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Finding of dangerousness to support Chapter 51 commitment affirmed

Outagamie County v. Adam B., 2015AP718, 4/12/16, District 3 (1-judge opinion; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

The circuit court neglected to specify which of the 5 statutory “dangerousness” standards in §51.20(1)(a)2.a-e supported the Ch. 51 commitment of Adam B. But that did not trouble the court of appeals. Given the “de novo” standard of review, it could (and did) decide for itself which statutory “dangerousness” test the facts satisfied.

¶13 Moreover, even if Adam is correct that the circuit court erred by failing to find that he met any single one of the statutory dangerousness standards, on appeal, we independently review whether the facts found by the court satisfy the statutory standard for involuntary commitment. Here, the evidence produced at the final hearing established by clear and convincing evidence that Adam was dangerous under WIS. STAT. § 51.20(1)(a)2.c. Bales testified regarding Adam’s history of mental illness, which included prior hospitalizations and a history of making suicidal and homicidal statements. Bales further testified Adam exhibited paranoia, suspicion, and disorganized thought processes. He specifically opined that Adam’s judgment and insight were impaired. He testified Adam had reported that his medications made him feel suicidal, and he observed Adam had previously told another physician that he was thinking of committing suicide and it was “not that bad of an idea.” Bales also concluded Adam’s mental illness prevented him from caring for his own basic needs, such as eating and drinking. Bales’ testimony was uncontroverted. In addition, the statement of emergency detention reflected that Adam told his mother to call the police because he was thinking of hurting someone. On this record, the County established by clear and convincing evidence that Adam was dangerous, in that he evidenced “such impaired judgment, manifested by evidence of a pattern of recent acts or omissions, that there [was] a substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to himself … or other individuals.” See § 51.20(1)(a)2.c

Adam B. also argued that the circuit court should not have found him dangerous because undisputed evidence showed that reasonable provision for his protection was available in the community–namely, he was cared for and resided with his family. The court of appeals rejected that idea outright:

Adam’s family is not a “treatment facility,” as [§51.20(1)(a)2.c and §51.01(19) define] that term. Consequently, any care provided by Adam’s family does not constitute reasonable provision for his protection that is available in the community. ¶15.

 

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