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In re Nancy A.

August 05, 2003

IN RE NANCY A., ALLEGED TO BE A PERSON OF SUBJECT TO INVOLUNTARY ADMISSION
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
NANCY A., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court Madison County. No. 02-MH-37 Honorable Daniel J. Stack, Judge, presiding.

Justices: Honorable Richard P. Goldenhersh, J. Honorable Melissa A. Chapman, J., and Honorable James K. Donovan, J., Concur

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Goldenhersh

PUBLISHED

Rule 23 order filed June 12, 2003; Motion to publish granted August 5, 2003.

The respondent, Nancy A., appeals from an order of the circuit court of Madison County that found her to be a person subject to involuntary admission pursuant to a petition under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (the Code) (405 ILCS 5/1-100 et seq. (West 2000)) and committed her to the Alton Mental Health Center (Alton). The respondent contends that certain procedural defects require a reversal of the trial court's order, including (1) the State's failure to provide notice to the respondent of the involuntary commitment proceedings within 12 hours of her admission as required by section 3-609 of the Code (405 ILCS 5/3-609 (West 2000)) and (2) the State's failure to file the petition and paperwork within 24 hours of the respondent's admission to Alton as required by section 3-611 of the Code (405 ILCS 5/3-611 (West 2000)). The respondent also raises the issue of whether the petition for involuntary admission should have been barred under the doctrine of res judicata. These contentions present disputed questions of law that we review de novo. See In re Jones, 318 Ill. App. 3d 1023, 1025, 743 N.E.2d 1090, 1092 (2001). 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 April 12, 2002, a petition seeking the involuntary admission of the respondent pursuant to section 3-600 of the Code (405 ILCS 5/3-600 (West 2000)) was apparently filed in Madison County and docketed as cause No. 02-MH-32. This petition alleged that the respondent had been admitted to Alton on April 8, 2002, at 1:40 p.m. The record on appeal does not contain this first petition; however, it does contain a motion to dismiss the first petition. The motion to dismiss was filed by the respondent on April 16, 2002. In that motion to dismiss, the respondent claimed that the April 12, 2002, petition should be dismissed because it had not been served within the time limits contained in the Code, being served on the respondent 11 hours too late and being filed with the court 34 hours too late. See 405 ILCS 5/3-609, 3-611 (West 2000). On April 18, 2002, the respondent's motion to dismiss was called for a hearing before the trial court. There is no transcript of that hearing in the record on appeal. The record does contain an order dated April 18, 2002, signed by the trial judge dismissing the April 12, 2002, petition for involuntary admission in cause No. 02-MH-32. The State did not file an appeal from this order.

After the first petition was dismissed, the respondent was not discharged nor did she remain voluntarily at Alton. Instead, she was named in a new emergency petition that was prepared and filed the same day that the first petition was dismissed. This April 18, 2002, petition also sought the involuntary admission of the respondent pursuant to section 3-600 of the Code (405 ILCS 5/3-600 (West 2000)) and was docketed as cause No. 02-MH-37. It is this second petition that is the subject of this appeal. On April 19, 2002, the day following the filing of the second petition, the State's Attorney filed a motion to continue. This motion advised the court that the respondent had been admitted to Alton on April 18, 2002, rather than April 8, 2002. On April 23, 2002, the circuit court allowed the State's motion to continue the case to April 25, 2002.

On April 25, 2002, the respondent filed a motion to dismiss the second petition. Prior to hearing evidence on the petition, the court heard the respondent's motion to dismiss the petition based on the State's failure to file the petition within 24 hours of the respondent's entry to the mental health facility. After argument, the motion to dismiss the second petition for involuntary admission was denied. The matter then proceeded to an immediate hearing on the petition for involuntary admission. The respondent refused to attend the hearing, and her attorney waived her presence. The only witness to testify was Dr. Daolong Zhang, a psychiatrist at Alton. He testified that the respondent suffered from schizophrenia accompanied by paranoia and delusions. Dr. Zhang testified that when the respondent came to Alton, she was dirty, disheveled, and homeless. She erroneously believed that she could return to an apartment from which she had been evicted for the nonpayment of rent. She also had the delusional belief that she owned the apartment. Dr. Zhang testified that the respondent suffered from hypertension and refused to take any medication for her mental or physical condition. He testified that her mental condition caused her to be violent and aggressive and that on April 8, 2002, the respondent had threatened violence against various staff members at Alton. In Dr. Zhang's opinion the respondent was dangerous to herself and others. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial judge found the respondent subject to involuntary admission and ordered her hospitalized in the Department of Human Services. On May 6, 2002, the respondent filed a motion to reconsider.

On May 2, 2002, the State filed a petition naming the respondent for the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication pursuant to section 2-107.1 of the Code (405 ILCS 5/2-107.1 (West 2000)). This petition was set for a hearing on May 9, 2002. On May 8, 2002, the State moved to continue the hearing. The trial court continued the hearing on the petition for involuntary admission of psychotropic medication, as well as the hearing on the respondent's motion to reconsider the involuntary admission order, to May 16, 2002. The May 16, 2002, proceedings were conducted before a different judge, and as a result the respondent's motion to reconsider was not considered until June 27, 2002, at which point it was denied. The respondent thereafter filed a timely notice of appeal on July 12, 2002. The Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission was appointed to represent the respondent on appeal.

ANALYSIS

Before we address the respondent's claims, we must first consider whether this appeal is moot. The State argues that an appeal from an involuntary commitment order may be dismissed as moot when a respondent who has been previously committed on an involuntary basis subsequently applies for voluntary admission. As authority for this argument, the State cites In re Wathan, 104 Ill. App. 3d 64, 432 N.E.2d 670 (1982).

Generally, the mootness doctrine does not apply to mental health cases. In re Barbara H., 183 Ill. 2d 482, 702 N.E.2d 555 (1998); In re Garcia, 59 Ill. App. 3d 500, 375 N.E.2d 557 (1978). However, in In re Wathan the appellate court held that the mootness doctrine should be applied. In that case the respondent was found to be subject to involuntary admission and was ordered hospitalized. Two months later a second petition for involuntary admission was filed. After a hearing, the respondent was again found to be subject to involuntary admission and was again ordered hospitalized. It was from the second order of involuntary admission that the respondent appealed. The appellate court found the mootness doctrine applicable. The court reasoned that since the first commitment had not been appealed, there could be no collateral consequences emanating from the respondent's second involuntary admission. In re Wathan, 104 Ill. App. 3d at 66, 432 N.E.2d at 672; In re Meek, 131 Ill. App. 3d 742, 476 N.E.2d 65 (1985).

In the instant case, the record suggests that the respondent had been admitted five times prior to the admission now being contested. Under In re Wathan, if those prior admissions had been involuntary, the mootness doctrine might apply. Under In re Meek, if those prior ...


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