Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Oregon Court Reverses Civil Commitment without Prehearing Notice

The Oregon Court of Appeals, sitting En Banc, reversed an involuntary civil commitment order, finding that the trial court violated Oregon law by failing to provide prehearing notice.

An Oregon woman, identified only by her initials, SJF, was involuntarily hospitalized on a physician's hold. Court appointed counsel was present for a civil commitment hearing, but she was not "because of her currently being restrained." Counsel represented to the court that SJF "decided that we 'might as well have it today,' in her words." The court responded: "Alright. So, that obviously means we can dispense with the explanation to her of her procedural and due process rights. And so, we'll go straight to the State's case." The court ultimately entered a judgment committing SJF on the ground that she was mentally ill and unable to provide for her basic personal needs.

The appellate court reversed the civil commitment order, finding that the trial court violated ORS 426.100(1), which requires pre-hearing notice of the reason for the hearing, the nature and possible results of the proceeding and the person's rights. The court found that because SJF "was not present, the trial court did not provide her with the information required by ORS 426.100(1). Nor did the court determine whether appellant had waived her right to be advised of that information."

“To comply with ORS 426.100(1), 'a trial court in a civil commitment proceeding must either advise the alleged mentally ill person directly regarding those rights or conduct an examination of the record to determine whether a valid waiver of the right to be advised has been knowingly and voluntarily made,'" the court noted, citing State v. Ritzman, 192 Or App 296, 298. 84 P3d 1129 (2009) and State v. May, 131 Or App 570, 571, 888 P2d 14 (1994). The trial court did neither for SJF.

Recognizing that "a civil commitment has serious consequences," the court explained that the "purpose of ORS 426.100(1) is to ensure that before an alleged mentally ill person suffers those consequences, he or she receives 'the benefit of a full and fair hearing.' ... If a court does not provide a person with all of the information required by ORS 426.100(1), the person does 'not receive that benefit:" This failure "constitutes an 'egregious' error." See: State v. SJF, 247 Or App 321. 269 P. 3d 83 (2011).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

State v. SJF