Monthly Archives: June 2019


The Mental Health Litigation Division (MHLD) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) is now accepting applications to its Fall 2019 Civil Commitment Certification Training.

In Massachusetts, people experiencing psychiatric distress can be involuntarily detained at psychiatric facilities, committed for up to six months, and treated with medications against their wishes. This substantial deprivation of liberty entitles these clients to court-appointed counsel to ensure that all their rights under the law are protected.

This certification training will be held in Worcester on October 16, 17, and 18 (all day), and on October 29, 2019 (this last day will be a mock trial; you will be scheduled for either the morning or afternoon session, to be determined).

Please complete the application here:

The application deadline is September 6, 2019. Applicants to the program must be accepted before registering. The cost of the training is $125.00.

For more information or questions about the Mental Health Litigation Division Civil Commitment Certification Training, please contact Miriam Ruttenberg at (617) 910-5782 or


The CPCS Mental Health Litigation Division is now accepting applications for an Appellate Certification Training taking place this October.  The training will take place in Worcester over the course of three days:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 8:45 – 4:30**
Thursday, October 3, 2019 from 8:45 – 4:30
Friday, October 4, 2019 from 8:45 – 4:30

Applicants to the program need to be accepted prior to registering for the training. 

**Current Mental Health Litigation panel members in good standing can opt out of attending Day One of this training, which will be a “Mental Health 101” course for those not currently on the Mental Health Litigation Trial Panel.

To apply, please download the application from our website at:

Deadline to submit the application is August 30, 2019.

Further Information:

For further information regarding the appellate panel certification process, please contact Karen Talley at (508) 583-0560 or


SJC rules that Discharge in mental health commitments means: Discharge

In a major decision (Pembroke Hospital v. D.L. (May 23, 2019)) the SJC ruled that when a petition for commitment under Chapter 123 is denied, the respondent cannot be held for further evaluation at the petitioning facility or another facility barring new evidence “that failure to hospitalize such person would create a likelihood of serious harm by reason of mental illness.” M.G.L. chapter 123, sec. 12(a). An “involuntary readmission pursuant to § 12 must be based on new information that was unavailable to the judge during the previous petition hearing. Here, as the judge denied the first petition — finding D.L. not to be a danger to himself or others — Pembroke needed new information pertaining to D.L.’s dangerousness in order to readmit him properly pursuant to § 12.” Pembroke v. D.L. at footnote 13.

In this case, Pembroke failed to discharge D.L. within the meaning of G. L. c. 123 after the denial of its petition to continue D.L.’s confinement; this was a violation of the statute. See G. L. c. 123, § 6 (a). In addition, Pembroke’s § 12 (a) application to South Shore for evaluation and subsequent readmission and involuntary confinement of D.L. was an “abuse or misuse” of § 12. See G. L. c. 123, § 12 (b); Magrini, 451 Mass. at 784, 889 N.E.2d 929. Finally, because D.L. was not held lawfully under § 12 (b), the District Court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the petition for civil commitment pursuant to G. L. c. 123, §§ 7 and 8. For these reasons, the decision and order of the Appellate Division denying D.L.’s motion to dismiss is reversed. The order of civil commitment pursuant to §§ 7 and 8 is vacated.

Congratulations to Devorah Borenstein who argued and briefed the case, Director of Mental Health Appeals, Karen Talley  for her support and Bar Advocates, Mike O’Brien & Joan Legraw, who were trial counsel in the successive petitions.