and County of Denver Probate Court No. 15MH1333 Honorable
Ruben M. Hernandez, Magistrate
Scott Martinez, County Attorney, Patrick C. McKinstry,
Assistant County Attorney, Denver, Colorado, for
Law Firm of John L. Rice, John L. Rice, Pueblo, Colorado, for
1 Respondent, R.K.L., a/k/a A.J.J. (A.J.J.), appeals the
probate court's orders upholding his certification and
extended certification for short-term mental health treatment
at Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan (CMHI-FL)
and authorizing the involuntary administration of medication.
2 A.J.J. contends that the evidence is insufficient to
support the court's orders. We agree with A.J.J. that the
evidence does not support the court's orders authorizing
involuntary administration of ten of the eleven requested
antipsychotic medications, and we thus reverse the parts of
the orders authorizing their involuntary
administration. In all other respects, we reject
A.J.J.'s arguments and affirm.
Relevant Facts and Procedural Background
3 On December 15, 2015, petitioner, the People, filed a
notice in Denver Probate Court of certification of A.J.J. for
short-term mental health treatment. A letter from a CMHI-FL
psychiatrist submitted with the notice alleged that A.J.J.
had been transferred from Colorado Mental Health Institute at
Pueblo (CMHIP) to CMHI-FL on December 10, 2015, and it was
his third hospitalization at CMHI-FL. The letter alleged that
A.J.J. had been at CMHIP since October 20, 2014, after being
found incompetent to proceed on a third degree assault
charge. According to the letter, A.J.J. was initially
receiving treatment on a voluntary basis, but on December 15,
2015, he was placed on a seventy-two-hour hold after refusing
to take medication.
4 The notice alleged that A.J.J. had been detained for a
seventy-two-hour evaluation and found to be mentally ill, and
as a result of his mental illness, he was a danger to others
and gravely disabled. Consequently, he was certified to
CMHI-FL for short-term treatment for a period not to exceed
5 On December 17, the People filed a motion to grant
involuntary medication administration authority to
A.J.J.'s treating psychiatrists at CMHI-FL, alleging that
A.J.J. was not competent to effectively participate in
treatment decisions. Involuntary medication administration
authority was requested for eleven antipsychotic, five
mood-stabilizer, two anxiolytic, and six side-effect
6 On January 6, 2016, the probate court held a hearing on the
short-term treatment certification and the motion for
involuntary medication administration authority. Dr. Matt
Salbenblatt, who the parties stipulated was an expert in
psychiatry, testified that he had worked with A.J.J. at
CMHI-FL since he was admitted. Dr. Salbenblatt testified that
A.J.J. had schizophrenia with possible bipolar disorder. He
testified that A.J.J. had grandiose delusions, thought
disorganization, lack of impulse control, an inability to
assess reality, and poor judgment. Dr. Salbenblatt then
described the medications requested, and he opined that
A.J.J. met the criteria for short-term treatment
certification and involuntary medication administration.
7 A.J.J. also testified at the January 6 hearing. He
identified himself as "[A.J.J.], Jr., Chief, Native
Indian Prince, " and said he did not go by the name
R.K.L. or know where that name came from. He testified that
he had worked at the House of Representatives, was an
attorney, worked under a judge in Minnesota "as Native
Indian Prince, " and had written two books for the
Internal Revenue Service and the joint budget economic
committee. A.J.J. testified that he did not think he suffered
from a mental illness and did not want to stay at CMHI-FL but
was not sure where he would live if he left. He also
testified that "as a rule for [his] body, [he did] not
want to take the drugs[.]" Much of his testimony was
convoluted, difficult or impossible to logically follow, and
not responsive to the questions asked.
8 At the conclusion of the hearing, the probate court upheld
the certification for short-term treatment and granted the
motion for involuntary administration authority for the
requested medications (January 6 Order).
9 Before the expiration of the January 6 Order on March 15,
2016, the People filed with the probate court a notice
extending the certification of A.J.J. for short-term
treatment for an additional three months, to expire no later
than June 15, 2016. The People also filed an amended motion
seeking a three-month extension of the involuntary medication
administration authority order.
10 On February 10, 2016, the probate court held a hearing on
the extended short-term treatment certification and amended
motion for involuntary medication administration authority.
Dr. Marla Christine Barnes, who the parties stipulated was an
expert in psychiatry, testified that she had been supervising
A.J.J.'s care since the beginning of January 2016. She
provided similar testimony as that of Dr. Salbenblatt
regarding A.J.J.'s diagnosis and symptoms and the
requested medications, except that she testified that she no
longer sought authority to administer the mood-stabilizer
medications. She also opined that A.J.J. met the criteria for
extended short-term treatment certification and involuntary
11 At the conclusion of the February 10 hearing, the probate
court upheld the extended certification for short-term
treatment and granted the amended motion for involuntary
administration authority for the requested medications
(February 10 Order).
12 A.J.J. now appeals both the January 6 Order and the
February 10 Order.
Standard of Review
13 We must determine whether the evidence, when viewed as a
whole and in the light most favorable to the People, is
sufficient to support the probate court's order.
Fifth Third Bank v. Jones, 168 P.3d 1, 2 (Colo.App.
2007). We review de novo the probate court's conclusions
of law and defer to the court's findings of fact if
sufficient evidence in the record supports them. See
People in Interest of Strodtman, 293 P.3d 123, 131
(Colo.App. 2011). III. Certification for Short-Term Treatment
14 Under the statutory scheme governing mental health care
and treatment, a person who, because of an alleged mental
illness, is alleged to be a danger to others or to himself or
herself or to be gravely disabled may be detained for
seventy-two hours for treatment and evaluation. §
27-65-106, C.R.S. 2015. After the evaluation, the person may
be certified for short-term treatment. § 27-65-106(7).
The notice of certification must be filed with the court.
§ 27-65-107(2), C.R.S. 2015.
15 Certification for short-term treatment (three months or
less) is permitted only if "[t]he professional staff of
the agency or facility providing seventy-two-hour treatment
and evaluation has analyzed the person's condition and
has found the person has a mental illness and, as a result of
the mental illness, is a danger to others or to himself or
herself or is gravely disabled, " and "[t]he person
has been advised of the availability of, but has not
accepted, voluntary treatment." § 27-65-107(1)(a),
(b). Thus, short-term treatment certification is legally
unavailable unless it is shown that (1) a person is mentally
ill; (2) as a result of such illness, the person is either
(a) a danger to others, or (b) a danger to himself or
herself, or (c) gravely disabled; and (3) the person has not
accepted voluntary treatment. See id.; see also
People v. Taylor, 618 P.2d 1127, 1136 (Colo.
16 "If the professional person in charge of the
evaluation and treatment [of someone certified for short-term
treatment] believes that a period longer than three months is
necessary for treatment of [that person], he or she shall
file with the court an extended certification." §
27-65-108, C.R.S. 2015. Extended certification for short-term
treatment may be for an additional period of three months or
less. See id.
17 A person subject to certification or extended
certification for short-term treatment may request that the
court hold a hearing to review the certification or extended
certification. §§ 27-65-107(6), -108. The court may
"enter or confirm" the certification or extended
certification, § 27-65-107(6), only if the court finds
that the person or facility seeking certification proves by
clear and convincing evidence "that the person has a
mental illness and, as a result of the ...