IN THE MATTER OF: B.H., Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: September 5, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DI 17-01C 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, Ryan W.
Aikin, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Martin D.
Lambert, Gallatin County Attorney, Deborah Pratt, Deputy
County Attorney, Bozeman, Montana
B.H. appeals from the findings of fact, conclusions of law,
and order entered by the Eighteenth Judicial District Court,
Gallatin County, committing him to the Montana State
Hospital. We affirm and consider the following issue:
the District Court commit plain error regarding the
procedural safeguards in § 53-21-122(2)(a), MCA,
necessitating appellate review?
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
B.H. suffers from bipolar disorder. In late 2016 and early
2017, he suffered a severe manic episode during which he
acted in ways his wife confirmed were uncharacteristic. She
called police, who took B.H. to the emergency room and then
to Hope House, a mental health facility in Bozeman. B.H. was
uncooperative at Hope House, refusing treatment and stating
he just needed a vacation. B.H. left Hope House against
medical advice and was thereafter placed at Hays Morris
House, a mental health facility in Butte, because Hope House
had reached capacity. B.H. was likewise uncooperative at Hays
Morris House, where he refused medication, threatened others,
got into arguments, repeatedly removed his clothes, and tore
baseboards from his room.
Adrian Utsch, a professional person employed by the Gallatin
Mental Health Center, conducted a mental health evaluation of
B.H. Based on her findings, Utsch sought initiation of a
proceeding to involuntarily commit B.H. to the Montana State
Hospital. The commitment petition, filed by the Gallatin
County Attorney's Office, alleged that B.H. had
threatened to kill his father and himself, he suffered from a
mental disorder, he was substantially unable to provide for
his own basic needs, and he was an imminent threat of
injuring himself and others. The State's petition
included a list of B.H.'s constitutional and statutory
The District Court, pursuant to § 53-21-122, MCA,
determined probable cause existed that B.H. suffered from a
mental disorder requiring commitment, appointed counsel for
B.H., and scheduled an initial hearing on the State's
petition for January 9, 2017. B.H. attended his initial
hearing via video from Hays Morris House in Butte. B.H.'s
counsel was present in the courtroom, as was counsel for the
state. At the outset of the hearing, B.H. acknowledged that
he had seen the State's petition. After a discussion
concerning whether B.H. needed an interpreter, because he
kept answering the court in Spanish, B.H. asked whether the
court could appoint Eduardo Garcia as his friend. The court
agreed to do so, and at that point, B.H. interrupted,
whereupon the following exchange occurred:
B.H.: I can have Amanda speak for me. She's right here.
The Court: Okay, well, Mr.-
B.H.: I will remove myself from the situation right now.
The Court: Okay.
B.H.: Will that speed things up?
The Court: Well, [B.H.], you don't have to because I, let
me tell you what's going to happen.
B.H.: He's not listening. I'm going to go out
The Court: All right. So, let the record show that [B.H.] has
decided to step out of the hearing room. He has the right to
do that . . . .
The Court: Showing that [B.H.] did appear for this hearing by
video until he left the room; that I did not have a chance to
advise him of his rights but Mr. Rutzke [counsel for B.H.],
were you able to do that to a limited extent or?
Mr. Rutzke: I was not, Your Honor. I was not. I will make-
Female Voice: Do you want him to get a copy of his rights?
The Court: Yeah, he will-there's a copy of his rights
attached to the Petition, ...