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Administrative — Involuntary Civil Commitment – Failure of State to Appear – Due Process

Administrative — Involuntary Civil Commitment – Failure of State to Appear – Due Process

A respondent subject to involuntary mental health commitment does not have their due process rights to an impartial tribunal violated where the trial court, in the absence of counsel for the state, calls a state witness and asks open-ended questions.

A petition for involuntary commitment was filed alleging that respondent D.C.-F. was mentally ill and a danger to herself or others. When the trial court held the involuntary commitment hearing, the state was not represented by counsel. Respondent’s counsel objected to holding the hearing without a representative from the state. The trial court overruled the objection and called a psychiatrist as a witness. Respondent testified in her own defense. The trial court ultimately concluded that respondent was a danger to herself and ordered her involuntarily committed for up to 30 days of inpatient treatment.

Respondent appealed the commitment order, arguing that the trial court violated her due process right to an impartial tribunal by assuming the role of prosecutor when the state failed to appear for the commitment hearing.

We affirm the trial court’s order, noting that we had previously ruled in In re C.G., 278 N.C. App. 416 that a trial court does not violate a respondent’s due process rights by calling a state witness and asking open-ended questions. Because similar events occurred during respondent’s hearing, we conclude that we are bound by precedent to affirm.


In the Matter of: D.C.-F. (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-106-22, 3 pp.) (Chris Dillon, J.) Appealed from Durham County Superior Court (Pat Evans, J.) Jessica Macari for petitioner; Emily Holmes Daivs for respondent. 2022-NCCOA-175

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