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In re Detention of C.B.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

June 17, 2019

In the Matter of the Detention of C.B.

          LEACH, J.

         C.B. appeals the trial court's order for an involuntary 90-day commitment. She claims that she did not waive her alleged constitutional right to a jury trial. But C.B. does not have a constitutional right to a jury trial in this proceeding. And because C.B. was given notice of her statutory right to demand a jury and did not do so, we affirm.


         In July 2017, a King County designated mental health professional detained C.B. for 72 hours of psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Three days later, Harborview Medical Center filed a 14-day involuntary treatment petition. After a probable cause hearing, the trial court ordered her committed for 14 days. Her attorney acknowledged receiving a copy of the court's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order by signing the original. This document included a statement that C.B.'s defense attorney notified C.B. that she had the right to a full hearing and/or a jury trial if Harborview sought involuntary treatment beyond this 14-day period.

         In August, Harborview asked the court to commit C.B. involuntarily for 90 days. At a trial setting hearing, the trial court scheduled a bench trial on this request. C.B.'s attorney signed the scheduling form and initialed the statement confirming C.B.'s oral waiver of a jury trial.

         At trial, C.B.'s defense attorney explained why C.B. could not be transported in person to court. She said she had informed C.B. of her right to be present and that C.B. had waived that right.[1] The court accepted the requested waiver of appearance.

         Witnesses testified that C.B.'s mental impairment resulted in her inability and unwillingness to care for herself. The trial court found by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that C.B. was gravely disabled and less restrictive alternatives to 90 days of involuntary commitment were not in her best interest. It ordered C.B. involuntarily committed for 90 days. C.B. appeals.


         An appellate court reviews a claim of a constitutional right to a jury trial de novo.[2] It also reviews the interpretation of a statute or court rule de novo.[3]


         As a preliminary issue, C.B. asserts that her case is not moot.[4] We agree.

         For certain commitment orders, including the one C.B. challenges, Washington's involuntary treatment act (ITA)[5] provides for collateral consequences in later petitions and hearings.[6] So the challenged involuntary commitment order may have an adverse impact on C.B. in any future effort to involuntarily commit her.[7] Because this case is not moot, we address the merits of her appeal.

         Right to Jury Trial

         C.B. claims that the Washington State Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial in 90-day commitment proceedings. We disagree.[8]

         The Washington Constitution provides, "The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate."[9] To determine whether this right exists for a particular case, Washington courts use a two-step analysis.[10] First, the court identifies the scope of the right to a jury trial in 1889.[11] Second, the court decides whether "the type of action at issue is similar to the one that would include the right to a jury trial at that time."[12]

         The Code of 1881 was in effect when Washington adopted its constitution in 1899.[13] Section 1632 of this code provided an individual with the right to demand a jury trial in a case to decide whether she could be committed indefinitely to a "'hospital for the insane.'"[14] So, in 1889, the jury trial right attached to a case involving a request for indefinite detention. But no statute provided for a defined period of temporary confinement similar to the provisions of the ITA. So in 1889 the right to a jury trial did not extend to a request to involuntarily commit a person for 90 days.

         Our Supreme Court's consideration of other provisions of the ITA shows that a proceeding to decide if a person should be involuntarily committed for 90 days is not similar to the 1889 commitment proceeding that included a right to a jury trial. In In re Detention of M.W., [15] our Supreme Court considered whether a provision of the ITA[16] providing the procedure for recommitting individuals found incompetent to stand trial for violent felonies violated the constitutional right to a jury trial. The court held it did not.[17] We find the court's explanation instructive:

This civil commitment process is distinguishable from indefinite civil commitment schemes that require jury trials on initial commitment because the ITA involves only short periods of commitment and requires the State to file a new petition and carry a high burden of recommitment at the expiration of each period (here, every 180 days)J[18]

         For purposes of our analysis, the 90-day commitment period in issue cannot be distinguished. So no state constitutional jury right exists for a 90-day commitment under the ITA.

         C.B. contends that In re Quesnell[19] recognizes a constitutional right to a jury trial applicable here. It does not. In Quesnell, the Washington Supreme Court held that a guardian ad litem could not waive an individual's right to a jury trial in a commitment proceeding after that individual had asserted it through private counsel.[20] In a footnote, the court stated that "[o]ur ruling in this case is limited strictly to the single issue involved."[21]

         Recently, this court decided that no constitutional right to a jury trial exists for a 14-day probable cause hearing under the ITA.[22] Here, we extend that holding and conclude that the Washington Constitution does not provide for a right to a jury for proceedings on a petition for a 90-day involuntary commitment.

         Whether C.B had a constitutional right or a statutory right to a jury trial, the result would be the same. She must demand it or it is waived.[23] The statutes and cases from the Code of 1881 to the present all have required a party subject to a proceeding for involuntary commitment demand a jury for the right to attach.[24] The Washington Constitution, article I, section 21 allows the legislature to "provide ... for waiving of the jury in civil cases where the consent of the parties interested is given thereto." In 1973, the legislature adopted the ITA.[25] It requires that a defendant demand a jury for a 90-day proceeding or that right is waived.[26] So, whether the right is constitutional or statutory, the act provides the method for its assertion: demand a jury or lose the right to have one.

         We next consider C.B.'s claim that she had to be notified in open court of her jury trial right before it could be waived. We again disagree.

         MPR 3.3 contains the procedure for demanding a jury in an ITA proceeding. C.B.'s claim requires an interpretation of this rule. When an appellate court interprets a court rule, it uses the same tools used for statutory construction.[27] When an appellate court interprets a statute, its goal is to "give effect to the legislature's intent."[28] The court first looks to the rule or statute's plain language, "considering the text of the provision in question," its context, "related provisions, and the statutory scheme as a whole."[29] The court seeks a construction that avoids constitutional problems if possible.[30] Courts construe civil commitment rules and statutes strictly because they involve a deprivation of liberty.[31] But we also "keep in mind the need to satisfy the intent of the statute [or rule] while avoiding absurd results."[32]

         The ITA gives the State the right to request a longer period of temporary commitment if a person involuntarily committed for a short period of time exhibits a mental impairment that renders her gravely disabled.[33] To address this possibility, the ITA requires the trial court provide a person committed for 14 days with this written notice: "if involuntary treatment beyond the fourteen day period ... is to be sought, such person will have the right to a full hearing or jury trial as required by RCW 71.05.310" when a 14-day petition is granted.[34]

         If the State determines additional commitment is necessary, it may then file a 90-day involuntary petition, [35] and the court clerk "shall set a time for the person to come before the court on the next judicial day after the day of filing unless such appearance is waived by the person's attorney."[36] The ITA states that "[a]t the time set for appearance the detained person shall be brought before the court, unless such appearance has been waived and the court shall advise him or her of. . . his or her right to a jury trial."[37] It also provides that "[i]f the person named in the petition requests a jury trial, the trial shall commence within ten judicial days of the first court appearance after the probable cause hearing."[38]

         MPR 3.3 describes more specifically the procedure for demanding a jury in an ITA proceeding. The Washington Supreme Court adopted this rule under the authority granted by the ITA.[39] MPR 3.3(b) provides that the defendant must demand a jury trial "[w]ithin two judicial days after the person detained is advised in open court of his right to a jury trial as provided in RCW 71.05.300." If a defendant follows this procedure, the jury trial must commence within ten judicial days after the preliminary appearance.[40] If the defendant does not timely demand a jury trial, "the matter shall be heard without a jury."[41]

         C.B. contends that MPR 3.3(b) requires the defendant be notified in open court of the ...

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