Involuntary commitment hearings; third-year law students may represent petitioner. (HB735)

Introduced By

Del. Chuck Caputo (D-Oak Hill)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Involuntary commitment hearings; law students. Provides that it is not the unauthorized practice of law for a third-year law student enrolled at any law school in the Commonwealth to represent a petitioner in a commitment hearing for involuntary admission without the presence of a practicing attorney. The student must have completed coursework in evidence and trial advocacy and training. The student must inform the petitioner that he is not a licensed attorney, that he may not be compensated for his services, and that he can be held liable only for intentional malfeasance. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/08/2008Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/08 088006456
01/08/2008Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/16/2008Assigned Courts sub: Mental Health
02/01/2008Continued to 2009 in Courts of Justice

Duplicate Bills

The following bills are identical to this one: SB86.


Alison Hymes writes:

Sure, they'll probably do a better job than the lawyers we have now.

Mark Blacknell writes:

The "forced drugging" tags are completely irrelevant.

Alison Hymes writes:

In what way? Commitment, outpatient or inpatient, is all about forced drugging with psychotropics. Even the proposal to wait 24 hours before holding a hearing so that all information could be gathered was shot down by a member of the Commission on the basis of not being able to force drug someone who hasn't yet had their commitment hearing.

MB writes:

None of that has anything to do with the subject matter of this bill, which is exclusively focused on carving out an exception to the statutes against the unauthorized practice of law.

Also, fwiw, effective advocacy is focused, and not blasted out like a shotgun at everything that comes into sight.

Alison Hymes writes:

And you have been an active advocate for what for how long?

Mark Blacknell writes:

Not engaging with you on the matter here, Alison, and I'm sorry I said anything. You want to talk? Email me. I'm just here for information about legislation, and want to help make sure that this is the best tool it can be. Thanks.

Peter writes:

As a retired lawyer and one who represented indigent clients in my last year of law school, I am confident that trained law students could perform this valuable function.

Alison Hymes writes:

Why make an exception for this very small group of folks and not for others? Why train law students only in prosecuting commitment (not the correct legal term, but you know what I mean) and not also in defending folks from commitment? Isn't that going to skew their perceptions once they go into practice after graduation?

If this is acceptable, and not being a lawyer I have no idea if it is, why not have it for both subjects of commitment and petitioners? Why just the one side?

Rev. L. Willliam Yolton writes:

This bill goes back to one previously sponsored by Sen.Cuccinelli last year which was prompted by the program at Geo. Mason Law School with the support of the Treatment Advocacy Center. There students were trained to commit people with mental illness along the lines of the TAC notions that had been implemented in a law course which supported the underlying notions that people with mental illness tend to be violent, need out patient commitment, and many people who are mentally ill don't know it. The course was given over several years, including last year.

spotter writes:

Alison, because they are already eligible for court-appointed attorneys, many of whom specialize in this area.

Alison Hymes writes:

I worry that law students will be trained only in how to commit a person with mental illness and not in how to defend someone from being committed. That seems very skewed to me. I also think the law students might do a more thorough job than some of the paid lawyers who are paid such a paltry sum that they can not spend time on each case. This would bias things against the subject to commitment if it turns out that way.

Alison Hymes writes:

LIS says this bill was continued until 2009 by voice vote in subcomittee. Whew.

ed baskerville writes:

i dont think this is a good idea.