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People ex rel. T.T.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Sixth Division

October 19, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of T.T., Respondent-Appellant.

         Arapahoe County District Court No. 14MH13 Honorable Theresa M. Slade, Judge

          Ronald A. Carl, County Attorney, Virginia Byrnes Horton, Assistant County Attorney, Aurora, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee

          Combs & Recht, LLC, James C. Recht, Castle Rock, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant

          OPINION

          FOX JUDGE.

          ¶ 1 After respondent, T.T., was released from involuntary mental health treatment pursuant to section 27-65-110, C.R.S. 2017, he unsuccessfully attempted to have his name removed from the district court's index of cases, invoking section 27-65-107(7), C.R.S. 2017. T.T. appeals the district court's order denying his motion to omit his name from the district court's index of cases. We reverse the district court's order and remand with directions.

         I. Background

         A. Involuntary Treatment and First Order Denying T.T.'s Motion

         ¶ 2 According to T.T.'s then treating physician, T.T. suffered from "severe symptoms . . . that lead to [the] development of [a] grave disability." Although T.T. had accepted voluntary treatment, the physician believed that T.T. would "not remain in a voluntary program, " so he filed a certification for the short-term treatment of T.T. pursuant to section 27-65-107. The district court then issued a notice of certification for short-term treatment and appointed counsel to represent T.T. Six days later, the physician filed a notice of termination of involuntary treatment in accordance with section 27-65-110, noting that T.T. "has had significant improvement" and "is no longer gravely disabled."

         ¶ 3 About two years after he was released from involuntary treatment, T.T. went to the district court and learned that his name still appeared on the court's index of cases. He asked the clerk to remove his name from the index, but the clerk refused. About two months later, T.T. filed a pro se motion with the district court requesting that his name be omitted from the court's index in accordance with section 27-65-107(7). The district court denied T.T.'s motion without making any factual findings or legal conclusions, and T.T. appealed.

         B. Limited Remand and Second Order Denying T.T.'s Motion

         ¶ 4 A division of this court issued an order remanding the case for the district court to hold a hearing on the matter and to make findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         ¶ 5 At the hearing, in describing "the life of a mental health case" in general, the district court judge discussed applicable law and a "Best Practices policy for mental health cases." The judge also discussed conversations she initiated with her staff and the clerk's office staff about record-keeping procedures for mental health cases. The judge stated that, according to an unidentified staff member, there is a "computer name index" (the Eclipse system) used for case materials; mental health records are included but are kept separately in a secure location accessible only by court order, and they remain "indexed only for the purposes of maintaining order to the file[.]" According to the staff member, the judge stated that it may be possible to electronically search for a name in the Eclipse system and discover that a related mental health case exists, but "it would be clear that the case was sealed" and that the person searching was "not permitted to view it." The judge further explained that the staff member claimed that she could not delete a name from the Eclipse system even if ordered to do so. After generally discussing mental health record-keeping procedures, the district court judge discussed the procedures that were supposedly followed in the underlying case.

         ¶ 6 T.T. objected and moved to strike the court's references to what it learned "from other clerks" because T.T. had no opportunity to confront those people. The district court judge denied the motion, explaining that, as the then presiding judge over the mental health division, she was concerned that T.T. may allege that proper procedures were not followed and that she "needed to - and arguably as the presiding judge should already know, the procedures and whether we're following them." The judge explained that she did not speak with staff about this particular case, but rather about record-keeping procedures generally.

         ¶ 7 T.T.'s attorney later attempted to admit two exhibits into evidence. The first exhibit consisted of excerpts from Office of State Court Administrator v. Background Info. Servs., Inc., 994 P.2d 420, 423 (Colo. 1999). The second exhibit was a series of stipulated facts, initially filed before the hearing, admitting that (1) T.T.'s then treating physician filed a notice of certification and certification of short-term treatment pursuant to section 27-65-107; (2) the physician later filed a notice of termination of involuntary treatment pursuant to section 27-65-110; and (3) T.T.'s name "has never been omitted from the index of cases of the court under [section] 27-65-107(7)." The stipulation further provided that T.T. would not object if opposing counsel makes an offer of proof that "since the enactment of [section] 27-65-107(7), the Arapahoe County District Court has never omitted the name of any respondent from the index of cases of the court." Concerning the first exhibit, the district court noted that it was "more of an argument" and that the cases the exhibit referenced were previously cited in filings in the underlying case. The court explained that, while it would consider the cases in making its final determination, it would not admit the case into evidence. Regarding the second exhibit, the district court explained that the stipulation was a "pleading" previously filed in, and considered by, the court, and it did not need to be admitted into the court file as an evidentiary exhibit.

         ¶ 8 T.T.'s attorney also requested that T.T. be allowed to testify, but the district court declined the request, explaining that T.T.'s expected testimony was not relevant to the central issue of what "index of cases" meant as used in section 27-65-107(7).

         ¶ 9 On May 30, 2017, the district court granted in part T.T.'s motion to omit his name from the index, directing the Arapahoe County Clerk to omit T.T.'s name from "any list generated or produced, even for the purposes of storage." The court also denied the motion in part, stating that T.T.'s name shall "remain in the [Eclipse] database for the purposes of the Clerk of Court's maintenance of records and to comply with Section 27-65-107(7)."

         II. Name Omission Requirement

         ¶ 10 T.T. argues that the district court erred in denying his motion because, based on the pertinent statutes' plain language and the stipulated facts, the court clerk should have omitted T.T.'s name from the Eclipse system when T.T. was released from treatment. T.T. further asserts that refusing to omit his name from the Eclipse system is contrary to the legislature's express intent to provide the fullest possible measure of privacy to people receiving treatment for a mental health disorder. We agree.

         A. Preservation and Standard of Review

         ¶ 11 The parties agree that this issue has been ...


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