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This casebook covers all of constitutional "civil" mental health law, including involuntary civil commitment, the right to refuse treatment, and the rights of persons with mental disabilities in community settings. Perlin also addresses federal statutory rights, including, but not limited to, the Americans with Disabilities Act; other civil mental health issues, including torts and family law; and the criminal trial process, including all aspects of competency, the insanity defense, self-incrimination, confessions, the death penalty, and sentencing and post-sentencing issues.

Cases and materials not only teach students the relevant doctrine and theory, but also give them an understanding of why the cases were decided as they were. Questions after all major sections encourage the teacher to direct students to think about the social, political, and behavioral forces that led to many of the decisions in question.