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COA affirms recommitment, finds sufficient evidence and compliance with D.J.W.

Manitowoc County v. J.M.K., 2022AP122, 7/27/22, District 2, (1-judge opinion; ineligible for publication); case activity

J.M.K.  is currently diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. He has been committed several times since 2015. Right now he is doing well. He lives in a supervised apartment but holds a job, participates in community activities, and works out at the YMCA. The county monitors his medication compliance because in the past when he has stopped taking them he deteriorated rapidly.

The circuit court held that J.M.K. must be recommitted until he says that he knows he will be dangerous if he stops taking meds. It found that if treatment were withdrawn, J.M.K. would be dangerous under the second standard of dangerousness. Opinion, ¶12.

The court of appeals found the evidence sufficient and affirmed because:

¶20 Both Rawski and Edmonds testified about their concern over J.M.K.’s missing medication. The County presented specific examples of how J.M.K. became dangerous when he stopped taking medication in 2015 and 2017. Regarding 2017, Edmonds testified about a time when J.M.K. stopped taking his mood stabilizer and things “fell apart.” Edmonds was only able to determine the cause by blood tests because J.M.K. denied stopping the medication. Edmonds testified that when J.M.K. deteriorates, it happens very quickly. He becomes very dangerous when he is symptomatic. Based on his experience with J.M.K., Edmonds believes that J.M.K. does not understand the full scope of how dangerous he becomes when he is symptomatic.

¶21 Rawski also testified about J.M.K.’s deterioration in 2017. A psychiatrist examining J.M.K., Dr. Marshall Bales, felt so threatened by J.M.K. that he terminated the interview because he was in fear of his safety. J.M.K. “was acutely psychotic and was hostile toward Dr. Bales, telling him he could read his mind and that Dr. Bales thought he was stupid.” During the interview for this proceeding, J.M.K. denied to Rawski that the incident with Bales ever took place and denied that he has ever been psychotic or dangerous. J.M.K. denied ever reducing his medications in the past, even though this was verified by lab tests. He denied being hospitalized involuntarily. Rawski testified that J.M.K. still lacks insight into the consequences of stopping medication.

Looks like the circuit court admitted a lot of hearsay by Dr. Bales. However, hearsay is not at issue in this appeal.

In addition to claiming insufficient evidence, J.M.K. argued that the circuit court violated Langlade County v. D.J.W., 2020 WI 41, ¶¶23-24, 391 Wis. 2d 231, 942 N.W.2d 277. That is, it failed to make specific factual findings with reference to the subdivision paragraph of § 51.20(1)(a)2. on which the recommitment is based. The court of appeals says disagrees but the part of the circuit court’s holding that the court of appeals quotes undercuts its holding:

So the Court will find that grounds for the extension of the commitment have been established …. The Court is going to find that [J.M.K. is] dangerous, as defined by statute, and that his dangerousness is manifested or shown by a substantial likelihood that based on his individual treatment record—and the Court wants to stress that it’s based on his record, not his recent progress—that [J.M.K.] would be a proper subject for treatment if commitment were withdrawn. Opinion, ¶27.

Um. Where are the “specific factual findings” in that statement?

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