In the Matter of the Detention of: J.N., Appellant.
appeals from a trial court's order denying his motion to
be physically present at his mental illness civil commitment
hearing. On appeal, J.N. contends that King County Superior
Court Local Mental Proceeding Rule (LMPR) 1.8(b), which
requires all civil commitment respondents at certain
hospitals to appear by video for their hearings, violates his
statutory right to be physically present at such hearings. We
agree and reverse.
to the involuntary treatment act (ITA), codified at chapter
71.05 RCW, individuals who pose a risk of harm to themselves
or others may, following a hearing, be involuntarily
committed for treatment. The King County Superior Court holds
such hearings at its designated ITA court, located in the
Harborview Medical Center.
respondents have been transported to and from the ITA court
by van or, if the respondent requires a gurney for medicalor
safety reasons, by ambulance. In 2012, King County Crisis and
Commitment Services (CCS) contracted with a private ambulance
provider to secure transportation and monitoring services for
respondents. However, in March 2015, the ambulance provider
notified CCS that it was terminating the contract and would
no longer provide transportation of respondents by ambulance
except from those hospitals for which it already had an
existing contract. CCS has been unable to procure an
alternative ambulance provider for these services.
response to the loss of ambulance services for ITA hearings,
the King County Superior Court issued an emergency order
establishing temporary protocols for ITA hearings by video.
The emergency order permitted respondents who were
hospitalized at certain facilities in King County, and who
required ambulance transportation, to appear for their ITA
hearing by video conference. The emergency order was extended
multiple times. The superior court leadership concluded that
the use of video hearings for respondents "who are
unable to travel by van to ITA Court is a viable option for a
temporary period until the Court, CCS, the hospitals and
other stakeholders can determine if other options
some hearings in person and others via video conferencing
proved not ideal. The judicial officers responsible for ITA
court proceedings noted that whether a particular respondent
would be transported by van to the ITA court or appear by
video could change at the last minute, which in turn impacted
where the respondent's attorney needed to be for the
hearing. The judicial officers also believed that
video conferencing was often more humane than physically
transporting respondents and having them wait extended
periods for their hearings to commence. Finally, the judicial
officers noted that they had received consistently favorable
feedback from the respondents who had previously appeared by
address these concerns, the superior court adopted LMPR 1.8.
Unlike the emergency order, LMPR 1.8 does not differentiate
between those respondents who require ambulance
transportation and those who are eligible for van
transportation. Rather, LMPR 1.8(b) requires that
all respondents hospitalized at five specific
hospitals appear via video unless the respondent files a
motion to request an in-person hearing and the court finds
"good cause" for granting the motion.
was detained at Navos Mental Health Solutions in West Seattle
on February 12, 2016. Navos filed a petition to detain J.N.
for up to an additional 90 days of inpatient treatment, but
J.N. was ultimately released on February 23, 2016, after
agreeing to an order for 90 days of less restrictive
involuntary mental health treatment in an outpatient setting.
April 21, 2016, J.N. was admitted to the Harborview Medical
Center. The medical team at Harborview referred J.N. to a
designated mental health professional for evaluation. The
designated mental health professional then filed a petition
for revocation of J.N.'s less restrictive order.
was promptly transported to and admitted by Navos pending his
revocation hearing. Navos is one of the facilities at which,
pursuant to LMPR 1.8(b), all respondents are required to
appear by video conference for their commitment hearings.
April 26, 2016, J.N. met with his attorney. J.N. and his
attorney discussed and decided to request an in-person
hearing at Harborview. Alternatively, J.N. requested that an
in-person hearing take place at Navos with all parties,
witnesses, and the judge physically present. The following
day, J.N. filed a motion to bar the hearing by video.
trial court heard argument on J.N.'s motion. The trial
court denied the motion. J.N.'s revocation hearing was
conducted by video conference. The trial court ordered 90
days of inpatient hospitalization.
contends that he has a statutory right to be physically
present at his revocation hearing.
parties have spent significant time addressing the public
policy concerns surrounding this issue. But these concerns
are better addressed to the legislature. Indeed, "[i]t
is the role of the legislature, not the judiciary, to balance
public policy interest and enact law." Rousso v.
State, 170 Wn.2d 70, 92, 239 P.3d 1084 (2010).
"Article 2, section 1, of the Washington State
Constitution vests all legislative authority in the
legislature and in the people." In re Chi-Dooh
Li, 79 Wn.2d 561, 577, 488 P.2d 259 (1971); see Const,
art. II, § 1.
courts are not in a position to agree or disagree with our
legislature's balancing of public policy interests."
Nw. Animal Rights Network v. State, 158 Wn.App. 237,
246, 242 P.3d 891 (2010).
Indeed, the judiciary's making such public policy
decisions would not only ignore the separation of powers, but
would stretch the practical limits of the judiciary. See
Brown v. Owen,165 Wn.2d 706, 718-19, 206 P.3d 310
(2009) (recognizing the separation of powers implicit in the
Washington Constitution and the relevance of justiciability
concerns like those addressed by the federal political
question doctrine (citing Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S.
186, 217, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962))). This court is
not equipped to legislate what constitutes a
"successful" regulatory scheme by balancing public
policy concerns, nor can we determine which risks are
acceptable and which are not. These are not questions of law;
we lack the tools. [The plaintiff], "in order to succeed
in this action, ask[s] the ...