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In re Necessity for the Hospitalization of Gabriel C.

Supreme Court of Alaska

April 4, 2014

In the Matter of the Necessity for the Hospitalization of GABRIEL C

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Sen K. Tan, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-11-00358 PR.

Kelly R. Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Michael G. Mitchell, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Meg Allison Zaletel and Mark Regan, Anchorage, for Amicus Curiae Disability Law Center of Alaska.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 836

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

The respondent in a mental health commitment proceeding argues that the delay between his detention and his involuntary commitment hearing violated time limits imposed by statute and due process of law. But we conclude that the relevant statutory time limit begins upon a respondent's arrival at an evaluation facility, that there was no obvious or prejudicial statutory violation in this case, and that the delay in this case did not violate due process. We also conclude that the respondent's appeal of his involuntary medication order is now moot.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

On Sunday, February 20, 2011, Gabriel C.[1] was taken into protective custody by the Kenai Police Department, after his family reported that he was off his psychiatric medication and displaying erratic and threatening behavior. He was transported to Central Peninsula Hospital, where a licensed clinical social worker conducted an emergency examination and prepared a petition for involuntary commitment.

That same day, at 5:00 p.m., an Anchorage committing magistrate signed an ex parte order authorizing Gabriel to be transported to Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) for evaluation.[2] The order stated that the evaluation had to be completed within 72 hours of Gabriel's arrival at that facility. The Public Defender Agency was appointed and granted access to Gabriel's records. The following day was a judicial holiday, so the master's order was not approved by the superior court until February 22. After the judge signed the order, it was distributed to the Attorney General's Office, the Public Defender Agency, and to API.

Gabriel was not transported to API until late the next day, arriving at about 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 24. On Monday, February 28, API filed a petition for a 30-day commitment and a petition for permission to administer psychotropic medication. A master held a hearing the following day -- Tuesday, March 1, at 1:55 p.m. -- and approved API's requests. At the hearing, Gabriel's counsel objected to the delay in transportation following the ex parte order, but she conceded that, after excluding the intervening weekend, the hearing was held within 72 hours of Gabriel's arrival at API. The master commented that he had been told that API had been routinely refusing to accept

Page 837

patients referred for involuntary evaluation,[3] and on review, the superior court noted that the delay was possibly caused by an API policy to delay accepting ...


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