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Juresic v. Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities

April 06, 1998

C.J., K.M., AND THOMAS JURESIC, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

No. 96 CO 80

Honorable James F. Henry, Judge Presiding.

delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiffs C.J., K.M., and Thomas Juresic filed this civil action seeking injunctive relief against defendant, the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (Department). Plaintiffs are criminal acquittees who were confined at the Elgin Mental Health Center (Elgin) after a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI). On March 29, 1996, plaintiffs filed suit against the Department challenging a policy that they allege does not allow the facility director of Elgin to exercise her professional judgment to consider whether any of the plaintiffs should be recommended for an unsupervised, on-grounds pass.

The complaint asserts that the facility director should be permitted to exercise professional judgment in making this determination. Plaintiffs ask the court to require that the Department allow the facility director of Elgin Mental Health Center to exercise professional judgment when giving individual consideration in determining whether to recommend NGRI acquittees for unsupervised on- grounds passes. The complaint is not asking the court to order the Department to require the facility director of Elgin to recommend all NGRI acquittees at Elgin for unsupervised on-grounds passes.

Plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief against the policy of the Department, alleging that it violates Illinois law and the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const. amend. XIV, §1). The question presented is whether plaintiffs have substantive rights under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code of the State of Illinois (hereinafter Mental Health Code)(405 ILCS 5/2-102)(West 1994)) and under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, which have been allegedly violated by the practices of the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities regarding the issuance of unsupervised on- grounds passes to NGRI acquittees. Plaintiffs also filed a motion for class certification. In response, the Department filed a motion to dismiss under section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1994). The trial court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss on all counts and denied the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. It is from this order that the plaintiffs appeal.

On appeal, the plaintiffs assert the following: (1) the circuit court erred in dismissing each of the plaintiffs' eight counts for failure to state a cause of action; (2) the Department's policy that does not permit the facility director of the Elgin Mental Health Center to exercise her professional judgment on whether to recommend any of the plaintiffs for unsupervised on-grounds passes violates the Mental Health Code and the fourteenth amendment; (3) the circuit court erred in dismissing this case for lack of jurisdiction; and (4) the circuit court abused its discretion in denying plaintiffs' motion for class certification. FACTS Plaintiffs allege that before May 30, 1990, certain NGRI acquittees received recommendations for unsupervised, on-grounds passes which, if approved by the court, permitted these acquittees to walk unescorted on most of the 80-acre Elgin grounds during daylight hours for up to two hours at a time. In May 1990, two persons acquitted by reason of insanity escaped from Elgin while using their unsupervised on- grounds pass privileges.

The complaint further alleges that on May 30, 1990, the Department unilaterally terminated the issuance of these passes for NGRI acquittees and revoked the passes of those already in possession of the privilege. In the months following the May 30, 1990, termination of on-grounds passes for all NGRI acquittees at Elgin, a 12-foot fence was built around the forensic facilities at Elgin.

Plaintiffs allege the determination to revoke the unsupervised on- grounds passes was made with respect to all NGRI acquittees at the Elgin facility and that no individual determinations were made regarding suitability for such a pass. Though the Department still issues what is called an "unsupervised, on-grounds pass," plaintiffs claim that on May 30, 1990, the substance of this privilege was dramatically altered. Rather than permitting NGRI acquittees with passes to freely travel the grounds of Elgin, plaintiffs contend that the possession of this pass only allows them to walk through a 200-foot-long screened-in passageway between two residential buildings, completely monitored by security personnel. ANALYSIS

The Department's motion to dismiss originally brought pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure was subsequently brought as an amended motion to dismiss under section 2-619.

In ruling on a section 2-619 motion to dismiss, a court may consider pleadings, depositions, and affidavits. Ozuk v. River Grove Board of Education, 281 Ill. App. 3d 239, 666 N.E.2d 687 (1996). We review a trial court's dismissal of a complaint under section 2-619 de novo. Metrick v. Chatz, 266 Ill. App. 3d 649, 652, 639 N.E.2d 198 (1994); Golden v. Mullen, No. 1-96-2931 (August 22, 1997). For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, we must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and all inferences that can reasonably be drawn in plaintiff's favor from those facts; dismissal is proper only if no facts may be proven by which the plaintiff can recover. Griffin v. Fluellen, 283 Ill. App. 3d 1078, 1083, 670 N.E.2d 845 (1996).

The question on appeal is whether the existence of a genuine issue of material fact should have precluded dismissal or, absent such an issue of fact, whether dismissal was proper as a matter of law. Illinois Graphics Co. v. Nickum, 159 Ill. 2d 469, 639 N.E.2d 1282 (1994).

