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It doesn’t take much to find someone is dangerous for purposes of a ch. 51 commitment

Rock County v. J.N.B., 2014AP774, District 4, 3/26/16 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

Having rejected the no merit report filed by J.N.B.’s appellate counsel and ordered counsel to brief the issue of the sufficiency of the evidence, the court of appeals declares “the County presented ample evidence demonstrating that J.N.B. is dangerous because he evidences such ‘impaired judgment, manifested by evidence of a pattern of recent acts or omissions, that there is a substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to himself,’” § 51.20(1)(a)2.c.

J.N.B. went to the courthouse to see the D.A. and became angry and agitated when he told the D.A. wasn’t available. After being escorted out of the building J.N.B. stepped into the street and an oncoming car had to brake to avoid hitting him. (¶3). So where’s the “pattern of recent acts or omissions” that manifests the “impaired judgement” that in turn causes “a substantial probability” that J.N.B. might harm himself, as required by § 51.20(1)(a)2.c.? Well, two medical experts testified at the hearing about J.N.B.’s “impaired judgment,” and that cinches it for the court. (¶¶9-12).

Ample evidence? Really? Nonsense. The experts did opine that J.N.B. was a danger to himself because of his “impaired judgment.” But “impaired judgment” causing a risk of self-harm must be “manifested by evidence of a pattern of recent acts or omissions.” In this case the experts’ testimony didn’t provide any evidence of a “pattern of recent acts or omissions” showing J.N.B. will probably harm himself. Instead, the experts recycled the stepping-into-traffic incident, and then added a dollop of “periods of agitation” that have been “intrusive to other patients” (¶9) or “numerous disturbances that have led to police contact in Janesville over the last few months” (¶10). That J.N.B was “intrusive to other patients” or engaged in disturbances leading to police contacts doesn’t say anything at all about whether there’s a substantial probability J.N.B will harm himself. The experts’ opinions lack a factual basis, and their mere incantation of the statutory language can’t make up for that lack.

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