Heard: May 11, 2016.
for civil commitment filed in the Brockton Division of the
District Court Department on March 4, 2013.
case was heard by Beverly J. Cannone, J., and a motion for
reconsideration was also heard by her.
J. O'Donnell for the petitioner.
A. Robinson, Committee for Public Counsel Services, for the
Present: Grainger, Meade, & Hanlon, JJ.
a hearing pursuant to G. L. c. 123, § 16(b), a
judge of the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal
Court Department (BMC) found E.C. incompetent to stand trial
and committed him to Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) for six
months. After the § 16(b) commitment expired and the
underlying criminal charges against E.C. were dismissed, a
judge of the Brockton Division of the District Court
Department (Brockton District Court) denied BSH's timely
petition to extend the commitment under G. L. c. 123, §
16(c) . The judge also denied BSH's motion to amend that
petition to one pursuant to G. L. c. 123, §§ 7 and
8, seeking continued civil commitment of a mentally ill
person whose discharge from BSH would create a likelihood of
serious harm. The Appellate Division of the District Court
affirmed. On appeal, BSH claims error in the denial of the
original and amended petitions. We reverse.
material facts are not in dispute. On May 30, 2012, E.C. was
charged in the BMC with malicious destruction of property
having a value greater than $250 in violation of G. L. c.
266, § 127. Following a hearing pursuant to G. L. c.
123, § 15 (a), a judge ordered E.C.
hospitalized pursuant to G. L. c. 123, § 15(b), in order
to evaluate his competency to stand trial. Based on the
resulting § 15(b) report, the judge on August
7, 2012, found E.C. incompetent to stand trial. Thereafter,
pursuant to BSH's G. L. c. 123, § 16(b), petition,
E.C. was committed to BSH for six months.
expiration of the G. L. c. 123, § 16(b), commitment drew
near, on March 4, 2013, BSH petitioned in Brockton District
Court,  pursuant to G. L. c. 123, § 16(c),
for E.C.'s further commitment. On March 7, 2013, when the
initial six-month § 16(b) commitment expired,
prior to the hearing on BSH's § 16(c) petition, the
criminal charge pending in the BMC against E.C. was dismissed
over the Commonwealth's objection. Shortly after the
dismissal, BSH filed a motion in the Brockton District Court
to amend its § 16(c) petition to one pursuant to G. L.
c. 123, §§ 7 and 8. On March 20, 2013, the judge
denied the motion to amend and determined that, following the
dismissal of the criminal case, the § 16(c) petition
could "no longer serve as a valid basis to detain
[E.C.]." The judge also concluded that after the
criminal charge was dismissed, BSH lacked a valid basis to
retain E.C. and therefore could not pursue his commitment
under §§ 7 and 8 because he was no longer a
patient. The judge denied BSH's subsequent motion for
reconsideration. As a result, E.C. was immediately released
appealed the judge's orders to the Appellate Division of
the District Court, which affirmed. In affirming the
judge's decisions, the Appellate Division determined that
the dismissal of the criminal charge against E.C. terminated
BSH's authority to proceed against him under G. L. c.
123, § 16(c), because the "issue of E.C.'s
competenc[y] was no longer before the court once the criminal
case was dismissed."
Appellate Division relied on G. L. c. 123, § 16(b),
which provides for continued commitment of a defendant
following the dismissal of criminal charges, and determined
that G. L.c. 123, § 16(c), which contains no such
reference, does not similarly apply. Therefore, the Appellate
Division determined that a pending criminal charge was a
prerequisite for continued retention, and applied that
reasoning to § 16 (c) to conclude that BSH could not
pursue further commitment following the dismissal of
E.C.'s charge. As BSH had moved to amend its petition
from one under § 16(c) to one under G. L. c. 123,
§§ 7 and 8, the Appellate Division suggested that
BSH recognized this prerequisite. In the end, the Appellate
Division affirmed, reasoning that once the § 16(b)
commitment period had run, BSH lacked the authority to detain
E.C. because he was no longer a "patient" and,
therefore, could not be subject to a petition pursuant to
§§ 7 and 8.
addition, the Appellate Division held there was no support in
the record for BSH's argument that the BMC judge expected
that E.C. would remain at BSH pending the hearing on the G.
L. c. 123, § 16(c), petition. Although the Appellate
Division acknowledged the logistical issues BSH faced in
being informed of the status of criminal charges where BSH
itself is not a party to those proceedings, the court
nevertheless agreed that the statutory framework did not
allow for E.C.'s continuing commitment under § 16(c)
or §§ 7 and 8. This appeal followed.