Appeal from the Circuit Court Randolph County. No. 10-MH-55 Honorable Richard A. Brown, Judge, presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Chapman
NOTICE Decision filed 05/18/12. The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.
JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justices Welch and Spomer concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 The respondent, James W., appeals an order finding him to be subject to involuntary admission. He argues that (1) the court failed to comply with the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (Mental Health Code) (405 ILCS 5/1-100 to 6-107 (West 2010)) by delaying his hearing 97 days after he requested a jury hearing and (2) the petition for involuntary admission did not comply with the statutory requirement that it list family members or friends of the respondent. We reverse.
¶ 2 The respondent has a long history of mental illness. He has been admitted to mental health facilities numerous times beginning in 1986. He has been continuously admitted at Chester Mental Health Center (Chester) since December 2003, when he was transferred there from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
¶ 3 On April 29, 2010, Dr. Kathryn Holt, a psychologist at Chester, filed a petition for continued involuntary admission. The petition alleged that the respondent suffered from schitzophrenia, paranoid type, and antisocial personality disorder. The petition further alleged that the respondent lacks awareness of his mental illness and that he has acted aggressively due to his illness.
¶ 4 On May 5, 2010, the matter was called for a hearing. The respondent requested an independent examination. The court granted his request and continued the hearing to allow the examination to take place. The hearing was reset for May 19.
¶ 5 At the May 19 setting, the respondent's attorney informed the court that the respondent wanted to demand a hearing before a jury. The court asked the respondent if he wanted a jury, to which he replied, "Yes, sir." The court then stated: "Well, I can tell you that we don't have any other juries *** for mental health until August. Do you understand that?" The respondent replied, "Yeah, I'll wait." The court asked if he understood that this meant he would remain at Chester until August. The respondent indicated that he understood, and then he stated, "I ain't going nowhere noway."
¶ 6 The matter was reset for a jury hearing on August 23, 2010. This was 97 days after the respondent requested a jury hearing and 116 days after the petition was filed. The jury found the respondent to be subject to involuntary admission. The court entered an order admitting the respondent to Chester for 180 days beginning on August 23, 2010. This appeal followed.
¶ 7 We note at the outset that this appeal involves questions that are moot. The order admitting the respondent to Chester expired in February 2011. Thus, our decision cannot effectively give him relief from that order. Appeals courts do not generally have jurisdiction over questions that are moot because considering such questions amounts to rendering an advisory opinion. See In re Mark W., 348 Ill. App. 3d 1065, 1069, 811 N.E.2d 767, 770 (2004) (citing In re Mary Ann P., 202 Ill. 2d 393, 401, 781 N.E.2d 237, 242 (2002)). However, both parties argue that this appeal falls within recognized exceptions to the mootness doctrine, and we agree.
¶ 8 Under the public-interest exception, we may address an issue that is moot where (1) the issue is a matter of public concern, (2) an authoritative determination is needed to guide public officials and the courts, and (3) the issue is likely to recur in other cases. In re Alfred H.H., 233 Ill. 2d 345, 355, 910 N.E.2d 74, 80 (2009). Both this court and our supreme court have found questions related to the procedures to be followed in mental health cases to be matters of great public concern. In re Mary Ann P., 202 Ill. 2d at 402, 781 N.E.2d at 243; In re Evelyn S., 337 Ill. App. 3d 1096, 1102, 788 N.E.2d 310, 315 (2003). We have found only one Illinois case addressing the precise question raised in this appeal, and that discussion came in dicta. Thus, an authoritative determination is likely to be helpful. Finally, we agree with the parties that the question is likely to recur. Therefore, we may consider this appeal under the public-interest exception to the mootness doctrine.
¶ 9 The respondent first argues that the court failed to comply with the Mental Health Code's requirement of a timely hearing. Section 3-611 of the Mental Health Code provides that a hearing must be held within five days after a petition for involuntary commitment is filed, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. 405 ILCS 5/3-611 (West 2010). Section 3-800(b) expressly allows continuances; however, continuances requested by the State or allowed sua sponte by the court are limited to 15 days. 405 ILCS 5/3-800(b) (West 2010). Both statutes use the word "shall"; thus, these time limits are mandatory. See In re T.S., 402 Ill. App. 3d 1159, 1171-72, 932 N.E.2d 1103, 1113 (2010) (the word "shall" in a statute indicates a " 'legislative intent to impose a mandatory obligation' " (quoting People v. O'Brien, 197 Ill. 2d 88, 93, 754 N.E.2d 327, 330 ...