Juvenile Law Center filed an appeal in the Pennsylvania Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania law, known as Act 53, which allows courts to order involuntary civil commitments for minors found to be drug dependent. The law is one of only a few in the country that allows such commitment solely for drug treatment. Prior to the passage of Act 53 minors could be committed only in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Procedures Act, which allows commitment upon a finding of mental illness and dangerousness. Juvenile Law Center argued that Act 53 violates the civil rights and liberties of minors at three critical phases: at pre-adjudication where minors, without notice, can be court-ordered to undergo an assessment for drug use based on the mere filing of a petition; at adjudication where the determination for drug dependency is vague, and the neutrality of the court is compromised by the absence of counsel for the state; and at disposition where the procedures that subject minors to commitment in a highly restrictive setting for drug dependence are not narrowly tailored.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a lower court’s order involuntarily committing F.C. F.C. then appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which upheld the Superior Court’s opinion.