Attorney Kali Lester recently received a dismissal in Federal Court where the plaintiff alleged a local police department had an unconstitutional policy for mental health commitments. The policy permits officers to rely on statements from witnesses to evaluate an individual’s mental condition. The plaintiff argued that Michigan’s Mental Health Code requires officers to personally observe the individual exhibiting dangerous behavior before seizing the individual for the purpose of a mental health commitment.
Ms. Lester successfully argued that it is the United States Constitution, not the state legislature, that establishes constitutional standards for purposes of liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court ruled that the proper standard requires only probable cause that the individual presents a danger to himself or others, and the probable cause determination is based on all facts known to the officers at the time – not just those personally observed by the officers. The department’s policy was found to be constitutional and the lawsuit, which included seven claims in total, was dismissed in full.