Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed February 21, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

In re James W., 2014 IL 114483

 

 

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (5th) 100422.

 

            JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

            Justices Thomas and Kilbride concurred in the judgment and opinion.

            Justice Theis specially concurred, with opinion.

            Justice Burke concurred in part and dissented in part, with opinion, joined by Chief Justice Garman and Justice Freeman.

 

In this Randolph County case, a 2010 circuit court order for the continuation of the involuntary admission of a patient at the Chester Mental Health Center was upheld, despite the fact that the appellate court had overturned it. Because of the short length of such involuntary commitment orders (180 days), the order in question here has long since expired, raising the problem of mootness. However, the Illinois Supreme Court addressed the matter under the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine.

The respondent in this case, James W., is a 60-year-old male with a lengthy criminal record and a history of psychiatric hospitalizations. Just before the evidentiary hearing on the State’s petition to continue his involuntary admission was to commence, James W. made a request for a jury. This was his right, and no statute provided that, despite having been made at this stage, his request was untimely. The judge told the respondent that no special mental health juries (consisting of six persons) would be available for three months, and respondent accepted the setting of a new jury date which would be 96 days away. That jury trial subsequently took place and resulted in the granting of the State’s petition. James W. sought relief in the appellate court.

The Mental Health Code provides that continuances in such proceedings “shall not extend beyond 15 days” unless requested by the respondent. The appellate court viewed this language as mandatory, rather than directory. It said that that prejudice to a respondent from a three-month delay “is self-evident.” The appellate court said that the respondent had been forced to make a choice which he should not have been required to make and that it could not “agree that the respondent knowingly and voluntarily agreed to” such a lengthy delay. The circuit court was reversed, and the State appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Rather than arguing that the jury demand was tantamount to a request for a continuance, the State chose to argue that noncompliance with the 15-day limit does not automatically invalidate a court’s subsequent judgment continuing involuntary admission to a mental health facility, and that redress would be appropriate only where the delay affected the ultimate outcome in a way prejudicial to respondent.

In this decision, the supreme court held the 15-day requirement to be directory, rather than mandatory, and, thus, the fact that the jury trial was not held within that time frame did not, in itself, render the judgment subsequently entered by the circuit court fatally infirm. The appellate court was reversed, with the supreme court noting that the appellate court had erred when it concluded that James was prejudiced by the three-month delay in scheduling his jury trial. The supreme court said that there was no indication that the result would have been any different if the trial had been held three months earlier.