July 23, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Evidence Insufficient to Support Involuntary Administration of Medication

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of R.K.L. on Thursday, May 19, 2016.

Involuntary Administration of Medication—Due Process—Clear and Convincing Evidence.

On request of the People, R.K.L., a/k/a A.J.J., was found to be mentally ill and a danger to others and gravely disabled, and was certified to Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan for short-term treatment for a period not to exceed three months. The probate court also authorized involuntary administration for 11 requested antipsychotic medications. Before the expiration of that order, the People filed a notice extending the certification for treatment for an additional three months and a motion to extend the involuntary medication order. The probate court, following a hearing, extended the certification for short-term treatment and granted the motion for continued involuntary administration authority for the requested medications.

A.J.J. appealed both orders. He conceded that the People had established by clear and convincing evidence that he has a mental illness and that he has not voluntarily accepted treatment. He argued that the court erred in finding that the People proved by clear and convincing evidence that he is a danger to others or gravely disabled. The Court of Appeals held that the probate court’s finding that A.J.J. is a danger to others was supported by evidence in the record. Alternatively, the Court found sufficient evidence in the record to support the probate court’s findings by clear and convincing evidence that A.J.J was gravely disabled as a result of his mental illness. Sufficient evidence supports the probate court’s orders upholding the certification and extended certification of A.J.J. for short-term treatment.

To involuntarily administer antipsychotic medication without violating a patient’s due process rights, all four elements set forth in People v. Medina, 705 P.2d 961, 973 (Colo. 1985), must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. The Court found that the evidence did not support the probate court’s findings as to two of these elements regarding involuntary administration of 10 of the medications, but the evidence was sufficient to support the administration of one medication. The Court agreed with A.J.J. that the evidence did not support the court’s findings that (1) the People had established by clear and convincing evidence that there was no less intrusive alternative than administering the 10 antipsychotics and (2) A.J.J.’s need for treatment with the 10 antipsychotic medications overrode his bona fide and legitimate interest in refusing this treatment.

The orders were reversed to the extent that they authorized involuntary administration of 10 antipsychotics and affirmed in all other respects.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Moot Issue Not Capable of Repetition Yet Evading Review as Disability Finding is Fact-Specific

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of Vivekanathan on Thursday, October 24, 2013.

Involuntary Commitment—Gravely Disabled—Certification—Moot.

Respondent appealed the district court’s order upholding his certification, pursuant to CRS § 27-65-107, for involuntary commitment and treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP). The appeal was dismissed.

Respondent, a 25-year-old man, has suffered from schizophrenia since he was approximately 16 years old. A Centennial Peaks psychiatrist filed with the Larimer County District Court a “Notice of Certification and Certification for Short-Term Treatment,” which certified respondent for involuntary commitment to CMHIP based on the psychiatrist’s finding that respondent was “gravely disabled” as a result of his mental illness. Respondent objected. The district court upheld the certification, concluding that respondent is mentally ill and, as a result of that illness, is gravely disabled and a danger to himself. Respondent appealed the order upholding his certification. However, after this appeal was lodged and before the Larimer County Attorney’s Office filed a response, respondent’s civil commitment was terminated early by a different physician.

Respondent argued that the appeal was not moot because the issue is capable of repetition yet evading review. Whether respondent is gravely disabled is a fact-specific determination, and it depends on his condition at the time the finding is made. Thus, even if the district court erred in making the finding in the July 2013 order, this finding does not determine whether at some point in the future respondent may be found to be gravely disabled. Therefore, the particular issue of whether the July 2013 finding of “gravely disabled” was erroneous is moot, and the appeal was dismissed.

Summary and full case available here.