1. Addington v. Texas
Addington was a sympathetic case in which to reject the Gault/Winship
protections. The defendant, who was clearly mentally ill, might have been denied
treatment if the state was forced to provide full due process protections. By
abandoning the absolutist position of Winship and Gault, Addington allowed the
Court to recast the distinction between regulatory and punitive restrictions.
Mr. Addington had a long history of mental illness, having been
temporarily committed to state mental hospitals seven times in the six years
prior to the incident that led to this case.
The case began when Mr. Addington was arrested for a misdemeanor assault against
his mother. Pursuant to Texas law,
mother petitioned the state to commit him to the state hospital for an indefinite
Mr. Addington retained counsel
and contested the commitment. At his trial, the state offered uncontroverted
evidence that "'appellant suffered from serious delusions, that he often had
threatened to injure both of his parents and others, that he had been involved
in several assaultive episodes while hospitalized and that he had caused substantial
property damage both at his own apartment and at his parents' home."'
The trial court instructed the jury that it must find that the state established
its case by *353
"clear, unequivocal and convincing"' evidence.
The jury found that Frank Addington "was mentally ill and required hospitalization
for his own welfare and protection, as well as the protection of others."'
The Texas Court of Civil Appeals focused on the parallels between
indefinite civil confinement and criminal incarceration. Based on this analysis,
the court of civil appeals reversed the trial court, holding that the danger
to self and others must be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt."'
The state appealed the reversal, maintaining that State v. Turner
established that the legal elements necessary to support a mental health commitment
need be proven only by a preponderance of the evidence.
The Texas Supreme Court found Turner controlling.
The central issue in Turner (and the one that was ultimately determinative in
the United States Supreme Court decision in Addington) was whether a civil commitment
proceeding is punitive and thus controlled by Winship and Gault.
In a brief opinion based on the holding in Turner, the Texas Supreme Court reversed
the civil appeals court and reinstated the trial court's finding that Frank
Addington should be confined indefinitely in the Austin State Hospital.
The Texas Supreme Court held that civil commitments are not punitive, but are
undertaken to benefit the patient as well as to protect society.
Since the court found civil commitments to be civil proceedings, it found that
the elements of the state's case need only be proved by a preponderance of the
The Texas Supreme Court decision was appealed directly
to the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the proper standard of proof
for involuntary commitment in a mental institution.
Frank Addington requested the Supreme Court to apply the Winship requirement
of proof beyond a reasonable doubt to mental health commitments.
Echoing the majority's risk analysis in Winship,
the United States Supreme Court structured its opinion in Addington
around selecting a standard of proof based on the risks of an improper judicial
determination. The Addington Court described society's interest in the outcome
of judicial determinations as a continuum, with civil lawsuits between private
at one end and criminal cases
at the other end. Somewhere in between lie the cases that are civil in nature,
but whose outcome involves either a litigant's liberty or an allegation that
he committed a crime such as fraud.
Although the Addington Court accepted the Winship Court's proposition
that the "beyond a reasonable doubt"' standard is deeply rooted in common law
tradition, it declined to follow the holding in Winship that the reasonable
doubt standard is constitutionally mandated in this noncriminal context:
In a criminal case, on the other hand, the interests of the
defendant are of such magnitude that historically and without any explicit
constitutional requirement they have been protected by standards of
proof designed to exclude as nearly as possible the likelihood of an erroneous
judgement. In the administration of criminal justice, our society imposes almost
the entire risk of error upon itself.
Having established that the standard of proof is an important
symbol of the value society places on individual liberty,
the Court then shifted its analysis to the value of liberty itself. The Court
found that the value of liberty for a non-mentally ill person, who is facing
potential mistaken confinement, is higher than the potential harm to society
of not confining the individual.
of the possibility of mistakenly confining a non-mentally ill person, the state
must use a higher standard of proof than preponderance of the evidence.
The value of individual liberty shifts, however, for a person
such as Frank Addington,
who is mentally
ill and who is at risk of being committed on a mistaken determination of dangerousness.
