Claiming he is worried about the future of the nation, a longtime Boca Raton guardianship attorney has filed a petition in Palm Beach County Circuit Court asking a judge to declare Donald Trump mentally unfit to seek the presidency.
In the “petition to determine incapacity” filed last week in the South County Courthouse, attorney James Herb claims the GOP presidential nominee exhibits signs of histrionic and narcissistic personality disorder. Both are recognized mental health ills listed in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” of the American Psychiatric Association.
Herb is asking a judge to order an examination of Trump to determine if he is capable of holding any job. Herb isn’t asking Trump to be stripped of any rights that are often taken away from those who are deemed incapacitated, such as the right to vote, file lawsuits, drive or travel. Citing 200 statements Trump has made, Herb claims the part-time Palm Beach resident has illustrated he is incompetent.
“This is for Mr. Trump’s benefit. He doesn’t have the mental capacity to seek this kind of employment” Herb said, insisting he is acting alone without any encouragement from Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, or any Democratic groups.
Herb said he is also acting to protect himself and others. “I’m scared … for myself and everyone in Palm Beach County, the state, the United States and the world,” he said.
Florida law gives any “adult person” the right to question someone’s competency, said West Palm Beach guardianship attorney John Morrissey, who is not involved in Herb’s quest. If the case goes forward, a judge would appoint an attorney to represent Trump. The attorney would alert Trump that the petition has been filed against him.
Once Trump is properly informed that his mental fitness is in question, a three-person examining committee — generally composed of a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a lay person — would meet with Trump to determine if Herb’s claims are justified. Trump, of course, could contest any claim that he is incompetent to hold a job, much less become the leader of the free world.
However, Boca Raton guardianship attorney Edward Shipe said he doubted it would go that far. While acknowledging that case law isn’t clear-cut, he said the guardianship statute requires anyone filing such a petition to explain their relationship with the person he claims is incompetent — something Herb failed to do. That, Shipe said, is a fatal flaw.
“It can’t just be, ‘I’m sitting here watching TV, I don’t like him and I’m going to have him declared incompetent. That doesn’t make sense,” Shipe said.
If it was that easy, courts would be clogged with petitions, Shipe said. Trump supporters could file a similar petition against Clinton. Warring neighbors could use them for revenge.
While giving Herb an “A for a publicity stunt,” he predicted a judge will throw out the petition. Circuit Judge Jessica Ticktin has already recused herself from the case, which means it will be assigned to another judge.
Shipe predicted Herb may regret going after Trump in such an unconventional manner. Under the state’s guardianship laws, if a lawsuit is deemed frivolous, the target can demand that the person who filed it be ordered to pay his attorney’s fees and court costs.
“I fear that Mr. Trump, with his litigious history, may make Mr. Herb’s life hell,” Shipe said.
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