Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court held that Montana law does not preclude physical restraint of a seriously mentally ill individual during transportation from a courtroom to a hospital or mental health facility. The district court ordered J.J., who suffered from severe and chronic mental illness, involuntarily committed to Montana State Hospital (MSH). Thereafter, J.J. requested that he not be handcuffed in the sheriff’s vehicle on the way to MSH. The district court denied the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-146 provides patients a statutory right to be free from physical restraint, nothing in the plain language of the statute leads to the conclusion that it applies to transportation. Further, Montana law enforcement officers owe the public a general duty to preserve the peace and protect the public from harm inflicted by third persons. Because J.J.’s potential for serious injury or harm was high and foreseeable, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it failed to grant J.J.’s request not to be handcuffed during transportation. View "In re J.J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court approving S.D.’s waiver of her rights and ordering S.D.’s involuntary commitment, holding that the district court did not violate S.D.’s statutory and due process rights when it committed her without holding a hearing. The State filed a petition against S.D., alleging that she suffered from a mental disorder and required involuntary commitment. S.D. and her attorney signed a “waiver of hearing on petition,” and S.D. expressly waived all her procedural rights listed in Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-115 to -118 except the right to receive treatment. The district court issued an order committing S.D. to the Montana State Hospital. S.D. appealed, arguing that the district court erred when it committed her upon her signed waiver without a hearing or trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that both S.D.’s waiver and the district court’s order committing her were sufficient to find an intentional and knowing waiver pursuant to section 53-21-119(1), and it was not necessary for the court to set a hearing to inquire further into S.D.’s waiver of rights. View "In re S.D." on Justia Law

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Montana’s Preferred Provider Agreements Act (MPPAA), Mont. Code Ann. 33-22-1701 to -1707, does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Montana Constitution. Plaintiff sought and received treatment from St. Peter’s Hospital for various injuries and symptoms. Because Plaintiff did not have health insurance the Hospital billed Plaintiff directly, but almost all of Plaintiff’s treatments costs were either covered by another party’s insurance or significantly discounted by the Hospital’s financial-need discount. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit arguing that the statutes authorizing the Hospital’s billing practices violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Montana Constitution. The district court concluded that the MPPAA creates similarly situated classes but does not violate Plaintiff’s equal protection rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MPPAA, which authorizes the Hospital’s billing practices, does not deprive Plaintiff of her right to equal protection. View "Gazelka v. St. Peter's Hospital" on Justia Law

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Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-119(1), which prohibits a person from waiving the right to counsel in civil commitment proceedings, does not violate the Sixth or the Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. After the State filed a petition to involuntarily commit Respondent, Respondent advised the district court that he wished to waive counsel and represent himself. The district court denied Respondent’s request. The district court later approved a stipulation entered into by Respondent, together with his appointed counsel, for commitment to community-based treatment, and ordered Respondent’s commitment. On appeal, Respondent argued that section 53-21-119(1) violates his constitutional rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Due Process clause does not establish as fundamental the right to represent oneself in civil commitment proceedings; and (2) the prohibition against waiver in civil commitment proceedings is reasonably related to a permissible legislative objective. View "In re S.M." on Justia Law

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Under Montana law, a debtor may claim an exemption for a health savings account (HSA) within the constraints imposed by Mont. Code Ann. 25-13-608(1)(d) or (f). Debtor in this case filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. Debtor claimed his HSA exempt in the amount of $14,319.61 pursuant to section 25-13-608(1)(d) or (f). Debtor’s withdrawal of funds from the HSA was applied exclusively to qualified medical expenses. The trustee filed an objection to the claim of exemption. The bankruptcy court certified a question on the issue to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that a debtor may claim an exemption for an HSA to the extent that it is “used or will be used to pay for the care” described in section 25-13-608(1)(f). View "In re John Charles Giacometto" on Justia Law

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Appellant appealed the order of the district court recommitting him to the Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center for a period of up to one year and finding that involuntary administration of necessary medication was in Appellant’s best interest. On appeal, Appellant challenged the sufficiency of the district court’s written findings of fact and sought remand for entry of an amended recommitment order with required statutory findings. The Supreme Court remanded for entry of an amended recommitment order, holding that the district court’s recommitment order did not minimally comply with the specific findings requirements of Mont. Code Ann. 53-12-127(8)(b), (c), (d), (f), (g) and -128(1)(d). View "In re D.L.B." on Justia Law

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The Yellowstone County Attorney filed four petitions for commitment against C.B., a twenty-eight-year-old female with a lengthy history of mental illness. The first three petitions were dismissed. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court granted the fourth petition and commitment to the Montana State Hospital (MSH). The court also authorized the administration of involuntary medication in the event that C.B. refused to take her medications. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding that the State had satisfied its burden of proof authorizing commitment; (2) the district court did not err by authorizing the administration of involuntary medication when it “may be necessary”; and (3) C.B. received effective assistance of counsel. View "In re C.B." on Justia Law

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The Missoula County Attorney’s Office petitioned for a determination that K.P. suffered from a mental disorder requiring involuntary commitment. After a commitment hearing, the district court involuntarily committed K.P. to the Montana State Hospital (MSH) in Warm Springs. K.P. appealed, arguing that the district court’s oral order of involuntary commitment violated Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-127(8) and due process because it failed to include the required factual findings. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated the district court’s commitment order, holding that the district court’s order did not satisfy section 53-21-127(8) because there were no findings of facts to support the general conclusions. View "In re K.P." on Justia Law

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The State filed a petition seeking the commitment of C.K. to the Montana State Hospital (MSH) for involuntary mental health treatment pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 35-21-127. At the commitment hearing, the examining mental health professional, Kim Waples, testified about C.K.’s behavior based on her initial evaluation report and a therapeutic group home’s counseling and staff records. At the close of the hearing, the district court granted the State’s petition and committed C.K. to the MSH for ninety days. C.K. appealed, arguing that the district court erred in admitting and considering inadmissible hearsay referenced in Waples’ hearing testimony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) otherwise inadmissible hearsay may be admissible through an expert under Mont. R. Evid. 703 upon proper foundation and for the limited purpose of explaining the basis of the expert’s opinion rather than proving the facts asserted in the statement; and (2) the district court in this case did not abuse its discretion in admitting and considering the otherwise inadmissible hearsay referenced in Waples’ testimony for the purpose of explaining her opinions and recommendations. View "In re C.K." on Justia Law

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D.L.B., a seventy-five-year-old male suffering from mental illness, has been involuntarily committed to mental hospitals throughout his life. In 2015, the State filed a petition to extend D.L.B.’s commitment to the Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center for further evaluation and treatment. After an adjudicatory hearing, the district court orally extended D.L.B.’s commitment to the Nursing Care Center for a period of not more than six months. D.L.B. appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court’s findings were sufficient to support a conclusion that recommitment to the Nursing Care Center was statutorily authorized. View "In re D.L.B." on Justia Law