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COA: Mental patient can challenge unlawful detention

By: The Associated Press//October 22, 2015

COA: Mental patient can challenge unlawful detention

By: The Associated Press//October 22, 2015//

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ALBANY — New York’s top court ruled Thursday that a mentally ill patient who is sent involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital has a right to challenge detention once the court order for treatment expires.

The Court of Appeals, split 5-1, said New York’s mental health statute doesn’t preclude patients who believe they have sufficiently recovered from filing a petition against unlawful imprisonment. Diminishing that right is “impermissible” for patients challenging the legal and procedural way they were committed, the court ruled.

“It is beyond dispute that ‘the state has authority under its police power to protect the community from the dangerous tendencies of some who are mentally ill,'” Judge Leslie Stein wrote. “Nevertheless, it has long been recognized that involuntary civil confinement involves ‘a massive curtailment of liberty.'”

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Judges Eugene Pigott Jr., Jenny Rivera and Eugene Fahey agreed.

The case concerns a man identified in court papers only as Stephen S., detained in Holliswood Hospital in Queens for weeks after his court-ordered three-month psychiatric treatment for paranoid delusions had expired in 2012.

Mental Hygiene Legal Service petitioned for his release, arguing his constitutional rights to due process were being violated.

Stephen was released in 2013, and the hospital closed in 2014.

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, in a dissent, said the majority believes that a mentally ill patient deemed dangerous to himself and others should be automatically released solely because a hospital failed to file a timely application to continue involuntary treatment.  “This does not advance the treatment and care of the mentally ill patient or protect society from one who poses a danger to others,” she wrote.

Abdus-Salaam noted that during his initial treatment and an initial, authorized extension, a period of six months altogether, Richard S. struck and threatened staff and other patients numerous times, stabbed a staff member in the neck with a pen, assaulted his mother and choked his psychiatrist.

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