the quotation from § 21-326 is a mere fragment and must be read in context with the balance of the section. Further, § 21-326 must be read together with the other sections of the civil insanity statute, particularly §§ 21-310 and 21-311, which implement the procedure initiated under § 21-326.
The transcript of the hearing preceding the signing of the order of commitment indicates that the court purported to act under an inherent equity jurisdiction to deal with insane persons. In the District of Columbia, § 21-311 of the Code lays down the conditions upon which the court may exercise its equity jurisdiction to commit persons for psychiatric examination. Even if one concedes that there is a margin of authority remaining to the court which has not been restricted by the Code provisions, it is apparent from the recitations of the petition for commitment, the very terms of the court's supplemental order, and the transcript of the proceedings before the court on that petition, that there has been no finding or allegation of belief that the petitioner is presently insane.
However commendable was the court's purpose to protect the public from the release to society of a man 'potentially dangerous to others,' there is no District of Columbia statute or inherent equity power permitting commitment to any institution upon that showing alone. Many persons who are released to society upon completing the service of sentences in criminal cases are just as surely potential menaces to society as is this petitioner, having a similar pattern of anti-social behavior, lack of occupational adjustment, and absence of remorse or anxiety; yet the courts have no legal basis of ordering their continued confinement on mere apprehension of future unlawful acts, and must wait until another crime against society is committed or they are found insane in proper mental health proceedings before confinement may again be ordered.
The Court of Appeals, which by reversing petitioner's conviction necessitated his release from custody on criminal charges, without any finding as to his present mental state, did not, and could not, suggest that petitioner be committed to a mental institution, temporarily or permanently, via civil proceedings without compliance with the insanity statute and on a mere showing that he may reasonably be expected to commit further criminal offenses. The procedural provisions of § 21-301 et seq. were enacted by the Congress for the protection of all persons alleged to be insane in civil proceedings, and the statutory safeguards were not withheld from those with criminal records.
It would indeed be anomalous if a person who, after arrest, indictment, plea of not guilty, defense of insanity, and conviction by jury of a felony, is ordered by the Court of Appeals to be released because of a lack of due process in his trial, could thereafter be incarcerated in civil insanity proceedings without due process.
This court is conscious, as was the United States Attorney, of the need for protection not only of the community but also of individuals in need of psychiatric care and treatment. But these laudable purposes, under our form of government, must be accomplished by procedures which are legal and not at the cost of disregarding constitutional safeguards by deprivation of liberty without due process of law. The mere fact that a commitment without due process is temporary and for the purpose of psychiatric examination renders it no less unlawful. As broad as the general equity jurisdiction of the judicial system is, it cannot be said to override specific statutory provisions or constitutional guarantees of personal liberty.
For the foregoing reasons, I am constrained to grant the petition of Dallas O. Williams for release from the custody of the respondent.