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Challenge to medication order mooted by subsequently issued medication order

Rock County v. P.P., 2021AP678, District 4, 12/16/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

P.P. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence elicited in support of the involuntary medication order issued in April 2020, along with the original commitment order. Both orders were set to expire in October 2020, so in September 2020 the County petitioned to extend them for 12 months. P.P. stipulated to the extension. (¶¶2-4). Because of the September 2020 extension of the medication order, P.P.’s appeal of the original order is moot.

P.P.’s argues his sufficiency challenge is not moot based on Marathon County v. D.K., 2020 WI 8, ¶¶23-25, 390 Wis. 2d 50, 937 N.W.2d 901, which held an appeal of an expired commitment order is not moot if the person would experience negative collateral consequences of the order. He says that D.K.‘s reasoning should apply to medication orders, that the negative stigma arising from a commitment or medication order counts as a collateral consequence, Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 425-26 (1979) (noting that “stigma” is one label for the “adverse social consequences” to committed individuals that can be caused by the “finding of probable dangerousness to self or others”involved in a commitment), and that an appeal challenging a medication order should never be deemed moot based on the fundamental liberty interests at stake—or at least not unless the petitioner shows there is no possibility that any collateral legal consequences will be imposed because of the medication order. (¶¶8-12).

The court assumes, without deciding, that P.P.’s arguments on these points is right, and that whatever stigma caused by a medication order can be remedied by reversing the order. (¶13). Nonetheless, P.P.’s sufficiency challenge to the April 2020 medication order is moot:

¶14     …I agree with the County that reversing the April 2020 medication order would not have a practical effect on the assumed stigma associated with his having been involuntarily medicated under that order, given the existence of the other commitment and medication orders … that P.P. did not successfully contest. Those other commitment and medication orders stand as valid orders representing findings that P.P. was, at pertinent times, deemed by a court to be dangerous to himself or others and to have a mental illness. See Wis. Stat. §§ 51.20(1)(a)1.2., 51.61(1)(g). As I understand P.P.’s argument, these are the kinds of findings that “engender” the “adverse social consequences” that can fit under the broad label of “stigma.” See Addington, 441 U.S. at 425-26. The problem for P.P. is that these findings persist in a broad sense whether or not the April 2020 order is invalidated. Put in terms of the discussion in D.K. and as suggested by the County, the existence of the unchallenged commitment and medication orders breaks the causal link between the challenged April 2020 medication order and assumed stigma based on that specific order faced by P.P.

Nor do any of the exceptions to mootness (¶16) apply, primarily because of the fact-bound nature of his sufficiency challenge, which does not involve “anything other than applying well-established sufficiency standards to the particular facts of this case, in contrast to an appeal in which the court might be expected to clarify how those standards should be applied across some category of cases.” (¶20).

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