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Another 3rd standard recommitment affirmed

Sauk County v. A.D.S., 2022AP550, 11/17/22, District 4, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

The circuit court recommitted A.D.S. based on §51.20(1)(a)2.c, which seems to be the standard du jour for ch. 51 recommitments.  Even though A.D.S. hadn’t recently behaved dangerously, the court of appeals affirmed because recommitments may be based on past evidence of dangerousness, and credible evidence indicated that if not committed he would stop taking his medication and return to his former dangerous behavior.

A.D.S. has schizophrenia. At his initial commitment, there was evidence that when he wasn’t on medication he had elaborate delusions, couldn’t care for himself, and became homeless during the winter. At his recommitment hearing, a doctor testified that without medication A.D.S. would deteriorate and again become a proper subject for treatment due to his impaired judgment and inability to meet his basic needs for health and safety. A.D.S. did not understand that medication was necessary and therapeutic in treating his illness. A social worker seconded this testimony.

On direct examination, A.D.S. promised to continue working with the social worker and taking his medication if released from commitment. However, on cross-examination he admitted that he doesn’t believe he has a mental illness, he does not need medication, and he has stopped it in the past when released from commitment.

The court of appeals held this evidence sufficient to support recommitment based on the 3rd standard of dangerousness. It noted that under §51.20(1)(am) the county was not required to show a “pattern of recent acts.” It could point to A.D.S.’s behavior prior to his initial commitment. Opinion, ¶18. Plus the court of appeals had to defer to the circuit court’s factual finding that A.D.S. would stop his meds if released from commitment. Opinion, ¶19.

According to the court of appeals, ch. 51 does not set any time limit on when evidence of dangerousness becomes “stale.” Dangerous behavior occurring 2 years before the recommitment hearing “is not such ancient history that it should reasonably be ignored.” And even if it were ignored, the county will still prevail because it is not required to predict the precise dangerous acts or omissions that will occur when A.D.S. Opinion, ¶¶19-21.


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