August 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Privilege Against Self-Incrimination in a Forcible Administration of Medication Hearing

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People In the Interest of Strodtman on October 27, 2011.

Forcible Administration of Antipsychotic Medications—Due Process—Automatic Stay.

Respondent Joyce A. Strodtman appealed the magistrate’s order authorizing the Denver Health Medical Center (DHMC) to forcibly administer her antipsychotic medications. The order was affirmed.

Strodtman contended that the magistrate’s order was void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court in which a short-term certification is filed pursuant to CRS § 27-65-107 has original and continuing jurisdiction under CRS § 27-65-111(4) to decide matters concerning forcible administration of medication. Under C.R.M. 6(e)(2)(B), magistrates also possess jurisdiction over these matters. Therefore, the magistrate did not lack jurisdiction to hear and decide Strodtman’s case.

Strodtman also contended that the magistrate violated her due process rights because he failed to conduct a full and fair adversary hearing. When the administration of involuntary antipsychotic medication is at issue, due process requires notice, the right to be present at an adversary hearing, and the right to present and cross-examine witnesses. Here, it was not error for the People to call Strodtman as a witness, because Strodtman had no privilege against self-incrimination in a forcible administration of medication hearing. The court also did not err in qualifying Dr. O’Flaherty, a first-year psychiatry resident at the University of Colorado–Denver, as an expert in medicine, because she had specialized knowledge in treating psychiatric patients. Further, the court did not err in allowing the People’s medical experts to provide hearsay testimony, because it formed the basis of their opinion. In addition, Strodtman did not prove bias merely by showing that the magistrate made a passing comment about the People’s expertise in the matter. Finally, although the magistrate’s comments regarding his personal experience with therapy were inappropriate, the magistrate decided the case based on the proper elements and his personal experience ultimately did not prejudice Strodtman so as to depart from the required impartiality.

Strodtman also argued that the magistrate erred in finding that the People had proved all four elements by clear and convincing evidence. However, the evidence in the record indicates that (1) Strodtman was not competent to participate in treatment decisions because she disagreed with her diagnosis and refused to take medications in the past; (2) Strodtman was not taking medication when she was hospitalized; (3) the medication effectively treated the symptoms that caused her to be hospitalized; (4) without this medication, she would experience significant, long-term deterioration; and (5) Strodtman lacked the capacity to consistently self-medicate, so oral medication taken voluntarily was not an available effective treatment. Strodtman’s need for treatment by antipsychotic injections to keep her from being hospitalized was sufficiently compelling to override Strodtman’s interest in refusing treatment.

Strodtman also argued that the magistrate erred by denying her post-hearing motion seeking an order automatically staying forcible administration pursuant to C.R.C.P. 62. However, a forcible medication administration order is not the type of action contemplated in Rule 62(a). Accordingly, orders for forcible medication administration are not automatically stayed for fourteen days after entry.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries for the Colorado Court of Appeals on October 27, 2011, can be found here.

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