|Washington v. Harper|
Supreme Court of the United States
|Argued October 11, 1989
Decided February 27, 1990
|Full case name||Washington, et al., Petitioners v. Walter Harper|
|Citations||494 U.S. 210 (more)
110 S. Ct. 1028; 108 L. Ed. 2d 178; 1990 U.S. LEXIS 1174; 58 U.S.L.W. 4249
|The Due Process Clause permits a state to treat an incarcerated inmate having a serious mental disorder with antipsychotic medication against his will, under the condition that he is dangerous to himself or others and the medication prescribed is in his best medical interest.|
|Majority||Kennedy, joined by unanimous (part II); Rehnquist, White, Blackmun, O'Connor, Scalia (parts I, III, IV, V)|
|Dissent||, joined by Brennan, Marshall|
Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210 (1990), was a United States Supreme Court case in which an incarcerated inmate sued the state of Washington over the issue of involuntary medication, specifically antipsychotic medication.
Respondent Harper, an inmate in the Washington prison system since 1976, had a history of becoming violent when not on antipsychotic medication. Twice he was transferred to the Special Offender Center (SOC), a state institution for convicted offenders with serious psychiatric problems. While there, Harper was forced to take psychiatric medication against his will. The SOC followed its policies of institutional review for making a treatment decision to forcibly medicate an inmate.
Upon his second hospitalization at the Center, Harper filed suit in state court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Center failed to provide a judicial hearing before involuntarily medicating him, thus violating the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The trial court rejected his claim but the State Supreme Court reversed the decision and remanded the case back to the trial court stating that the State could administer antipsychotic medication to a competent, nonconsenting inmate only if, in a judicial hearing, at which the inmate had full adversarial procedural protections, the State could proved by "clear, cogent, and [494 U.S. 210, 211] convincing" evidence that the forced medication was necessary and effective for furthering an important state interest, weighing the individuals interest against that of the state.
The American Psychological Association submitted an amicus brief in support of the inmate's right to a due process hearing, stating forced medication of an incarcerated inmate violated the due process, equal protection, and free speech clauses of the Constitution of the United States.
Opinion of the Court
The US Supreme Court reversed, finding the use of an internal institutional review was adequate in making treatment decisions in this case under the lesser standard of review embodied in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987).
The United States Supreme court ruled that the Due Process Clause permits a state to treat an incarcerated inmate having a serious mental disorder with antipsychotic medication against his will, under the condition that he is dangerous to himself or others and the medication prescribed is in his best medical interest.
At issue in this case was the institutional policy of forming a treatment decision team made up of two mental health professionals and one associate superintendent. This three person committee evaluated issues such as the severity of the inmate's mental disorder and the risk to himself or others and then made the treatment decision. Six members of the Court disagreed with Harper's argument that he had a right to due process through the court. In this decision the United States Supreme Court weighs in on the side that it is preferable for medical professionals to make treatment decisions rather than have those decisions made through judicial proceedings.
- "Washington et al. v. Harper Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Washington". Findlaw. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
- Gary, Melton (1997). Psychological Evaluations for the Courts: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 134, 350–351. ISBN 1-57230-236-4 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- "Washington' et al., Petitioners v. Walter Harper". Retrieved 2007-10-10.
- "Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210". American Psychological Association. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
- "Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210 (1990)". Retrieved 2007-10-10.
- Mclearen, Alix M.; Ryba, Nancy L. (2003). "Identifying Severely Mentally Ill Inmates: Can Small Jails Comply with Detection Standards?". Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 37 (1): 25–40. doi:10.1300/J076v37n01_03.