District/Municipal Court Rules Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 1-17: Pilot initiative pursuant to G. L. c. 123, § 35 and uniform trial court rules for civil commitment proceedings for alcohol and substance use disorders
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This Standing Order is promulgated by the Chief Justice of the Boston Municipal Court Department pursuant to G. L. c. 211B, § 10 and G. L. c. 218, § 51A.
II. Purpose and applicability
The opioid epidemic has created a public health crisis that has resulted in all branches of government devoting greater efforts and increased resources to combat this crisis, including the Trial Court, which promulgated the Uniform Trial Court Rules for Civil Commitment Proceedings for Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders G. L. c. 123 § 35, effective September 6, 2016 (“Uniform Commitment Rules”). In recognition of this valuable tool, and in an effort to alleviate the burden and time constraints faced by police officers and physicians seeking to petition for an order of commitment, the Boston Municipal Court Department has promulgated Standing Order 1-17 for a one year pilot initiative in the West Roxbury Division, establishing the procedures to be followed by a police officer or physician seeking to file a petition for an order of civil commitment without having to appear in person as permitted by statute and rule.
III. Required procedures and forms
G. L. c. 123, § 35, amended effective April 24, 2016, permits any qualified petitioner to petition in writing any district court for an order of commitment, and Uniform Commitment Rules 1(b) specifically provides that “[p]roceedings may be commenced in any Division of any of the three Departments [District Court, Boston Municipal Court, and Juvenile Court Departments] without regard to the age, residence, or location of the respondent, . . . .” Therefore, any police officer or physician may file a petition for an order of commitment in the West Roxbury Division regardless of the location of the hospital or the age or location of the patient or person in need.
As used in this Standing Order, and solely for purposes of this one year pilot initiative, the term “petitioner” shall apply only to a police officer or physician as provided for in G. L. c. 123, § 35, third par. and Uniform Commitment Rule 1(a).
C. Required forms/documents
Although the statute and rules do not require a petitioner to appear at the courthouse to file a petition seeking the issuance of an order of commitment of a respondent, to ensure that the Court has sufficient information to make the necessary determinations, in order to file a petition pursuant to this Standing Order, a police officer or physician shall submit the following completed forms to the Clerk’s Office of the West Roxbury Division:
(1) Petition for Commitment for Alcohol or Substance Use Disorder;
(2) Respondent Information Form as Provided by Petitioner; and
D. Respondent information form
To the extent possible, the petitioner should provide the specific location where the person/respondent may be found in the event the Court issues a warrant of apprehension, and should include the full name, date of birth or approximate age, and last known address of the person/respondent.
E. Petitioner’s supplemental information affidavit
The petitioner is required to provide specific information or data regarding the likelihood of serious harm to the person/respondent by reason of alcohol or substance use disorder. The petitioner should also include information of said person’s/respondent’s history of harmful behaviors, including overdoses, recent hospitalizations, diagnoses, lab results, and medications.
When the person/respondent is a patient in a medical hospital, a physician shall also include the reasons why the medical hospital is unable to meet the patient’s treatment needs, as well as a statement that the patient is detoxed and medically stable for discharge from the hospital.
When the person/respondent is a patient in a psychiatric hospital, a physician shall include the person’s/respondent’s history of harmful behaviors, including overdoses, recent hospitalizations, diagnoses, lab results, and medications, along with the admission and discharge notes, as well as a statement that the person is psychiatrically stable for discharge.
If applicable, this form must also include a written statement of facts supporting the reasons why the petitioner believes that the person/respondent will not appear if a summons were to issue for a later date and why any further delay in the proceedings would present an immediate danger to the physical well-being of the person/respondent or to other members of the community.
F. Submission of completed forms
Once the required forms are completed, and signed and dated as necessary, the forms shall be faxed to Clerk-Magistrate Sean P. Murphy, Clerk’s Office, West Roxbury Division at (617) 983-0243.
G. Court review; dismissal; summons; warrant
Upon receipt of the completed forms, the Clerk-Magistrate shall expeditiously present the matter to a judge “who shall review the petition on the record in court.” Uniform Commitment Rule 2. Upon review, the judge may dismiss petition, or determine whether to issue a summons or a warrant of apprehension. Uniform Commitment Rules 2 and 3 and G. L. c. 123, § 35, third par. If the judge determines there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person/respondent will not appear at the hearing provided below and that any further delay in the proceedings would present an immediate danger to the physical well-being of the person/respondent, the Court will issue a warrant for the person’s/respondent’s apprehension and appearance in Court. Uniform Commitment Rule 3 and G. L. c. 123, § 35, third par. The petitioner will be notified by the Clerk-Magistrate of the Court’s decision.
H. Appointment of counsel; examination; hearing
After the person/respondent is detained and brought to the Court, an attorney shall be appointed to represent the respondent and the court clinician or other qualified physician, psychologist or social worker will conduct an assessment. See G. L. c. 123, § 35, third par. and Uniform Commitment Rules 4 and 5. A judge shall then conduct a hearing to determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the person/respondent is an individual with an alcohol or substance use disorder and there is a likelihood of serious harm to the respondent, petitioner, or any other person as a result of the respondent’s alcohol or substance use disorder. Uniform Commitment Rule 6(a) and G. L. c. 123, § 35, fourth par. In some limited circumstances, the presence of the petitioner may be necessary at this hearing. See Uniform Commitment Rule 6(b). The police officer or physician will be notified by the Clerk-Magistrate if his/her presence is necessary at this hearing.
This pilot initiative in the West Roxbury Division shall expire one year from the effective date set forth below.