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March 31, 1994



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickels

JUSTICE NICKELS delivered the opinion of the court:

We have consolidated in this proceeding four petitions for writ of mandamus, brought pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 381 (134 Ill. 2d R. 381). Petitioners, Joseph Radazewski, Hosie Williams, Larry Murray, and James Infanto, were insanity acquittees confined to mental health care facilities at the time each filed for mandamus. Petitioners had each requested a hearing from respondents, who are circuit court Judges, to determine whether they are entitled to release from these facilities. In this consolidated mandamus proceeding, petitioners allege that respondent Judges have failed to grant them timely hearings and ask us to compel respondents to do so.

I. Background

Before addressing the petitions, we note that, after the individual petitions for mandamus were consolidated, petitioner Infanto withdrew his petition for release and was dismissed from this proceeding. Therefore, we do not consider his petition any further.

The facts are essentially the same for the remaining three petitioners. Each petitioner was charged with a felony and found not guilty by reason of insanity. Each was then placed in the custody of the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and involuntarily admitted to a mental health care facility, pursuant to section 5-2-4 of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-2-4 (West 1992)). While at these mental health care facilities, petitioners each sent petitions requesting release to the clerk of the court, the State's Attorney, and the Judge who found them subject to involuntary admission.

In the petitions, petitioners requested the appointment of counsel (see 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(c) (West 1992)), the scheduling of an impartial examination by a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist (see 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(f) (West 1992)), and a hearing within 30 days of receipt of the petitions to determine whether they should be released (730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(e) (West 1992)). Section 5-2-4(e) provides:

"A defendant admitted pursuant to this Section, or any person on his behalf, may file a petition for * * * discharge or conditional release under the standards of this Section in the court which rendered the verdict. Upon receipt of a petition * * *, the court shall set a hearing to be held within 30 days. Thereafter, no new petition may be filed for 60 days without leave of the court." (Emphasis added.) (730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(e) (West 1992).)

Petitioners filed their mandamus actions in this court when they did not receive the requested hearings within the statutory 30-day period.

Initially, we note that, since filing for writs of mandamus, petitioners have received the hearings they requested, or had one scheduled, even though thehearings have not been held within the designated 30-day period. Respondent Judge Cawley received Williams' petition for release in November 1992; Judge Cawley conducted a hearing in March 1993. Respondent Judge Bart received Murray's petitions in November 1990, February 1992, and January 1993; a release hearing was conducted in January 1994, before a Judge other than Judge Bart. Respondent Judge Disko received Radazewski's petition for a release hearing in November 1992. Radazewski's case has since been reassigned to a different Judge, and a hearing is scheduled for April 1994.

Accordingly, petitioners have each received the relief they request in this consolidated action for mandamus, the scheduling of a hearing on their release petitions. We will not compel circuit court Judges to do something that has already been done. Thus, the writs of mandamus must be denied. Ordinarily, when "events occur which make it impossible for the court to grant effectual relief," an issue becomes moot. Dixon v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. (1992), 151 Ill. 2d 108, 116, 176 Ill. Dec. 6, 601 N.E.2d 704.

This court, however, will examine an issue that would otherwise be moot if the issue fits an exception to the mootness doctrine. ( In re A Minor (1989), 127 Ill. 2d 247, 257, 130 Ill. Dec. 225, 537 N.E.2d 292.) We find that this action fits the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine. The criteria for applying this exception include: "(1) the public nature of the question, (2) the desirability of an authoritative determination for the purpose of guiding public officers, and (3) the likelihood that the question will generally recur." ( In re A Minor, 127 Ill. 2d at 257.) The liberty interest of insanity acquittees in seeking a prompt hearing is clearly of public concern. (See Foucha v. Louisiana (1992), 504 U.S. , 118 L. Ed. 2d 437, 112 S. Ct. 1780.) In addition, circuit court Judges are notuniform in their approach to scheduling release hearings and need guidance. Finally, the issue is likely to recur because the statute allows insanity acquittees to file new release petitions periodically. We therefore address the merits. The sole issue we consider is whether the statute requires circuit court Judges to conduct hearings within 30 days of receiving release petitions.

II. Statutory Time Limitation

Petitioners argue that the 30-day provision in the statute is mandatory and gives circuit court Judges no discretion. They contend that the plain language of the statute requires that ...

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