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In re MH 2008-002659 - 1/21/2010

Arizona Court of Appeal Division One Holds That A Mental Health Patient’s Right to a Hearing to Challenge Involuntary Hospitalization During a Mental Health Evaluation Does Not Include the Right to Challenge the Evaluation Itself.

In response to threats of suicide and other troubling behavior by the appellant, the appellant’s son applied for a court order that his mother undergo emergency admission for evaluation under A.R.S. § 36-524 or for mental health evaluation under A.R.S. § 36-524. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 36-529(A), the superior court issued a detention order for evaluation which stated that in conformity with A.R.S. § 36-529(D), the appellant had a right to “a hearing to determine whether [s]he should be hospitalized for the seventy-two hour evaluation period.” Three days after she had already undergone the evaluation, the order was served on the appellant at a psychiatric facility where she was being detained for the evaluation period. Following the evaluation, the superior court found that she was disabled because of a mental disorder, and ordered that she undergo inpatient and outpatient treatment. She appealed this civil commitment treatment order on due process grounds, arguing that because she was not served until after the evaluation, she was deprived of her statutory right to a hearing, and that because the evaluation took place before she was served, she was denied the right to contest the detention order. The appellant argued that if she had been able to request a hearing to contest the detention order, she could have prevented her involuntary hospitalization, and thus prevented the evaluation which led to her civil confinement.

The Arizona Appeals Court agreed that the appellant was entitled to be informed about her right to a hearing to contest her involuntary hospitalization. The Appeals Court held that the appellant was not entitled to have her treatment order dismissed, however, explaining that while A.R.S. § 36-529(D) allows patient to contest their involuntary hospitalization for the evaluation, it does not give them a right to contest the actual evaluation. At such a hearing, patients may contest the hospitalization by showing that they are not likely to deteriorate further, suffer harm to themselves, or cause harm to others if not hospitalized during the evaluation, but the patient may not contest the evaluation itself.

Judge Hall authored the opinion; Judges Kessler and Orozco concurred.

Posted By: James K. Rogers


Posted On: 1/28/2010