Submitted: February 12, 2018
L. Scott, Jr. Judge
John Smith ("Mr. Smith") filed an Appeal of
Commissioners' Findings of Fact and Recommendations based
on an October 11, 2017 and October 18, 2017 Orders. The
Commissioner found probable cause to involuntarily commit Mr.
Smith. Mr. Smith appealed the Commissioners' Orders, and
for the foregoing reasons this Court
Smith is a client with Connections Community Re-Integration
Support Program ("CRISP"), and he resides at an
apartment in New Castle, Delaware ("the
apartment"). On September 26, 2017, Mr. Smith was at the
apartment with his roommates: Roommate 1 and Roommate 2.
Roommate 2 is employed by Connections as a Residential Aide,
and he was working his 12:00 A.M. to 8:00 A.M. shift.
Roommate 2 alleged that between 5:00 A.M. and 8:00 A.M.
Roommate 2 believed that Mr. Smith was working out in his
bedroom because he heard loud noises coming from Mr.
Smith's bedroom. Roommate 2 saw Mr. Smith exit his
bedroom and he began punching the wall, getting angry and
agitated. Mr. Smith then went back into his room and Roommate
2 stated that the noises got louder. Mr. Smith re-emerged
from his bedroom carrying a weight. Roommate 2 testified that
Mr. Smith was "not trying to harm himself, " but he
was "amping himself up." At this time Roommate 2
began looking for Mr. Smith's case manager's number.
Roommate 2 then heard sounds of a lighter striking and saw
Mr. Smith's arm reach out his bedroom door and drop
burning paper towels onto the floor. Roommate 2 extinguished
the burning paper towels and Mr. Smith shut his bedroom door.
Mr. Smith began yelling about his family and that he did not
want to live anymore. Roommate 1 heard the noise and came out
of his room and asked what was going on. Roommate 2 also
stated that the next-door neighbor knocked on the door due to
the noise and spoke with Roommate 1. New Castle County Police
arrived at the apartment around 7:00 A.M. in response to a
phone call made by the neighbor. Roommate 2 was on the phone
with Mr. Smith's case manager, and Roommate 2 showed the
officer the burnt paper towels. The case manager told
Roommate 2 to give the phone to the police officer. At the
request of Mr. Smith's case manager, the officer
completed section one of the 24-hour Detention Form. Mr.
Smith was taken to the Christiana Hospital Emergency Room and
was seen by Gregory Wanner, D.O. Dr. Wanner assessed Mr.
Smith and determined that he met the standard for the 24-hour
emergency detention because he experienced symptoms of mental
illness and was a danger to himself and others. Dr. Wanner
completed sections two through four of the 24-hour emergency
September 27, 2017 Mr. Smith was admitted to Delaware
psychiatric Center ("DPC"). On the
Psychiatrist's Certificate Daniel Grimes, M.D. listed
aggression, yelling, pressured speech, severely psychotic,
tangential, delusional, poor insight and judgment, and racing
thoughts, as his behavioral observations. On September 29,
2017, when the 48-hour provisional period expired, Dr. Grimes
submitted an Affidavit of Treatment Provider in Support of
Involuntary Inpatient Commitment. Dr. Grimes observed that
Mr. Smith was a danger to himself and others. Dr. Grimes also
submitted an Affidavit of Treatment Provider in Support of
Outpatient Treatment Over Objection. In this affidavit Dr.
Grimes wrote that Mr. Smith had an extensive history of
multiple psychiatric hospitalizations for psychosis, mania,
depression, violent/assaultive behavior, and Mr. Smith had a
history of non-compliance with medication.
