972 F.2d 792 (7th Cir. 1992), 89-3146, Villanova v. Abrams

Docket Nº:89-3146.
Citation:972 F.2d 792
Party Name:Carlos M. VILLANOVA, Sr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Richard S. ABRAMS, Kris Lall, John Doe, Eduardo Machado, Nicosia Perez, and Philip Welches, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:August 13, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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972 F.2d 792 (7th Cir. 1992)

Carlos M. VILLANOVA, Sr., Plaintiff-Appellant,


Richard S. ABRAMS, Kris Lall, John Doe, Eduardo Machado,

Nicosia Perez, and Philip Welches, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 89-3146.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 13, 1992

Argued Feb. 28, 1992.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jeffrey H. Hornstein (argued), Holleb & Coff, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

Harold E. McKee, III, Asst. State's Atty., David R. Butzen (argued), Office of the State's Atty. of Cook County, Linda J. Hay, Peter V. Bustamante, Asst. Attys. Gen. and Rita M. Novak (argued), Office of the Atty. Gen., Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellees.

Before POSNER, FLAUM, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

POSNER, Circuit Judge.

Twice in 1987 Carlos Villanova was civilly committed against his will to Chicago Read Mental Health Center, a state facility. Claiming that the commitment was an unreasonable seizure of his person and therefore violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment and that the failure to release him within 24 hours, as required by state law, violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law, he brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the psychiatrists employed by Chicago Read and by another public body, the Psychiatric Institute of Cook County, who he claims were responsible for his commitments. There is a little more to the suit but this is enough for our purposes. The judge dismissed it on the pleadings.

Illinois' mental health code authorizes involuntary commitment of "a person who is mentally ill and who because of his illness is reasonably expected to inflict serious physical harm upon himself or another in the near future" or is unable to care for himself. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 91 1/2, p 1-119. The plaintiff does not argue that this standard violates the Constitution. Nor that the statutory procedures for applying the standard violate the Constitution: before a person can be committed, there must be a petition stating that commitment is proper under the statutory standard and a certificate, signed by a mental-health professional who has examined the person sought to be committed, also stating that the commitment is proper under the standard. These documents allow commitment for only 24 hours. For the commitment to be extended beyond that, a different mental health professional must sign a second certificate. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 91 1/2, pp 3-601 through 3-604, 3-610.

The record is scanty, as one expects when a case is decided on the pleadings. At the time of the first commitment Villanova was in jail, apparently awaiting trial for theft, when he requested a psychiatric examination to determine his fitness to stand trial. The judge ordered him sent to the Psychiatric Institute for an examination. A petition to commit Villanova was drawn up a few days after the order. It is apparent from the language of the petition that the author was a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, doubtless employed by the Psychiatric Institute, but beyond this the author's identity is unknown. The petition states that Villanova "presents today with tangential irrelevant responses to inquiries. He is superficially oriented, quite grandiose, and has delusions of thought projection. Insight is lacking and judgment is poor. He is currently unable to care for himself and is a danger to self and others. He is in need of inpatient hospitalization." A psychiatrist at the Institute

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--one of the defendants--examined Villanova and issued a certificate which states that Villanova is "acutely psychotic; was in jail for robbery. Now charged with theft. He is a danger to self/others and needs locked ward hospitalization." So he was committed to Chicago Read. Twenty-four hours passed and no second certificate was issued as the statute required, so Villanova should have been released but he alleges he was not. There is no indication of when he was released; all we know is that the second commitment took place ten weeks after the first and by that time Villanova was not only out of Read but also out on bond, though still awaiting trial for theft. His lawyer requested another psychiatric examination to determine his client's fitness to stand trial. Again the judge ordered Villanova to be examined at the Psychiatric Institute. A week after that order, a petition for commitment was drawn up, presumably by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional at the Institute, again unidentified, which stated that during his examination at the Institute "patient was correctly oriented, somewhat agitated, distractible [sic ], and displayed inappropriate blunted to flat affect. He responde[d] to questions in an [sic ] relevant manner, though seemed to be displaying a great deal of underlying confusion and grandiosity and manipulativeness. He is extremely guarded and evasive and appears to have a great deal of underlying hostility and may pose a danger to himself and others." A psychiatrist at the Institute--another defendant--prepared on the same day a certificate...

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