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COA holds trial court made adequate findings under third ch. 51 standard

Portage County v. A.R.F., 2022AP1262, 11/17/22, District 4 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

A.R.F. challenges the extension of her commitment under ch. 51. She argues the circuit court failed to adequately identify and support one of the statutory dangerousness standards, as is required by Langlade Cnty. v. D.J.W., 2020 WI 41, 391 Wis. 2d 231, 942 N.W.2d 277. The court of appeals disagrees.

The problem that bedeviled the D.J.W. court is not present in this case. Here, as discussed, the circuit court expressly identified WIS. STAT. § 51.20(1)(a)2.c. as the applicable dangerousness standard. Under that standard, a person is dangerous if the person “[e]vidences 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.” See § 51.20(1)(a)2.c. And, because Ashley was receiving treatment under an existing commitment order, the County could satisfy the requirement of proving “a pattern of recent acts or omission” by proving “a substantial likelihood, based on the subject individual’s treatment record, that the individual would be a proper subject for commitment [under § 51.20(1)(a)2.c.] if treatment were withdrawn.” See § 51.20(1)(am).

In explaining its decision under WIS. STAT. § 51.20(1)(a)2.c. as modified by § 51.20(1)(am), the circuit court found that Ashley was dangerous because, based on her treatment history, she would discontinue her medication and would “decompensate[], quickly relapse[],” and experience “acute psychosis and paranoid behavior” if treatment were withdrawn. The court appeared to credit Dr. Khalil’s testimony about a prior incident in which she attacked her father as a result of delusional thinking, and his testimony that her delusions continued, despite treatment. Based on this history, the court found that, if treatment were withdrawn, there would be “a substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to herself or others due to that impairment,” and accordingly that Ashley would be a proper subject for commitment….

Nor does Ashley persuade me that any additional “specific factual findings” were required under D.J.W. She relies on Shawano Cnty. v. S.L.V., No. 2021AP223, unpublished slip op. (WI App Aug. 17, 2021), a one-judge authored opinion that can be cited for persuasive value under WIS. STAT. RULE 809.23(3)(b). However, her reliance on that case is unavailing. In S.L.V., the court of appeals reversed a commitment order because the circuit court “did not specify under which subdivision paragraph of WIS. STAT. § 51.20(1)(a)2. it found [S.L.V.] to be dangerous,” nor did it “make specific factual findings corresponding to the elements of any of the five statutory standards of dangerousness set forth in § 51.20(1)(a)2.Id., ¶18. Here, by contrast, the circuit court expressly identified the applicable subdivision as § 51.20(1)(a)2.c., and it made findings tied to the elements of that subdivision. Nothing further was required.

(¶¶15-17).

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