IN THE MATTER OF: J.J., Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: January 31, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DI-16-11C Honorable
John C. Brown, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, James Reavis,
Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Micheal
S. Wellenstein, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana,
Marty Lambert, Gallatin County Attorney, Deborah Pratt,
Deputy County Attorney, Bozeman, Montana
MCGRATH, CHIEF JUSTICE
This appeal stems from a district court's denial of a
motion to be transported from the courtroom to the Montana
State Hospital without handcuffs by an individual, who
immediately prior to the motion, was involuntarily committed
to the Montana State Hospital.
We restate the issue on appeal as follows:
Does Montana law preclude physical restraint of a
seriously mentally ill individual during transportation from
a courtroom to a hospital or mental health facility?
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
J.J. is a thirty-year-old-man with diabetes. As a child, J.J.
was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder - I. Both conditions
require J.J. to take daily medication. In May 2016, J.J. was
seen by the Gallatin County crisis response team eight times
in six days, admitted to the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital
emergency room four times in seven days, and had discharged
himself from Hope House, a local support program. During his
repeated appearances at the hospital J.J. became agitated by
other patients and made numerous non-specific threats, one
specific threat to kill the guy in the next room, and told
nearby officers to just shoot him. In the emergency room J.J.
was seen by David Powell, LCSW/MHP, a member of the crisis
response team. Powell performed mental health evaluations on
J.J. on May 14 and 17, 2016. Powell determined that, based
upon his symptoms, J.J. was suffering from "Bipolar I
disorder, severe with psychosis," noting that he was
"obviously very manic," had "pressured
speech," had "very erratic changes in topic"
when speaking, and was delusional. Upon discharge from the
hospital and Hope House, J.J. was provided a multi-day supply
of his medication for both of his conditions. He either lost
them or did not take them.
At Powell's request, on May 17, 2017, the Gallatin County
Attorney's Office filed a petition for involuntary
commitment. In an affidavit attached to the petition, Powell
asserted that J.J. was a danger to himself and others, and
that J.J. was unable to provide for his own basic needs or
comprehend the very serious consequences of his failure to
take his diabetes medication. The District Court scheduled an
evidentiary hearing on the commitment and assigned Adrian
Utsch, LCPC/MHP, to conduct an independent examination of
J.J. prior to the hearing. After the petition was filed, J.J.
fell into a diabetic coma and was again taken to the
emergency room. The District Court ordered that J.J. be held
at the Montana State Hospital (MSH) until the hearing.
On May 23, 2016, immediately prior to the hearing, J.J.
received the court ordered mental health evaluation. Utsch
concluded J.J. was suffering from severe and chronic mental
illness, that he was a danger to himself or others, and in
danger of further decompensation unless he continued to
receive treatment. Utsch testified that during the evaluation
J.J. was manic and told Utsch that he had heard his
father's voice telling him to kill himself but that J.J.
had never taken steps to do so. At the hearing, Powell
testified that J.J. posed an imminent danger to himself
because of his mental disorder. When responding to a question
concerning any statements J.J. made concerning self-harm or
harm to others, Powell relayed J.J.'s actions in the
emergency room where J.J. asked a police officer to shoot
him, and threatened another patient.
J.J. and counsel were present at the hearing and objected to
any involuntary commitment. The District Court found J.J. to
be suffering from Bipolar I Disorder and that he was
substantially unable to provide for his own basic health and
safety needs. The District Court ordered J.J. involuntarily
committed to MSH for a period of no more than three months.
After the District Court pronounced its decision, counsel
requested J.J. not be handcuffed in the sheriff's vehicle
on the way to MSH. The District Court stated, "that goes
above and beyond what I can order and I assume, Deputy
Murphy, that probably for transport he does have to be
restrained, doesn't he, in the vehicle?" Deputy
Murphy replied in the affirmative. J.J. protested. The
District Court ruled "I can't change the fact you
have to be restrained with handcuffs in the car."
J.J. appeals the denial of his request to not be handcuffed.