Baxstrom v. Herold,
383 U.S. 107 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107 (1966)

Baxstrom v. Herold

No. 219

Argued December 9, 1965

Decided February 23, 1966

383 U.S. 107


Petitioner, while a prisoner, was certified as insane by a prison physician and transferred to Dannemora State Hospital, an institution under the jurisdiction of the New York Department of Correction and used for prisoners declared mentally ill while serving sentence. Dannemora's director filed a petition in the Surrogate's Court stating that petitioner's sentence was expiring and requesting that he be civilly committed under § 384 of the N.Y. Correction Law. At the proceeding, the State submitted medical evidence that petitioner was still mentally ill and in need of hospital care. The Surrogate stated that he had no objection to petitioner's transfer to a civil hospital under the jurisdiction of the Department of Mental Hygiene, but that, under § 384, that decision was up to the latter Department. That Department had determined ex parte that petitioner was not suitable for care in a civil hospital. When petitioner's sentence expired, his custody shifted to the Department of Mental Hygiene, but he has since remained at Dannemora. Writs of habeas corpus in state courts were dismissed, and petitioner's request that he be transferred to a civil hospital was denied as beyond the court's power.

Held: Petitioner was denied equal protection of the laws by the statutory procedure whereby a person may be civilly committed at the expiration of a prison sentence without the jury review available to all others civilly committed in New York, and by his commitment to an institution maintained by the Department of Correction beyond the expiration of his prison term without the judicial determination that he is dangerously mentally ill such as that afforded to all those so committed except those nearing the end of a penal sentence. Pp. 383 U. S. 110-115.

Judgment of the Appellate Division, Supreme Court of New York, Third Judicial Department, 21 App.Div. 2d 754, reversed and remanded to that court.

Page 383 U. S. 108

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