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COA affirms 51 extension order in fact-intensive opinion

Winnebago County v. D.S., 2023AP1484, 1/24/24, District II (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

In a fact-dependent appeal, COA holds that the evidence was sufficient and the trial court’s findings adequate to uphold this 51 extension order.

“Dennis” challenges an order finding that he is dangerous (or would become dangerous) under the fifth standard following this recommitment hearing. (¶8).  Here, however, COA finds that all five elements of that standard were met by the examiner’s testimony, as summarized in exhaustive detail in this decision. (¶¶8-12). COA therefore disagrees with Dennis’ characterization of that evidence as “conclusory.” (¶15). Specifically, the witness properly “supplemented” his yes or no answers to the County’s leading questions reciting statutory criteria with sufficient “details about Dennis’s mental illness, its effects, and his past behavior to establish dangerousness by clear and convincing evidence.” (Id.).

In addition to challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, Dennis also argues that the circuit court failed to make adequate D.J.W. findings. (¶16). As an initial matter, COA observes that, because all parties are on the same page as to which standard of dangerousness is at issue on appeal, then the purposes underpinning D.J.W.‘s holding have clearly been satisfied. (¶17). Dennis, however, pursues two challenges.

First, he argues that some of the court’s findings were clearly erroneous. (¶18). After engaging with the challenged comments, however, COA believes the record does not support Dennis’ arguments and they are without merit. (¶19).  Second, Dennis argues that the court erred because it merely recited statutory elements rather than discussing facts which satisfied those elements. (¶18). While COA concedes that the circuit court quoted extensively from the statute, it finds that it did more than simply “parrot” the statutory language. (¶25). Accordingly, COA affirms. (¶30).

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