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Ch. 51 Time Limits: Hearing to Review Transfer to Inpatient Status

Fond du Lac County v. Elizabeth M.P., 2003 WI App 232
For Elizabeth M.P.: Thomas K. Voss

Issue: Whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to transfer Elizabeth, who was on outpatient status under ch. 51, to inpatient status given that judicial review of the county’s transfer decision wasn’t held within 10 days, contrary to § 51.35(1)(e)3.


¶28. Wisconsin Stat. § 51.35(1)(e) mandates that a patient transferred to a more restrictive environment receive a hearing within ten days of said transfer. Elizabeth was not provided with a hearing within ten days in violation of § 51.35(1)(e)3. The circuit court was without jurisdiction to effectuate a transfer to inpatient status. We therefore reverse the orders of the circuit court. Elizabeth shall be returned to outpatient status.

The holding is premised on a conclusion “that Elizabeth was transferred pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 51.35(1)(e)2.” This is because “§ 51.35(1)(e)1 and (1)(e)2 seem to indicate different forms of transfers” in short, her transfer would result in “a greater restriction of personal freedom.” ¶17. The court also stresses that statutory use of the term “shall” is presumptively mandatory, ¶21, especially where a loss of liberty is involved as with a civil commitment patient, ¶23.


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