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In re J.C.D.

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

May 21, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF: J.C.D.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 27 February 2019

          Appeal by respondent from order entered 14 March 2018 by Judge J. Henry Banks in District Court, Halifax County No. 18 SPC 102.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Jessica Macari, for the State.

          Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender Katy Dickinson-Schultz, for respondent-appellant.

          STROUD, JUDGE.

         J.C.D. ("Respondent") appeals from an involuntary commitment order which committed her to Halifax Regional Medical Center ("HRMC") for up to 30 days. We vacate the district court's order and remand for additional findings of fact and entry of a new order.

         I. Background

         Respondent, age 76, presented to the emergency room with bruising on the left side of her mouth and eyes and rambling speech. Respondent was initially examined by Dr. E. Conti at HRMC. Dr. Conti noted Respondent had stated her daughter had hit her, and she had rambling speech focused on her daughters trying to take advantage of her. Dr. Conti recounted Respondent had a history of "delusional" disorder and determined Respondent was "mentally ill," "dangerous to self," and "dangerous to others."

         On the Examination and Recommendation to Determine Necessity for Involuntary Commitment Form ("commitment form"), Dr. Conti states, "daughter reports that [Respondent] has been doing dangerous things such as walking long distances to the store in a bad neighborhood, telling strangers her personal buisness [sic] and inviting strangers into her home. Daughter also reports that [Respondent's] guns were take [sic] away from her due to threatening behavior."

         Respondent was examined by Dr. Ijaz the following day to determine the continued necessity for involuntary commitment. Dr. Ijaz determined Respondent was "mentally ill," "dangerous to self," and "dangerous to others." The commitment form completed by Dr. Ijaz indicates "[Respondent] presents with occular [sic] and facial bruising. She maintains that her daughter assulted [sic] her because she would not sell her house." Dr. Ijaz found Respondent was "at risk of causing harm to herself or others due to her impaired judgement and delusional thinking and requires inpatient hospitalization for stabilization and treatment."

         Dr. Conti signed an affidavit and petition requesting involuntary commitment of Respondent on 8 March 2018. An involuntary commitment hearing was held on 14 March 2018. Respondent was represented by counsel. The only witness who testified for the hospital was Latasha Motley, who was employed by HRMC. Respondent also testified. All parties indicate the transcript is unintelligible regarding Ms. Motley's specific job title at HRMC. Ms. Motley identified her role as being involved with "psychiatric discharge," but she also testified about Respondent's course of care in the hospital. Petitioner also offered as evidence a report by Dr. Ijaz, who had evaluated and treated Respondent. The report was admitted without objection from respondent.

         The trial court announced at the conclusion of the hearing it found there were facts supporting the involuntary commitment, and it would incorporate by reference as findings in the order the report signed by Dr. Ijaz and offered by Ms. Motley. The trial court also announced that it found respondent mentally ill and a danger to herself and others and committed her for up to 30 days.

         The court's written order, filed after the hearing, is on North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts form order SP-203. In the "Findings" portion of the form, [1] box number four was marked:

         Based on the evidence presented, the Court

4. by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, finds as facts all matters as set out in the physician's/eligible psychologist's report specified below, and the report is incorporated by reference as findings.
Date of Last Examiner's Report 3-14-18
Name of Physician/Eligible Psychologist Dr. Ijaz

         The trial court also marked box five:

5. by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, finds these other facts:
. . .
facts supporting the involuntary ...

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