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In re Care and Treatment of Snyder

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 27, 2018

In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Clay Robert Snyder.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The Kansas Care and Treatment Act for Mentally Ill. Persons, K.S.A. 59-2945 et seq., as applied via K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3303 does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         2. The Kansas Care and Treatment Act for Mentally Ill. Persons, K.S.A. 59-2945 et seq., as applied via K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3303 does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         3. On the facts of this case, the evidence was sufficient to involuntarily commit the defendant for care and treatment.

          Appeal from Pawnee District Court; Julie F. Cowell, magistrate judge.

          Mary Curtis, of Disability Rights Center of Kansas, of Topeka, argued the cause, and Ronald D. Smith, of Smith and Burnett, LLC, of Larned, was with her on the briefs for appellant.

          Dwight R. Carswell, assistant solicitor general, argued the cause, and Bryan C. Clark, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          STEGALL, J.

         After the Saline County District Court found Clay Snyder not competent to stand trial, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) initiated involuntary commitment proceedings against him. Ultimately, the Pawnee County District Court found Snyder was mentally ill and dangerous under K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 59-2946(e) and (f)(3) and ordered him committed to Larned State Hospital (Larned) for care and treatment. Snyder appeals from this commitment order, alleging equal protection and due process violations and challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. Finding Snyder's constitutional rights were not violated and the evidence was sufficient to involuntarily commit him, we affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In 2012 Snyder was charged with rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, and aggravated indecent liberties with a child in Saline County. Snyder filed a motion to determine his competency to stand trial, triggering a lengthy cycle of competency evaluations, judicial findings of incompetency, treatment to restore competency, and renewed efforts by the State to take Snyder to trial. This process has now spanned years and has been interrupted and prolonged at least twice by involuntary commitment proceedings under the Kansas Care and Treatment Act for Mentally Ill. Persons (Care and Treatment Act), K.S.A. 59-2945 et seq. Snyder's competency detainment is the subject of a separate case, this day decided. See In re Habeas Corpus Petition of Snyder, 307 Kan.__, __ P.3d __(2018) (No. 117, 167, this day decided).

         Thus far, competency restoration efforts have proven unsuccessful. In November 2016, the Saline County District Court again found Snyder was not competent to stand trial with no substantial probability that he would attain competency in the foreseeable future. Consequently, as directed by Kansas statute, the court ordered KDADS to commence involuntary commitment proceedings against Snyder. See K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3303(1) ("If such probability does not exist, the court shall order the secretary for aging and disability services to commence involuntary commitment proceedings pursuant to article 29 of chapter 59 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated."). Three months later, KDADS filed a petition for determination of mental illness in Pawnee County, alleging Snyder was a mentally ill person subject to involuntary commitment for care and treatment at Larned.

         The Pawnee County District Court held a bench trial on March 21, 2017. KDADS presented one witness, psychologist Jessica Zoglman, who testified about a report she wrote to the court recommending that Snyder be committed for inpatient treatment at Larned. The parties entered five exhibits into evidence: (1) KDADS's petition for determination of mental illness, which included two of Snyder's competency evaluations; (2) Zoglman's curriculum vitae; (3) Zoglman's report to the court; (4) Snyder's recent Larned intake assessment; and (5) Snyder's petition for writ of habeas corpus in a separate case.

         Zoglman testified that she reviewed Snyder's Larned admission records, which included an intake assessment completed by the admitting psychiatrist, and the two competency evaluations attached to the petition. She also conducted an interview with Snyder on March 10, 2017, and interacted with him in her duties as Larned unit psychologist. These records and interactions formed the basis of her report. Ultimately, she concluded Snyder was mentally ill, dangerous to others, and in need of treatment.

         Zoglman testified that Snyder met the criteria for the diagnosis of "Intellectual Disability, mild as severity, as well as a number of different substance use disorders that are currently in remission." In her report, Zoglman stated she "ruled out a paraphilic related diagnosis at the present time" but noted Snyder's "[e]ncounter for mental health services for perpetrator of nonparental child sexual abuse" was a condition that might be the focus of clinical attention. Zoglman testified that she used the word "condition" because Snyder did not meet the "habit criteria" for a diagnosis.

         A discrepancy between Zoglman's testimony and report caused confusion about whether Snyder fit the definition of a "mentally ill person" for purposes of involuntary commitment. In her report, Zoglman did not check the box to indicate that Snyder was a mentally ill person. As Zoglman explained, the standardized report form defined "mentally ill person" in accordance with K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 59-2946(f)(1), which excludes persons solely diagnosed with an intellectual disability from being mentally ill persons subject to involuntary commitment. But this definition did not apply to Snyder, who was charged with an off-grid felony and found incompetent to stand trial. Instead, Snyder was subject to the definition of "mentally ill person" found in K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 59-2946(e), which does not contain this exclusion. See K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3303(1) ("[F]or such proceeding, 'mentally ill person subject to involuntary commitment for care and treatment' means a mentally ill person, as defined in subsection [e] of K.S.A. 59-2946 . . . who is likely to cause harm to self and others, as defined in subsection [f][3] of K.S.A. 59-2946.").

         Zoglman clarified that under the correct definition, she believed Snyder was a mentally ill person. Furthermore, Zoglman concluded Snyder met the "likely to cause harm" criteria set forth in K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 59-2946(f)(3) because, though he posed no immediate threat to himself, without supervision he could be dangerous to others because he did not understand the seriousness of the charges against him. As Zoglman explained,

"The important piece is his lack of insight into that seriousness. You know when speaking with him for an interview . . . he was aware that his charges are related to, you know a sexual offense of a child. However, he indicated that it wasn't serious and so to me . . . he has a lack of insight, lack of appreciation for that seriousness. With the . . .severity level of his charges being off grid, it is a concern that if he does not see that his current legal situation is a serious matter that potentially without supervision other actions or other things could happen."

         Finally, Zoglman testified that Snyder needed treatment. She explained that treatment would not "cure" Snyder's intellectual disability; however, treatment such as group and individual therapy could help Snyder interact more appropriately, function better, and live with less stress. She concluded that "intensive supervision in a locked facility is care that is needed for Mr. Snyder."

         Snyder testified briefly about his disability and the competency restoration classes he took at Larned. He demonstrated a poor understanding of the nature of his disability and the legal ...


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