U.S. v. Gomes

289 F.3d 71
Brief Filed: 9/01
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Year of Decision: 2002

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 119KB)

Issue

Whether a criminal defendant can be involuntarily medicated in order to restore the defendant to competency

Index Topic

Medication (right to refuse)

Facts

The case involves a mentally ill defendant who was charged with weapons possession and determined not competent to stand trial. After extended involuntary commitment and an assessment that he was not likely to become competent absent medication, the trial court held a hearing on the issue of whether he should be involuntarily medicated in order to restore his competency to stand trial. The trial court concluded in a detailed sealed opinion, balancing the defendant's rights against the government's interest in adjudicating the guilt or innocence of those charged with crimes, that the defendant could be involuntarily medicated. The case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an order requesting APA to submit an amicus brief addressing specific issues related to involuntary medication of a criminal defendant in order to restore the defendant to competency so that he can stand trial.

APA's Position

APA filed a brief addressing specific inquires from the court dividing the brief into two major parts. The "Scientific Background" section addresses the state of drug-related treatments for psychosis, the range of side effects associated with particular categories of drugs, and the efficacy of the alternative, non-drug-related therapies for the victims of psychosis. The "Argument" section then proposes a legal framework for resolving disputes about the coercive administration of antipsychotic drugs as a means of making criminal defendants competent to stand trial. In summary, APA argued that antipsychotic drugs should not be forcibly administered to a criminal defendant for the purpose of rendering him competent to stand trial unless the government can prove that administration of the drugs in question is therapeutically appropriate for the specific defendant; that the drugs are substantially likely to render the defendant competent to stand trial; and that less intrusive non-drug alternatives would likely be ineffective in accomplishing the same objective.

Results

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the part of the district court order authorizing the defendant's involuntary medication and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The opinion presented the balanced approach proposed in APA's brief (with cites to APA's brief with approval on three important points).