Collateral Consequences Not A Bar To Mootness Doctrine Where Patient Has History Of Illness

This case involved another dispute about whether an involuntary commitment to a hospital and administration of psychotropic drugs was proper. James H. was diagnosed as schizophrenic. The State’s psychiatrist considered James to be a threat to himself and to the public.

James was admitted to a hospital against his wishes for 90 days. He disputed the commitment, but by the time his case was heard in the appellate court, it was moot because the 90-day commitment period lapsed. So the first question for the appellate court, as it is with so many involuntary commitment cases, was whether the mootness doctrine prohibited the court from considering the dispute.

James argued the collateral-consequences exception to the mootness doctrine allowed the appellate court to review his case. “This exception applies where the respondent [James] could be plagued by the adjudication at issue … Respondent argues if faced with civil commitment again, having once been judged mentally ill and in need of commitment, he would now have a history of mental illness which would work against him.” The record showed that James previously had been hospitalized because of mental problems, but it was unclear whether that hospitalization was involuntary.

In this case, because some of James’s delusions were directed toward President Obama, the United States Secret Service had been informed of James’s condition. The Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court concluded the collateral-consequences exception did not apply because James’s history before this case showed collateral consequences already existed. Here is the court’s reasoning.

… [T]he fact the Secret Service was notified and interviewed respondent prior to the beginning of these commitment proceedings means collateral consequences have already attached. The Secret Service will likely continue to monitor respondent’s whereabouts.

In fact, in the comprehensive psychiatric report admitted into evidence, it is noted the Secret Service asked to be notified when respondent is discharged. Even if the commitment order is reversed, respondent will remain of interest to the Secret Service. The descriptions of his behavior in this case, his earlier hospitalization, and the scrutiny of the Secret Service are now part of respondent’s history.

Contrast this case with In re Joseph P., in which the same appellate court ruled, just a day before the ruling in James’s case, the collateral-consequences exception did apply to a first involuntary commitment. A summary of Joseph’s case, with a link to the opinion, appears two entries below, January 6, 2011. You can read In re James H., 4-10-0260 (12/23/10), by clicking here.