from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. MH2015-003266
The Honorable Barbara L. Spencer, Judge Pro Tempore
Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Phoenix By Anne C.
Longo, Joseph Branco Counsel for Appellee
Maricopa County Legal Defender's Office, Phoenix By Anne
H. Phillips Counsel for Appellant
Kent E. Cattani delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Michael J. Brown and Judge Maurice Portley
Patient appeals the superior court's order committing him
for involuntary mental health treatment. Patient argues that,
because he did not receive a statutorily required physical
examination as part of his psychiatric evaluations, the
involuntary treatment order is invalid. In light of a 2012
statutory change authorizing a third-party to complete (or
attempt) the physical examination portion of the psychiatric
evaluation, and for reasons that follow, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In March 2015, Patient accosted several neighbors, kicked in
several doors, and took money from one neighbor's home;
the neighbors and responding police officers noted that
Patient seemed confused or mentally disturbed. He was
arrested and charged with burglary, trespass, and disorderly
conduct. The next month, while in jail on those charges,
Patient attacked several detention officers without
provocation, inflicting concussions, facial fractures, and
other injuries. Patient was charged with multiple counts of
assault and aggravated assault arising from this incident.
During the criminal proceedings, Patient was found
incompetent to stand trial. See Ariz. Rev. Stat.
("A.R.S.") § 13-4517; Ariz. R. Crim. P.
The superior court ordered a Title 36 psychiatric evaluation,
which led to these civil commitment proceedings.
Patient was evaluated by two psychiatrists, each of whom
offered a probable diagnosis of schizophrenia and concluded
that, because of the mental disorder, Patient was a danger to
others and persistently or acutely disabled. During their
separate in-person evaluations, both doctors noted that
Patient was largely non-verbal, although he seemed to
understand them and answered some questions. Although he
denied having hallucinations, Patient was laughing to himself
and seemed to be responding to internal stimuli throughout
The physicians also reviewed records from Patient's Rule
11 evaluation, which described Patient's history of two
voluntary hospitalizations for mental health treatment in the
preceding two years. The records suggested that medication
helped alleviate his symptoms, but that he did not take the
medication consistently after leaving inpatient treatment.
Both doctors noted that Patient had refused a physical
examination (one clarified that he had refused in the
"previous facility"), but also concluded that
neither available records nor in-person observation suggested
that Patient's psychiatric symptoms arose from a physical
¶5 One of the doctors then filed a
petition for court-ordered treatment, attaching affidavits
from both psychiatrists. After an evidentiary hearing, the
superior court found Patient to be a danger to others and
persistently or acutely disabled due to a mental disorder,
and ordered combined inpatient and outpatient treatment for
no more than 365 days, with inpatient treatment not to exceed
Patient timely appealed, and we have jurisdiction under
A.R.S. § 36-546.01. Although Patient's appeal is
arguably moot as the treatment order has since expired, we
nevertheless consider the appeal because it presents an issue
of state-wide importance that is capable of repetition and
would otherwise evade review. See In re
MH-2008-000867, 225 Ariz. 178, 179, ¶ 1 (2010).
Patient argues the superior court erred because he was
involuntarily committed without a statutorily required
physical examination as part of his psychiatric evaluation.
Because involuntary treatment strongly implicates a
patient's liberty interests, "statutory requirements
must be strictly construed and followed." In re MH
2008-002596,223 Ariz. 32, 35, ¶ 12 (App. 2009). We
review issues of statutory interpretation de novo. In re
MH 2001-001139,203 Ariz. 351, 353, ¶ 8 (App.
2002). But we review the facts underlying the civil
commitment order in the light most favorable to upholding the