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Washington v. Harper

494 U.S. 210, 110 S. Ct. 1028, 108 L. Ed. 2d 178 (1990)

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Washington v. Harper

United States Supreme Court

494 U.S. 210, 110 S. Ct. 1028, 108 L. Ed. 2d 178 (1990)

Facts

In 1976, Walter Harper (plaintiff) was sentenced to a Washington state prison for robbery. From 1976 to 1980, Harper spent most of his confinement in the prison’s psychiatric unit and voluntarily took antipsychotic drugs to treat his schizophrenia. Between 1980 and 1985, Harper had periods where he refused his medication. In 1985, Harper was sent to a special center for mentally ill prisoners, where his treating psychiatrist sought to administer his medication involuntarily pursuant to one of the center’s operating policies, as had been done before. The policy required that Harper be given at least 24 hours’ notice before an involuntary-medication hearing was conducted. The notice had to present Harper’s diagnosis and the basis for the medication recommendation. A hearing was then held before a committee comprised of a non-treating-center psychiatrist and psychologist and the center’s associate superintendent. At the hearing, Harper’s treating psychiatrist, who was prohibited from serving on the committee, had to prove that Walter was gravely disabled due to his mental disorder and posed a likely risk of serious harm to himself or others. At the hearing, Walter could be aided by a lay advisor and had the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine the center’s witnesses. The committee had to approve involuntary medication of Harper by a majority, including the committee psychiatrist’s vote. The committee’s approval was subject to review after seven days and again every 14 days, at which point reapproval was required. Harper filed suit against the state (defendant) and others, claiming that extrajudicial involuntary medication violated his right to due process. A trial court acknowledged Harper’s liberty interest in refusing medication, however concluded that the center’s policy granted sufficient procedural protection of Harper’s interest. Harper appealed. The Washington Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case after finding that nonconsenting prisoners must be afforded judicial hearings in order to satisfy due process. The state requested certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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