It is often presumed that the legal rights of those who are mentally ill or alleged to be mentally ill are adequately protected by the changes in civil commitment statutes that most states instituted during the 1970s. The author who participated in the writing of these reform statutes recently observed 63 civil commitment hearings. The gap between the stated requirements of the statute and the actual conduct of the commitment hearings was substantial. This paper attempts to explain why the reality has failed to meet the promise.

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