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COA finds evidence for 4th standard recommitment was sufficient

Calumet County DH&HS v. T.M.S., 2022AP1563-FT, 1/11/23; District 2, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

The circuit court recommitted T.M.S. based on the 3rd and 4th standards of dangerousness. On appeal, he challenged the sufficiency of the county’s evidence and underscored Dr. Bales’ admission that he couldn’t point to any specific information in T.M.S.’s treatment records showing that T.M.S. was currently dangerous. The court of appeals, applying only the 4th standard, affirmed.

The court of appeals held:

¶13 WISCONSIN STAT. § 51.20(1)(a)2.d identifies dangerousness as “behavior manifested by recent acts or omissions that, due to mental illness,” prevents the individual from being able to “satisfy basic needs for nourishment, medical care, shelter or safety without prompt and adequate treatment so that a substantial probability exists that death, serious physical injury, serious physical debilitation, or serious physical disease will imminently ensue unless the individual receives prompt and adequate treatment for this mental illness.” Id. This dangerousness standard cannot be met “if reasonable provision for the individual’s treatment and protection is available in the community and there is a reasonable probability that the individual will avail himself or herself of these services[.]” Id.

¶14 This court’s review of the Record demonstrates there is sufficient evidence to support a link to the fourth dangerousness standard. Dr. Bales’s testimony and report, together with Hopp’s testimony, were sufficient. The doctor opined that, without the commitment, T.M.S. would go off his medication, be unable to take care of his basic needs, and become dangerous to himself (or others). His report said T.M.S. would “almost certainly” become “suicidal or homicidal or threatening[.]” Hopp confirmed that if the commitment was not extended, T.M.S. would not take his medication and also confirmed that T.M.S. is not capable of caring for his own basic needs. The doctor testified that withdrawing treatment would be “catastrophic” and that within two weeks at most, he would be homeless and unable to find his way to a homeless shelter. Dr. Bales explained that T.M.S. is unable to communicate effectively and does not understand that he has a mental illness. Hopp explained that T.M.S.’s aggression is tempered because the staff of the facility where he is currently committed intervenes to squelch escalation. The Record therefore supports the circuit court’s decision.

The court of appeals dealt with Dr. Bales’ inconvenient admission in a footnote. It was just an answer to a single cross-examination question. Defense counsel cut him off. Medication and treatment prevent T.M.S. from currently engaging in dangerous acts and so forth. Opinion. ¶14 n. 5.


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