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People v. Jones

February 02, 2001

IN RE EMMETT JONES, ALLEGED TO BE A PERSON SUBJECT TO THE INVOLUNTARY ADMINISTRATION OF PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATION
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE
v.
EMMETT JONES, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).
IN RE KIMBRA WHEELER, ALLEGED TO BE A PERSON SUBJECT TO INVOLUNTARY ADMISSION
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE
v.
KIMBRA WHEELER, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 98-MH-248 Honorable Lewis E. Mallott, Judge, presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 00-MH-120 Honorable Daniel J. Stack, Judge, presiding.

Justices: Honorable Clyde L. Kuehn, J. Honorable Gordon E. Maag, J., and Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., Concur

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

Emmett Jones appeals from an order of the circuit court of Madison County authorizing the administration of psychotropic medication to him. Kimbra Wheeler appeals from an order of the circuit court of Madison County subjecting her to involuntary admission. These appeals have been consolidated for review. We reverse.

On October 26, 1999, Jagannah Patil, M.D., Jones's treating psychiatrist, filed a petition naming Jones for the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication pursuant to section 2-107.1 of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (the Code) (405 ILCS 5/2-107.1 (West 1998)). On November 4, 1999, the case was called for a hearing on the petition. At this hearing, a guardian ad litem was appointed to "represent the interest of the Respondent." The record demonstrates that the guardian ad litem appointed is a licensed attorney. At the close of Jones's hearing, the trial court entered an order finding that Jones was a person subject to the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication, and the court authorized the Department of Human Services to administer the medications specified in the order.

On April 18, 2000, James Bigby, a mental-health-case manager, filed a petition naming Wheeler for involuntary admission. On April 20, 2000, the case was called for a hearing on the petition. Prior to the presentation of evidence, Wheeler's court-appointed guardian ad litem, a licensed attorney, advised the court that Wheeler wished to proceed pro se. The trial court made no inquiry of Wheeler and advised the guardian ad litem "to at least assist her." The guardian ad litem was appointed to "represent the interest of the Respondent." At the close of Wheeler's hearing, the trial court found Wheeler to be a person subject to involuntary admission, and the court ordered her hospitalized in the Department of Human Services.

On appeal, Jones and Wheeler urge us to reverse the orders of the trial court because there was a failure to strictly comply with the Code. Specifically, Jones and Wheeler contend that the trial court wrongfully appointed a guardian ad litem to represent their interests rather than an attorney to advocate on their behalf. In addition, Jones alleges that he was not given timely notice of the November 4, 1999, hearing and that the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he lacked the capacity to make a reasoned decision about psychotropic medication. In her appeal, Wheeler additionally argues that the trial court's order must be reversed because no psychiatrist, clinical social worker, or clinical psychologist who had examined her testified at the hearing. These contentions present disputed questions of law that we review de novo. See Statler v. Catalano, 293 Ill. App. 3d 483, 485-86, 691 N.E.2d 384, 386 (1997).

We begin by noting that these cases are moot. The underlying judgments, entered by the circuit court in 1999 and 2000, were limited in duration to a period of 90 days and 180 days, respectively. Those periods have passed. However, these cases fall within the exception to the mootness doctrine because the periods for involuntary commitment and involuntary administration of medication are too short to permit review, and the same actions will likely be taken against each respondent in the future. See In re Barbara H., 183 Ill. 2d 482, 491-92, 702 N.E.2d 555, 559-60 (1998). We therefore address these appeals on the merits.

Persons who suffer from mental illness have constitutionally protected liberty interests that permit them to refuse involuntary commitment and the administration of psychotropic medications. In re Williams, 305 Ill. App. 3d 506, 509, 712 N.E.2d 350, 352 (1999). Any legislation that infringes upon these liberty interests must bear an important and substantial relationship to the State's interest in providing for mentally ill people who present a danger to themselves or others or who lack the capacity to make informed decisions concerning psychotropic medications. Williams, 305 Ill. App. 3d at 509, 712 N.E.2d at 352. Because involuntary commitment and the involuntary administration of medications affect important liberty interests, strict compliance with the Code's procedural safeguards is required to insure that the mental health system does not become a tool to oppress rather than to serve society. Williams, 305 Ill. App. 3d at 509, 712 N.E.2d at 352.

These cases have been consolidated because they share one dispositive issue on review. Jones and Wheeler both contend that the trial court's orders must be reversed because, contrary to the Code, the trial court failed to appoint counsel to advocate on their behalf. We agree.

The conduct of both hearings was governed by article VIII of chapter 3 of the Code (405 ILCS 5/3-800 et seq. (West 1998)), which includes section 3-805 (405 ILCS 5/3-805 (West 1998)). Section 3-805 provides:

"Every respondent alleged to be subject to involuntary admission shall be represented by counsel. If the respondent is indigent or an appearance has not been entered on his behalf at the time the matter is set for hearing, the court shall appoint counsel for him. A hearing shall not proceed when a respondent is not represented by counsel unless, after conferring with counsel, the respondent requests to represent himself and the court is satisfied that the respondent has the capacity to make an informed waiver of his right to counsel. ***

1. If the court determines that the respondent is unable to obtain counsel, the court shall appoint as counsel an attorney employed by or under contract with the Guardianship and Mental Health Advocacy Commission, if available.

2. If an attorney from the Guardianship and Mental Health Advocacy Commission is not available, the court shall appoint as counsel the public defender or, only if no public defender is available, an attorney licensed to practice law in this State." 405 ILCS 5/3-805 (West 1998).

Although the statute refers to involuntary admissions, it is equally applicable to proceedings with respect to the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication. 405 ILCS 5/2-107.1 (West 1998). Accordingly, the right to counsel, as defined by section 3-805, attached not only to the petition to have Wheeler involuntarily committed but also to the petition to administer ...


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