In contrast to the non-mentally ill person, for whom commitment is a pure detriment,
the improperly detained but nonetheless mentally ill individual might benefit
"One who is suffering
from a debilitating mental illness and in need of treatment is neither wholly
at liberty nor free of stigma. . . . It cannot be said, therefore, that it is
much better for a mentally ill person to 'go free' than for a mentally normal
person to be committed."'
This analysis, predicated on both parens patriae
and public health rationales, underlies many prevention cases and traditional
public health cases: restriction not only protects society, it is sometimes
even beneficial to the restricted individual.
By recognizing that a civil confinement has potential benefits to the defendant,
the Addington Court destroyed the absolutist position of the Winship Court that
there is no basis for distinguishing a civil commitment from a criminal prosecution.
The Court buttressed this analysis by noting that many states that have specific
standards for indefinite commitment do not use a "beyond a reasonable doubt"'
The Addington Court recognized that the most powerful argument
against adopting a "beyond a reasonable doubt"' standard for involuntary commitment
is that psychiatric diagnosis is an inexact science. The Court pointed out that
in criminal law cases the "reasonable doubt"' standard is applied to "specific,
diagnosis is based on subjective medical impressions.
The Court reasoned that if a psychiatrist could only testify to "reasonable
medical probability"', then holding jurors and judges to the "beyond a reasonable
doubt"' standard would result in the rejection of commitment "for many patients
desperately in need of institutionalized psychiatric care."'
Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat.
Ann. art. 5547-31 to 5547-57 (Vernon 1958 and Supp. 1978-1979).
State v. Turner, 556
S.W.2d 563 (Tex. 1977), cert. denied, Turner v. Texas, 435 U.S. 929 (1978),
provides information about the Texas commitment process under the Texas Mental
Health Code that the courts relied on in reviewing Addington. The state could
not move for an indefinite involuntary commitment unless the person failed to
respond to treatment during temporary hospitalization. This temporary confinement
had to be for at least 60 days, and had to be close in time to the petition
for indefinite confinement. The state then had to prove by competent expert
testimony that the proposed patient was mentally ill, posed a threat to self
or others, and was mentally incompetent. These requirements assured that indefinite
commitments would only be used for persons who had established mental illness.
556 S.W.2d at 564.
Addington, 441 U.S.
State v. Addington,
557 S.W.2d 511 (Tex. 1977).
Addington v. State,
546 S.W.2d 105 (Tex. Civ. App. Beaumont 1977).
556 S.W.2d 563 (Tex.
State v. Addington,
557 S.W.2d 511 (Tex. 1977).
The respondent points
out the similarities between juvenile delinquency proceedings and civil commitment
proceedings; the stigma which attaches to an adjudication of delinquency compares
with the stigma concomitant with the finding that one is mentally ill; indefinite
confinement of a juvenile delinquent for rehabilitation compares with indefinite
commitment for treatment. These similarities have prompted several courts to
conclude that due process requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt in civil
Turner, 556 S.W.2d at 564-65.
The judge in the Addington
trial court instructed the jury that they must make their findings based on
clear and convincing evidence. The Texas Supreme Court in Turner found that
Texas did not recognize clear and convincing as distinct from the usual civil
standard of a preponderance of the evidence:
Some courts in other jurisdictions make a distinction between
the standard of clear and convincing evidence and the usual civil standard of
the preponderance of the evidence; however, Texas Courts review evidence by
but two standards: factual sufficiency and legal sufficiency. The requirement
of clear and convincing evidence is merely another method of requiring that
a cause of action be supported by factually sufficient evidence. 556 S.W.2d
Addington v. Texas,
441 U.S. 418, 419-20 (1979).
397 U.S. at 363-64.
This risk analysis was that pronounced by the Court in Speiser v. Randall, 357
U.S. 513, 525-26 (1958).
Chief Justice Burger
delivered the opinion, in which all other members joined, except Justice Powell,
who took no part in the consideration or decision in the case.
