Appeal Of Involuntary Admission To Mental Health Facility Dismissed As Moot

In re Alfred H.H. involved a patient who was involuntarily admitted to the McFarland Mental Health Center in Illinois. Alfred appealed the trial court’s ruling that subjected him to the involuntary admission.

The trial court’s judgment was limited to a 90-day involuntary admission. That time had passed before the case reached the appellate court. So Alfred never got a hearing on appeal because the Fourth District Illinois Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as moot.

The court ruled that Alfred’s appeal did not raise any of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine:

1. No public interest exception: “In this case, respondent challenges only (1) the sufficiency of the evidence presented to warrant his involuntary admission and (2) whether his hospitalization was the least-restrictive treatment alternative. The answer to either challenge in this particular case does not constitute a question of public importance. Nor would either answer provide an authoritative determination to guide public officers in the performance of their duties in mental-health cases. That is because orders involving involuntary admissions of other respondents undoubtedly will be entered and challenged based on the particular facts presented in such cases. In other words, resolving routine sufficiency-of-the-evidence arguments will rarely have precedential value. Accordingly, we conclude that respondent has failed to clearly establish the criteria necessary to satisfy the public-interest exception to the mootness doctrine.”

2. No capable-of-repetition exception: “Although respondent has a history of mental illness and his psychiatrist had previously treated him on several occasions during hospitalizations, nothing in the record shows that his prior hospitalizations were as a result of petitions for involuntary admission. More importantly, even if another petition for involuntary admission were filed as to respondent, he would not be subject to the exact same action. Instead, any future involuntary-admission petition would involve the same party but a different action under different circumstances. In particular, the evidence presented in support of a future petition would be different than the evidence presented in support of the petition in this case. Accordingly, we conclude that respondent has failed to clearly establish the second criterion necessary to satisfy the capable-of-repetition exception to the mootness doctrine.”

The appellate court rejected a standard exception to the mootness doctrine for all cases involving involuntary mental-health admission and involuntary mental-health treatment. The court favored an analysis under the standard rules.

The court also rejected a “collateral consequences” exception to the mootness doctrine. That exception refers to the possibility that “an adjudication could return to plague a respondent in some future proceedings and could affect other aspects of the respondent’s life.” The appellate court stated: “We now believe that the collateral-legal-consequences exception to the mootness doctrine has no place in determining whether an issue is moot in a mental-health case. Regardless of whether a previous involuntary-admission order as to a particular respondent is upheld or reversed on appeal, that respondent’s history of mental illness and involuntary treatment will continue to exist, and will be a factor that treating medical personnel may consider. It is that history that will possibly follow the respondent, not the fact of an adjudication.”

Compare this case to In re Leslie H., No. 2-05-0648 (1/5/07) (Our post of 1/11/07) and In re Kevin S., No. 5-06-0677 (4/2/08) (Our post of 6/24/08), both ruling that the mootness doctrine did not preclude appeals of involuntary admissions to mental health facilities.

This whole case, In re Alfred H.H., No. 4-07-0491 (4/28/08), is available by clicking here.