A.A. v. Eskenazi Health/Midtown CMHCAnnotate this Case
In this involuntary civil commitment proceeding, the trial court accepted an invalid waiver of A.A.’s right to personal appear, and that error was not harmless.
A.A.’s attorney waived A.A.’s right to appear, and the involuntary commitment hearing proceeded without him. The trial court ultimately ordered involuntary civil commitment. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to vacate the regular involuntary-commitment order, holding (1) a mentally competent civil-commitment respondent may relinquish the right to appear with a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver, but an attorney may not waive the right to appear on the respondent’s behalf; (2) if the trial court independently waives a respondent’s presence at a commitment hearing, it must do so at the outset of the proceeding; (3) an improper waiver determination is subject to harmless-error review; and (4) in this case, the trial court did not make a proper waiver finding at the outset of A.A.’s involuntary civil-commitment proceeding, and the error was not harmless.