In the Interest of Joshua J. Ray, Sr., Petitioner-Appellant,
People of the State of Colorado, Colorado Bureau of Investigation for the State of Colorado, and Office of State Court Administrator for the State of Colorado, Respondents-Appellees.
and County of Denver Probate Court No. 15MH110 Honorable
Elizabeth D. Leith, Judge
Announced February 21, 2019 Glatstein & O'Brien, LLP,
Jonathan B. Culwell, Denver, Colorado, for
Kristin M. Bronson, City Attorney, Michael J. Stafford,
Assistant City Attorney, Amy J. Packer, Assistant City
Attorney, Denver, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellee People of
the State of Colorado
J. Weiser, Attorney General, Emily B. Buckley, Assistant
Attorney General, John A. Vanlandschoot, Assistant Attorney
General, Denver, Colorado, for Respondents-Appellees Colorado
Bureau of Investigation for the State of Colorado and Office
of State Court Administrator for the State of Colorado
Introduction and Summary
1 A physician certified Joshua J. Ray, Sr., for involuntary
short- term mental health treatment under section 27-65-107,
C.R.S. 2018. That certification caused Colorado officials to
report Ray to the National Instant Criminal Background Check
System (NICS) as a person subject to federal firearm
prohibitions. Ray argues that because he was involuntarily
certified by a physician, rather than a court, Colorado
officials should not have reported his certification to the
2 The interplay between Colorado statutes and enforcement of
the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is complex.
See 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2018); §§
13-9-123, -124, C.R.S. 2018; § 24-33.5-424, C.R.S. 2018.
The Brady Act prohibits certain categories of persons from
possessing a firearm, including those who have been
"committed to a mental institution." 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(4). To effectuate these prohibitions, the Brady
Act created a federally administered database of persons
barred from possessing a firearm, the NICS. 34 U.S.C. §
3 Colorado law requires certain persons and entities to make
NICS reports -- the State Court Administrator (SCA) must
report to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the
"name of each person with respect to whom the court
has entered an order for involuntary certification for
short-term treatment of a mental health disorder pursuant to
section 27-65-107" so that those persons are listed in
the NICS. § 13-9-123(1)(c) (emphasis
4 While the statutory scheme is complex, the only issue
properly before us is simple: When a professional person
certifies someone for involuntary short-term mental health
treatment under section 27-65-107, is that certification the
equivalent of a court order within the meaning of section
13-9-123(1)(c), thus requiring reporting to the NICS?
5 Our answer, which is "no," is equally simple. The
plain meaning of the term court order simply cannot encompass
a certification by a professional person.
6 Accordingly, we reverse the order the of the probate court
and direct the probate court, SCA, and CBI, as applicable, to
take reasonable steps to cause any record of Ray's
certification submitted by them under section 13-9-123(1)(c)
to be rescinded.
Relevant Background and Procedural History
7 Ray voluntarily sought mental health treatment from a
Denver hospital. After his admission, a physician certified
him for involuntary mental health treatment under section
27-65-107, finding that Ray was a danger to himself or others
and also finding that, absent such a certification, Ray would
discontinue mental health treatment. After that certification
was filed with the Denver Probate Court, as required by
section 27-65-107(2), either the court clerk or the SCA
notified the CBI of the certification and caused Ray's
name to be included in the NICS.
8 The certifying physician terminated the mental health
certification just days after it was entered, and Ray was
discharged from the hospital. Ray alleges that, after his
discharge, he contacted the federal government regarding his
NICS status, and was ...