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In re Henry B.

Supreme Court of Maine

April 20, 2017

IN RE HENRY B.

          Argued: March 2, 2017

         Reporter of Decisions

          Scott F. Hess, Esq. (orally), The Law Office of Scott F. Hess, LLC, Augusta, for appellant Henry B.

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and N. Paul Gauvreau, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Henry B. appeals from an order of the Superior Court (Knox County, Billings, /.), acting as an intermediate appellate court, affirming the District Court's (Rockland, Sparaco, J.) order of involuntary commitment. Henry raises a novel question of law: whether individuals subject to involuntary commitment proceedings in Maine have the right to effective representation of counsel. Henry contends that they do. We agree, and adopt the Strickland standard for courts reviewing claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in involuntary commitment proceedings. See generally Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). However, we disagree with Henry's contention that his counsel was ineffective, and therefore affirm the District Court's judgment ordering Henry's involuntary commitment, as well as the Superior Court's judgment affirming that judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On March 15, 2016, Henry B. was admitted to Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC) pursuant to the "blue paper" procedures of 34-B M.R.S. § 3863(1)-(2) (2016). On March 18, 2016, PBMC staff applied to involuntarily commit Henry pursuant to the "white paper" procedures of 34-B M.R.S. §3863(5-A) (2016). A commitment hearing was held in the District Court (Rockland, Sparaco, /.) on March 28, 2016, at which Henry was represented by appointed counsel.

         [¶3] Based on the testimony of the medical director of PBMC's Psychiatric and Addiction Recovery Center (PARC), an independent medical examiner, and two of Henry's sisters, the District Court concluded that the State had proved by clear and convincing evidence that Henry was mentally ill and that he had suffered an "acute psychotic episode, possibly related to a schizophrenic break." Further, the court concluded that Henry posed a "serious risk" of harming himself or others, that there was not "an adequate community of resources for his care or treatment, that it would not be wise or safe to return him to his family's care, " and that constant observation at PBMC would be "more structured and reliable than [treatment] he would be getting at home." The court therefore ordered that Henry be subject to involuntary hospitalization for up to 120 days.

         [¶4] Henry appealed to the Superior Court (Knox County, Billings, /.), and after a hearing on June 29, 2016, the Superior Court affirmed the District Court's judgment of involuntary commitment. See 34-B M.R.S. § 3864(11) (2016); M.R. Civ. P. 76(D). Henry timely appealed. See M.R. App. P. 2(B)(3).

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶5] Henry contends that he was not provided with effective assistance of counsel at the March 28 District Court hearing. He asserts that we should adopt the Strickland standard, see Strickland,466 U.S. 668 (1984), when analyzing claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in involuntary commitment cases, and ...


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