2017 Mass.App.Div. 149, In re E.A.

Citation:2017 Mass.App.Div. 149
Opinion Judge:HADLEY, P.J.
Attorney:No brief filed for the petitioner. Tamara A. Barney and Nathan E. Frommer for the respondent.
Judge Panel:Present: Hadley, P.J., Noonan & Despotopulos, JJ.
Case Date:October 19, 2017
Court:Massachusetts Appellate Division

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2017 Mass.App.Div. 149


Massachusetts Appellate Division, District Court Department, Western District

October 19, 2017

October 7, 2016

Motion considered in Worcester District Court by McGill, J. 2

No brief filed for the petitioner.

Tamara A. Barney and Nathan E. Frommer for the respondent.

Present: Hadley, P.J., Noonan & Despotopulos, JJ.[1]


The appellant, E.A., appeals from an order denying his motion to dismiss a petition to commit him to a mental health facility pursuant to G.L. c. 123, §§ 7 and 8. The order of commitment that issued has expired, and E.A. has been discharged, making this a moot case. Nonetheless, because the issues presented here are capable of repetition and involve "a statute which permits the Commonwealth to restrict an individual's liberty [and thus] is a matter of public importance," we exercise our discretion and will decide the matter. Hashimi v. Kalil, 388 Mass. 607 , 609 (1983). After considering the record and the applicable Massachusetts law, we affirm the denial of the motion to dismiss. The relevant undisputed facts and procedural history are as follows.

On or before February 4, 2016, E.A., who suffers from chronic schizophrenia, was admitted to a hospital for medical reasons. On February 4, 2016, a physician applied for E.A.'s temporary involuntary admission to the University of Massachusetts Psychiatric Treatment and Recovery Center (the "Facility") under G.L. c. 123, § 12(a). Based on his examination of E.A., that physician believed that E.A. required hospitalization so as to avoid the likelihood of serious harm by reason of mental illness. A physician at the Facility then examined E.A. and found that he was at high risk for self-harm and needed psychiatric hospitalization.

Pursuant to G.L. c. 123, § 12(c), E.A. was given the opportunity to apply for voluntary admission under G.L. c. 123, § 10. E.A. completed an application for voluntary admission, and the physician at the Facility approved the application. The completed application included the physician's determination that E.A. met all criteria for this admission. E.A. was then admitted to the Facility on a conditional voluntary basis. The admitting physician, however, noted in his record of an examination he conducted on the same date that E.A. had no understanding as to why he was admitted.

One week later, on February 11, 2016, the Facility filed a petition in the Worcester District Court to commit E.A. pursuant to G.L. c. 123, §§ 7 and 8. On February 16, 2016,

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E.A., through counsel, filed a motion to dismiss the petition and for an order for his immediate discharge.

In the motion to dismiss, E.A. noted that G.L. c. 123, § 11 provides that a psychiatric facility may not accept an application for conditional voluntary admission if the person lacks the capacity to understand that: he is agreeing to stay in the facility; he is agreeing to accept treatment; he must provide the facility with three days written advance notice of his intention to leave; and the facility may hold him if it petitions for an extended commitment. Based on his lack of understanding, as documented in the February 4, 2016 medical record, E.A. asserted that his application for conditional voluntary admission should not have been accepted. E.A. also asserted that the only lawful mechanism by which the Facility could have held him was an involuntary three-day commitment made pursuant to G.L. c. 123, § 12(b). Under G.L. c. 123, § 12(d), persons committed under that statute must be discharged at the end of three days unless within those three days the superintendent of a facility applies for a commitment under §§ 7 and 8 (or the person remains on a...

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