IN THE MATTER OF: S.D., Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: May 9, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In
and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DI 17-003D
Honorable Dan Wilson, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, James Reavis,
Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana.
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Jonathan
M. Krauss, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Ed
Corrigan, Flathead County Attorney, Stacy Bowman, Deputy
County Attorney, Kalispell, Montana.
The State filed a petition to involuntarily commit S.D. after
she attempted to kill herself and expressed ongoing suicidal
ideation and hopelessness. After the initial hearing,
S.D.'s attorney filed a waiver of her rights, which
included her signed consent to involuntary commitment. The
District Court approved the waiver and ordered S.D.'s
commitment. On appeal, S.D. argues that the District Court
violated her statutory and due process rights when it
committed her without holding a hearing. We affirm.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
In January 2017, the State filed a petition against
71-year-old S.D., alleging that she suffered from a mental
disorder and required involuntary commitment. The State
submitted and incorporated by reference a report by a mental
health professional, Jami M. Flickinger (Flickinger), who had
examined S.D. Flickinger's report stated that S.D. had
made efforts to kill herself while residing in two different
assisted living facilities. It stated that at one of the
facilities S.D. used a nurse's unattended keys to access
most of her medications, and at another facility S.D. had
tried-unsuccessfully-to break a mirror to cut herself.
According to Flickinger's report, S.D. admitted
"ongoing suicidal ideation and hopelessness due to her
physical and mental health condition." Flickinger's
opinion was that S.D.'s mood was depressed and her affect
flat, that she had no insight into the nature of her
condition, and that she had inadequate judgment and impulse
control. Flickinger also described S.D. as possessing a clear
stream of thought without bizarre or illogical elements or
spontaneous expressions of hallucinatory, illusional, or
delusional thoughts or perceptions. Flickinger recommended
that S.D. be committed to the Montana State Hospital for up
to 90 days.
The State's petition for involuntary commitment listed
the procedural rights available to S.D. under §§
53-21-115 to -118, MCA. Flickinger's report, incorporated
in the petition by reference, included a list of the same
procedural rights, except for information about the right to
voluntarily take necessary medications. Based on the
State's petition, the District Court issued an order that
scheduled both an initial appearance and an adjudicatory
hearing and designated two people to act as alternates as
S.D.'s appointed friend.
The State appeared at the initial hearing before the District
Court, and S.D. and her attorney appeared via
videoconference. The record does not reflect whether
S.D.'s appointed friend was present. The District Court
ensured that all parties could see and hear one another and
then advised S.D. of her civil commitment procedural rights.
After advising S.D. of her rights, the District Court asked
her if she had any questions. S.D. replied, "No, I
don't have any questions right now."
That same morning, S.D. and her attorney filed a "Waiver
of Hearing on Petition" with the District Court. The
waiver stated that S.D. acknowledged that she had received a
copy of the State's petition; that she discussed the
petition with her attorney; and that she was aware of the
"fundamental rights" set forth in the petition, as
well as other rights. The waiver included several paragraphs
that described the procedural rights in §§
53-21-115 to -118, MCA, and stated that S.D. was aware,
understood, and/or had knowledge of those; it also stated
that S.D. had been informed by her attorney that she had the
right to a jury trial and the right to appeal any final
ruling. The waiver stated S.D.'s belief that she needed
treatment for a "mental disease or disorder." It
continued, "I wish to avoid any further hearings and I
do hereby waive my right to attend any future hearings."
S.D. then expressly waived all her listed rights except the
right to receive treatment, and she consented to the court
entering an order for her involuntary commitment to the
Montana State Hospital for a period not to exceed 90 days.
S.D. and her attorney both signed the waiver. S.D. signed
immediately beneath the following text:
I further certify that 1) I have discussed this waiver with
my attorney; 2) I understand the rights listed above; 3) it
is my desire and intent to voluntarily waive these rights;
and 4) I have discussed the nature of these proceedings with
my attorney and I understand the purpose of these
attorney signed below text that stated:
I certify that 1) I have discussed this waiver with the
[R]espondent; 2) I am satisfied that the Respondent
understands the rights listed above; 3) I believe it is the
Respondent's desire and intent to voluntarily waive these
rights; and 4) I have discussed the nature of these
proceedings with the Respondent and I am satisfied that the
Respondent understands the purpose of these proceedings.
record does not reflect whether S.D.'s appointed friend
participated in S.D.'s decision to sign the waiver or
whether Flickinger concurred.
The District Court issued an order that day committing S.D.
to the Montana State Hospital for up to 90 days. The Court
stated in the order that it had considered the reasons for
the waiver pursuant to § 53-21-119, MCA, and was
satisfied that the "Respondent is aware of the waiver of
hearing after having consulted with her attorney, and is
capable of making a knowing decision therein."
Due process claims in involuntary civil commitment cases are
subject to plenary review. In re N.A.,2014 MT 257,
¶ 10, 376 Mont. 379, 334 P.3d 915. We review an
involuntary civil commitment order to determine whether the
district court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous
and its conclusions of law are correct. In re
R.W.K.,2013 MT 54, ¶ 14, 369 Mont. 193, 297 P.3d
318. We require strict adherence to the involuntary
commitment statutory scheme, considering the "utmost