On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. CASC 1594-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.
D.P. is an adult who was involuntarily committed. On December 22, 2009, a judge conditionally extended his hospitalization "pending placement" with direction that D.P. "attend follow[-]up medication monitoring appointments [and] cooperate with clinical case management service as recommended [with] appropriate placement." See N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.15c (authorizing release on conditions); R. 4:74-7(h)(1)-(2) (authorizing release on conditions and conditional extension pending appropriate placement). The judge scheduled a review hearing for January 26, 2010.
Prior to the review hearing, D.P.'s treatment team refused to release him on the ground that the members did not "feel" his proposal to live in a hotel or motel was "appropriate." D.P. sought relief from the judge, requesting either immediate release or clarification of the December 22, 2009 order. On January 12, 2010, the judge denied his requests and continued the prior order.
Although D.P.'s treatment team released him to live with his parents on January 20, 2010, he appeals from the January 12, 2010 order. Despite D.P.'s release, the County acknowledges that D.P. is responsible for the cost of his care between January 12 and 20, 2010, and concedes that his appeal is not moot. We agree. See In re Commitment of B.L., 346 N.J. Super. 285, 292 (App. Div. 2002) (concluding that the case was not moot despite the patient's release because they "remain liable for the cost of their confinement"); cf. In re Commitment of P.D., 381 N.J. Super. 389, 393 (App. Div. 2005) (concluding that case was moot because the County had determined not to charge the patients), certif. granted and remanded to consider the merits, 186 N.J. 251 (2006).
Our recitation of the facts and review of the January 12, 2010 order is limited by D.P.'s prosecution of this appeal. He does not challenge the December 22, 2009 order and has not provided us with the record of the proceeding that led to entry of that order. Thus, the only question for this court is whether the evidence provided to the judge during the informal hearing conducted on January 12, 2010, required the judge to modify or clarify the order of December 22, 2009.
The following facts were disclosed at the hearing. Prior to D.P.'s involuntary commitment, he was living in a condominium owned by his parents. At the time of the hearing, that condominium was being renovated and was not available to D.P. Although D.P.'s father was willing to have D.P. live in the family home, his mother was not.
D.P. asked his treatment team to approve his release to a motel, hotel or rooming house. His treatment team did "not feel that [his plan was] appropriate."
The members of D.P.'s treatment team disagreed, however, about the type of "placement" that was "appropriate" for D.P. D.P.'s social worker informed the judge that the treatment team was not requiring D.P. to reside with family or friends. She opposed D.P.'s release out of concern that he had no way to pay for shelter and would lose the financial support formerly provided by his parents if he left the facility without further treatment. Unlike the social worker, Dr. Wayslow believed that D.P. should not be permitted to live independently. Because D.P. had been resistant to necessary changes in his prescribed medication and wanted the dosage reduced, Dr. Wayslow thought that D.P. would "stop his medication when he le[ft]" the facility.
D.P. was the only witness who was placed under oath on January 12. According to D.P., he had sufficient funds to "tide [him] over" until he obtained employment. He had not applied for social security disability benefits, but he had "significant" retirement funds and about "$8,000 liquid in a business checking account." He had earned the money in that account while working with his father and produced a checkbook register showing a deposit of $20,000 made in November 2009. When asked to confirm the present balance in his account, D.P. offered to go to an automated teller machine to obtain proof. In addition to his work experience, he had advanced degrees, a J.D. and an M.B.A. His plan was to find employment, study for the bar examination and rent an apartment for about $600 per month. When asked why he had not signed a lease, D.P. explained that he could not look for and rent an apartment while confined in a psychiatric facility.
The judge noted that D.P. was not receiving public assistance and had not produced evidence confirming his ability to pay for ...