United States v. Loughner

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 03-05-2012
  • Case #: 11-10339; 11-10504; 11-10432
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bybee for the Court; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Wallace; Dissent by Circuit Judge Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

A pre-trial detainee, while under commitment to try and render him competent to stand trial, may be forcibly medicated under Harper because he is dangerous to himself or others.

Jared Loughner appealed the district court’s ruling denying his motion to enjoin involuntary medication while undergoing treatment to render him competent to stand trial for, inter alia, the murder of six individuals in January of 2011. Loughner underwent three different Harper hearings within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to determine if the BOP could involuntarily medicate him on dangerousness grounds. At each hearing, an independent psychiatrist presided over the proceeding and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) assisted Loughner. After two of the hearings, the LCSW filed an appeal on Loughner’s behalf, both of which the BOP denied. Loughner appealed on substantive and procedural due process grounds. The majority distinguished between forced medication on dangerousness grounds and forced medication for purposes of rendering the accused competent to stand trial and assist in his defense. Evidence presented at the district court hearing demonstrated that “[i]t is clear that Loughner has a severe mental illness, that he represents a danger to himself or others, and that the prescribed medication is appropriate and in his medical interest.” The Court concluded that forced medication is appropriate under Harper, and that it is premature to decide whether forced medication is appropriate for Loughner to stand trial and aid in his defense. The Court also affirmed a four-month extension of commitment to continue treatment to render Loughner competent for trial. AFFIRMED.

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