The Mental Health Department of the Superior Court is composed of Departments 95, 95A, 95B, the Office of the Counselor in Mental Health, and the Clerk's Office. Departments 95, 95A and 95B encompass the legal areas of psychiatric evaluations, treatments, investigations, hearings and trials relating to involuntary detentions. Persons are detained due to severe emotional problems for which they are unable or unwilling to seek voluntary care for themselves. The Departments also deal with the confinement and treatment of persons with narcotic addictions, developmental disabilities, and mental retardation. Los Angeles County is the only county in California using a centralized court for cases involving mental disorders and mental health legal issues.
Department 95 functions on a daily basis, presided over by the Supervising Judge for Mental Health. The cases heard involve competency, sanity, weapon returns, commitment extensions of mentally disordered offenders, and narcotics. Also heard in Department 95 are hearings dealing with the lifting of weapons restrictions and return of confiscated weapons from persons involuntarily committed under LPS (Section 5250 et.seq.).
A Commissioner presides daily in Department 95A. This department hears primarily LPS conservatorship cases, annual conservatorship accountings, medical treatment petitions, ancillary conservatorship issues, and Riese (medication) capacity hearings for patients refusing psychiatric medications during temporary conservatorship.
Department 95B, our newest courtroom, opened in January 1998. Most non-custody cases previously heard in Department 95 were reassigned to Department 95B. The Judge presiding in Department 95B hears cases involving involuntary psychiatric hospitalization under the mental health commitment laws (LPS), and Riese (medication) appeal hearings filed by patients or physicians and facilities. All newer private conservatorships are heard also in Department 95B. Hearings are also conducted on petitions for 180 day Postcertifications filed by the District Attorney for patients thought to be dangerous to others. All hearings regarding minors, regardless of the case type, are heard also in this Department. Recognizing that minors require special handling because of their special needs, it was decided that there would be more continuity if one bench officer handled all cases involving minors.
Historically, the Office of the Counselor in Mental Health has the responsibility of assisting mentally ill patients in filing Writs of Habeas Corpus; writing reports for the Court for involuntary detained psychiatric patients; helping the District Attorney in evaluating and writing reports for developmentally disabled patients; setting up court hearings and writing court reports for minor children requesting release from detention in psychiatric inpatient facilities; educating psychiatric facilities and the mental health community regarding mental health laws and procedures; and providing information to the community regarding mental health resources.
In addition, since 1983, the Office handles the filing and scheduling of hearings for 14 day and 30 day certifications for involuntary treatment and Riese petitions for medication capacity, resulting in more than 1,700 facility-based Certification Review hearings and Medication Capacity hearings (Riese) per month being conducted by 16 Mental Health Hearing Referees in 47 designated psychiatric treatment facilities throughout Los Angeles County. The Office also arranges for court-certified language interpreters for all hearings requiring such services. The Office also manages the filing of more than 100 Writs of Habeas Corpus per month for patients requesting release after Certification Review hearings, and more than 10 Riese (medication) capacity appeals per month by patients and facilities. The Office conducts Roger S. hearings for minors for whom treatment in a public mental health treatment facility is being sought by a parent or legal guardian. The Counselor in Mental Health is also responsible for all administration and operations of the Mental Health Court, including supervision of the Clerk's Office.
The Clerk's Office is responsible for supporting courtroom operations. This includes accepting and processing all petitions and filings from attorneys and the public, setting up the case file, inputting information into the Court's automated case management system, setting the case on calendar for hearing, and all ongoing management of case files.