Friday, January 10, 2020
Court of Appeal:
Opinion Says Exception Where Statute Is Declared Unconstitutional Does Not Come Into Play Where a Finding of Invalidity Comes After Violation of an Order Which Contravenes the Law
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Third District Court of Appeal yesterday invalidated a contempt adjudication against the California Department of State Hospitals for violating a court order, finding that the order to admit a patient was in excess of jurisdiction.
Presiding Justice Vance W. Raye wrote the opinion, which was not certified for publication. It reverses a contempt adjudication by San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Richard Vlavianos who fined the state $1,000 for refusing to admit a mentally ill woman, Stacy Perkins, to Napa State Hospital, in disobedience of his Jan. 2, 2014 order.
That order was issued after doctors determined that Perkins was not fit to stand trial. She was being held in the county jail on various charges, including assault with a deadly weapon.
Admittance was denied when Perkins was transported to the state facility on Jan. 9.
State Cites Statute
A series of hearings followed. The state took the position that under Welfare & Institutions Code §7200.06, there was a 980-bed cap on the number of patients in the facility and there was no room for Perkins.
At the February 25 contempt hearing, a Napa State Hospital admissions supervisor testified as to the conditions on Jan. 9:
“There was nobody to move. There was no wiggle room. There was nothing we could do that day.”
However, Vlavianos declared that “[t]he only reason the Department isn’t complying is because of an unconstitutional statute,” adding:
“I told the Department the statute wasn’t enough. I told the Department they were ordered to take her, and the Department still decided to be more powerful than the Judge....”
Yesterday’s opinion nullifies the ensuing contempt order and directs that any money that was paid pursuant to the fine be refunded. Raye explained:
“The court’s order was an injunction that prevented the executive director and admissions supervisor of Napa State Hospital from complying with section 7200.06. An order preventing public officials from executing a valid statute is in excess of the court’s jurisdiction….There is an exception to this rule for a statute found to be unconstitutional. The court did not find the statute unconstitutional when it ordered petitioner to admit Perkins and did not take this step until the contempt hearing months later.
“Disobedience of an order in excess of the court’s jurisdiction cannot produce a valid contempt judgment.”
Raye noted that Vlavianos made a finding that the facility had more than 980 beds. That was immaterial, he said, explaining:
“[T]here were additional beds at Napa State Hospital, but only 980 beds for Penal Code placements. The court’s order required the hospital to use beds not allocated for Penal Code placements, in violation of the statute.”
The case is State Department of State Hospitals v. Superior Court, C076447.
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