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LAKE v. CAMERON

April 17, 1967

Catherine LAKE
v.
Dr. Dale C. CAMERON



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WALSH

 LEONARD P. WALSH, District Judge.

 Late in September, 1962, Catherine Lake, patient-petitioner herein, was found by a member of the Metropolitan Police Department while she was wandering in the vicinity of Fifth and E Streets, N.W., and was taken to the Women's Bureau of the Police Department.

 On October 3, 1962, civil commitment proceedings were instituted by the filing of a petition by the Police Department. This petition, signed by Detective Maude B. Knight, stated as grounds for the petition that Mrs. Lake "* * * was looking for a place to stay, without funds. She cannot remember last address. * * * This woman is incapable of making plans for herself or handling her own affairs, and it is felt that hospitalization is the only solution to her problem." [Mental Health Case No. 2012-62]. This Court, sitting as Motions Judge, signed an Order on October 3, 1962 granting the petition and ordering that Mrs. Lake be referred to the Mental Health Commission, and that she be detained at D.C. General Hospital for thirty days or until discharged or transferred by order of the Court. A guardian ad litem was appointed.

 On October 11, 1962, the medical staff of the hospital filed a certificate asserting that Catherine Lake was of unsound mind and should be committed for treatment of her mental condition, diagnosed as chronic brain syndrome associated with arteriosclerosis. She was transferred to St. Elizabeth's Hospital on October 11th.

 On October 12th the Commission on Mental Health reported its findings that Mrs. Lake was of unsound mind, suffering from chronic brain syndrome and was uncapable of managing her own affairs and recommending her commitment for treatment; that she was without funds, and should be committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital. On October 15th, the guardian ad litem reported that he concurred in the recommendation of the Commission.

 Mrs. Lake appeared in open court before the undersigned on October 26, 1962, and requested a jury trial, and the case was set for trial before a jury on November 21st.

 In the meantime, on October 11th, Mrs. Lake filed the instant proceeding, (Habeas Corpus No. 439-62) against the Superintendent and others of the D.C. General Hospital staff. Answers were filed by the respective respondents, all to the effect that the petitioner had been transferred to the custody of St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Leave to file an amended complaint was granted; the amended complaint was filed, and was dismissed the same day. Thereafter leave to appeal without prepayment of costs was granted.

 The trial by jury in Mental Health case No. 2012-62 was held before Judge McGuire, and Mrs. Lake was found of unsound mind, and she was thereafter committed to St. Elizabeth's "until she may be safely discharged therefrom."

 The Circuit Court, in Lake v. Cameron, et al., No. 17,531, January 9, 1964, (118 U.S.App.D.C. 25, 331 F.2d 771), reversed and remanded the Habeas Corpus proceeding (H.C. 439-62) for further proceedings, on the grounds that the dismissal was a summary disposition in that the respondent had made no return, no hearing was held, and no findings made.

 In accordance with the directive of the Circuit Court, on April 10, 1964, the undersigned ordered that the writ issue, returnable April 24. Charles W. Halleck, Esquire, was appointed to represent petitioner. At the request of Mr. Halleck, the appointment was vacated, and Elliot H. Cole, Esquire, was appointed. Mr. Cole also requested that he be relieved, and Martin J. Kirshal, Esquire, was assigned to represent petitioner. The Government filed its return on behalf of respondents on April 23, 1964.

 Hearing was held on May 8, 1964, at which petitioner testified on her own behalf. The Court also heard testimony from the sister and the husband of petitioner, as well as from the medical staff of St. Elizabeth's Hospital. On May 22, 1964, this Court entered its findings to the effect that the evidence showed petitioner was suffering from a mental illness and was in need of care and supervision; there was no member of her family able to give her necessary care and supervision, and the family was without sufficient funds to employ a competent person to do so; and further, that she was a danger to herself in that she had a tendency to wander about the streets and was not competent to care for herself. The Court dismissed the petition without prejudice to the filing of a new petition at a time when the family is able to provide for petitioner's care and custody. Petitioner was again granted leave to appeal without prepayment of costs.

 In a Per Curiam opinion, Lake v. Cameron, No. 18,809, April 1, 1965, the Circuit Court affirmed the lower Court's findings and dismissal of the petition.

 The District of Columbia Hospitalization of the Mentally Ill Act, 78 Stat. 944 (1964), D.C.Code, Supp. IV 1965, Sections 21-351 to 21-366, was amended by the Act of Congress of September 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 750, P.L. 89-183, Section 1, D.C.Code Title 21, ...


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