PsychRights
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              Psychiatric Rights

PsychRights' Pro Bono Program in Alaska

The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights), a tax-exempt, non-profit public interest law firm, is seeking  pro bono attorneys to represent clients in Alaska facing forced psychiatric drugging and related proceedings. Any interested attorneys should contact Jim Gottstein. PsychRights will provide technical assistance, consult on cases and even help on briefs if requested.  There is also some funding available for client costs, such as for expert witnesses.  PsychRights carries errors and omissions insurance that covers pro bono attorneys working on its cases.   The most common types of requests received are for the following types of cases.

Forced Drugging in Connection with Civil Commitment.  Basically, and we know this is a harsh statement, the legal proceedings associated with forced drugging in the involuntary commitment context are a sham (See, Psychiatry: Force of Law).  We believe even those accused of being mentally ill are entitled to adequate representation and a fair hearing process.  One such case is Myers v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute, currently awaiting decision by the Alaska Supreme Court.  PsychRights receives requests on these types of cases frequently and they are on a fast track.  Thus, pre-preparation is essential.

Kids.  Kids are at the complete mercy of those in control of them.  They are often being given very harmful drugs while in state custody and deserve protection.  Low income parents are regularly threatened that their kids will be taken away if they don't give their child drugs.  These threats are regularly followed up on.

Parents.  In addition to low-income parents being threatened that their kids will be taken away if they don't give them psychiatric drugs, they are regularly threatened that their kids will be taken away if the parent doesn't take Them.  These threats are also regularly carried out.  It is also not unusual, after a parent accedes to a demand to take these drugs, that his/her child is taken away because he/she is deemed too mentally ill.

Prisoners. Under Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 201, 110 S.Ct. 1028 (1990), http://psychrights.org/research/Legal/WashingtonvHarper.htm: a prison can force drug a prisoner in a non-emergency situation where the reason is that it is medically appropriate, through an administrative proceeding in which the prisoner is entitled to:

  1. An unbiased, independent decision maker.
  2. Notice.
  3. Be present at an adversary hearing.
  4. Present and cross-examine witnesses.

In the 2004 Bavilla Superior Court case, which was dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds which Ms. Bavilla declined to pursue either through an appeal or the filing of a new case, the Department of Corrections established through admissions that it violates all of these requirements.  We already have a potential new client to take such a case.

PsychRights' view is cases need to be seriously considered for appeal in order to establish rights and to have them honored. 

If you are an attorney or know of an attorney who is interested in participating in similar pro bono cases as listed above, please contact Jim Gottstein."


Last modified 5/23/2005
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