The U.S. Supreme Court has issued numerous rulings regarding mental health and how society treats and regards the ill. While some rulings applied very narrowly, perhaps to only one individual, other cases have had great influence over wide areas.
Not all individuals who have some sort of physical difficulty are "disabled" under the ADA. Instead, those who believe they suffer from a disability must prove their claim on a case-by-case basis by showing that their alleged disability substantially impacts a major life activity.
When deciding whether to evaluate a criminal defendant's competency, the court must consider any evidence suggestive of mental illness, even one factor alone in some circumstances. Therefore, the threshold for obtaining a competency evaluation is low. When the issue is raised, the motion should be granted. The defendant must not bear all the burden for raising the issue.
The due process clause of the United States Constitution does not require states to adopt a definition of the insanity defense that turns on whether the defendant knew that his or her actions were morally wrong.
An involuntarily committed, legally competent patient who refused medication had a right to professional medical review of the treating psychiatrist's decision. The Court left the decision-making process to medical professionals.
Prisoners have only a very limited right to refuse psychotropic medications in prison. The needs of the institution take precedence over the prisoners' rights. However, there must be a formal institutional hearing, the prisoner must be found to be dangerous to himself or others, the prisoner must be diagnosed with a serious mental illness, and the mental health care professional must state that the medication prescribed is in the prisoner's best interest.
In a ruling very similar to Harper, the Court found that the State may force administration of psychotropic medications to a pre-trial detainee, if it establishes a medical need for the drug, and a need for the detainee's safety and that of others. To the Harper requirements, they added "less restrictive alternative" language, which requires the State to document that there are no behavioral, environmental, or other measures available that will be equally effective.
Due process requires that the nature and duration of commitment bear some reasonable relation to the purpose for which the individual is committed." Reasoning that if commitment is for treatment and betterment of individuals, it must be accompanied by adequate treatment, several lower courts recognized a due process right
Raised the burden of proof requirement, in order to civilly commit a person, from preponderance, to clear and convincing. Also, permitted the courts to defer judgment regarding a person's need for commitment, to the doctor(s)
Each individual has a due process protected interest in freedom from confinement and personal restraint; an interest in reducing the degree of confinement continues even for those individuals who are properly committed. freedom from undue physical restraint and from unsafe conditions of confinement
A finding of mental illness alone is not sufficient grounds for confining a person against their will. They must be found to be a danger to others or incapable of surviving safely without institutional care.
The Court found that mentally retarded persons are not a 'suspect' class of persons (requiring the same level of protection as racial minorities); thus, governments are free to enact almost any legislation or rule to civilly commit them, and the courts will not intervene, short of illegal or ridiculous actions (called 'rational' scrutiny).
Washington State's Community Protection Act of 1990 authorizes the civil commitment of "sexually violent predators," or persons who suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes them likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. After his imprisonment for committing six rapes, Andre Brigham Young was scheduled to be released from prison in 1990. Prior to his release, the state successfully filed a petition to commit Young as a sexually violent predator. Ultimately, Young instituted a federal habeas action. The court determined that the Community Protection Act was civil and, therefore, it could not violate the double jeopardy and ex post facto guarantees. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the case turned on whether the Act was punitive "as applied" to Young.