Freeman Gets Narconon Appeal

By Michael McNutt, Enid Bureau

Daily Oklahoman,
26 December 1991

An Oklahoma County judge who previously has ruled in favor of Narconon Chilocco New Life Center has been assigned to hear the center's latest court case, a lawyer for the center said Saturday.

Harry Woods Jr. said a court appeal of the state mental health board's denial of certification for the facility has been assigned to District Judge Leamon Freeman.

Freeman also will rule on a request to allow Narconon Chilocco to remain open through the appeal process, Woods said.

The actions were filed just before court offices closed Friday in Oklahoma County, Woods said. No hearing date has been set for the request to stay the mental health board's decision, pending appeals.

State officials likely will file motions arguing against the appeal, and against allowing Narconon Chilocco to remain open through the appeal process, which could take as long as two or three years.

Lawyers for Narconon Chilocco originally said the appeal would be filed in Oklahoma County but then said it would be filed in Kay County District Court because that is where the facility is located.

But Woods said he found a 1991 court case that allowed Narconon Chilocco to file its appeal in Oklahoma County because that is the home county of the state mental health board and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Freeman last November granted a stay for Narconon Chilocco that allowed the facility to remain open and to accept new patients while it went through the state licensing process.

Freeman's order countered an earlier order by a Kay County judge that blocked Narconon Chilocco from accepting any more patients until it is certified.

Freeman also last year blocked the state mental health board from using a mental health department staff report recommending denial. Freeman said the staff report was biased and criticized the department for using an expert he considered biased against Narconon Chilocco.

"It's like having an independent investigator to look into the situation in Kuwait and sending Saddam Hussein to do it," Freeman said last November. Narconon Chilocco, ordered by the state board to close last week, was allowed to remain open to take care of its 27 patients. Oklahoma County District Judge John Amick's order was to remain in effect until a hearing could be scheduled on the facility's request to continue operating during the appeal process.

However, Narconon Chilocco cannot accept new patients, Amick said. Amick made his ruling after a lawyer for the state mental health board asked for dismissal of Freeman's 1990 order that allowed Narconon Chilocco to operate until the board ruled on certification.

State officials said the order should have been dropped because the state mental health board made a ruling on certification.

Woods said Freeman probably will set a hearing next month on Narconon Chilocco's stay request.

On the appeal, Freeman can overturn the board's denial or order a new hearing by the board, Woods said. The judge also can uphold the board's findings.

Narconon Chilocco's appeal claims that "throughout its application for certification Narconon has been subjected to an excessive wave of constitutional violations, statutory violations, disparate treatment," Gary Smith, Narconon Chilocco's president, said.

"We were forced to take this measure to protect the rights of our present and future clients that do the Narconon program," Smith said.

A petition drive is under way to garner support for the facility, with more than 1,000 signing, Smith said. More than 3,000 letters from supporters have been sent to state officials, he said.