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In re B. A. F.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

January 31, 2018

In the Matter of B. A. F., a Person Alleged to have a Mental Illness.
v.
B. A. F., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

          Argued and submitted November 7, 2017

         Multnomah County Circuit Court 16CC04564 Connie L. Isgro, Judge pro tempore.

          Joseph DeBin argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs was Multnomah Defenders, Inc.

          Robert M. Wilsey, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Appellant in this civil commitment case appeals a judgment committing him to the jurisdiction of the Mental Health Division for a period not to exceed 180 days. On appeal, appellant asserts that the trial court plainly erred by failing to advise him of possible outcomes of the proceedings as required by ORS 426.100(1). The state contends that, because appellant's 180-day commitment period has expired, the appeal should be dismissed as moot. The state also argues that, in any event, the trial court did not err when advising appellant of the possible results of the commitment hearing. Held: The Court of Appeals adheres to its line of cases holding that, in light of the social stigma attendant to involuntary commitment, an appeal from a commitment judgment is not rendered moot by the expiration of the commitment period and, accordingly, concludes that the appeal is not moot. Furthermore, under State v. M. M., 288 Or.App. 111, 405 P.3d 192 (2017), the trial court plainly erred in failing to advise appellant of all of the possible results of the commitment proceedings.

         Reversed. [290 Or. 2]

          EGAN, C. JUDGE.

         Appellant in this civil commitment case appeals a judgment committing him to the jurisdiction of the Mental Health Division for a period not to exceed 180 days. See ORS 426.130. On appeal, he asserts that the trial court plainly erred by failing to advise him of possible outcomes of the proceedings as required by ORS 426.100(1).[1] In response, the state asserts that, because appellant's 180-day commitment period has expired, we should dismiss the appeal as moot. In the alternative, the state contends that, in any event, the trial court did not err when advising appellant of the possible results of the commitment hearing. As explained below, we reject the state's contention that the appeal is moot. Furthermore, in light of our recent decision in State v. M. M.. 288 Or.App. 111, 405 P.3d 192 (2017), we agree with appellant that the trial court plainly erred in failing to advise him of all of the possible results of the proceedings. Accordingly, we reverse.

         We begin by addressing the issue of mootness. As noted, the state asserts that the case is moot because the 180-day commitment period has expired. According to the state, there are not sufficient collateral consequences such that resolution of the issues will have a practical effect on appellant's rights. Appellant responds that the long-term consequences of commitment are significant. Among other things, appellant points to the social stigma associated with civil commitment in support of his view that his appeal is not moot.

         As the state acknowledges, contrary to its assertion that this case is moot, in State v. Van Tassel, 5 Or.App. 376, 385, 484 P.2d 1117 (1971), we held that an appeal from a civil commitment order does not become moot after the expiration of the commitment period. Specifically, we explained that involuntary commitment as a result of mental illness carries with it significant social stigma and that stigma constitutes a deleterious collateral consequence. In the state's [290 Or. 3] view, however, we should overrule our holding in Van Tassel. In support of its position, the state points out that, by statute, records of civil commitments are confidential. See ORS 426.160. Furthermore, the state contends that there is "good reason to question whether the reasoning in Van Tassel regarding the social effect of an involuntary commitment remains intact in light of changing societal attitudes toward mental illness and its treatment."

         As we have explained, we will overrule a case only when it is "plainly wrong, a rigorous standard grounded in presumptive fidelity to stare decisis." State v. Civil. 283 Or.App. 395, 406, 388 P.3d 1185 (2017) (internal quotation marks omitted); see State v. Ortega-Gonsalez, 287 Or.App. 526, 540 n 5, 404 P.3d 1081 (2017) ("[T]he party seeking to change a precedent must affirmatively persuade us that it is clearly wrong").

         We begin by observing that, although Van Tassel was decided in 1971, we have more recently reaffirmed its reasoning that the stigma attendant to involuntary civil commitment is an important collateral consequence. In 2002, we held that, in light of the stigma attendant to a civil commitment, an appeal from an order continuing commitment, like an ...


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