Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, July 26, 2023


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C.A. Dismisses Appeal as Moot Because Order Has Expired—As the Panel Did Last Year


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Div. Three of the First District Court of Appeal yesterday, for the second time, dismissed an appeal from an order for an involuntary commitment of  a man with a developmental disability who was found to be “a danger to self or others” because the one-year commitment order has expired, but this time making two holdings.

 Justice Carin T. Fujisaki authored the current opinion, which was certified for publication. She also wrote a  Sept. 29, 2022 unpublished opinion concerning the same appellant, Juan G. Aguilar.

By Sept. 29 of last year, the order being appealed from had expired and a new commitment order was in effect. That order—the subject of the present appeal—expired last April 1.

There is no indication in the opinion as to whether there has been a subsequent extension, again potentially the subject of a Court of Appeal opinion dismissing the appeal as moot.

2022 Opinion

Aguilar in each case appealed the extension of his commitment pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code §6500 but, each time, the commitment order had expired by the time the opinion was issued. Last year, Fujisaki wrote:

“Juan G.A. urges this court to consider the merits of this appeal, because there is a likelihood that a similar controversy between the parties will recur….But, in this particular case, given the length of time since the expiration of the commitment order at issue, and our inability to provide any meaningful relief to Juan G.A., we decline to do so.

“Though we could end here, we take this opportunity to offer some guidance to the parties and the trial court, as well as to flag an issue, in the event of future commitment proceedings.”

She said Welfare & Institutions Code §6504.5 requires the preparation of as written report with recommendations as to placement of a person who is committed but it isn’t clear whether the court is required to consider hearsay contained in such reports, reserving resolution of the issue “for another day.”

Yesterday’s Opinion

Yesterday, Fujisaki said:

“G.A.’s commitment order expired on April 1, 2023, and the matter is technically moot.  This case, however, presents important and recurring issues of law concerning the applicability of due process principles to section 6500 and the sufficiency of evidence supporting a commitment. Accordingly, we will discuss these particular issues to provide guidance, then dismiss the appeal as moot….”

She continued:

“[W]e conclude section 6500 does not violate due process by dispensing with the need for proof of a recent overt act of dangerousness….We also conclude substantial evidence does not support the trial court’s finding of G.A.’s danger to others because it was based on the testimony of an expert witness whose opinion relied on unsupported assumptions fact.”

Again, she declined to resolve an issue, saying there is “significant ambiguity as to the meaning of the statutory term ‘danger to self’” but that “[c]onsidering the seriousness of the civil liberty and safety interests at stake, we deem it best to leave construction of the statute to a future case with adequate briefing.”

The case is People v. J. G.A., A164980.


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