State filed a Complaint on October 3, 2017 in which it sought
involuntary inpatient commitment of Mr. Smith and involuntary
outpatient treatment over objection on behalf of DPC. On
October 4, 2017 a probable cause hearing was held before a
Commissioner. The hearing was continued in order for
additional witnesses to be present. On October 11, 2017 the
probable cause hearing was held, and the court found that
there was probable cause to involuntarily commit Mr. Smith
for inpatient treatment. Additionally, an 8-day hearing,
intended as a continuation of the initial hearing, was
scheduled for October 18. 2017. Subsequently, on October 19,
2017, Mr. Smith appealed the October 11 and October 18
Orders. Mr. Smith was appointed counsel, and the parties were
given time to receive and review copies of the hearing
transcripts. Mr. Smith's brief was filed on January 26,
2018 and the State's Response was filed on February 12,
2018. In the time between Mr. Smith's initial commitment
and the briefing deadlines, Mr. Smith was determined to be
psychiatrically stable and is no longer an involuntary
inpatient. Mr. Smith is currently in involuntary outpatient
Smith argues that the 24-Hour Emergency Detention did not
meet the requirements of 16 Del C. § 5004(a).
Mr. Smith argues that § 5004(a) requires that an officer
must provide "in writing ... a description of the
behavior and symptoms observed by the peace officer which led
him or her to conclude that another person's behavior is
both the product of a mental condition and is dangerous to
self or dangerous to others." Mr. Smith contends that
the officer who arrived at the apartment did not describe
personal observations on section one of the emergency
detention form. Mr. Smith also contends that he was not
present at the apartment during the alleged incident with the
burnt paper towels, and the officer did not have any personal
observations or record of Mr. Smith's behavior to suggest
that Mr. Smith was a danger to himself or others.
Additionally, Mr. Smith contends that the 24-Hour Emergency
Detention form fails pursuant to 16 Del C. §
5004(b) because Dr. Gregory Wanner did not provide a
rationale for detention, including specific information about
Mr. Smith's alleged mental condition and alleged
dangerous behaviors. Mr. Smith argues that Dr. Wanner's
portion of the 24-Hour Emergency Detention form states
"Please see attached comprehensive assessment, "
and it was not included in the October 2, 2017 complaint. Mr.
Smith also contends that he was denied his right to summon
and cross examine witnesses, the Commissioner abused his
discretion in not granting a continuance at the October 11
hearing, and there were pleading defects in the initial
involuntary commitment pleadings which require this Court to
vacate the Commissioners' Orders. Finally, Mr. Smith
argues in the alternative that the Commissioner erred in
finding by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Smith was a
danger to himself or others.
State contends that the 24-Hour Emergency Detention form is
compliant with the applicable Delaware statutes.
Additionally, the State contends that Mr. Smith was not
denied his right to summon and cross examine witnesses
because there were witnesses present at the October 11
hearing, and the October 4 hearing was continued at his
request. Similarly, the State argues that the Commissioner
did not abuse his discretion when he denied Mr. Smith a
continuance at the October 11 hearing. Finally, the State
avers that there are no defects in the initial pleadings
which would allow this Court to vacate the Commissioners'
Orders, nor did the Commissioner err in finding probable
cause and clear and convincing evidence to involuntarily
commit Mr. Smith to involuntary inpatient and outpatient
care. The State also argues as a procedural aspect, because
Mr. Smith is no longer in involuntary inpatient due to his
discharge, his appeal of the involuntary inpatient commitment
is now moot. The State contends that the only issue for the
Court to determine with whether the Commissioner erred in
finding that the State met its burden by clear and convincing
evidence that Mr. Smith required involuntary outpatient
treatment over objection.
Court Civil Rule 132 provides the powers and duties imposed
upon Commissioners in this State. Specifically, Rule 132
(a)(4) provides that Commissioners have the power to conduct
case-dispositive hearings, which includes mental hearings
pursuant to Title 16 Del. C, ch. 50. This Court "shall make
a de novo determination of those portions of the report or
specified proposed findings of fact or recommendations made
by the Commissioner."
onset, the Court finds that the
Commissioners' October 11 and October 18 Orders are
AFFIRMED. The Court addresses each of Mr.