The Sacramento-based nonprofit Disability Rights California has petitioned the California Supreme Court to block the implementation of CARE Court.
The Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court will give courts the power to involuntarily commit people with schizophrenia to treatment and housing programs. The program is scheduled to debut in Riverside County, along with six other pilot counties, Oct. 1, and will start in San Bernardino County and the rest of the state Dec. 1, 2024.
Civil rights groups have opposed the measure. It passed the California Legislature with two dissenting votes.
DRC argues the act would violate people’s due process and equal protection rights.
CARE Court is a necessary process that would save lives, Daniel Lopez, deputy communications director at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, said by email.
“There’s nothing compassionate about allowing individuals with severe, untreated mental health and substance use disorders to suffer in our alleyways, in our criminal justice system, or worse – face death. While some groups want to delay progress with arguments in favor of the failing status quo, the rest of us are dealing with the cold, hard reality that something must urgently be done to address this crisis. People are dying – we need to do better,” Lopez wrote.
“The new procedures burden fundamental rights to privacy and liberty by constraining CARE respondents’ autonomy in choosing their medical provider and where and with whom they live, and by relying on confidential medical information,” the petition reads.
The petition also says that the CARE Act was vague, subjective and undefined. Under the act, people who are not a danger can be forced into treatment if a court finds that they are “likely” to be a danger to themselves or others in the future.
The petition claims the program would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by treating people based on their mental illness. The program distinguishes between people with schizophrenia and people with other diagnoses like bipolar disorder and clinical depression.
“Those with a schizophrenia diagnosis are subjected to an arduous court process and statutory penalties; those with other diagnoses are not,” the petition said.
“The state must create and regularly fund permanent, accessible, affordable housing. The CARE Act does not address any of these root issues. We need community-based services that are easy to find and that provide voluntary treatment for people with mental health disabilities,” said Nubyaan Scott, DRC’s lawyer, according to a press release.
Public comment to the Judicial Council regarding Care Court ended Jan. 27.
The Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Public Interest Law Project serve as additional counsel to DRC.
Read the petition here.
Read Follow Our Court’s prior coverage:
CARE Court would establish plan for untreated schizophrenia spectrum, bill drafts show
CARE Court bill passes California Senate
Riverside County to start CARE Court program a year ahead of most counties