Court of Special Appeals Stops Forcible Medication of Inmate
July 24, 2006: On June 30, 2006, the Public Justice Center and co-counsel Maryland Disability Law Center obtained an injunction from the Court of Special Appeals prohibiting the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) from forcibly medicating our client, who is incarcerated at Perkins, the maximum security state psychiatric hospital, pending the appeal of his case. Seeking an injunction from the Court of Special Appeals to stop an agency proceeding is quite unusual, but necessary in this case because the agency was trying to evade a prior judicial decision.
In spite of findings that our client has been a model patient, with no disciplinary infractions and with the highest privilege level for two years, the DHMH believed that he should be medicated against his will because he was suffering from “non bizarre delusional disorder” of the “persecutory and grandiose type” because he claims to be innocent of the charges brought against him, that the police conducted an unlawful search of his home, and that his Public Defender is doing an inadequate job defending him. However, there was no evidence that he was a danger to himself or to others in the facility. Because our client would not consent to be medicated, the DHMH brought an internal procedure for overriding a patient inmate’s refusal of consent to an Administrative Law Judge. The ALJ held that our client could be medicated against his will. Our client appealed this decision to the Circuit Court Baltimore County, which ruled that under Maryland Code Health General Sec. 10-708, DHMH failed to show evidence that “an involuntarily committed individual is a danger to himself or others in the facility to which he has been committed, rather than to society generally upon release.”
DHMH appealed the Circuit Court's decision to the Court of Special Appeals, but rather than waiting for the Court of Special Appeals to rule, began a second administrative proceeding to forcibly medicate our client based on the same evidence. The PJC and MDLC brought a motion for emergency enforcement of Judge Matricciani’s order to the Circuit Court, but lost. With speedy footwork and great ingenuity, we then petitioned the Court of Special Appeals and obtained an injunction. Suzanne Sangree, Appellate Director of the PJC's Appellate Project, is lead counsel on appeal and Irene Smith of the Disability Law Center is lead counsel for any trial proceedings. Kudos to Irene Smith who literally ran to Chief Judge Murphy’s Towson office and obtained the injunction at the close of business Friday June 30th.