Monday, September 27, 2010

U.S. v. Ruiz-Gaxiola, No. 08-10378 (9-24-10) (Reinhardt with Kozinski and Timlin, D.J.). This is a Sell involuntary medication issue. (Note: this case is from the FPD Ariz. office). The conclusion summarizes the legal standard best:

Ruiz suffers from a mental disorder that is extremely rare and difficult to treat. The government proposes to administer antipsychotic medication involuntarily to Ruiz in order to further its interest in prosecuting him for a serious criminal offense by rendering him competent to stand trial. Ruiz, however, like all others, "possesses a significant liberty interest in avoiding the unwanted administration of antipsychotic drugs under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Harper, 494 U.S. at 221-22. The Supreme Court has resolved the conflicting interests by establishing "rare" circumstances under which the government will be permitted to administer antipsychotic drugs involuntarily. In Sell, 539 U.S. at 180, it set forth the four conditions that the government must satisfy in order to obtain an order authorizing it to involuntarily medicate a non-dangerous criminal defendant. A failure to meet any of the four is fatal to the government's request.
Under Sell, an involuntary medication order by the district court cannot be issued unless the government proves 1) "that important governmental interests are at stake"; 2) "that involuntary medication will significantly further those concomitant state interests"; 3) "that involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests": and 4) "that administration of the drugs is medically appropriate." Id. at 180-81. The government has the burden of establishing the facts necessary to allow it to prevail on its request by clear and convincing evidence. Here, the government fell far short of meeting its burden with respect to at least two of the Sell factors.
at 16314 -15. The 9th held that the government experts from Butner were sloppy, misinformed, and made misstatements as to how to treat the defendant's delusions. The defense witness, by contrast, was knowledgeable and convincing. The magistrate court and district court erred in finding that medication would further government interests because it is not really known how to treat these delusion, and that medication would actually work. Lastly, there would be long term effects on the defendant. As a result, the Sell order is reversed.

This case is a good overview of the Sell issue, and the standards involved.

Congratulations to AFPDs Deirdre Mokos and Saul Huerta of the FPD District of Arizona (Tucson) for the win. Don't ever "Sell" them short.


Post a Comment

<< Home