United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.
BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 17). This matter was heard with oral argument on October 21, 2014. Andrew Sean Biviano, David R. Carlson, and Emily Cooper appeared on behalf of Plaintiffs. Sarah J. Coats appeared on behalf of Defendants. The Court has reviewed the briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.
Plaintiff Ketema Ross is a patient at Eastern State Hospital. He was committed there in 2007 following an acquittal of criminal charges on grounds that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. ECF No. 1, Complaint, at 4. Plaintiff Daniel Gautier is a patient at Western State Hospital. He has been committed there since he agreed to plead not guilty by reason of insanity to criminal charges. ECF No. 1 at 6. Plaintiff Disability Rights Washington ("DRW") is a nonprofit organization that advocates for individuals who have physical, mental, and developmental disabilities in the state of Washington. DRW asserts that it has jurisdictional standing to represent the interests of all patients who have been committed after a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity ("NGRI patients"). ECF No. 1 at 10. Defendants have not challenged DRW's associational standing and the Court assumes for the purpose of the instant motion that DRW has associational standing and may properly represent the interests of NGRI patients in Washington State. Plaintiffs have filed this suit alleging that certain aspects of Washington State law dealing with the commitment of "NGRI patients" violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Ex Post Facto clause of the Constitution, and NGRI patients' Fourteenth Amendment rights. ECF No. 1 at 27-38. In their motion for preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs sought broad relief, including the immediate release of a number of patients. ECF No. 17 at 30-31. At oral argument, Plaintiffs narrowed their request for relief to merely four items: (1) "a declaratory judgment that RCW 10.77.270, as applied to persons who have been determined by clinicians not to be mentally ill, violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and enjoining its enforcement, " (2) a "declaratory judgment that patients must receive a full discharge when they are no longer dangerous or no longer have a treatable mental illness, " (3) an "injunction prohibiting Defendants from confining patients or threatening to confine patients as a consequence for violations of institutional rules, " and (4) a Court-appointed monitor to oversee the implementation of these injunctions.
Under Washington State law, a defendant in a criminal case "may move the court for a judgment of acquittal on the grounds of insanity." RCW 10.77.080. The burden is upon the defendant to establish "by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was insane at the time of the offense or offenses with which he or she is charged." RCW 10.77.080; State v. Monaghan, 166 Wash.App. 521, 530 (2012) ("Washington law presumes that a person is sane at the time the person commits a crime.... Thus, a defendant who claims the defense of insanity must carry the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was insane at the time of the offense."). If the court finds the defendant carried his burden, he is acquitted of the crime. RCW 10.77.080. If the court denies the motion, the question may still be submitted to the trier of fact at trial. Id.
If found not guilty by reason of insanity, a person will be committed if the person presents a substantial danger to others or "presents a substantial likelihood of committing criminal acts jeopardizing public safety or security...." RCW 10.77.110(2). Thus, commitment following acquittal by reason of insanity requires a determination by a preponderance of the evidence that the person has a mental illness and that the person presents a danger to others. See State v. Bao Dinh Dang, 178 Wash.2d 868, 876, 881-82 (2013) (en banc).
"A person so committed shall receive habilitation services according to an individualized service plan specifically developed to treat the behavior which was the subject of the criminal proceedings." RCW 10.77.110(2). Also, NGRI patients "shall have a current examination of his or her mental condition made by one or more experts or professional persons at least once every six months." RCW 10.77.140. The secretary of DSHS is required to provide written notice to the committing court regarding compliance with this provision. Id.
NGRI patients may apply for permanent release from confinement. RCW 10.77.200. If the secretary determines there are reasonable grounds for release, the secretary "shall authorize the person to petition the court." RCW 10.77.200(1). The secretary may also petition the court on his or her own. RCW 10.77.200(2). None of the procedural aspects of the petition process prohibit a patient from directly "petitioning the court for release or conditional release from the institution in which he or she is committed." RCW 10.77.200(5). Nor does any aspect prohibit a patient from filing a habeas corpus petition. RCW 10.77.200(6).
Upon receipt of a petition for release, the court must hold a hearing within forty-five days. RCW 10.77.200(3) (continuances allowed only for good cause). "The burden of proof shall be upon the petitioner to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the person who is the subject of the petition no longer presents, as a result of a mental disease or defect, a substantial danger to other persons, or a substantial likelihood of committing criminal acts jeopardizing public safety or security, unless kept under further control by the court or other persons or institutions." Id. While the court will generally act as the finder of fact when hearing a petition for release, both the patient and the prosecuting attorney have a right to request a jury trial. Id.
In evaluating changes in commitment status, the secretary and courts are advised by an independent public safety review panel ("PSRP"). RCW 10.77.270(1). The PSRP is composed of members appointed by the governor and consisting of a psychiatrist, a licensed clinical psychologist, a representative of the department of corrections, a prosecutor or a representative of a prosecutor's association, a representative of law enforcement or a law enforcement association, a consumer and family advocate representative, and a public defender or a representative of a defender's association. RCW 10.77.270(2). The secretary must submit its recommendation to the PSRP for review thirty days prior to issuing a recommendation for conditional release or forty-five days prior to issuing a recommendation for permanent release. RCW 10.77.270(3). Thereupon, the PSRP reviews the recommendation and may indicate whether it agrees with the recommendation or would issue a different recommendation. Id.
A person committed after judgment of not guilty by reason of insanity is entitled to assistance of counsel "[a]t any and all stages of the proceedings" and "if the person is indigent the court shall appoint counsel to assist him or her." RCW 10.77.020. Indigent NGRI patients requesting release may also have experts appointed by the court to conduct evaluations. RCW 10.77.200(3).
"Plaintiffs are seeking relief only... for patients who have been diagnosed, by the consensus of Defendants' own clinicians, to not have a current treatable mental illness." ECF No. 31 at 8. In such a situation, Plaintiffs argue, DSHS must promptly present NGRI patients to a state court for a release hearing. Plaintiffs assert that DSHS has intentionally delayed presenting release petitions to the Court, and requests the Court to issue an injunction compelling DSHS to present release petitions to the state courts for any NGRI patient whom clinicians have opined no longer suffers from a disease or mental defect that would make them dangerous to others. Additionally, Plaintiffs challenge the inclusion of review by the PSRP and the use of prolonged confinement as punishment for institutional rule violations. In short, Plaintiffs have raised procedural due process challenges contending that the processes by which NGRI patient petitions are evaluated and brought to the state courts' attention are unconstitutionally prolonged.
A summary of the evidence Plaintiffs' have proffered in support of their motion for preliminary injunction is necessary at this point. For this motion, Plaintiffs represented to the Court that no factual disputes needed to be resolved by the Court. Plaintiffs filed a Complaint, ECF No. 1, and the factual allegations therein are not verified. All material allegations which would warrant relief have been denied by the Defendants in their Answer. ECF No. 8. The Plaintiffs have proffered extensive briefing, declarations and medical records concerning J.T., but he is no longer a Plaintiff in this case. Plaintiffs have proffered extensive briefing, declarations and medical records concerning B.Y. B.Y. is not a named party in this case and the Defendants dispute the conclusions Plaintiffs draw from B.Y.'s records. Plaintiff's submitted an affidavit from the Medical Director of Western ...