June 26, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Clerk Should Have Omitted Mental Health Respondent’s Name from Filing System

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of T.T. on Thursday, October 19, 2017.

Index of Cases—Involuntary Mental Health Treatment—C.R.S. § 27-65-107(7).

T.T. accepted voluntary mental health treatment, but the physician did not believe T.T. would remain in a voluntary program and filed a certification for short-term treatment pursuant to C.R.S. § 27-65-107. The district court issued a notice of certification for short-term treatment. Six days later the physician filed a notice of termination of involuntary treatment.

Two years later T.T. learned that his name still appeared on the court’s index of cases. The clerk refused T.T.’s request to remove his name. T.T. filed a pro se motion requesting that his name be omitted from the court’s index in accordance with C.R.S. § 27-65-107(7). The district court denied the motion without making any factual findings or legal conclusions.

A division of the court of appeals issued an order remanding the case for the district court to hold a hearing and make findings of fact and conclusions of law. The district court granted in part T.T.’s motion to omit his name from the index by directing the Arapahoe County Clerk to omit his name from “any list generated or produced, even for the purpose of storage.” The court also denied in part, stating that T.T’s name will “remain in the [Eclipse] database for the purposes of the Clerk of Court’s maintenance of records and to comply with Section 27-65-107(7).”

On appeal, T.T. argued that the district court erred in denying his motion because based on the plain language of the statute and the stipulated facts, his name should also have been omitted from the Eclipse system when he was released from treatment. The public’s right to access to official records is not absolute. Court records for mental health cases, including indices, are not open to public access. The plain language of C.R.S. § 27-65-107(7) requires the clerk to omit a respondent’s name from the index of cases after the clerk is notified of a respondent’s release from involuntary treatment. Finding the phrase “omit the name of the respondent from the index of cases in such court” to be ambiguous, the court of appeals liberally construed this language in light of the General Assembly’s stated objective to “provide the fullest possible measure of privacy, dignity, and other rights to persons undergoing care and treatment for a mental health disorder.” The court concluded that the index of cases in this instance referred to the Eclipse system.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded for the district court to order T.T’s name be omitted from the Eclipse system and lists generated from that system.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.