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CoA finds sufficient evidence for initial commitment under 3rd standard

Marathon County v. J.A.E., 2021AP898, 12/7/21, District 3, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

For an initial commitment under §51.20(1)(a)2.c., the circuit court must find clear and convincing evidence that a mentally ill person’s judgment is impaired such that there  is “a substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to himself or others.” The court of appeals held that James’s hallucinations during his examinations, his refusal of medication, and his use of methamphetamine satisfied this standard.

Section 51.20(1)(a)2.c. provides that a person is dangerous if he or she:

evidences such impaired judgment, manifested by evidence of a pattern of recent acts or omissions, that there is a substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to himself or herself or other individuals. The probability of physical impairment or injury is not substantial … if reasonable provision for the subject individual’s protection is available in the community and there is a reasonable probability that the individual will avail himself or herself of those services ….

James is diagnosed with schizophrenia. The two doctors who examined him observed hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, an illogical thought process, denial of mental illness, and refusal to take medication. Such symptoms may establish mental illness and impaired judgment, but they do not prove a substantial probability of physical impairment or injury. For that, the doctors pointed to James’s admission to using meth “here and there,” the knife he carried due to paranoid delusions about his mom’s boyfriend, and his inability to care for himself while in a psychotic state or behave appropriately in a social setting.  Opinion, ¶¶18-22.

The county argued that James’s appeal was moot because his initial commitment had expired and he had already been recommitted. The court of appeals did not address mootness because it considered the “sufficiency of evidence” issue dispositive. Opinion, ¶14. It also noted that James’s commitment had been extended for another year on June 2, 2021. Isn’t the fact that a patient has been recommitted is outside the record and highly prejudicial to an appeal from an initial commitment?




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