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Challenge to involuntary medication order fails

Sawyer County v. P.D.F., 2022AP2007, 11/7/23, District III (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

Although P.D.F. successfully persuades COA that the circuit court erroneously concluded  he did not understand the advantages, disadvantages and alternatives to medication, the record nonetheless shows that he was incapable of applying an understanding.

At “Paul’s” hearing regarding the County’s request for an involuntary medication order, the expert witness testified that although Paul acknowledged his mental health diagnosis, he was “cagey” about whether he was actually mentally ill. (¶6). The witness opined that Paul was incapable of applying an understanding about medication because he did not believe he had a mental illness and did not believe the medication was beneficial. (¶7). In its oral ruling, the circuit court found Paul incompetent under the first standard, concluding he was “incapable of expressing or understanding the advantages or disadvantages of accepting the medication or treatment, and the alternatives.” (¶9). However, the circuit court then signed a written order citing the second standard, that Paul is “substantially incapable of applying an understanding of the advantages, disadvantages and alternatives to his … condition in order to make an informed choice as to whether to accept or refuse psychotropic medications.” (¶10).

COA agrees with Paul: The testimony does not support the court’s oral ruling that Paul was incompetent under the first standard. (¶15). In fact, the expert witness explicitly testified that “she did not believe Paul was incapable of expressing an understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, and alternatives to the medications and treatment.” (Id.). However, the written order is supported by the doctor’s testimony, which explicitly cited the second standard. (¶17). Although Paul makes a battery of well-argued attacks on that conclusion with reference to conflicting testimonial evidence, COA is unpersuaded. After all, the circuit court is the arbiter of credibility. (¶22). As the record shows that the circuit found the witness credible–and that witness’ testimony is sufficient to uphold the circuit court’s written order–Paul’s claim fails. (Id.).

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