in the Court of Appeals 29 November 2017.
by respondent from order entered 5 January 2017 by Judge Dan
Nagle in Wake County, No. 16 SPC 8556 District Court.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Robert T. Broughton, for the State.
Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate
Defender Wyatt Orsbon, for respondent-appellant.
Carolina law requires that a person who has been
involuntarily committed to a mental health facility be
examined by a physician within 24 hours of arrival at such a
facility. In this case, the respondent was examined by a
psychologist - rather than a physician - following her
arrival at an inpatient mental health facility. The issue
before us in this appeal is whether this statutory violation
automatically requires us to vacate the trial court's
order authorizing her continued commitment without the need
for her to show that she was actually prejudiced by the
violation. Because we conclude that no showing of prejudice
was required under these circumstances, we vacate the trial
and Procedural Background
December 2016, Yolanda Diaz filed an affidavit and petition
for the involuntary commitment of her sister, E.D.
("Respondent") in which she alleged that Respondent
was mentally ill and dangerous to herself or others. A Wake
County magistrate found that reasonable grounds existed to
believe the facts alleged in the petition were true and
ordered Respondent to be held for examination.
was transported to UNC Hospitals at 8:00 p.m. on 26 December
2016. The following day, she was examined by Dr. Katie Cheng.
Dr. Cheng then completed a form labeled Examination and
Recommendation to Determine Necessity for Involuntary
Commitment. On this form, Dr. Cheng stated that in her
opinion Respondent was mentally ill and dangerous to herself
or others. Dr. Cheng recommended that she be committed to an
inpatient treatment facility for a period of 15 days.
result of Dr. Cheng's recommendation, Respondent was
transferred to UNC Wakebrook Psychiatric Services ("UNC
Wakebrook") later that same day. On 27 December 2016, a
second examination of Respondent was conducted by Allison H.
Williams, a psychologist. Williams formed the opinion that
Respondent was mentally ill and a danger to herself or others
and recommended inpatient commitment for a period of five to
ten days. Respondent remained at UNC Wakebrook for the next
nine days while awaiting an involuntary commitment hearing.
hearing was held on 5 January 2017 in Wake County District
Court before the Honorable Dan Nagle. Following the hearing,
the trial court entered an order concluding that Respondent
was mentally ill and a danger to herself or others. The court
ordered that she be committed to UNC Wakebrook for a period
of inpatient treatment not to exceed 30 days. Respondent
filed written notice of appeal on 27 January
Gen. Stat. § 122C-266 provides, in pertinent part, as
(a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (e), within 24
hours of arrival at a 24-hour facility described in G.S.
122C-252, the respondent shall be examined by a physician.
This physician shall not be the same physician who completed
the certificate or examination under the provisions of G.S.
122C-262 or G.S. 122C-263. The examination ...