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In re D.J.M.

Decided: March 27, 1978.

IN THE MATTER OF D.J.M.


On appeal from Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Essex County.

Allcorn, Morgan and Horn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Horn, J.A.D.

Horn

[158 NJSuper Page 498] The single issue raised in this appeal is whether, in a routine review of the civil commitment

of a mental patient, that patient, acting through the Public Advocate, may inject into the proceedings, without notice, the question of the quality of the medical care that he is receiving in the public institution to which he is confined.

The trial judge held that he could not do so. We agree and affirm.

The so-called routine or periodic review of such cases is now undertaken under R. 4:74-7(e) and (f). These subsections, as paraphrased to delete irrelevant material, provide:

(e) Hearing. No permanent commitment order shall be entered except upon hearing conducted in accordance with provisions of these rules. * * * The patient shall be required to appear at the hearing, but may be excused from the courtroom during all or any portion of the testimony upon application for good cause shown. Good cause shall include testimony by the psychiatrist that the mental condition of the patient would be adversely affected by the patient hearing his candid and complete testimony. The patient shall have the right to testify in his own behalf but need not. The hearing shall be held in camera unless good cause to the contrary is shown. The applicant for the commitment may appear either by counsel retained by him or by the county adjuster. In no case shall the patient appear pro se.

(f) Final Judgment of Commitment, Review. The court shall enter a judgment of commitment to an appropriate institution if it finds from the evidence presented at the hearing that the institutionalization of the patient is required by reason of his being a danger to himself or the community if he is not so confined and treated or, alternatively, if the patient is a minor and the court finds that he is in need of intensive psychiatric therapy which cannot practically or feasibly be rendered in the home or in the community or on any outpatient basis. If the patient is an adult, the judgment shall provide for review of the commitment no later than (1) three months from the date of judgment, and (2) on or before six months from the date of judgment, and (3) on or before one year from the date of the judgment, and (4) at least annually thereafter, if the patient is not sooner discharged. * * * All reviews shall be conducted in the manner required by paragraph (e) of this rule * * *.

In the instant case the patient, D.J.M., was 27 years of age on the date of the hearing, September 15, 1977. The patient had been admitted to the Essex County Hospital Center

in Cedar Grove in April 1970 and was discharged in March 1972. Subsequently he was admitted in August 1972 and was discharged in November 1974. His current confinement commenced in March 1975.

At the review hearing, which was routinely scheduled at the hospital along with approximately 39 other cases, the attorney for the county questioned a staff psychiatrist as to his observations of the patient; the latter's activities and behavior, and the necessity for his remaining in the institution. The attorney also elicited the doctor's prognosis. The deputy public advocate then cross-examined the doctor, predominantly on the type of treatment that the patient was receiving and whether the ward in which the patient was confined was therapeutic. He then offered the testimony of two medical experts as to the treatment being administered to the patient.

At the judge's request the deputy public advocate made a proffer of the purpose of the proposed expert testimony. As stated, it was "to establish that [the patient] is not receiving adequate medical treatment in this hospital. That * * * the patient would specifically request that ...


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