Las Vegas Sun

July 16, 2019

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Nevada still hopes to have patient-dumping case dismissed

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

As far as San Francisco is concerned, a lawsuit pushing back against Nevada’s one-time practice of busing mentally ill patients to California will be moving forward. But Nevada is saying not so fast.

The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it won’t hear an appeal from Nevada challenging whether California state courts have authority to hear the case.

In September 2013, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a class-action lawsuit against Nevada on behalf of the California cities where mentally-ill patients arrived after being bused from Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.

The lawsuit seeks to bar Nevada from such patient-discharge practices and recoup $500,000 that San Francisco says it spent providing care for the patients in California.

Despite the apparent setback with the Supreme Court’s decision, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office released a statement indicating it remains optimistic the case still could be dismissed.

Nevada officials cite a separate case — California Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt — in which California has asked the Supreme Court to hold that a state should be immune from lawsuits in another state’s courts.

A decision favorable to California in that matter could be used to provide ammunition for Nevada’s defense.

“California is arguing that a lawsuit like San Francisco’s is improper,” Patty Cafferata, spokeswoman for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, said in a statement. “We are cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will declare California is immune from suit in the Hyatt case, which would require the California courts to dismiss San Francisco’s case against Nevada.”

Christine Van Aken, chief of appellate litigation for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said the city was pleased — but not surprised — with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Nevada’s appeal.

Thousands of cases are appealed to the Supreme Court each year, but only a small number are granted a hearing and oral argument.

Even with the Hyatt case looming in the background, San Francisco is forging ahead with preparations for litigation against Nevada, Van Aken said.

“The takeaway is that [the Hyatt case] could have an effect, but there’s no way to predict,” she said.

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the Hyatt case, but Van Aken said she doesn’t expect to see a resolution in that case until early 2016.

Nevada’s practice of busing mentally ill patients to California came to light in 2013 when the Sacramento Bee published a story about James Flavy Coy Brown, a Rawson-Neal patient who was given a one-way bus ticket to Sacramento, despite having no family or friends there or arrangements for his arrival.

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