Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Section 1983 Case for Improper Involuntary Commitment Reinstated

Meyer v. Board of County Com'rs of Harper County, Oklahoma, --- F.3d ----, 2007 WL 1113953 (10th Cir. April 16, 2007)

P sued various officials, police, and individuals under Sec. 1983 after being involuntarily committed as mentally ill, for a weekend. Pretty outrageous set of facts–P complained to police officials that boyfriend beat her, they did not take her report, she confronted boyfriend and his sister and others at a family gathering, was not violent as all agreed, complied with police, waited in her car, decision was made to do a temporary commitment, she was committed with police statements that she had been violent and threatened others.

10th rules district court erred in granting summary judgment for Ds. The 10th summarizes involuntary commitment principles: seizure of a person for an emergency mental health evaluation is governed by Fourth Amendment reasonableness; probable cause is required to support an emergency detention for a psychiatric evaluation; probable cause means cause to believe that the individual poses a danger to himself or others. A state official is not entitled to qualified immunity if there is a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether a reasonable person would have believed the person to be a danger.

Here, the law is not so ambiguous that the police could think their actions legal. Additionally, there was a factual question regarding whether police lied regarding her dangerousness.

Additionally district court erred in summarily dismissing her First A rights claim: the ability to report physical assaults is an infringement of protected speech.