Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals
Division District Court (MH 18-60) Madeline Quirk Associate
Petitioner: Kate Breslin Harden, Esq.
Respondent: Susan B. Iannitelli, Esq.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia,
respondent, L.Z., appeals from a February 23, 2018 order
issued by the District Court certifying her to inpatient
treatment at Butler Hospital, finding her not competent to
make informed decisions with respect to recommended
medications, and consenting to the administration of certain
medications to her. That order was later amended on June 8,
2018; the terms of the amended order remained essentially the
same, except for the fact that it certified L.Z. to
outpatient treatment at The Kent Center. On appeal, L.Z.
contends that there were evidentiary errors committed at the
February 23, 2018 hearing that was the predicate for the
order from which she appeals. This case came before the
Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to
appear and show cause why the issues raised in this case
should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the
record and careful consideration of the parties'
arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that
cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided at
this time. For the reasons stated herein, it is our
considered opinion that this case is moot.
not delve deeply into the factual underpinnings of this case
given our conclusion that this appeal is moot. It suffices to
say that a hearing was held on February 23, 2018 concerning a
Petition for Civil Court Certification, filed pursuant to
G.L. 1956 § 40.1-5-8(a), and a Petition for
Instructions, filed pursuant to § 40.1-5-8(m), with
respect to appellant. That hearing resulted in an order being
entered on that date certifying L.Z. to Butler Hospital and
consenting on her behalf to the administration of numerous
medications. That February 23, 2018 order, from which L.Z.
appeals, expired by its own terms on August 23, 2018. On June
8, 2018, the February 23, 2018 order was amended to certify
L.Z. to outpatient treatment at The Kent Center. The other
terms of the original order remained in effect, except for
the fact that the June 8, 2018 amended order expired pursuant
to its terms on August 16, 2018. We note that there was an
additional certification order with respect to L.Z. entered
in the District Court in August of 2018, which order is not
at issue in this appeal. It was represented by L.Z.'s
counsel at oral argument before this Court that that order
had also expired and that L.Z. was no longer subject to a
the just-discussed facts and chronology, this Court is led to
the ineluctable conclusion that the instant case is moot.
This Court has held that "a case is moot if the original
complaint raised a justiciable controversy, but events
occurring after the filing have deprived the litigant of a
continuing stake in the controversy."
Hallsmith-Sysco Food Services, LLC v. Marques, 970
A.2d 1211, 1213 (R.I. 2009) (internal quotation marks
omitted). In this case, the order from which L.Z. now appeals
has expired. L.Z. is no longer committed or required to take
medication against her will under the appealed-from order (or
any other order of which this Court is aware). See Robar
v. Robar, 154 A.3d 947, 948 (R.I. 2017) (mem.) (stating
that the order at issue in that case had expired and
therefore the case was moot). Thus, even if we were to agree
with L.Z.'s evidentiary arguments, there is simply no
relief that we are able to provide L.Z. at this time. See
Hallsmith-Sysco Food Services, LLC, 970 A.2d at 1213
("This Court will not decide a question if it would fail
to have a practical effect on an actual controversy.");
see also H.V. Collins Co. v. Williams, 990 A.2d 845,
847 (R.I. 2010) ("It is well settled that a necessary
predicate to this Court's exercise of jurisdiction is an
actual, justiciable controversy."); Cicilline v.
Almond, 809 A.2d 1101, 1105-06 (R.I. 2002) (stating that
the Court will not adjudicate a moot case because
"whenever a court acts without the presence of a
justiciable case or controversy, its judicial power to do so
is at its weakest ebb") (internal quotation marks
we dismiss L.Z.'s appeal on the grounds of mootness.
Justice Indeglia, with whom Justice Robinson joins,
we agree with the majority that this case is moot, we write
separately to note that we share the concern of
appellant's counsel, expressed at oral argument before
this Court, that because orders such as the one at issue in
this case are in effect for a mere six months, it is
inherently difficult, if not impossible, for an appeal from
such an order to be heard and decided by this Court before
the order expires and the case becomes moot. See
G.L. 1956 § 40.1-5-8(j). In cases such as the one at
bar, § 40.1-5-8(k)(2) requires that "[a]ppeals
under this section shall be given precedence, insofar as
practicable, on the [S]upreme [C]ourt dockets." Thus, we
believe that it is incumbent upon this Court to give
precedence to such cases in the future so that any appeal
therefrom is not rendered meaningless.
 The timeliness of L.Z.'s appeal
has been raised as an issue before this Court, but we need
not address that issue given our conclusion that, even if the
appeal was ...