No. 232 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Montgomery County, January Term, 1980, No. 80-31878.
Robert J. O'Shea, Jr., Assistant Public Defender, Norristown, for appellant.
Richard Faux, Assistant County Solicitor, Norristown, for participating party.
Price, Watkins and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 307 Pa. Super. Page 178]
Appellant challenges the legality of his 90 day involuntary commitment to Norristown State Hospital. On November 9, 1979, appellant voluntarily committed himself to the state hospital. Upon his admission, he executed an agreement providing that should he elect to withdraw from treatment, his release could be delayed for up to 72 hours.*fn1 On January 2, 1980, he notified the hospital authorities that he wished to be discharged. One day later, on January 3, 1980, the hospital filed a petition requesting the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County to enter an order for
[ 307 Pa. Super. Page 179]
appellant's involuntary treatment for 90 days, pursuant to § 304 of the Mental Health Procedures Act ("Act").*fn2 A hearing before a mental health review officer was scheduled for January 4, 1980, prior to the expiration of the 72 hour period during which his release was delayed. Thus, the petition was not served on appellant until the day before the hearing. The hearing was held as scheduled and appellant was committed for 90 days. Appellant requested that a judge of the Court of Common Pleas review the order for his involuntary treatment. The commitment was affirmed, and this appeal taken. Appellant asserts that the procedure approved by the court below abridged his rights under the Act and deprived him of liberty and property without due process of law, in violation of the Constitution of the United States. We agree with appellant that he was not afforded his rights under the Act, and thus we need not address the merits of his Fourteenth Amendment claim.*fn3
Section 304(c) of the Act provides for procedures to be followed in initiating court-ordered involuntary treatment for persons not already in involuntary treatment, and requires in relevant part that
[ 307 Pa. Super. Page 180]
advising him that an attorney has been appointed who shall represent him unless he obtains an attorney himself, that he has a right to be assisted in the proceedings by an expert in the field of mental health, and that he may request or be made subject to psychiatric examination under subsection (c)(5).
50 P.S. § 7304(c)(4). It is undisputed that appellant was not served with the petition until the day before his hearing. The court below concluded, however, that for the purposes of the notice requirements of the Act, a voluntary patient who has elected to terminate treatment and is being held for 72 hours is, during this 72 hour period, an involuntary patient, and thus subject to the "reasonable notice" requirement of § 304(b)(3),*fn4 rather than the three day notice specified by § 304(c)(4). The court found 24 hours notice to be reasonable under the circumstances, and sustained the commitment. Slip op. at 4. We cannot agree with this interpretation of the statutory language.
Section 304(b) of the Act clearly applies only to "persons already subject to treatment under sections 303, 304, and 305" of the Act, and therefore was not appropriately invoked in this case. The court below resorted to § 304(b) to resolve a dilemma it perceived was presented by appellant's situation. The court was concerned that § 206(a)*fn5 of the Act, covering withdrawal from voluntary treatment, provides for only 72 hours of delayed release when a patient committed voluntarily gives notice of intent to withdraw from treatment. Therefore, an individual detained under § 206(a) alone would ...