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In Re Joseph M., Alleged To Be A Person Subject To Involuntary Admission To A Facility v. Joseph M

December 9, 2010


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County. No. 08-MH-225 Honorable William A. Schuwerk, Jr., Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Chapman

Rule 23 order filed November 3, 2010; Motion to publish granted December 9, 2010.

PRESIDING JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Goldenhersh*fn1 and Welch concurred in the judgment and opinion.

The respondent, Joseph M., appeals an order finding him subject to an involuntary admission. He argues that (1) the State did not establish by clear and convincing evidence that he was subject to an involuntary admission, (2) the State did not establish that hospitalization was the least restrictive alternative for treatment, (3) the petition failed to comply with the statutory requirement that it include the name and address of a close relative or friend, and (4) the record does not contain a statement of the court's findings of fact. The State argues that this court lacks jurisdiction to decide this case because (1) the notice of appeal filed by Joseph M. did not comply with the requirements of Supreme Court Rule 303 (210 Ill. 2d R. 303) and was, therefore, not effective to confer jurisdiction and (2) the case is moot and no exception to the mootness doctrine applies. We find that we have jurisdiction and we reverse the order of the trial court.

Joseph M. was first admitted to a facility for mental health care in 1984. He was subsequently admitted on five occasions between 1997 and 1999. In 1999, Joseph was admitted to Chester Mental Health Center (Chester) after he was found unfit to stand trial on charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault in Cook County. He was subsequently transferred back to the Cook County jail and later transferred once again to Chester.

The petition that forms the basis of this appeal alleges that Joseph M. is subject to continued involuntary admission because he suffers from a mental illness, as a result of which he is (1) reasonably expected to engage in dangerous or threatening behavior toward others and (2) unable to provide for his own needs or protect himself from serious harm. Attached to the petition are two certificates. One was signed by social worker Kristy-jon Ekes. Ekes stated that Joseph suffered from delusions of a grandiose and religious nature and believed that the government was using satellites to monitor his movements. Ekes noted that Joseph had a history of physical violence and experienced "significant mood symptoms," including occasional hostility. Finally, Ekes stated that Joseph has refused medication in the past and that he would stop taking medication if he were released.

The second certificate was signed by psychiatrist S.K. Suneja. Dr. Suneja's observations were consistent with Ekes' statement. Dr. Suneja additionally stated that although Joseph M. had not engaged in any acts of physical aggression since an incident in May 2007, he became agitated when anyone challenged his assertion that he was the "ambassador of ambassadors" of Jesus Christ. Dr. Suneja noted that Joseph denied having received any mental health treatment in the past. Joseph was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type) and paranoid schizophrenia.

The only witness to testify at the hearing on the petition was Jamia Klausing, a licensed clinical social worker who was not a member of Joseph M.'s treatment team. Klausing testified that she interviewed Joseph in his living unit, although she did not specify when this interview took place. She further testified that she reviewed Joseph's records and discussed his case with members of his treatment team.

Klausing described Joseph's delusions, explaining that he believed that he was the "ambassador of ambassadors" of Jesus Christ, something which gave him special privileges. Additionally, she stated that Joseph believed that the government was monitoring his movements with satellites and that Jesus would return in one year and five months to pass judgment on the courts and judges for all they had done to him. When asked if Joseph had any behavioral problems, Klausing admitted that he had not had any since May 2007 (18 months before the hearing). She attributed this to his medication, however, and emphasized that Joseph would not take medication if it was not "court-enforced." Counsel for the State then asked, "So the answer, of course, to my question, then, you wouldn't expect him to continue to take this medication were he released today ***, would you?" Klausing responded, "No, and he has stated that he would not." She opined that without his medication, Joseph would become aggressive and would pose a risk to people in the community.

On cross-examination, Klausing admitted that Joseph's treatment team had, indeed, been considering moving him to a less restrictive setting for treatment. When asked if this was still being considered, she replied: "That is being--is being discussed. They're trying to talk to Mr. M[.] about taking his medication voluntarily, without the enforced order." She also acknowledged that Joseph's condition had improved with treatment.

At the end of the hearing, the court found as follows:

"Mr. M[.] is a person subject to involuntary admission. Although he has not exhibited any physical aggression since May of '07, there is some evidence of some severe delusions and that he is a risk to the community and himself if he is not involuntarily medicated. As such, the Court finds that he shall be hospitalized *** which is the least restrictive environment currently appropriate and available ***." (Emphasis added.)

The court entered an order finding Joseph subject to continued involuntary admission for a period of 180 days. The order was entered on November 19, 2008, the same day the hearing was held.

Shortly thereafter, Joseph M. mailed to the court a notice that stated, in its entirety, "Joe Henry M[.] will like to appeal my case November 19, 2008, State Illinois Circuit Court for the 20th Judicial Circuit Randolph County Courthouse." The Guardianship and Advocacy Commission was appointed to represent Joseph M. in this appeal. No amended notice of appeal was filed.

Before considering the merits of Joseph M.'s appeal, we must address the State's jurisdictional arguments. The State first argues that the notice of appeal we have just described was insufficient to confer jurisdiction on this court because it failed to comply with various requirements of Rule 303. For example, the State contends, it is not titled "Notice of Appeal" (see 210 Ill. 2d R. 303(b)(1)(iii)), does not state that it is an appeal to the Fifth District Appellate Court (see 210 Ill. 2d R. 303(b)(1)(i)), does not include the case name with a designation of parties (see 210 Ill. 2d R. 303(b)(1)(ii)), and is not signed by Joseph or an attorney representing him (see 210 Ill. 2d R. 303(b)(4)). In addition, the State contends that he did not serve a copy of his notice of appeal as required by Rule 303(c) (210 Ill. 2d R. 303(c)). We do not find any of these flaws fatal to our jurisdiction.

As the State correctly points out, the filing of a notice of appeal is necessary to invoke the jurisdiction of the appellate court. Burtell v. First Charter Service Corp., 76 Ill. 2d 427, 433-34, 394 N.E.2d 380, 382-83 (1979); Nussbaum v. Kennedy, 267 Ill. App. 3d 325, 329, 642 N.E.2d 151, 155 (1994). This does not mean that strict compliance with every requirement of Rule 303 is needed to confer jurisdiction. The purpose of a notice of appeal is to apprise the prevailing party that his opponent seeks appellate review. Burtell, 76 Ill. 2d at 433, 394 N.E.2d at 382; Nussbaum, 267 Ill. App. 3d at 328, 642 N.E.2d at 154. As long as a notice of appeal is sufficient to serve this purpose, it is sufficient to invoke our jurisdiction. If the notice of appeal fairly and accurately sets out the order appealed and relief sought, it is sufficient to confer jurisdiction unless the appellee is prejudiced by any omissions or deficiencies. Burtell, 76 Ill. 2d at 433-34, 394 N.E.2d at 383; Nussbaum, 267

Ill. App. 3d at 328, 642 N.E.2d at 154.

Here, the notice filed by Joseph M. clearly stated that he was seeking appellate review of an order entered in his case in the circuit court of Randolph County on November 19, 2008. There was only one such order, and as Joseph points out, the fact that the State responded to his notice of appeal by filing a brief addressing that order demonstrates that the State was not prejudiced by his failure to comply with the requirements of form set out in Rule 303. Because the notice of appeal was adequate to serve its purpose and the State was not prejudiced, we find that it was sufficient to trigger appellate jurisdiction. We note that counsel was appointed to represent Joseph five days after he filed his notice of appeal. It would have been better ...

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