ITA - Information for Participants
King County Superior Court Involuntary Treatment Act Court
The Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) Court handles involuntary mental health commitment cases. People with a mental illness who present a risk to themselves or others may be detained involuntarily and placed into one of the King County inpatient mental health evaluation and treatment facilities:
Swedish Ballard, or
Patients being involuntarily detained have the right to have a court hearing in front of a Superior Court Judge or Commissioner where a prosecutor must present evidence to prove that the patient meets the legal criteria for an involuntary commitment. These hearings take place in ITA Court.
During your wait, you may be asked to discuss the matter with attorneys or meet with the patient. Once you check in with the Paralegal for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and you have confirmed you are not needed for interviews or other meetings, you may leave the ITA Court waiting area as long as you provide contact information and you remain within 10 minutes of the building. Please inform the paralegal if you are leaving the building, so that the paralegal may notify you when your case is ready and you can return promptly. Harborview Medical Center, 325 Ninth Avenue, has both a cafeteria and a bistro. There are coffee bars in the Ninth and Jefferson Building (the building where The ITA court is located) and the Norm Maleng Building, 410 Ninth Avenue.
You may bring reading materials, snacks, and a beverage. Wireless internet access is available for small electronics or laptops. Food and drinks are not allowed in the courtroom, but are allowed in the court waiting areas.
We understand that waiting can be frustrating, particularly when you are uncertain of when or if your testimony will be required. We try to be as efficient as possible and appreciate your patience with the process.
The parties of the legal case are:
the parents of juvenile patients, and
The hospitals are represented by an attorney from the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. It is the prosecutor’s job to develop and present the legal case for the need of involuntary commitment. The prosecutor reviews the facts that led to the patient’s commitment and what has happened since the patient was hospitalized. The prosecutor consults with the mental health professional from the hospital who is the expert witness in the court proceeding.
Public defense attorneys are assigned to represent the patients at no cost. The public defender supports and defends the rights of the patient. The defense attorney represents the patient’s wishes in court, even if that may not be in the patient’s or the community’s best interest. This representation may include filing preliminary motions that are researched and argued prior to a hearing on the merits of a case.
In order for a case to be legally sufficient to proceed to a hearing, the prosecutor must be able to prove that the patient has a mental, emotional, or organic disorder. The prosecutor must demonstrate that the mental disorder directly led to the patient being gravely disabled or a risk of harm to self, others, or the property of others. Additionally, the prosecutor must show that involuntary treatment would be in the best interest of the patient and the community.
If on the day of the scheduled hearing, the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to prove the case, and all attempts of negotiation have been exhausted, the prosecutor will dismiss the case without prejudice and the patient will be released from the hospital.
Depending on the case, the patient and defense attorney may appear for the hearing via video from the hospital. Sometimes the judge will appear for the hearing via video from another courtroom or chambers. Other times, all parties will be physically present in the same courtroom for the hearing.
The judge will swear you in before you testify. The prosecutor and defense attorney will each ask you questions. They will ask about the events that led to the patient being detained and about how well or poorly the patient has done in the hospital. It is important to always tell the truth. Trials are controlled by the rules of evidence, which were developed to ensure fair trials. You must answer only the questions asked. Do not volunteer information about which you have not been asked. Do not speak directly to the patient. Listen to each question and answer as directly, completely, and honestly as you can. Only state what you saw or heard, not what you assume or have been told by someone other than the patient. If during your testimony either attorney says, “Objection” or “I object,” please stop talking and wait until the Judge overrules the objection or an attorney asks you another question.
When both attorneys have finished questioning you, the judge will direct you to step down from the witness stand. This will conclude your court appearance. You may watch the remainder of the hearing or leave the courtroom.
By appearing in court to testify, you are entitled to a fee of $10 (ten) plus a mileage payment. These fees will be paid by check and delivered by mail after the hearing. It can take up to six weeks to receive this check. Please note that witnesses will only receive payment if they testify.
The judge will only consider evidence from witnesses who testify in court. The expert witness from the hospital will testify and the patient has a right to testify.
If a witness to certain facts is unwilling or unable to testify in court, the judge will not be able to consider those facts. The judge can only make a decision based on what is said in court and cannot rely on a person’s written statement as evidence.
After the 72-hour detention, if the patient agrees to involuntary hospitalization or if the judge hears the evidence and decides that the legal criteria have been met for involuntarily committing the patient, the judge will order that the patient receive treatment in a hospital for a period of not more than fourteen (14) days, including weekends and holidays. If the hospital determines further treatment of the patient is necessary, a subsequent petition may be filed in court requesting an additional period of treatment for the patient.
If the patient is a juvenile, under the age of 18, the next petition filed by the hospital for continued care will be for a period up to 180 days. The juvenile patient has a right to litigate this petition in front of a judge (a bench trial).
If the patient is an adult, the next petition filed by the hospital for continued care will be for a period up to 90 days. Adults have the right to litigate this petition in front of a judge (a bench trial) or a jury. At the end of the 90 day order of commitment, a hearing may be held to commit the patient for up to 180 days.
At any time during the patient’s order of involuntary commitment, the treatment team may discharge the patient from the involuntary hold if the patient no longer presents a risk of serious harm (i.e. no longer meets the legal criteria for in-patient care).
If a patient is released into the community, and you feel that the patient’s behavior is dangerous and warrants an immediate response, please call the local authorities (911) for assistance. If a patient’s behavior causes you concern for the safety of the patient or others, but the situation is not emergent, please call Crisis and Commitment Services (CCS) for crisis outreach. CCS may be reached at 206-263-9200 (after hours: 206-461-3222).
If you are the family member of a patient in The ITA Court, the Family Advocate is available to provide information, resources and support through the court process. The Family Advocate can be reached at 206-477-8517 or in person at The ITA Court.
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