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Smith v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 14, 2017

RALPH ARNOLD SMITH, JR. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI AND THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT COURT DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/21/2015

         RANKIN COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. JOHN S. GRANT III, JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM CHARLES BELL

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BENNY MCCALIP "MAC" MAY TIMOTHY HUTSON JONES HAROLD EDWARD PIZZETTA III

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          ISHEE, J.,

         ¶1. The Leflore County Chancery Court granted a petition to have Ralph Arnold Smith Jr. involuntarily committed for inpatient treatment in the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield (Whitfield). Smith's counsel subsequently filed a petition for outpatient treatment in the Rankin County Chancery Court. After finding that the Hinds County Chancery Court had jurisdiction over the petition, the Rankin County Chancery Court dismissed his petition. Smith appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. After facing criminal charges in 2012, the Leflore County Circuit Court determined that Smith was not competent to stand trial. On January 6, 2015, the Leflore County Chancery Court held that Smith should be involuntarily committed to Whitfield.[1] In February 2015, Smith's counsel requested "a hearing on the question of [Smith's] commitment for further treatment, " pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 41-21-81 (Rev. 2013). Under Mississippi Code Annotated section 41-21-83 (Rev. 2013), the First Judicial District of the Hinds County Chancery Court was required to conduct such a hearing regarding a person committed to Whitfield. The Hinds County court conducted the "20-day" hearing, and on March 10, 2015, determined that Smith needed to continue his inpatient treatment at Whitfield.

         ¶3. Displeased with the Hinds County Chancery Court's order of continued treatment, Smith's counsel returned to the Leflore County Chancery Court and filed additional motions seeking outpatient treatment and other forms of relief to have Smith released from Whitfield. On July 30, 2015, however, the Leflore County Chancery Court entered a final judgment, officially closing the civil-commitment case. Displeased again, Smith's counsel then filed a petition for outpatient treatment in the Rankin County Chancery Court under Mississippi Code Annotated section 44-21-74 (Rev. 2013).[2]

         ¶4. The State moved to dismiss Smith's petition for outpatient treatment. The State argued that because Smith was committed to Whitfield, the Hinds County Chancery Court was statutorily required to hear a petition for outpatient treatment. In addition, the State noted that the Hinds County Chancery Court had already found that Smith required further inpatient treatment, and Smith did not appeal that order. The Rankin County Chancery Court agreed that it lacked jurisdiction. Consequently, it granted the State's motion to dismiss. Smith appeals. During the pendency of this appeal, Smith successfully petitioned the Hinds County Chancery Court's release from Whitfield for outpatient treatment.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Smith's case falls under the exception to the mootness doctrine, "capable of repetition yet evading review."

         ¶5. Because Smith has been released from Whitfield, this Court is faced with an appeal that could be considered moot. Generally, this Court will dismiss an appeal "when no useful purpose could be accomplished by entertaining it, when so far as concerns any practical ends to be served the decision upon the legal questions involved would be merely academic." Strong v. Bostick, 420 So.2d 1356, 1359 (Miss. 1982). Exceptions to the mootness doctrine, however, do exist. As such, we may address appeals considered moot where the matter is "capable of repetition yet evading review." In re Bauman, 878 So.2d 1033, 1037 (¶15) (Miss. Ct. App. 2004) (civil-commitment action where appellant was discharged prior to adjudication of his appeal, but held appeal fell under "capable of repetition yet evading review" exception); see also Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147, 149 (1975). An appeal that is "capable of repetition yet evading review, " though moot, must possess two qualities: (1) the challenged action was in its duration too short to be ...


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