Plain Error Doctrine Prevents Waiver Of Appellate Argument Against Involuntary Administration Of Psychotropic Drugs

James S. appealed from a trial court order that allowed psychotropic drugs to be administered to James against his wishes.

A basis of James’s appeal was that the order should be reversed because the circuit court did not state findings of fact to support emergency administration of psychotropic drugs, and therefore did not comply with the statutory requirement. “The respondent [James] argues that the circuit court’s error here is particularly problematic because the evidence does not obviously reveal nor did the circuit court clarify under what provision of section 2-107.1(a-5)(4)(B) of the Code (405 ILCS 5/2-107.1(a-5)(4)(B) (West 2006)) the circuit court authorized the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication, i.e., whether the respondent exhibited deterioration in ability to function, suffering, or threatening behavior.”

The State argued that James waived the argument because he did not raise it in his motion for reconsideration.

The Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that waiver did not apply. The court invoked the plain error doctrine and considered James’s argument because it raised a fundamental liberty interest. Here is the appellate court’s ruling:

The respondent failed to raise this issue in his posttrial motion. An issue is waived on review if it is not raised both at the trial and in a posttrial motion … However, pursuant to the plain error doctrine, this court may address a waived issue if the evidence is closely balanced or the error affects substantial rights … The involuntary administration of medication for mental health purposes involves fundamental liberty interests. … Further, the waiver rule is a limitation on parties and not on reviewing courts …. Accordingly, we will consider this issue on the merits.

The appellate court reversed the order permitting involuntary administration of psychotropic drugs. Read the whole opinion, In re James S., No. 5-07-0567 (3/13/09), by clicking here.