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People v. George O.

July 26, 2000

IN RE GEORGE O., ASSERTED TO BE A PERSON SUBJECT TO INVOLUNTARY ADMISSION
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
V.
GEORGE O.,
RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois No. 99-MH-51 Honorable Richard Grawey Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Koehler

The respondent, George O., appeals from the Peoria County circuit court's final order that he was subject to involuntary admission and ordering him hospitalized in the Zeller Mental Health Institute for 30 days. This court must decide the following question: Does the State's failure to establish that it strictly complied with the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code's (405 ILCS 5/1-100 et seq. (West 1994)) mandatory involuntary admission procedural safeguards warrant a reversal? Because we conclude that the State's noncompliance with the statutorily prescribed involuntary commitment procedures renders the circuit court's judgment erroneous, we reverse.

FACTS

On February 23, 1999, respondent George O.'s sister executed a petition for his emergency involuntary admission (the petition) pursuant to section 3-601 of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (the Code)(405 ILCS 5/3-601 (West 1992)). At 1:50 a.m. on February 24, Robert Johnston, M.D., executed a certificate pursuant to section 3-602 (405 ILCS 5/3-602 (West 1992)), but he failed to name George O. on the certificate. At 4 a.m., the Illinois Valley Community Hospital admitted George O. In this first certificate, Dr. Johnson stated that the unnamed individual was mentally ill and reasonably expected to inflict serious physical harm on himself or another and unable to care for his basic needs, but he did not indicate that the individual was in need of immediate hospitalization and subject to involuntary admission. Later that day, the hospital timely filed the petition in La Salle County circuit court. At 2:15 p.m. that day, D. Hinshaw, M.D., examined George O. and executed a second certificate.

On February 25, George O.'s cause was transferred to Peoria County circuit court, where the petition and the two above-mentioned medical certificates were filed at 3:24 p.m. Athena Guzman, M.D., filed a third medical certificate on February 26 at 11 a.m., reflecting her examination of George O. that occurred at 2 p.m. on February 25, in Peoria at Zeller Mental Health Institute (Zeller). The Peoria County circuit court appointed counsel for George O. After a March 3 hearing, during which George O. and Dr. Jayalakshmi Attaluri, George's treating psychiatrist at Zeller, testified, the circuit court concluded that the State proved by clear and convincing evidence that George O. had a serious mental illness and that it could reasonably be expected that, if George O. were discharged, he would inflict serious harm to himself in the near future. Consequently, the circuit court found George O. subject to involuntary admission and ordered him hospitalized in the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for 30 days. George O. appeals.

ANALYSIS

At the outset, we note that our standard of review is de novo, as the issue before this court involves a question of law. People v. Carlson, 185 Ill. 2d 546, 551, 708 N.E.2d 372, 374 (1999).

"Involuntary admission procedures represent the legislature's attempt to balance the individual's interest in liberty against society's dual interests in protecting itself from dangerous mentally ill persons and caring for those who are unable to care for themselves. [Citation.] The Code's procedural safeguards are not mere technicalities. [Citation.] Rather, they are essential tools to safeguard the liberty interests of respondents in mental health cases. [Citation.] Because involuntary admission proceedings pose a grave threat to an individual's liberty interests, the Code's procedural safeguards should be strictly construed in favor of the respondent. [Citation.]" In re Rovelstad, 281 Ill. App. 3d 956, 964-65, 667 N.E.2d 720, 725 (1996).

George O. contends that the circuit court's order finding him subject to involuntary admission must be reversed because the State (1) failed to comply with section 3-602 when the first certificate required by this section did not state his name, that he was subject to involuntary commitment, and that he required immediate hospitalization; (2) failed to show that he had been examined by a psychiatrist within 24 hours after admission as required by section 3-610; and (3) failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he was subject to involuntary admission.

The State conversely maintains that (1) the circuit court's order was proper, as clear and convincing evidence established by Dr. Attaluri's testimony showed that George O. was subject to involuntary admission because he suffered from a severe mental illness and, due to his past abuse of alcohol, depression, suicidal ideations, access to firearms and marital difficulties, he was reasonably expected to inflict serious harm on himself or another in the near future; (2) George O. waived his right to appeal any procedural deficiencies when he failed to preserve the issue in the circuit court; and (3), in the alternative, the circuit court had jurisdiction and any procedural deficiency did not prejudice George O. and was, therefore, harmless.

Section 3-602 of Article VI, governing emergency admissions by certification under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, provides:

"The petition shall be accompanied by a certificate executed by a physician, qualified examiner, or clinical psychologist which states that the respondent is subject to involuntary admission and requires immediate hospitalization. The certificate shall indicate that the physician, qualified examiner, or clinical psychologist personally examined the respondent not more that 72 hours prior to admission. It shall also contain the physician's, qualified examiner's, or clinical psychologist's clinical observations, other factual information relied upon in reaching a diagnosis, and a statement as to whether the respondent was advised of his rights under Section 3-208." 405 ILCS 5/3-602 (West 1992).

Section 3-604 states:

"No person detained for examination under this Article on the basis of a petition alone may be held for more than 24 hours unless within that period a certificate is furnished to or by the mental health facility. If no certificate is furnished, the ...


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