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United States v. Brooks

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 7, 2014

JOSEPH HARVEY BROOKS, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted, February 5, 2014,  Seattle, Washington

Page 1091

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. D.C. No. 3:11-cr-00074-HA-1. Ancer L. Haggerty, Senior District Judge, Presiding.

C. René e Manes (argued), Assistant Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Portland, Oregon, for Defendant-Appellant.

Stephen F. Peifer (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, Kelly A. Zusman, Appellate Chief, Office of the United States Attorney, Portland, Oregon, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Raymond C. Fisher, Ronald M. Gould, and Morgan Christen, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Christen.


Page 1092

CHRISTEN, Circuit Judge

Among the most weighty decisions our society can make is to subject someone to a powerful medication against his or her will. The government must meet the demanding standard set by the Supreme Court in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166, 123 S.Ct. 2174, 156 L.Ed.2d 197 (2003), before involuntary medication may be administered in an effort to restore a defendant's competency to stand trial. This case requires that we consider whether the district court appropriately authorized involuntary medication in order to render Joseph Brooks competent to stand trial for arson. Brooks and the government agree that remand is necessary so that specific time limitations may be added to the district court's order authorizing involuntary medication. Because over a year has passed since the district court's order was entered, we believe a new Sell inquiry is required, and we take this opportunity to provide additional guidance concerning the procedures to be followed on remand.


Joseph Harvey Brooks, age 53, has a lengthy history of mental health issues including paranoid schizophrenia. This is not the first time a government entity has sought to medicate Brooks against his will. After he was charged with assault in 2004, Brooks underwent several forensic evaluations of his mental health. In 2004 and 2005, he was hospitalized to restore his competency to stand trial for assault. During this period, a Washington state court authorized a hospital to treat Brooks with antipsychotic medications if necessary, and he received such medications.

The current appeal relates to a different incident. The government alleges that Brooks attempted to set fire to cables connecting a radio antenna on a roof at Oregon Health Sciences University. Brooks was indicted for arson in federal district court in 2011. After reviewing Brooks's forensic mental health evaluations, the district court found Brooks mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered his hospitalization pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(1).[1] On December 16,

Page 1093

2011, Brooks was admitted to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

An internal administrative hearing pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 549.43 was held on March 5, 2012 at the federal medical facility to determine if Brooks met the criteria for involuntary administration of antipsychotic medication for reasons such as grave disability or because he posed a danger to himself or to others at the facility.[2] This proceeding is referred to as a Harper hearing.[3] See Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 110 S.Ct. 1028, 108 L.Ed.2d 178 (1990). The hearing officer determined that Brooks did not meet the Harper criteria, and he was not involuntarily medicated.

The government then filed a motion seeking court approval to medicate Brooks with antipsychotic drugs against his will so that he would regain competency to stand trial, pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Sell . 539 U.S. at 177-83. In Sell, the Court reaffirmed that " an individual has a significant constitutionally protected liberty interest in avoiding the unwanted administration of antipsychotic drugs." Id. at 178 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Sell also held that " the Constitution permits the Government involuntarily to administer antipsychotic drugs to a mentally ill defendant facing serious criminal charges in order to render that defendant competent to stand trial," but only if a court determines that four conditions are met. Id. at 179. These conditions, which we refer to as the " Sell factors," are that: (1) there are " important governmental interests" at stake; (2) " involuntary medication will significantly further those concomitant state interests; " (3) " involuntary medication is necess ...

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