September 30, 2003

SEPTEMBER 30, 2003


Attorney General Steven Rowe today made the following comments while announcing the State’s appeal of certain parts of the Superior Court’s ruling in the case regarding the State’s compliance with a court consent decree over the Augusta Mental Health Institute (AMHI):

“Today my office filed a Notice of Appeal from the Superior Court decision in Bates v. Duby, otherwise known as the AMHI Consent Decree case. The State has elected to appeal certain legal issues raised by the Court’s opinion.  The State is not, however, appealing the decision in its entirety. 

“Many of the Court’s findings relate to compliance efforts as of January 25, 2002, the date the State filed its Notice of Substantial Compliance.  By the time the Law Court hears the State’s appeal, more than two years will likely have passed since January 2002, and much of the evidence that was before the Superior Court will be outdated.

“In light of these circumstances, the State believes that resources are better spent moving forward with efforts to improve the delivery of mental health services to individuals who need them.  These efforts were already underway before the issuance of the Court’s Part II Decision on September 10th and these efforts will continue in the future in cooperation with Court Master Wathen.

“We cannot overemphasize that the State’s focus is on continuous improvement of the State’s mental health system.  Nonetheless, there are legal issues presented by the Court’s decision that we believe we must appeal because of the precedent they create—not just for the future course of this case, but for government in general.

“The issues we are appealing from the Superior Court’s order are:

        Whether the Court used the correct standard for determining substantial compliance with the 1990 Consent Decree.

        Whether the Court correctly interpreted the plain language of the Settlement Agreement. 

        Whether the Court erred in concluding that the State lacked a good faith basis for filing a notice of substantial compliance on January 25, 2002.

        Whether the Court had an adequate legal basis to impose a receivership and to grant the receiver the powers and authority outlined in the Court’s September 10, 2003 order. 

“Certainly, the State recognizes and respects the Superior Court’s role in overseeing and supervising compliance with the Settlement Agreement that is part of the 1990 Consent Decree.  However, under the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, the Court cannot expand the State’s obligations under the Settlement Agreement without the State’s consent or legislative directive.

“Again, we want to emphasize that appealing these legal issues will in no way impede the State’s ongoing efforts to provide high quality services to adults with mental illness and work with the Court Master.  The appeal will proceed on a separate track, and should yield some guidance for future compliance determinations.”

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