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Chapter 51 extension statute constitutional, and extension order was valid

Milwaukee County v. D.C.B., 2018AP987, District 1, 5/14/19 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The court of appeals rejects D.C.B.’s constitutional and procedural challenges to the extension of his ch. 51 commitment.

D.C.B. argues the ch. 51 extension statute is facially unconstitutional because it doesn’t require a finding of dangerousness. Because § 51.20(13)(g)3. requires a showing of “the conditions” under § 51.20(1)(a)2. or (am), and those “conditions” require dangerousness, the court says D.C.B. is wrong. (¶¶9-13).

The above summary of D.C.B.’s argument is the court’s characterization of it (¶10); without access to the briefs, we can’t be sure if this characterization sets up a straw man to show it has no brains. Having so characterized D.C.B.’s claim, the court goes on to say that D.C.B. is left with the argument that it isn’t enough for due process purposes to demonstrate “dangerousness” in certain ways (¶14)—for instance, one guesses, by showing that withdrawal of treatment would make the person committable, as that’s the ground the County alleged here (¶¶2-4). But the court’s one-sentence treatment of D.C.B.’s claim gives us no clue whatever about the substance of D.C.B.’s argument, even though D.C.B.’s counsel thought it important enough to merit a three-judge panel (¶1 n.2). Nor do we learn anything about the argument from the court’s conclusory dismissal of it—”this does not make continued commitment a constitutional violation.” Guess we just have to take the court’s word for it.

D.C.B. also argues the circuit court lost competency by  removing him from the courtroom before the hearing concluded and failing to make a proper record of dangerousness on the record. The court of appeals says that the circuit court had the authority to remove the agitated D.C.B. from the courtroom; “did not render its decision” before he was removed; and made the requisite findings. (¶¶16-19).

The pertinent part of the transcript—or at least some portion thereof—is quoted in the decision (¶6) for readers looking to decide for themselves.

Finally, the County met its burden of proving that an extension was appropriate given the two witnesses who testified D.C.B. has a mental health diagnosis, was a proper subject of treatment, and was dangerous because he doesn’t think he has a mental illness or need medication and allowing the commitment to lapse will mean he doesn’t take his meds and will become a proper subject for treatment. (¶¶20-23).

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