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In re Civil Commitment of T.W.

Supreme Court of Indiana

April 30, 2019

In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of T.W., Appellant (Respondent)
v.
St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc., d/b/a St. Vincent Stress Center, Appellee (Petitioner) In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of A.M., Appellant (Respondent)
v.
Community Health Network, Inc., Appellee (Petitioner)

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court No. 49D08-1804-MH-14684 The Honorable Steven R. Eichholtz, Judge The Honorable Kelly M. Scanlan, Commissioner On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 18A-MH-1148

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court No. 49D08-1802-MH-7271 The Honorable Steven R. Eichholtz, Judge The Honorable Kelly M. Scanlan, Commissioner On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 18A-MH-636

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT T.W. Joel M. Schumm Indianapolis, Indiana Valerie K. Boots Marion County Public Defender Agency Appellate Division Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE ST. VINCENT HOSPITAL AND HEALTH CARE CENTER, INC. D/B/A ST. VINCENT STRESS CENTER Andrew B. Howk Matthew M. Schappa Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT A.M. Joel M. Schumm Indianapolis, Indiana Valerie K. Boots Marion County Public Defender Agency Appellate Division Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR AMICUS CURIAE, INDIANAPOLIS BAR ASSOCIATION, APPELLATE PRACTICE SECTION Libby Y. Goodknight Krieg DeVault LLP Indianapolis, Indiana Tyler D. Helmond Voyles Vaiana Lukemeyer Baldwin & Webb Indianapolis, Indiana Paul L. Jefferson McNeely Stephenson Indianapolis, Indiana Josh S. Tatum Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE COMMUNITY HEALTH NETWORK, INC. Jenny R. Buchheit Stephen E. Reynolds Gregory W. Pottorff Ice Miller, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         The purposes of civil commitment proceedings include protecting the public and ensuring the rights of persons whose liberty is at stake. Civil Commitment of T.K. v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 27 N.E.3d 271, 273 (Ind. 2015). With such interests involved, we write to underscore the importance of proper entry of commitment orders.

         Facts and Procedural History

         St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc., d/b/a St. Vincent Stress Center, requested the temporary involuntary mental health commitment of T.W. The next day, Judge Steven R. Eichholtz of the Marion Superior Court, Probate Division, ordered the prehearing detention of T.W. and appointed a public defender. Commissioner Kelly M. Scanlan presided over the April 20, 2018 evidentiary hearing on St. Vincent's request. Later that day, she signed an "Order for Temporary Commitment." It stated that "the Court now finds by clear and convincing evidence" that T.W. suffers from a mental illness, is dangerous to others, is gravely disabled, and needs custody, care, and treatment at St. Vincent "for a period of time not to exceed ninety (90) days." Appellant's App. Vol. II at 10. The order committed T.W. to St. Vincent "until July 19, 2018 unless discharged prior." Id. at 11. The order is signed, "Kelly M. Scanlan, Judge, Marion Superior Court No. 8, Probate Division," but is not countersigned by Judge Eichholtz. Id. The order directed distribution to the parties.

         T.W., by counsel, filed a notice of appeal on May 14, 2018, calling the temporary commitment order a final judgment. Id. at 3. On August 2, 2018-after the period of temporary commitment defined in the order expired-T.W. filed an appellant's brief arguing the evidence was insufficient to support the order and the order was defective because it was signed by the Commissioner only. After the appeal was fully briefed and transmitted to the Court of Appeals, T.W. moved for remand to the trial court to enter a final order. St. Vincent objected to the motion and argued among other things that T.W. had waived any objection to the Commissioner's authority to enter a final order.

         A divided Court of Appeals rejected T.W.'s arguments and affirmed. T.W. v. St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc., 113 N.E.3d 1257 (Ind.Ct.App. 2018). Among other things, the majority held that although Indiana law barred the Commissioner from entering a final order in the case, T.W. waived appellate review of the issue by not objecting earlier. Id. at 1260. It also denied the motion for remand.

         A.M.'s case is separate but similar. Community Health Network, Inc., sought the temporary involuntary commitment of A.M. Judge Eichholtz issued a preliminary order continuing A.M.'s detention until a March 1, 2018 hearing and appointing a public defender. Commissioner Scanlan presided over the March 1, 2018 hearing. Later that day, she signed an "Order of Temporary Commitment." It stated that "the Court now finds by clear and convincing evidence" that A.M. is suffering from a mental illness, is gravely disabled, and needs custody, care, and treatment. Appellant's App. Vol. II at 9. It committed A.M. to Community's in-patient psychiatric unit until May 30, 2018, unless discharged earlier. The order is ...


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