We first address plaintiffs' contention that the trial court was incorrect to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the most appropriate forum for this case was before the criminal court Judges who have ongoing supervisory responsibility for plaintiffs. The record indicates that despite the trial Judge's statement to this effect, he also stated that his court did have jurisdiction in the case and that venue was proper. Thus the rationale for his dismissal on a jurisdictional basis is unclear.

The present cause is a civil action seeking to obtain injunctive relief for claims arising out of alleged violations of the Mental Health Code and the United States Constitution. As the circuit court is a court of general jurisdiction, we find no reason for finding that the case was improperly before the trial court. Ferndale Heights Utility Co. v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 112 Ill. App. 3d 175, 445 N.E.2d 334 (1982).

We now turn to the substantive basis of the plaintiffs' complaint, and we will address each count of the complaint individually. I. COUNT I

In count I of the complaint, plaintiffs allege that the Department's policy regarding unsupervised on-grounds passes violates the "least restrictive environment" mandate found in section 2-102(a) of the Mental Health Code. This statute provides:

"A recipient of services shall be provided with adequate and humane care and services in the least restrictive environment***." 405 ILCS 5/2-102(a) (West 1994).

All of plaintiffs' statutory claims arise from alleged violations of the Mental Health Code. However, these claims must be examined in the context of section 5-2-4 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code of Corrections), which provides for the involuntary admission of criminal defendants found to be NGRI. 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4 (West 1994).

Illinois law provides that the admission, detention, care, treatment or habilitation, review proceedings and discharge of NGRI defendants shall be under the Mental Health Code. 405 ILCS 5/1-100 (West 1994); 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(b) (West 1994). However, the statutes explicitly provide that in the event of a conflict between the Code of Corrections and the Mental Health Code, the provisions of the Code of Corrections shall govern. 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(k) (West 1994). When unsupervised on-grounds privileges are involved, then only section 5-2- 4(b) of the Code of Corrections applies. People v. Chiakulas, 288 Ill. App. 3d 248, 681 N.E.2d 35 (1997).

Section 5-2-4 of the Code of Corrections is "tailor-made" for NGRI acquittees because the "presence of danger is recognized, and protection of the public is a major function of the statutory provision." People v. Ferguson, 238 Ill. App. 3d 448, 455, 603 N.E.2d 1257, 1261 (1992). "The primary objective of section 5-2-4 is to insure that insanity acquittees are not indeterminately institutionalized while at the same time protecting society from the premature release of mentally ill persons who have been proved capable of dangerous acts." People v. Winston, 191 Ill. App. 3d 948, 959, 548 N.E.2d 406, 414 (1989).

Turning to the specific allegations in count I, section 5-2-4 of the Code of Corrections states that NGRI acquittees should be "placed in a secure setting unless the Court determines that there are compelling reasons why such placement is not necessary." 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(a)(West 1994). Though plaintiffs allege that the policy of denying unsupervised on-grounds privileges violates the requirement that recipients of services under the Mental Health Code must be placed in the "least restrictive" setting, we find that this particular section must be read in conjunction with section 5-2-4. The "secure setting" provided for in section 5-2-4 of the Code of Corrections is in effect the least restrictive environment permitted for NGRI acquittees under the law, in the absence of compelling reasons for other placement.

This issue was addressed in the federal court case Maust v. Headley, 959 F.2d 644 (7th Cir. 1992). Plaintiff Maust, a criminal defendant who had been found unfit to stand trial, challenged his transfer from one mental health facility to another. He claimed the transfer violated his right to treatment in the "least restrictive mental health institution." Maust, 959 F.2d at 646. The same court, in Johnson v. Brelje, 701 F.2d 1201 (7th Cir. 1983), previously held that a criminal defendant found unfit to stand trial had a protectable liberty interest in being confined to the least restrictive mental health institution. However, the Maust court noted that this decision was made prior to the adoption of the language in section 5-2-4, that mandates placement of NGRI acquittees and other such persons in a "secure setting." Maust, 959 F.2d at 647-48. The court found that this amendatory language created a conflict between the Mental Health Code and the Code of Corrections with regard to placement of those found unfit to stand trial, and held the conflict should be resolved in favor of the Code of Corrections, as required by statute. Maust, 959 F.2d at 647-48.

The same rationale applies to the NGRI plaintiffs in the present case. Section 3-814 of the Mental Health Code states:

"If the [recipient of services] has been ordered committed to the facility after he has been found not guilty by reason of insanity, the treatment plan and its review shall be subject to the provisions of Section 5-2-4 of the Unified Code of Corrections." 405 ILCS 5/3-814 (West 1994).

Section 5-2-4 of the Unified Code of Corrections states, in relevant part:

"The defendant shall be placed in a secure setting unless the Court determines that there are compelling reasons why such placement is not necessary. Such defendants placed in a secure setting shall not be permitted outside the facility's housing unit unless escorted or accompanied by personnel of the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities or with the prior approval of ...


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