TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A federal appeals court has ruled that a Florida law dealing with the involuntary commitment of people with intellectual disabilities violates constitutional due-process rights.
The ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stems from a man identified only by the initials J.R. who has an IQ of 56 and functions as a 7-year-old. In 2000, he was charged with sexual battery in Lee County but was later found incompetent to stand trial and was involuntarily sent to a non-secure residential facility.
Attorneys for J.R. filed a lawsuit against the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities in 2011 because they said Florida law allows indefinite involuntary commitment without periodic reviews by judges. The ruling said a circuit judge has not held a hearing on J.R.’s commitment since 2005.
A federal district judge upheld the constitutionality of the state law, but the appeals court disagreed.
“A state must release a person who is involuntarily committed if the grounds for his commitment cease to exist. But that requirement — release the committed when they deserve to be let out — is toothless if a state does not periodically review whether the grounds for commitment are met,” Thursday’s ruling said. “That is, a state could get around the timely-release requirement by simply refusing to ever consider the continued propriety of commitment. To effectuate that requirement, then, the state must undertake some form of periodic review.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.