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Involuntary commitment rules proposed

The Supreme Court of Virginia’s Advisory Committee on Rules of Court is seeking comment on a proposed Part 9 of the rules that would establish procedures for involuntary commitment proceedings.

The committee also wants comment on civil procedure recommendations from the Boyd-Graves Conference on objections during depositions and on voir dire in civil cases.

The proposed Part 9 was developed by a task force of the Commission on Mental Health Reform appointed by the late Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr.

Gregory L. Lucyk, chief staff attorney for the Supreme Court and  chairman of the task force, said the rules try “to distill critical aspects of the procedure into a concise and understandable format.” It reflects changes in state law that the General Assembly enacted as a result of the commission’s work, Lucyk said.

The task force recommended the rules because of what it perceived as inconsistencies in the way involuntary commitment hearings are conducted around the state and in variations in dismissal rates, commitment rates, voluntary hospitalizations and mandatory outpatient treatment orders.

A proposed amendment to Rule 4:5 is intended to address what the Boyd-Graves conference saw as a lack of decorum or an effort by counsel to suggest answers to deponents when they object to a question. The amendment adds a sentence to the rule: “Any objection must be stated concisely in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner.”

A proposed addition to Part 3 would include in the civil procedure Rules of Court a mirror to criminal procedure Rule 3A;14. It is designed to establish a uniform procedure for voir dire in civil cases. Voir dire is not addressed directly now in the civil rules.

“The Rule would preserve present practice for voir questioning by the court and by counsel for the parties, and simply spells out a roster of topics to be addressed in the initial questioning of prospective jurors in civil cases,” the advisory committee said.

Comments can be sent electronically to proposedrules@courts.state.va.us with a reference to the rule in the subject field. They also may be sent to: Advisory Committee on Rules of Court, c/o Steven Dalle Mura, Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia, 100 North Ninth St., Richmond, VA 23219.

The deadline is Aug. 26.

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