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In Re Wendy T., Alleged To Be A Person v. Wendy T.

December 8, 2010

IN RE WENDY T., ALLEGED TO BE A PERSON THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
WENDY T., SUSAN CLANCY BOLES, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court Subject to Involuntary Treatment of Kane County. No. 09--MH--112 Honorable Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Zenoff

PRESIDING JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the opinion of the court: Respondent, Wendy T., appeals from the trial court's order authorizing the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication for up to 90 days pursuant to section 2--107.1(a--5)(5) of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (Code) (405 ILCS 5/2--107.1(a--5)(5) (West 2008)). Respondent contends that (1) the trial court erred in finding that she did not have the capacity to waive counsel; (2) the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that she lacked the capacity to make a reasoned decision whether to take the medication; and (3) the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that she had deteriorated in her ability to function. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

Respondent was admitted to the forensic treatment program at Elgin Mental Health Center (EMHC) in July 2009 after being found unfit to stand trial on criminal charges. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Mirella Susnjar petitioned the court for authority to involuntarily administer psychotropic medication to respondent for 90 days pursuant to section 2--107.1(a--5)(5) of the Code.

Prior to the hearing on the petition, respondent requested that she be allowed to represent herself in the proceedings. In response to the trial court's questions, respondent stated that she was 42 years old and had a bachelor's degree in journalism and communications. When asked what the purpose of having legal counsel was, respondent stated, "The purpose to have legal counsel is so that a person can communicate to the [j]udge, the [d]efendant's case, and right now, this person is not able to effectively assess what I'm providing." She also stated that she understood she would be subject to involuntary medication if she were to be unsuccessful in defending against the petition. She then requested time to retain private counsel, which the trial court allowed.

At the next hearing, over a month later, respondent informed the trial court that she was unable to retain private counsel. The trial court again inquired into respondent's competency to waive counsel. Respondent acknowledged that she had been found unfit to stand trial in Cook County. She again indicated that she understood that she would be subject to involuntary medication if she were unsuccessful in representing herself. She also stated that the purpose of legal counsel is that counsel "really understands the law in detail." The trial court denied respondent's request to represent herself, finding that she lacked the capacity to waive counsel.

At the hearing on the petition, Dr. Susnjar testified as follows. After examining respondent, she diagnosed respondent as suffering from bipolar disorder, manic with psychotic features. As a result of this illness, respondent had disorganized thinking, which caused her to be unable to execute plans, carry on everyday conversations, accept and process what other people say, or make decisions. She also suffered from paranoia and a distorted view of reality, causing her to be unable to accept the facts that she had been found unfit to stand trial and that she had been ordered to EMHC. Respondent also denied that she suffered from a mental illness. Dr. Susnjar opined that as a result of her illness, respondent showed a deterioration in her ability to function. Dr. Susnjar based this opinion on the facts that at one point, respondent held a job and was functioning well, but that she now had a lot of legal problems, was unable to work, was found unfit to stand trial, and could not retain her own lawyer. Dr. Susnjar also opined that because of her illness, respondent was suffering. According to Dr. Susnjar, respondent would become angry because she was unable to effectively convey information she wanted to give people, and she was unable to execute simple tasks that the average person could easily perform.

Dr. Susnjar requested authorization to administer numerous medications, including risperidone, Risperidal Consta, olanzapine, and quetiapine. In the alternative, Dr. Susnjar requested authorization to administer haloperidol, fluphenazine, chlorpromazine, benztropine, diphenhydramine, and lorazepam. Dr. Susnjar testified to the benefits and possible side effects of all of the requested medications. Dr. Susnjar gave respondent written information on the risks and benefits of the proposed medications on two separate occasions. Dr. Susnjar opined that due to her mental illness, psychosis, paranoia, and disorganized thinking, respondent did not have the capacity to make a reasoned decision about the benefits and side effects of her treatment. According to Dr. Susnjar, respondent was unable to process the information regarding the medications, because she felt that she did not have a mental illness. During one incident at EMHC when respondent's rights were restricted, Dr. Susnjar administered Haldol, Ativan, and Benadryl to respondent, and respondent responded well to the medications. Alternative services were ineffective and, according to Dr. Susnjar, would continue to be ineffective until respondent's psychosis was a bit more controlled.

Respondent testified that she refused to take the recommended medication because she had never been on medication or diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She also did not want to take the medication because she suffered from a number of medical conditions including ADHD, a mass on her brain, a blood disorder, and severely painful ovulation. In addition, she had undergone four maxillofacial surgeries, and her mother suffered from breast cancer. She believed that the staff at EMHC tended to overmedicate the patients.

Respondent also testified that the reason she was not working prior to her arrest was that she had recently inherited her aunt's estate and had been busy preparing her aunt's house and condominium for sale.

The trial court found that the State had sustained its burden by clear and convincing evidence, and it authorized the petitioned-for medication. Respondent appealed.

ANALYSIS

Before addressing the merits of defendant's contentions on appeal, we must first address the issue of mootness. This appeal is moot because the 90-day period covered by the trial court's order has already expired. In re Robert S., 213 Ill. 2d 30, 45 (2004). "An appeal is considered moot where it presents no actual controversy or where the issues involved in the trial court no longer exist because intervening events have rendered it impossible for the reviewing court to grant effectual relief to the complaining party." In re J.T., 221 Ill. 2d 338, 349-50 (2006). Generally, courts of review do not decide moot questions, render advisory opinions, or consider issues where the result will not be affected regardless of how those issues are decided. In re Barbara H., 183 Ill. 2d 482, 491 (1998). Reviewing courts, however, recognize exceptions to the mootness doctrine, such as (1) the public-interest exception, applicable where the case presents a question of public importance that will likely recur and whose answer will guide public officers in the performance of their duties, (2) the capable-of-repetition exception, applicable to cases involving events of short duration that are capable of repetition, yet evading review, and (3) the collateral-consequences exception, applicable where the involuntary treatment order could return to plague the respondent in some future proceedings or could affect other aspects of the respondent's life. In re Alfred H.H., 233 Ill. 2d 345, 355-62 (2009); J.T., 221 Ill. 2d at 350; In re Wathan, 104 Ill. App. 3d 64, 66 (1982).

The collateral-consequences exception applies here. The record does not indicate that respondent has ever before been subject to an order for the involuntary administration of medication. Thus, there are collateral consequences that might plague respondent in the future. Compare In re Meek, 131 Ill. App. 3d 742, 745 (1985) (as the case appeared to be the respondent's first involuntary commitment, court found that the collateral-consequences exception applied), with Alfred H.H., 233 Ill. 2d at 363 (because the respondent had multiple prior involuntary commitments and was a felon, there were no collateral consequences that would stem solely from the present adjudication; every collateral consequence that could be identified already existed as a result of the respondent's previous adjudications and felony conviction). Also, the evidence shows that respondent suffers from a mental illness that cannot be successfully controlled by nonmedicinal methods. Thus, it appears that respondent will very likely be subject to future proceedings and that her past involuntary treatment ...


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