Monday, July 28, 2008

Daily Herald Story front page story on TRO

Patients ordered to leave mental facility

A temporary restraining order handed down Thursday by a Maury County judge requires Centerstone’s Rolling Fields facility to vacate by August 7.The mental health facility at 1000 Rolling Fields Circle has only been open for about three weeks, but Maury County Circuit Court Judge Robert Holloway ordered it to be shut down within 14 days pending a final hearing on the issue. The results of a future hearing could make the shutdown permanent, he wrote.The two-story facility houses up to eight mentally ill “consumers” that could suffer a wide range of illnesses, including dementia, depression or schizophrenia, according to a Centerstone representative. They recieve treatment for their condition in the form of medication and counseling sessions in an effort to reintegrate them into society.Holloway’s ruling came after testimony from Columbia police officers on their experiences investigating a number of incidents at the facility’s former location, Jackson Hall. In many cases, the consumers had made suicidal threats, according to the testimony.The judge wrote in the temporary injunction that the state statute protecting similar group homes did not apply to Centerstone’s facility because those staying there could not be classified as mentally handicapped.

“Mentally handicapped does not include persons who are mentally ill, and because of such mental illness pose a likelihood of serious harm,” Holloway wrote.

The restraining order was filed by Rolling Fields resident Mary “Marie” Voss, who lives next door to the facility. Her attorney Jason Whatley is also a resident of the neighborhood. He said the Thursday injunction was a victory for all in Rolling Fields, but it isn’t over.“We fully recognize that this fight isn’t over,” he said. “We’ll be gearing up for whatever comes next.”

Centerstone’s attorney J. Russell Parkes said he was dissapointed in the judge’s ruling. “We hope this ruling will not displace any of the handicapped invididuals,” he said.A date for the final hearing has not yet been set, but Parkes said he and his clients may file for an expedited appeal in the near future.

Story created Jul 25, 2008 - 13:40:31 EDT.

Friday, July 25, 2008

TRO Granted: Letter to Residents

It is with great pleasure that I reaffirm what most of you have already learned via the press that the Maury County Chancery Court has granted our temporary restraining order. This order requires that Centerstone vacate the premises of 1000 Rolling Fields Circle within two (2) weeks of the order, on or about August 7, 2008.

The Court founded its opinion upon two areas of law. First, the Court opined that the Centerstone consumers were not “residents” as assumed and defined by law. The Court focused on Centerstone’s own application for grant money, as well as testimony, that the average length of stay for consumers was 5.05 days. The Court described this short stay as being more “transient” by nature and otherwise not consistent with the stated purposes of the statute at issue, i.e., to remove any obstacles for such persons to live in single-family zoned areas. I would add that Centerstone consumers are no more prohibited than any of us in living in Rolling Fields, buying or renting, etc. They just want to do it in the form of a commercial treatment facility, a means in violation of our state and local zoning laws.

The Court also agreed with our point that Centerstone consumers do pose a “substantial likelihood of serious harm,” thus taking them from outside of the subject zoning exceptions.

This order means that Centerstone will not be able to occupy the residence during the litigation, a process that could take several months to over a year. Because it is “temporary,” the court will review at trial whether the injunction should be made permanent. Under normal circumstances, any appeal from an adverse court decision would be made after trial, whenever that occurs. However, in this case, Centerstone could choose to effect an “interlocutory” appeal, one that is allowed even while the litigation is pending. If we oppose this, it is certainly not guaranteed that the Court of Appeals would agree to take the appeal (as such is their discretion). However, any appeal taken at the end of a trial is a matter of right.

If Centerstone does not attempt to appeal at this time, it is my belief that their lawyers will push this matter to a speedy trial. At trial, Centerstone would undoubtedly try to challenge some of the findings of facts as made by the Court at this stage in an effort to better position itself before the Court of Appeals in a post-trial appeal. It is actually possible that Centerstone would be allowed to appeal both now (interlocutorily) and after trial, processes that would take a very long time.

The bottom line is that we are standing in a very good position at this point. Although the fight is far from over in that the Court could, at trial, reverse itself, I am very pleased. I hope you are as well.

Our next step will be determined by Centerstone’s decision regarding an interlocutory appeal. Any such appeal would essentially place on hold the ultimate trial of this cause, although the discovery process would go forward in the meantime. I will keep you updated as to this.

Congratulations thus far to all Rolling Fields residents!

Jason Whatley

Monday, July 7, 2008

Daily Herald Gets it Wrong

In its July 4, 2008 front page article, the Columbia Daily Herald announced that Judge Robert L. Holloway had "denied" the requested temporary restraining order against Centerstone. That is absolutely false. The Judge actually granted a restraining order that, while stopping short of ordering Centerstone to vacate the premesis, mandated that Centerstone follow the dictates of a statute that was hotly debated in the July 1, 2008 court hearing regarding whether these Centerstone "consumers" pose a serious threat of harm to themselves or others. The Court actually denied Centerstone's request to dismiss the motion for temporary restraining order and, most importantly, took under advisement the question of whether the facility will be temporarily shut down completely pending the outcome of this litigation. That decision is expected in a couple of weeks as the judge is currently reviewing volumes of documens and, soon, post trial briefs.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Consideration of TRO still pending...

On Tuesday, July 1, 2008, the second half of Ms. Voss' hearing before the Maury County Circuit Court for the purpose of seeking a temporary restraining order ("T.R.O.") was held. Many Rolling Fields residents were in attendance. Testifying were four Columbia Police Department officers, a long-term supervisor of Jackson Hall and Ms. Voss. The Court also accepted into evidence all available dispatch and police reports.

The major issues of the case were taken under advisement by the Court. Also, post-trial briefs were ordered to be prepared by counsel. It is expected that a decision on the issuance of a T.R.O. could come in about two (2) weeks (to give time for the post-trial briefs).

I will update the community with more information once it is available.

Thanks to all who attended!