No. 113 April Term, 1979, Appeal From The Order Of The Court Of Common Pleas Of Allegheny County, Family Division, Juvenile Section, at No. 719 of 1978.
Lawrence P. Galie, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
George M. Janocsko, Assistant County Solicitor, Pittsburgh, for participating party.
Price, Brosky and Montgomery, JJ. Brosky, J., files a dissenting opinion.
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The instant appeal arises from a civil commitment ordered by the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The commitment order followed an initial emergency commitment under § 302 of the Mental Health Procedures Act of 1976,*fn1 and directed the Appellant, a minor, to undergo extended involuntary inpatient psychiatric treatment pursuant to § 303 of the Act.*fn2 In issuing the order, the lower court reversed a decision of a Mental Health Review Officer, who dismissed the petition for extended involuntary treatment which had been filed by the Appellee, Allegheny County Mental Health and Retardation Program (hereinafter referred to as "MH/MR"). The Mental Health Review
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 542]
Officer apparently based his dismissal order on a finding that the § 303 petition had not been timely filed.*fn3 The Appellant now argues that the lower court's reversal of the Review Officer, and order extending the commitment, were erroneous.
The initial question presented by this appeal is whether the issue of the propriety of the commitment is moot either because the Appellant has been discharged from treatment or because of corrective amendments to the 1976 Act under which Appellant was committed. Both parties to the appeal agree that a discharge of an individual from an involuntary commitment does not automatically make moot the question of the legality of the commitment. See Wolfe v. Beal, 477 Pa. 477, 384 A.2d 1187 (1978); Commonwealth ex rel. Platt v. Platt, 266 Pa. Super. 276, 404 A.2d 410 (1979); Commonwealth ex rel. Bielat v. Bielat, 257 Pa. Super. 446, 390 A.2d 1321 (1978). The Appellee, however, argues that the impact and degree of stigma associated with a commitment should be evaluated in deciding whether the discharge of the committed party has made moot the question of the legality of the commitment.
If we were to adopt the Appellee's argument, we would be creating entirely new standards in the law as it pertains to the expungement of records of improper commitments. The Appellee would have the courts examine and weigh, in each case, the degree of personal stigma suffered by each individual who challenges a prior commitment, in order to determine whether the issue might be dismissed on the ground of mootness. We will not insert such a new procedural step and substantive ground in the law applicable in this type of case. While we note that there is a brief discussion and
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 543]
rejection of a similar argument in a footnote to a Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Judge Spaeth in Commonwealth ex rel. Platt v. Platt, 266 Pa. Super. at 294, 404 A.2d at 419 (fn. 3 to Concurring and Dissenting Opinion), we find no applicable precedent which would justify the insertion of such a standard in our law. The Supreme Court held in Wolfe v. Beal, supra, that the continued existence of records of a mental commitment poses a threat to a person's reputation. There is no suggestion in that case, or any other case we have examined, that each individual's reputation must be studied to determine whether it may preclude an appeal after an allegedly illegal commitment. We therefore decline Appellee's request that we find this appeal to be moot, based upon any evaluation of the relative harm to the Appellant's reputation.*fn4
The Appellee also argues that the issues raised on this appeal may be determined to be moot because of intervening changes in the law.*fn5 In this regard, the Appellee addresses attention to the Appellant's procedural argument concerning the timeliness of the commitment hearing. We will address the Appellant's procedural contentions later in this Opinion. However, without regard to the merits of the Appellant's procedural claims, we find no validity to the contention that an intervening change in the law regarding mental commitment procedures can render moot an appellant's ...