"Another day of brinkmanship," Pattela joked.
Anne Bale, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Welfare, said Bullman was moved because another Norristown civil-commitment patient had been discharged.
Bale said she could not elaborate on how Bullman was moved to the opening ahead of a dozen other patients on the waiting list because of patient confidentiality.
"We look at the priority of cases," Bale said. "In this case there was a discharge, and, working with the counties, we decided that this transfer needed to take place."
Bullman's transfer ended - for the moment - a debate over Norristown State Hospital's role in providing beds for people involuntarily committed for treatment of mental illness.
Officials of the state Department of Public Welfare, which administers state hospitals, have said they are trying to minimize their civil-commitment beds, using the funding to pass that responsibility to the counties.
Norristown has 179 civil-commitment beds for allocation among 19 counties in Eastern Pennsylvania. But the hospital is also under orders to close 90 of those beds, and until they are gone, Norristown has refused to accept new civil-commitment patients and has a waiting list.
Counties, including Philadelphia, have typically met the need to place people civilly committed for mental health treatment with private facilities willing to accept government compensation.
The crisis occurs when the patient in question needs to be housed in a locked and secure setting because he or she is a possible danger to others. Norristown is the only option.
Bullman is such a patient. A Marine combat veteran honorably discharged after serving in Vietnam, Bullman lived in the Oxford Circle section.
Early last year, Bullman's problems with alcohol and schizophrenia began worsening, and on Feb. 10, 2011, he got into an argument with a neighbor and brandished a hammer. Though he did not touch the woman, Bullman was charged with aggravated and simple assault, possessing a weapon, terroristic threats, and reckless endangerment. Bail was set at $50,000.
Bullman was sent for a routine psychiatric evaluation at Norristown's Building 51, officially the state Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center, a 138-bed locked and secure hospital for mentally ill criminal defendants.
Psychiatrists at Norristown determined that Bullman was not mentally competent to stand trial because he could not understand or cooperate with his lawyer in his defense.
Under court rules, Bullman could be kept at Building 51 for treatment to restore his competence with a review every 60 days. But his treatment passed the anniversary of his arrest with no change, so defense lawyers moved under the state Mental Health Procedures Act to transfer Bullman to Norristown's less-restrictive civil unit.
Simmons signed the transfer order on March 13 and thus began the showdown with Norristown and state welfare officials.
Bullman's sudden transfer made Wednesday's hearing unnecessary, and Simmons canceled it and withdrew the threatened contempt citation.
But in resolving Bullman's case, state officials may have sparked more.
At a July 26 hearing before Simmons, state officials said they could not possibly move Bullman immediately to the civil unit because he was not first on the waiting list.
"He was 13th," Pattela said. "That means there were 12 other people - nine from Philadelphia and three from Delaware County - who he was jumped over."
Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, email@example.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.