766 N.E.2d 795 (Ind.App. 2002), 76A05-0201-CV-38, In re Commitment of J.B.

Docket Nº76A05-0201-CV-38.
Citation766 N.E.2d 795
Party NameIn re the COMMITMENT OF J.B.
Case DateApril 30, 2002
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 795

766 N.E.2d 795 (Ind.App. 2002)


No. 76A05-0201-CV-38.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 30, 2002

Page 796

Claramary Winebrenner, Vanhorne Law Office, Auburn, IN, Attorney for Appellant.


BAKER, Judge.

J.B. appeals his involuntary mental health commitment and the trial court's order allowing hospital staff to administer medications despite his refusal. Though the issues raised are moot, we address J.B.'s contentions because they are a matter of great public importance. In addressing his claims, we hold that there was sufficient evidence to support J.B.'s temporary commitment and that J.B. failed to show that his communications with a deacon of the Church of Jehovah's Witnesses fell under the "priest penitent privilege." We also hold, however, that the petitioner's counsel 1 failed to make the showing required to support medicating J.B. despite his refusal.


Michael Dilts, a deacon in the Church of the Jehovah's Witnesses, filed an application requesting J.B.'s emergency detention. On the application, Dilts noted that J.B. was "bipolar" and "not taking his medicine." Appellant's App. p. 30. Dilts also wrote that J.B. discussed wanting to "kill something" such as a dog, cat, or J.B.'s ex-wife. Appellant's App. p. 30. J.B. wanted to "hit" his ex-wife "with [a] hammer [and] cut her up into little pieces." Appellant's App. p. 30. Dilts believed that if J.B. were not restrained immediately he would harm his ex-wife and children. On September 20, 2001, acting on Dilt's application, the trial court ordered J.B. detained at an in-patient psychiatric unit for seventy-two hours.

Four days later, the in-patient facility filed a report with the court and requested an additional period of commitment. In response, the trial court set a hearing on J.B.'s continued commitment. At that hearing, J.B. did not appear and his counsel asked for a continuance. J.B. would

Page 797

have appeared in court but for a sudden feeling of faintness immediately before he was to be transported from the in-patient facility to the court. Tr. p. 4. The court continued the hearing for seven days until October 4, 2001.

Before the October 4 hearing, J.B. moved for a change of judge. The trial court held the October 4 hearing, which it labeled a "probable cause" hearing, and afterwards granted J.B.'s motion for a change of a judge. Dr. Francis Cyran, J.B.'s psychiatrist at the in-patient facility, appeared at the October 4 hearing and testified that he had previously treated J.B. for being "potentially dangerous" and had committed him to a state hospital. Tr. p. 13. Dr. Cyran diagnosed J.B. as having bi-polar disorder, a diagnosis confirmed by other doctors who have treated J.B. Dr. Cyran discovered that J.B. had been missing in New York just two months before the seventy-two-hour commitment. While in New York, J.B. was mugged, left his belongings--including his social security card--at a restaurant, and wrote $1,400 in bad checks. It is not clear from the record, but shortly before or after these events, J.B. was hospitalized in New York where he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Dr. Cyran learned from Dilts's application that J.B. had not been taking his medication and learned that J.B. had threatened to harm his ex-wife. Apparently, when Dr. Cyran discussed the threats with him, J.B. explained that he did not say he wanted to hit his ex-wife with a hammer. Instead, J.B. clarified that he had said that he wanted to beat her with a baseball bat. Moreover, Dr. Cyran related that the application was consistent with his conversations with family members who told him that J.B. was not taking his medication.

In addition to Dr. Cyran, Richard Sturtz, an elder of the Church of Jehovah's Witnesses, testified about threats J.B. had made. J.B. had told Sturtz that he wanted to kill his ex-wife with a hammer. Testifying at the hearing, J.B. said that Sturtz had misquoted him. According to J.B., what he had actually said was that he wanted "to take a bat and knock it upside her head." Tr. p. 29. His comment was an expression of his "inner most" feelings and not a threat. Tr. p. 30, 31.

Judge VanDerbeck was appointed as special judge to preside over the final hearing on J.B.'s temporary commitment. J.B. filed a motion to dismiss the petition at the final...

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