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Ex parte South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs

Supreme Court of South Carolina

May 11, 2017

Ex Parte: South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, Appellant,
v.
Rocky A. Linkhorn, Respondent. In re: State of South Carolina, Respondent, Appellate Case No. 2013-002208

          Heard December 3, 2015

         Appeal From Lexington County J. Michael Baxley, Circuit Court Judge

          William H. Davidson, II and Andrew F. Lindemann, both of Davidson & Lindemann, P.A., of Columbia; General Counsel Tana G. Vanderbilt, of South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, of Columbia, all for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan M. Wilson, Deputy Solicitor General J. Emory Smith, Jr., Solicitor General Robert D. Cook and Assistant Attorney General T. Parkin Hunter, all of Columbia; Public Defender Elizabeth C. Fullwood, of Lexington, all for Respondent.

          BEATTY CHIEF JUSTICE.

         ORDER

         The petitions for rehearing are denied. The attached opinion is substituted for the previous opinion, which is withdrawn.

          Donald W. Beatty C.J., John W. Kittredge J., Kaye G. Hearn J., Jean H. Toal A.J., Costa M. Pleicones A.J.

         CHIEF JUSTICE BEATTY: Rocky A. Linkhorn was arrested and charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the First Degree, Lewd Act on a Minor, and Disseminating Obscene Material to a Minor. After finding Linkhorn was incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to become fit in the foreseeable future, the circuit court ordered the solicitor to initiate judicial admission proceedings in the probate court to have Linkhorn involuntarily committed to the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs ("DDSN"). Before the probate court determined whether Linkhorn was intellectually disabled, the solicitor filed a motion for a rule to show cause in the circuit court, requesting DDSN be ruled into court "to show just cause for services being denied to [Linkhorn] as previously ordered." The circuit court granted the solicitor's motion and ordered DDSN to, inter alia, take custody of Linkhorn and house him in a secure facility until the probate court determines whether Linkhorn is intellectually disabled. Additionally, the court prohibited DDSN from refusing involuntary commitment of individuals similarly situated to Linkhorn. DDSN appealed. We certified the appeal pursuant to Rule 204(b), SCACR. For reasons which will be discussed, we reverse.

         I. Discussion

         This case concerns the application of the South Carolina Intellectual Disability, Related Disabilities, Head Injuries, and Spinal Cord Injuries Act[1] ("Act") and certain provisions under Title 44, Chapter 23 of the South Carolina Code. The Act and Title 44, Chapter 23 contain competing definitions of the term "intellectual disability." The crux of the issue before the Court is which definition is applicable to Linkhorn.

         A long recitation of the facts and the tortured procedural history of this case are unnecessary to determine the resolution of the ultimate issue presented. The uncontroverted evidence shows that Linkhorn suffers from dementia caused by an anoxic brain injury resulting from Linkhorn's attempt to hang himself. Linkhorn has numerous cognitive and intellectual deficits in addition to slow speech and difficulty performing certain motor activities. It is noteworthy that Linkhorn's disability did not manifest until he was twenty-three years of age.

          A. Statutory Overview

         Title 44, Chapter 23 outlines, inter alia, the procedures for individuals found unfit to stand trial. These provisions apply to both the mentally ill and persons with intellectual disabilities.[2] Under this ...


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