HLD, v. 30, n. 10
Oregon Appeals Court Reverses Individual's
Involuntary Commitment Because Record Did Not Show High Probability Of Injury
Diana Roberts, who suffers from bipolar schizoaffective disorder,
was involuntarily committed to the state Mental Health Division for a period
not to exceed 180 days. When not on medication, Roberts' condition causes her
to become confused and wander the streets. Before her commitment, Roberts had
been detained four times on a "mental health hold." The "notification of mental
illness" that led to her commitment said she was "wandering--confused--disorganized"
but did not indicate the specific incident that prompted her hospitalization.
Mental health investigator Robert Skall concluded that Roberts was unable to
care for her basic personal needs and was a danger to herself and others but
did not describe any specific dangerous behavior other than her tendency to
wander. Two mental health professionals examined Roberts before her commitment
hearing and, relying heavily on Skall's report, reached similar conclusions
as him. At the hearing, Skall acknowledged that his conclusions about Roberts
were drawn from her history of wandering rather than the specific incident that
led to her present hospitalization. While acknowledging that it did not have
"good evidence regarding incidents which have resulted in danger to herself,"
the trial court found that Roberts' condition was such that she "would be [an]
immediate danger to herself if released on the streets." Roberts appealed.
The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed, finding the evidence did
not meet the "extraordinary persuasiveness" standard required for involuntary
commitment. While a person may be deemed a danger to herself based on an emerging
pattern of self-destructive behavior, the appeals court found no indication
in the record that Roberts' behavior had ever caused any injury. "[T]his case
does not present a situation in which authorities interrupted a sequence of
events that has, in the past, led to disaster," the appeals court said. Thus,
the appeals court concluded that the record did not indicate injury to Roberts
was "highly probable." Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the commitment
Oregon v. Roberts, No. A114854 (Or. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2002)