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Chapter 51 commitment may be extended without re-proving past dangerousness

Wood County v. Linda S.D., 2013AP1380, 2/16/14, District 4 (1-judge, ineligible for publication), case activity

Do you know what an infinite loop is?  This decision is a good example of one.

Linda S.D. was subject to a Ch. 51 inpatient commitment order, and the County petitioned to extend it.  The test for extending a commitment order is set forth in § 51.20(1)(am).  The issue, according to the court of appeals, is:  what evidence must the County offer to meet the “dangerousness” requirement of §51.20(1)(a)2, and did the County meet it?  And the answer the court gave is:

Under Wis. Stat. § 51.20(1)(am), the County may show dangerousness by showing that “there is a substantial likelihood, based on the subject individual’s treatment record, that the individual would be a proper subject for commitment if treatment were withdrawn.” As the circuit court recognized, it makes no sense to require the County to re-prove past dangerousness at each subsequent extension hearing.  Slip op. ¶13.

Apparently, Linda S.D. argued that even if the County didn’t have to re-prove past dangerousness, it still had to prove dangerousness, a point the court of appeals dismissed with:

. . . Linda S.D.’s argument does not come to grips with the fact that Wis. Stat. § 51.20(1)(am) specifies what the mode of proof may be at an extension hearing: The county may prove dangerousness by showing that “there is a substantial likelihood, based on the subject individual’s treatment record, that the individual would be a proper subject for commitment if treatment were withdrawn.” Implicit in § 51.20(1)(am) is that an individual who would be a “proper subject for commitment” if treatment is withdrawn is by definition an individual who would be dangerous if treatment is withdrawn.  Slip op. ¶15.

If you still don’t understand the dangerousness requirment or the evidence needed to satisfy it at an extension hearing, you are not alone.  You will have better luck reading the decision on a similar issue in Waukesha County v. Michael J.S., Appeal No. 2013AP1983, which District 2 issued 10 days ago.  On Point post here.  It’s a shame the Linda S.D.  decision  simply repeats the statutory language without explaining its meaning or applying it to the facts of this case.  That makes it hard for the folks affected to understand why they lost.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Jennifer baileyjennifer September 22, 2020, 11:36 am

    How do I legally get of a chapter 51
    What if I feel that my rights are violated

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