IN RE MENTAL HEALTH ACTIONS FOR A.S., SARA TOWNSEND, Appellant (Defendant below)
Appeal from the Clark Circuit Court, No. 10C01-1208-MH-124. The Honorable Daniel E. Moore, Judge. On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 10A01-1211-MH-501.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Matthew J. McGovern, Anderson, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR A.S.: Richard R. Fox, Steven A. Gustafson, New Albany, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR THE STATE OF INDIANA: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Kristin K.E. Garn, Elizabeth C. Rogers, Deputy Attorneys General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
David, Justice. Dickson, C.J., Rucker, Massa, and Rush, JJ., concur.
The Indiana Code provides a mechanism for individuals to seek immediate emergency treatment for individuals they believe to be a threat to themselves or others. Here, a woman's co-worker completed an application to initiate just such a process, which led a trial court judge to issue a warrant for the woman's detention and treatment. The judge later grew skeptical as to the truth of the allegations set forth in the application and ordered the co-worker to appear in court, found her in contempt, and imposed sanctions. Because we conclude that the trial court lacked the statutory authority to find the co-worker in contempt, and because the co-worker's actions did not place her under the trial court's authority to impose sanctions as an inherent power of the judiciary, we reverse.
Facts and Procedural History
Sara Townsend, an Indiana resident, and A.S. were nurses at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. On August 31, 2012, Townsend completed an application for emergency detention, seeking a seventy-two-hour emergency detention of A.S. pursuant to Indiana Code § 12-26-5-1. Townsend alleged that A.S. was mentally ill and dangerous or gravely disabled, and claimed that A.S. had threatened suicide. A doctor signed off on Townsend's application, concurring that A.S. presented a danger to herself or others, and pursuant to the application's filing, the Clark County Circuit Court issued a warrant for A.S. to
be transported to a hospital and detained for emergency treatment. A.S. was taken into custody for treatment that same day.
The next morning, the judge who issued the warrant received a phone call from A.S.'s boyfriend, a local police officer. The officer stated that he disagreed with the allegations. The judge then called the hospital where A.S. was detained and learned that she was not exhibiting any of the symptoms alleged in the application for emergency detention. Doctors at the hospital determined that there was no cause to continue detaining A.S. and discharged her on September 2, 2012.
On September 21, 2012, the judge issued Townsend a citation and order to appear and show cause why she should not be " held in contempt for willfully hindering and delaying or disobeying lawful process of this court and directly making false and inaccurate statements." (Appellant's App. at 19-20.) Townsend filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that there was no statutory basis to hold her in contempt and that the Indiana Code provides ...