Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth
Heard: November 9, 2017
for civil commitment filed in the Brockton Division of the
District Court Department on March 4, 2013. The case was
heard by Beverly J. Cannone, J., and a motion for
reconsideration was also heard by her.
review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court
granted leave to obtain further appellate review.
L. Eisenberg for E.C.
J. O'Donnell for Bridgewater State Hospital.
D. Blumberg, for Department of Mental Health, amicus curiae,
submitted a brief.
Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.
appeal, we consider whether the dismissal of the criminal
charge pending against the respondent, E.C, required his
release from commitment to Bridgewater State Hospital
(Bridgewater), where the charge was dismissed after the
period of commitment had expired, and a petition to extend
the commitment had yet to be decided.
was charged in the Boston Municipal Court Department with
malicious destruction of property. Following a hearing
pursuant to G. L. c. 123, § 16 (b), a judge of that
court found E.C. not competent to stand trial and ordered him
committed to Bridgewater for a period of six months. After
that period had expired, Bridgewater filed a petition in the
District Court Department to extend the commitment for an
additional period of one year, pursuant to G. L. c. 123,
§ 16 (c) . While the petition for an extension was
pending, the criminal charge against E.C. was dismissed.
Bridgewater moved to file an amended petition to modify its
pending G. L. c. 123, § 16 (c), petition to a petition
for civil commitment pursuant to G. L. c. 123, §§ 7
and 8. E.C. opposed the motion and argued that Bridgewater
was required to release him because the criminal charge had
been dismissed. A District Court judge concluded that
Bridgewater had no authority to hold E.C. pursuant to G. L.
c. 123, § 16 (c), after the criminal charge had been
dismissed and his original commitment had expired; denied
Bridgewater's petition to amend; and ordered E.C.
discharged. The Appellate Division of the District
Court affirmed that judgment, and the Appeals Court reversed.
See Matter of E.C., 89 Mass.App.Ct. 813 (2016). We
allowed E.C.'s application for further appellate review.
conclude that the dismissal of criminal charges does not
require the immediate release from commitment of an
incompetent defendant, and that Bridgewater retained the
statutory authority to hold E.C. while the G. L. c. 123,
§ 16 (c), petition was pending. See G. L. c. 123, §
6. We conclude also that the District
Court judge abused her discretion in denying
Bridgewater's request to amend its pending petition for
an extension under G. L. c. 123, § 16 (c), to a petition
for civil commitment under G. L. c. 123, §§ 7 and
following facts are not disputed. In May, 2012, E.C. was
arraigned in the Boston Municipal Court on one count of
malicious destruction of property over $250.00. In July,
2012, a psychologist testified that E.C. was not competent to
stand trial. A Boston Municipal Court judge ordered E.C.
transferred to Bridgewater for further evaluation of his
competency, pursuant to G. L. c. 123, § 15 (b). In
August, 2012, Bridgewater reported that E.C. was not
competent to stand trial; the Commonwealth stipulated to his
incompetency. The judge ordered E.C. returned to Bridgewater
for a thirty-five day hospitalization, pursuant to G. L. c.
123, § 16 (a.) . Bridgewater then petitioned the court
to commit E.C. for a period of six months, pursuant to G. L.
c. 123, § 16 (b). The petition was allowed, and
E.C.'s commitment to Bridgewater was authorized until
prior to the expiration of the six-month commitment period,
Bridgewater filed a petition in the Brockton Division of the
District Court Department to extend E.C.'s involuntary
commitment for a period of one year, under G. L. c. 123,
§ 16 (c) . A hearing on that petition was
scheduled for March, 2013. At a hearing in the Boston
Municipal Court one week before the hearing scheduled on
Bridgewater's petition for a renewed commitment, E.C.
filed a motion to dismiss the criminal charge. The Boston
Municipal Court judge continued the hearing until the
following day, and E.C. waived his right to be present. The
next day, the judge allowed E.C.'s motion to dismiss,
over the Commonwealth's objection.
week later, the scheduled hearing was held in the District
Court on Bridgewater's petition pursuant to G. L. c. 123,
§ 16 (c), to continue the commitment. A judge of that
court allowed E.C.'s motion for funds for an independent
medical examiner and continued the hearing for approximately
three weeks. The day after the hearing, immediately after
learning that E.C.'s criminal charge had been dismissed,
Bridgewater filed a motion to amend the petition for an
extension of commitment from a G. L. c. 123, § 16 (c),
petition to a petition for civil commitment under G. L. c.
123, §§ 7 and 8.Bridgewater told the District Court
judge that it had not been informed that E.C.'s criminal
charge had been dismissed until six days after the dismissal.
Bridgewater argued that the amendment was authorized by G. L.
c. 123, § 16 (c),  which allows for a civil commitment
proceeding after criminal charges have been dismissed. E.C.
opposed Bridgewater's motion, arguing that the dismissal
of the criminal charge terminated his commitment under G. L.
c. 123, § 16 (b). The judge denied Bridgewater's
motion, finding that G. L. c. 123, § 16, ...