Scott F. Uhler


The recently established constitutional right to an independent psychiatric examination for a criminal defendant, when the defendant's sanity is at issue,' has not been extended to the involuntary civil commitment process However, for the following reasons, the right should be so extended.

First, the interpretation of due process in the involuntary commitment procedure, as construed by lower federal courts and state courts to require an exam, shows greater uniformity and logical cohesiveness than that defined by applicable Supreme Court decisions. Second, the area of juvenile adjudication presents great similarity of purpose to civil commitment, yet the due process protections deemed necessary in juvenile proceedings are greater than those afforded those subject to involuntary civil commitment. Third, it is here argued that the deprivation of liberty occasioned by involuntary civil commitment is on a par with, and many times greater than, the deprivation caused by criminal incarceration. Finally, by the Supreme Court's own reasoning in Ake v. Oklahoma, the examination by a neutral psychiatrist of a person subject to involuntary commitment is a necessary element of both due process and the right to an effective defense, and should thereby become a constitutionally guarded right.