Sell v. United States, 061603 FEDSC, 02-5664

Docket Nº:02-5664
Party Name:Sell v. United States
Case Date:June 16, 2003
Court:United States Supreme Court




No. 02-5664

United States Supreme Court

June 16, 2003

Justice Scalia, with whom Justice O’Connor and Justice Thomas join, dissenting.

The District Court never entered a final judgment in this case, which should have led the Court of Appeals to wonder whether it had any business entertaining petitioner’s appeal. Instead, without so much as acknowledging that Congress has limited court-of-appeals jurisdiction to “appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States,” 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (emphasis added), and appeals from certain specified interlocutory orders, see § 1292, the Court of Appeals proceeded to the merits of Sell’s interlocutory appeal. 282 F.3d 560 (2002). Perhaps this failure to discuss jurisdiction was attributable to the United States’ refusal to contest the point there (as it has refused here, see Brief for United States 10, n. 5), or to the panel’s unexpressed agreement with the conclusion reached by other Courts of Appeals, that pretrial forced-medication orders are appealable under the “collateral order doctrine,” see, e.g.,United States v. Morgan, 193 F.3d 252, 258—259 (CA4 1999); United States v. Brandon, 158 F.3d 947, 950—951 (CA6 1998). But this Court’s cases do not authorize appeal from the District Court’s April 4, 2001, order, which was neither a “final decision” under § 1291 nor part of the class of specified interlocutory orders in § 1292. We therefore lack jurisdiction, and I would vacate the Court of Appeals’ decision and remand with instructions to dismiss.


After petitioner’s indictment, a Magistrate Judge found that petitioner was incompetent to stand trial because he was unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and to assist in his defense. As required by 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d), the Magistrate Judge committed petitioner to the custody of the Attorney General, and petitioner was hospitalized to determine whether there was a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future he would attain the capacity to stand trial. On June 9, 1999, a reviewing psychiatrist determined, after a § 549.43 administrative hearing1, that petitioner should be required to take antipsychotic medication, finding the medication necessary to render petitioner competent for trial and medically appropriate to treat his mental illness. Petitioner’s administrative appeal from that decision2 was denied with a written statement of reasons.

At that point the Government possessed the requisite authority to administer forced medication. Petitioner responded, not by appealing to the courts the § 549.43 administrative determination, see 5 U.S.C. § 702 but by moving in the District Court overseeing his criminal prosecution for a hearingregarding the appropriateness of his medication. A Magistrate Judge granted the motion and held a hearing. The Government then requested from the Magistrate Judge an order authorizing the involuntary medication of petitioner, which the Magistrate Judge entered. On April 4, 2001, the District Court affirmed this Magistrate Judge’s order, and it is from this order that petitioner appealed to the Eighth Circuit.



Petitioner and the United States maintain that 28 U.S.C. § 1291 which permits the courts of appeals to review “all final decisionsof the district courts of the United States” (emphasis added), allowed the Court of Appeals to review the District Court’s April 4, 2001 order. We have described § 1291, however, as a “final judgment rule,” Flanagan v. United States, 465 U.S. 259, 263 (1984), which “[i]n a criminal case … prohibits appellate review until conviction and imposition of sentence ibid. (emphasis added). See also Abney v. United States, 431 U.S. 651, 656—657 (1977). We have invented4 a narrow exception to this statutory command: the so-called “collateral order” doctrine, which permits appeal of district court orders that (1) “conclusively determine the disputed question,” (2) “resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action,” and (3) are “effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.” Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 468 (1978). But the District Court’s April 4, 2001, order fails to satisfy the third requirement of this test.

Our decision in Riggins v. Nevada, 504 U.S. 127 (1992), demonstrates that the District Court’s April 4, 2001, order is reviewable on appeal from conviction and sentence. The defendant in Rigginshad been involuntarily medicated while a pretrial detainee, and he argued, on appeal from his murder conviction, that the State of Nevada had contravened the substantive-due-process standards set forth in Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210 (1990). Rather than holding that review of this claim was not possible on appeal from a criminal conviction, the RigginsCourt held that forced medication of a criminal defendant that fails to comply with Harpercreates an unacceptable risk of trial error and entitles the defendant to automatic vacatur of his conviction. 504 U.S., at 135—138. The Court is therefore wrong to say that “[a]n ordinary appeal comes too late for a defendant to enforce” this right, ante, at 9, and appellate review of any substantive-due-process challenge to the District Courts April 4, 2001, order must wait until after conviction and sentence have been...

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