Law Project for Psychiatric Rights: PsychRights  

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Linda M. Appeals
Alaska Supreme Court Case Nos. S-16393 & 16467


We put on unrebutted evidence that Soteria-Alaska, which had closed the year before because of insufficient state funding would have been a less restrictive alternative to psychiatric hospitalization and argued that the state cannot involuntarily commit someone when there is a feasible less restrictive alternative.  The court held:

I reject the idea that there is a constitutional right that would require the state to fund particular kinds of programs. There would be separation of powers issues, I believe. And I certainly do not believe I've had sufficient evidence that would suggest to me all the reasons that that facility was defunded, went out of business, whatsoever, but it no longer exists. And the legislature is entitled to make choices of how the state spends its money within certain confines.

PsychRights believes the court was dead wrong.  The question isn't whether the state has to fund an alternative, but that it cannot lock someone up if it could provide a less restrictive alternative.  In other words, the state either has to provide the least restrictive alternative or let the person go.  In the Bigley case, with respect to forced drugging the Alaska Supreme held that if there is a feasible less intrusive alternative, the state's choices are to provide it or let the person go:

 If that Myers inquiry had lead us to conclude that API's proposed treatment was constitutionally barred, that would not give rise to a legal obligation on API's part to provide Bigley's less intrusive alternative. API could attempt to offer some other form of treatment that was not constitutionally invalid, or could simply release Bigley without treatment (which is what happened in this case).

We argued the same applies to commitment and we proved there was a less restrictive alternative.  In other words, the state cannot decide to insuffiicently fund a feasible less restrictive alternative and then commit someone. 

On January 11, 2019, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled against us, holding the State could de-fund a less restrictive alternative and then say there was no less restrictive alternative.  Our appeal had been consolidated another appeal to consider whether to overrule the Courts' precedent that commitment appeals are moot because the commitment order has expired by the time the appeal could be heard.  The Court spent most of its decision on that and devoted just about a page on our argument that the state cannot de-fund a less restrictive alternative and then commit someone because there is no less restrictive alternative.

On January 14, 2019, we filed a Petition for Rehearing asking the Court to change its decision regarding our appeal.  If we lose that, we will consider whether to ask the United States Supreme Court to review the decison because we don't think it is proper under the United States Constitution.


There was a hearing before the Magistrate Judge on commitment and forced drugging petitions against L.M. on July 13, 2016, which the Magistrate Judge recommended be granted.  PsychRights entered the case the next day and filed a motion to stay (delay) the forced drugging petitions pending Superior Court determination and if the Superior Court approved the recommendations pending appeal.  The Superior Court granted the stay motion only until it decided.  Then, on Monday, July 25th, ruled against Linda, but gave Linda until Friday, July 29th to obtain a stay from the Alaska Supreme Court.  PsychRights filed an appeal the next day with an emergency motion to stay the forced drugging pending determination of the appeal.  A single justice denied the emergency motion to stay the forced drugging on July 28, 2016, and L.M. filed a motion for full court reconsideration on August 1, 2016.  Then, after Linda was prescribed cogentin to cover up extra-pyramidal symptoms (involuntary muscle movements resulting from the neurologic damage caused by the drugs), Linda filed a motion to vacate the forced drugging order.  This was also denied.   The appeal was later dropped when we lost the jury trial for a 90-day commitment because it became pointless.



Last modified 4/24/2019
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