Second Amendment Rights of People Briefly Hospitalized for Mental Health Reasons Long Ago?
From Judge Dale Drozd’s opinion in Clifton v. U.S. DOJ (E.D. Cal.), filed Friday:
In 2001, plaintiff was in eighth grade at Mt. Vernon Middle School in Los Angeles, California. He was thirteen years old at the time. Because plaintiff’s mother had passed away and he never knew his father, plaintiff then lived with his grandmother. His grandmother’s husband—plaintiff’s step-grandfather—was physically and mentally abusive toward both plaintiff and his grandmother. One day in June of 2001, while at an after-school program, plaintiff made comments about “what he would like to do toward his step-grandfather in order to protect himself and his grandmother.”
Plaintiff never directly threatened anyone nor took any action to harm his step-grandfather. Nevertheless, the school called a Psychiatric Emergency Team (“PET”), which consisted of licensed mental health clinicians approved by the County of Los Angeles Department of Mental Health to provide Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 5150 and 5585 evaluations. Upon evaluation by the PET, plaintiff was hospitalized for mental health treatment at Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center in Los Angeles, California for 15 days—from June 12 through June 27, 2001. Although plaintiff was initially hospitalized for only 72 hours pursuant to § 5150, his hospitalization was extended by 14 days for intensive treatment pursuant to § 5250.
Upon his release from the hospital, plaintiff was not prescribed any continuing medication, nor was he required to receive any further psychiatric treatment, including therapy or counselling. Plaintiff alleges that he was never notified of his right to seek judicial review of an involuntary hold and that he was never informed of any long-term repercussions as a result of his psychiatric hold. Nevertheless, plaintiff lost his private capacity to own a firearm as a result of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), which prohibits an individual who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution from owning, possessing, using, or purchasing a firearm or ammunition. Notably, 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1) provides an exception to this firearms ban under federal law for state actors acting in their official capacity.
Plaintiff went on to graduate from high school and enlist in the United States Marine Corps in 2005. Under § 925(a)(1), plaintiff was permitted to handle a firearm during his time with the marines. Plaintiff completed three combat deployments before leaving active duty in 2013 and received an Honorable Discharge as a Sergeant. Subsequently, plaintiff was hired by the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a corrections officer in 2015. He remained in that position until April 2019, when he resigned in good standing. Plaintiff is informed and believes that both his service in the marines and his employment as a federal correctional officer required a complete background investigation that would have revealed his past hospitalization.
On April 8, 2019, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office hired plaintiff as a correctional officer at the Fresno County Jail. Prior to being hired in this role, plaintiff underwent and passed a full psychological evaluation that confirmed he is mentally fit to possess and use a firearm. Then, in 2020, plaintiff applied for a “Deputy Sheriff I” position in the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. This time, when Fresno County ran a background check, the California Department of Justice statewide telecommunications system reported plaintiff’s prior hospitalization
Article from Reason.com