IN RE MH2015-002490, MH2015-004896 ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES, ARIZONA STATE HOSPITAL, Intervenor/Appellant and MARICOPA COUNTY SPECIAL HEALTHCARE DISTRICT d/b/a MARICOPA INTEGRATED HEALTH SYSTEM, Intervenor.
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. MH2015-002490,
MH2015-004896 The Honorable Andrew G. Klein, Judge The
Honorable Barbara L. Spencer, Judge Pro Tempore.
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Aubrey Joy
Corcoran, Louis Frank Caputo, III Counsel for
Dickinson Wright, PLLC, Phoenix By David J. Ouimette, Vail C.
Cloar Counsel for Intervenor.
Kenton D. Jones delivered the Opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Randall M. Howe and Judge James B. Morse Jr.
In this consolidated appeal, Intervenor Arizona State
Hospital (ASH) challenges orders involuntarily committing
Edgar T. and Juan A. (the Patients) for inpatient psychiatric
treatment. Both Patients were deemed incompetent to stand
trial for violent crimes, but upon commitment were unable to
provide documentation establishing their lawful presence in
the United States. ASH argues it cannot comply with the
commitment orders without violating state and federal law
governing the provision of state and local public benefits to
As a matter of first impression, we consider whether court-
ordered psychiatric treatment is a "state and local
public benefit, " as defined within 8 U.S.C. §
1621(c) and A.R.S. § 1-502(I). Because
individuals subject to court-ordered psychiatric treatment do
not "apply" for the services, the treatment is not
a "benefit" within the meaning of those statutes.
Accordingly, we affirm the superior court's orders.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 2013, Edgar was charged with one count of aggravated
assault and one count of assault by a prisoner with bodily
fluids. Edgar spat upon an officer who tried to end a fight
between Edgar and another inmate in the medical area of the
Durango Jail. In 2015, Juan was charged with aggravated
assault and criminal trespass after attacking officers who
tried to remove him from a dumpster in which he had been
living for four days. When the officers tried to move Juan,
he refused to obey orders and swung a board at one of them.
Ultimately, the officers resorted to the use of pepper spray
to subdue him.
In March 2014 and July 2015, the criminal court found the
Patients incompetent to stand trial and dismissed the charges
pending against them without prejudice. The court ordered the
Maricopa County Attorney's Office (MCAO) to file a
petition for court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.
See A.R.S. §§ 13-4517(A)(1) (authorizing
the court to "[r]emand the defendant to an evaluating
agency for the institution of civil commitment
proceedings" if it finds he is "incompetent to
stand trial and that there is no substantial probability that
the defendant will regain competency within twenty-one
months"); 36-521(F) (authorizing the county attorney to
file the petition for evaluation if court-ordered). Both
Patients were evaluated, and their evaluators filed petitions
for court-ordered treatment pursuant to A.R.S. §
36-531(B) (stating that, upon a determination that a patient
is disabled or dangerous, the appropriate person "shall
prepare, sign and file a petition for court-ordered
treatment"). After considering the petitions, the
superior court in both cases found the Patients to be
"persistently and acutely disabled." The court also
found Juan to be "a danger to others." Both
Patients were ordered to submit to inpatient psychiatric
treatment at ASH.
ASH moved to intervene in both cases, asking the superior
court to reconsider the commitment orders - not because its
findings were incorrect, but because the Patients were unable
to provide documents establishing their lawful presence in
the United States, and therefore were ineligible to receive
public benefits. The court granted the motion to intervene
but declined to reconsider its orders, and ASH timely
appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S.
§§ 12-120.21(A)(1) and -2101(A)(2).
On appeal, this Court granted the Maricopa County Special
Healthcare District (the District) leave to intervene as
well. The District operates Desert Vista Behavioral Health
Center (Desert Vista), a facility that provides short-term
court-ordered evaluation and treatment for individuals with
mental disabilities, and therefore has an interest in the
outcome of our decision.
The parties dispute whether court-ordered psychiatric
treatment is a "state and local public benefit"
subject to immigration verification. We review issues of
statutory interpretation de novo. In re
MH2010-002637,228 Ariz. 74, 78, ¶ 13 (App. 2011)
(citation omitted). "When interpreting a statute, our
primary purpose is to give effect to the intent of the
legislature." Pinal Cty. No. MH-201000029, 225
Ariz. 500, 502, ¶ 6 (App. 2010) (citing Maricopa
Cty. No. MH 2001-001139,203 Ariz. 351, 353, ¶ 12
(App. 2002)). "The best indicator of that intent is the
statute's plain language, and, if that language is clear
and unambiguous, we apply it as written." State ex
rel. Brnovich ...