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In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of T.H.

July 30, 2012

IN THE MATTER OF THE CIVIL COMMITMENT OF T.H.


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. SC-602-10.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 24, 2012

Before Judges Payne and Reisner.

T.H. was involuntarily committed on a temporary basis to Jersey City Medical Center on July 21, 2010. Following the issuance of an order on July 27, 2010 authorizing a continuation of his commitment, on August 3, 2010, T.H. was transferred to Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. In these consolidated appeals, T.H. challenges orders entered on September 7, October 5 and December 14, 2010 continuing his involuntary commitment, and an order entered on March 8, 2011, changing his status to Conditional Extension Pending Placement (CEPP). T.H. was administratively discharged on April 20, 2011 to a boarding house in Newark.

On appeal, T.H. presents the following arguments:

Point I

THE STATE FAILED TO ESTABLISH BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT APPELLANT WAS DANGEROUS TO SELF AS DEFINED BY STATE COMMITMENT STATUTES.

A.) The State Failed To Present Clear and Convincing Evidence That Appellant Was Unable To Satisfy His Need For Nourishment, Essential Medical Care or Shelter.

B.) The State Failed To Present Clear and Convincing Evidence That Appellant Was Likely To Suffer Substantial Physical Injury In The Reasonably Foreseeable Future Due To An Inability To Care For Himself.

C.) The Psychiatrists' Opinions Of Dangerousness Were Speculative and Lacked Sufficient Factual Basis.

1.) Speculation and Conjecture Are Not Sufficient To Establish the Need For Involuntary Commitment.

2.) The Psychiatrists' "Net Opinions" Are Insufficient To Support an Order Of Involuntary Commitment.

D.) Dangerousness Cannot Be Presumed From a Confused Mental State Absent a Factual Showing That It Causes an Inability To Care For Self That Is Likely To Result In Some Substantial Physical Injury.

Point II

THE COURT BELOW CONSIDERED INADMISSIBLE HEARSAY IN REACHING ITS DECISION TO CONTINUE APPELLANT'S COMMITMENT ON SEPTEMBER 27, 2010.

Point III

AT THE TIME OF T.H.'S REVIEW HEARING ON MARCH 8, 2011, HE WAS NOT A DANGER TO SELF, OTHERS OR PROPERTY AND WAS ABLE TO SURVIVE INDEPENDENTLY OUTSIDE OF THE HOSPITAL SETTING, AND THUS SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISCHARGED, RATHER THAN RELEGATED TO THE MORE RESTRICTIVE CEPP STATUS.

We agree with T.H.'s arguments and reverse.

I.

As a preliminary matter, we note that the County has moved to dismiss these appeals as mooted by T.H.'s release from the hospital and, in the alternative, to supplement the record with T.H.'s records of treatment, none of which was authenticated or entered into evidence during the earlier proceedings. We deny both motions.

With respect to the issue of mootness: "It is well settled in New Jersey that an appeal in these types of cases is not moot, even if the patient is no longer confined, when the patient remains liable for his or her hospital bill, and a finding in the patient's favor will entitle the patient to a credit for any period of illegal commitment." In re Commitment of B.L., 346 N.J. Super. 285, 292 (App. Div. 2002). Although the automatic lien provisions formerly contained in N.J.S.A. 30:4-80.1 have been repealed, other statutes render patients liable for all or part of the costs of their hospitalization. See N.J.S.A. 30:4-60(c)(1) (liability for cost of treatment, maintenance and related expenses when treated in a psychiatric facility); N.J.S.A. 30:4-70 (payment upon subsequent discovery of patient funds).

Moreover, were T.H.'s 2010 commitment to stand unchallenged, it could affect his future status if, in fact he is recommitted. For instance, we note that a screening psychiatrist is required to take into account prior hospital admissions. If a person "has been admitted three times or has been an inpatient for 60 days at a short-term care facility during the preceding 12 months, consideration shall be given to not placing [him] in a short-term care facility." N.J.A.C. 10:31-2.3(i)(1)(i) (implementing N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.5(b)).

We also deny the County's motion to supplement the record. "Our appellate courts will not ordinarily consider evidentiary material that is not in the record below." Cipala v. Lincoln Technical Inst., 179 N.J. 45, 52 (2004). "[T]he factors to be considered on a motion to supplement include (1) whether at the time of the hearing or trial, the applicant knew of the information he or she now seeks to include in the record, and (2) if the evidence were included, whether it is likely to affect the outcome." Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Nowell Amoroso, P.A., 189 N.J. 436, 452-53 (2007) (citing In re Gastman, 147 N.J. Super. 101, 114 (App. Div. 1997)).

In this case, the materials that the County belatedly seeks to include with its appeal were not introduced into evidence despite the expressed willingness of the court at the September hearing to take whatever time was required to consider admissibility. Further, our review of the transcripts in this matter satisfies us that the records would add little to our understanding of the parties' arguments. The one exception that we make to this determination is to permit supplementation with the Jersey City Medical Center screening documents, to which both parties refer.

We find it unnecessary to strike the County's brief and appendix, which we can selectively consider in evaluating the parties' arguments on appeal.

II.

Turning to the merits of the matter, we briefly summarize the evidence adduced at the various hearings that form the basis for T.H.'s appeal.

A. The September 7, 2010 Hearing: At this hearing, psychiatrist Michael Stewart testified for the County. Dr. Stewart stated that T.H. had been transferred to Greystone from the Jersey City Medical Center on August 3, 2010, and that he had previously been admitted to two or three other hospitals, although T.H. was unable to identify them. T.H. had not ...


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