Monday, July 27, 2020
Ross K. Holberg has posted No Court of Last Resort: The Future of Involuntary Commitment in the South Dakota Courts in Light of the Slow Death of Matter of Woodruff (South Dakota Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 1, 2020) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Two alarming phenomena follow: first, a vulnerable population has no access to judicial review of stigmatizing orders that result in the loss of legal rights; and second, the State of South Dakota has no judicial elaboration of its involuntary commitment laws. This lack of precedent does not just make South Dakota an outlier; it is a sign of a constitutionally infirm process. While other courts have been highly critical of Woodruff, it has remained deeply entrenched, due to norms descended from its errant mootness doctrine.
The court’s adjudicative avoidance is unacceptable in light of the “massive curtailment of liberty” the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledges an involuntary commitment produces, as well as the courts’ duty to adjudicate. In fairness, justiciability doctrines often obscure this duty by propounding an imperative to judicial restraint. In this article, I propose a framework to supplant Woodruff. By integrating the justiciability doctrines that allow other states to develop mental health jurisprudence, this framework maintains a preference for access to the courts, by recognizing the distinctions between the limited jurisdiction of the federal judiciary and the plenary jurisdiction of state courts.
The two main methods courts rely on to adjudicate mental health commitment appeals are the collateral consequences rule of Sibron v. New York and the public interest exception to the mootness bar. Starting from the normative ground that an appeal of an involuntary commitment order is inherently a matter of significant public importance, this framework aligns with the views of scholars and jurists who prioritize the duty to adjudicate. Judicial review is regarded here as essential. This justiciability framework is thus designed to allow for elaboration of mental health statutes, individual access to the courts, and oversight of regional boards of mental illness.