a pair of assertions that are often raised on appeal in death penalty cases:...
In Federal Court, a Forensic Psychologist Can Disclose Information to a Jury That Constitutes Hearsay If Its Probative Value Substantially Outweighs Its Prejudicial Effect; Fourth Circuit Does Not Address Crawford Issue
Mental health professionals conducting forensic evaluations generally rely on a wide range of information in reaching their opinions. However, because the sources of that information may not be available for cross-examination, an objection may be raised...
Man Who Attempted to Commit Suicide after Discharge from Emergency Room Can Pursue EMTALA and Medical Malpractice Claim against Hospital
A federal judge in Tennessee allowed a case to continue that addresses a scenario that may be played out when respite services are not available to individuals with a mental illness. The man who brought the lawsuit alleged that he arrived at the emergency...
Medicaid Act Does Not Require States to Provide Services to Individuals with a Developmental Disability
States have become highly dependent on federal funding to support their mental health systems. Much of this funding is provided by the Medicaid program. Because this funding has favored community care over state-maintained or funded beds in a hospital-like...
New Jersey Statute Shielding Mental Health Practitioners from Liability Does Not Apply When Practitioner Has Abandoned a Patient Who Subsequently Commits Suicide
In 1976, the California Supreme Court in Tarasoff v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal. (Cal. 1976) ruled that a therapist treating a patient with mental illness owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect a foreseeable victim if the therapist knew...
New York's Involuntary Hospitalization of Sex Offenders upon Release from Prison Ruled Illegal
Responding to the New York legislature's unwillingness to pass legislation permitting convicted sex offenders to be civilly committed upon their release from prison, Gov. George E. Pataki in September 2005 had twelve men nearing the end of their prison...
No "Recent Overt Act" Required to Justify Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predator; Ruling Not Disturbed
In recent years, most of the appellate court rulings pertaining to civil commitment have addressed provisions for the civil commitment of a sexually violent predator (SVP). Although both civil commitment in general and SVP commitment in particular...
Oklahoma Psychiatrist Responding to a Mental Health Emergency Protected by Good Samaritan Statute
Legislatures across the country in recent years have enacted what are known as Good Samaritan Laws in response to reports that physicians are reluctant to stop and respond to medical emergencies they encounter outside their practice because of concerns...
Parents of a Developmentally Disabled Autistic Adult Lack Standing to Pursue Federal Civil Rights Action on Behalf of a Daughter Removed from Their Home Once Permanent Conservator Appointed; Ruling Not Disturbed
The United States Supreme Court declined to review a ruling by the Ninth Circuit that the parents of an adult autistic woman lack standing (i.e., legal status) to pursue a federal civil rights action on behalf of themselves and their daughter challenging...
"State-Created Danger" Doctrine Can Be Used to Hold a Municipality and Its Police Officer Liable for a Federal Constitutional Claim That the Officer Wrongfully Placed a Woman in Peril from a Teenager Known to Be Violent and Failed to Notify and Protect the Woman as Promised
The United States Supreme Court in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept of Soc. Serv. (1989) established that the failure of an agent of a state or local government to protect a person from harm from another individual does not generally violate the federal...
Suicide Attempt Does Not Automatically Establish Grounds for Ordering an Evaluation of a Defendant's Competence to Stand Trial
The Virginia Court of Appeals held that a suicide attempt is not a per se basis for ordering an evaluation of a criminal defendant's competence to stand trial. In the case under review, the defendant had pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine...
Trial Verdict Assigning Death Penalty to Daryl Atkins Because Jury Found He Was Not Mentally Retarded Reversed Because of Improper Expert Testimony and Inappropriate Jury Instructions
In a Virginia case that involves a potential death penalty, a defendant's claim of mental retardation, and the influential role played by mental health expert testimony, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed a jury verdict that determined that Daryl...
Violent Videogames, Crime, and the Law: Looking for Proof of a Causal Connection
I. Introduction Someone, usually an adolescent boy or a young man, commits a brutal murder, or series of murders. It is discovered that he had a penchant for, if not obsession with, extremely graphic, violent videogames. Headlines read, "How to...
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