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COA: evidence sufficient for ch. 51 extension

La Crosse County v. J.M.A., 2018AP1258, 11/21/19, District 4 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

J.M.A. appeals his recommitment under ch. 51. He argues the psychiatrist who was the sole witness at his trial provided only conclusory testimony on dangerousness; the court of appeals disagrees.

But first, and odd detour into waiver and standing: the county says J.M.A. can’t appeal because he offered to stipulate to a 6-month commitment before the hearing–an offer they rejected, which is why there was a hearing. That’s, uh, wrong:

The County argues that, when J.M.A. said he was “willing” to stipulate to a six-month extension, J.M.A. waived his right to appeal because “[a] party to a civil case waives the right to appeal if he or she consents or stipulates to the entry of a judgment.” Auer Park Corp. v. Derynda, 230 Wis. 2d 317, 322, 601 N.W.2d 841 (Ct. App. 1999). We first note that this appears to be an issue of waiver rather than one of standing. Regardless, the County’s argument fails because the record does not reflect that a stipulation occurred.

While it is true that J.M.A. proffered a stipulation, it is also true that the County never accepted the proffer. The County cites no authority and makes no argument for the proposition that a rejected proffered stipulation has the legal force of an accepted stipulation. Without an accepted stipulation, the rest of the County’s argument falls; J.M.A. may pursue this appeal.


As for J.M.A.’s argument, the doctor’s testimony is (surprise!) good enough for the court:

J.M.A.’s arguments are not persuasive. First, J.M.A. has not established that a “conclusory” expert opinion on an ultimate issue cannot rise to the level of clear and convincing evidence. However, even assuming that he is correct, Dr. Tasch’s opinion in this case was not conclusory. Dr. Tasch reviewed J.M.A.’s medical records and spoke with members of his medical team. Following her review, she detailed J.M.A.’s symptoms, the ameliorating effect that treatment was having on J.M.A., and her opinion that withdrawing treatment would likely cause J.M.A. to “quickly deteriorate” and that he could “develop aggressive behavior again.” In short, far from being merely “conclusory,” Dr. Tasch’s opinion was well supported. Moreover, to the extent the court’s order extending J.M.A.’s commitment relied on evidence of J.M.A.’s threats to kill his former psychiatrist and confine family members, J.M.A. has failed to establish that consideration of this conduct was erroneous simply because J.M.A.’s use of methamphetamines may have contributed to these threats.


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