"Since society has
a minimal concern with the outcome of such private suits, plaintiff's burden
of proof is a mere preponderance of the evidence. The litigants thus share the
risk of error in roughly equal fashion."' Addington, 441 U.S. at 423.
In civil cases affecting
a liberty interest, the state is usually a party. The Addington Court gave as
an example immigration and naturalization cases in which the Court has required
"clear, unequivocal and convincing"' evidence before deportation or denaturalization.
441 U.S. at 424 (citing Woodby v. INS, 385 U.S. 276, 285 (1966); Chaunt v. United
States, 364 U.S. 350, 353 (1960); Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118,
125, 159 (1943)). Immigration and naturalization cases are perhaps misleading
in that the underlying factual issues are usually vague. They may provide more
procedural due process than the usual civil case, but they provide little substantive
due process. The Court proposed that cases involving allegations of fraud or
some other quasi-criminal activity by the defendant typify situations where
a more rigorous standard of proof applies. While a state is certainly not prevented
from requiring more than a preponderance of the evidence in fraud based civil
actions, the higher standard is not constitutionally required. Most of the civil
litigation under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) has
been possible because the Supreme Court has held that RICO violations need not
be established by proof of criminal liability (proof beyond a reasonable doubt.)
Sedima S.P.R.L. v. Imrex Co., Inc., 473 U.S. 479, 491 (1985).
Addington, 441 U.S.
at 424 (citations omitted). This is reiterated at 428:
In addition, the "beyond a reasonable doubt"' standard historically
has been reserved for criminal cases. This unique standard of proof, not prescribed
or defined in the Constitution, is regarded as a critical part of the "moral
force of the criminal law,"' and we should hesitate to apply it too broadly
or casually in noncriminal cases (citations omitted).
Id. at 425-26. The
Court was frank in assessing the importance of the debate over standards of
Candor suggests that, to a degree, efforts to analyze what lay
jurors understand concerning the differences among these three tests or the
nuances of a judge's instructions on the law may well be largely an academic
exercise; there are no directly relevant empirical studies. Indeed, the ultimate
truth as to how the standards of proof affect decisionmaking may well be unknowable,
given that factfinding is a process shared by countless thousands of individuals
throughout the country. We probably can assume no more than that the difference
between a preponderance of the evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt
probably is better understood than either of them in relation to the intermediate
standard of clear and convincing evidence.
Id. at 424-25.
The Court also assumed
that an erroneous commitment will probably be recognized and corrected. Id.
For example, The New
York Family Law challenged in Schall v. Martin, 467 U.S. 253 (1984), was purportedly
intended to protect minors from the criminal consequences of their own acts.
The sexually dangerous person in Allen v. Illinois, 478 U.S. 364 (1986), would
ostensibly obtain treatment during confinement, see infra notes 292-319 and
accompanying text; prostitutes picked up under health-hold orders receive treatment
for venereal disease; children who are involuntarily vaccinated benefit from
a reduced risk of contracting a communicable disease; and epileptics who are
denied licenses to drive unless they are certified to be free of seizures benefit
from not being involved in automobile accidents. Conversely, pretrial detainees
and successful habeas corpus petitioners do not derive any benefit from detention.
See United States v. Salerno, 794 F.2d 64 (2d Cir. 1986); Braunskill v. Hilton,
629 F.Supp. 511 (D.N.J. 1986).
"The State of Texas
confines only for the purpose of providing care designed to treat the individual."'
Addington, 441 U.S. at 428, n.4.
Id. But while mental
illness and future dangerousness are certainly subjective determinations, it
is not so clear that questions such as the defendant's intent are specific,
The Climate Change and Public Health Law Site
The Best on the WWW Since 1995!
Copyright as to non-public domain materials
See DR-KATE.COM for home hurricane and disaster preparation
See WWW.EPR-ART.COM for photography of southern Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina
Professor Edward P. Richards, III, JD, MPH - Webmaster
Provide Website Feedback - https://www.lsu.edu/feedback
Privacy Statement - https://www.lsu.edu/privacy
Accessibility Statement - https://www.lsu.edu/accessibility