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Case Three -- Forced Medication in Prison
by James B. Gottstein, Esq.


Etta Bavilla was first subjected to forced psychiatric drugging in 1997 when she was 17.  She killed her one year old son in July of 1998, while psychotic.  It seems probable that if she hadn't been forced to take psychiatric drugs her son would still be alive.[1]  She entered a plea agreement for a 60 year sentence with 20 years suspended with the court to decide whether she was guilty but mentally Ill.  The court did find her guilty but mentally ill and she was sentenced on August 14, 2000, to 60 years in prison with 20 years suspended.

On Thursday, April 1, 2004, notwithstanding being notified I was representing her to help her resist forced drugging, without notifying me, the Alaska Department of Corrections informed Ms. Etta Bavilla it was going to conduct a "Due Process Hearing" to do so at 8:30 a.m., Monday, April 5th.  I wrote a letter which, among other things, asked for a week's delay.  They refused to do so and we filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order the next morning arguing that the procedures used are unconstitutional.   The judge denied the TRO that afternoon.   Even though they certified they had faxed me a copy of their opposition (7.7 MB), I didn't get it until well after the judge had ruled against us late in the day on Friday, April 2nd.  This was the first I had any idea of what the grounds were for the forced drugging.  We filed an Emergency Motion for Injunctive Relief with the Alaska Supreme Court a little before 10:00 a.m., on Monday, April 5th and the Department of Corrections decided it didn't need to force medicate Etta after all, which obviated the need for the Supreme Court's involvement.  Because it seems clear Policy #807.16 is illegal, on May 20, 2004, we filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction and a Motion for Summary Judgment

On July 16, 2004, the State moved to moved to dismiss saying that this wasn't a lawsuit under the constitution, but one under 42 USC 1983 and since we couldn't sue the State under that law because it wasn't a "person," the case should be dismissed (thrown out of court).  That made no sense, which we told the judge in our Opposition to Emergency Motion for Injunctive Relief filed April 5, 2004.  However, the judge dismissed the case anyway, signing the State's proposed order.  Since this made no sense, we filed a Motion to Reconsider on July 28, 2004.  The judge denied Motion for Reconsideration on July 29, 2004, but this time saying it was because we had to sue the Commissioner rather than the State.  It is not 100% clear the judge was right, and we could have appealed, moved to amend the lawsuit to replace the State with the Commissioner, or probably most practically,  just file a new lawsuit.  However, because of the litigation Ms. Bavilla had been successful in resisting forced drugging at that point and was not facing it at that time she decided to just let things lay where they lie and not pursue any of these possibilities at the time.  On January 15, 2007, Ms. Bavilla wrote a letter about what is going on there.

Court Documents by Proceeding

Alaska Supreme Court, Bavilla v. Alaska Dep't. of Corrections, No. S11432.

Alaska Superior Court, Bavilla v. Alaska Dep't of Corrections, Case No. 3AN 04-5802CI

Department of Corrections Policy #807.16 Proceeding Against Ms. Bavilla

[1]The report by Grace E. Jackson, M.D. describes Ms. Bavilla's psychiatric history and, while this report was never meant to address this issue, it is a logical conclusion.  Cannabis use is also another possible explanation.

April 5, 2004, Supreme Court Filing


Legal representation by Jim Gottstein  will be donated to PsychRights on a pro bono base, but there are costs for doing these types of cases such as expert witness fees so any and all donations are very welcome.  Checks can be made payable and mailed to:

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Last modified 7/31/2004
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