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Court rejects hearsay, sufficiency claims in ch. 51 appeal

Waukesha County v. I.R.T., 2020AP996, 11/4/20, District 2 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication) case activity

The county sought to extend I.R.T.’s commitment but could not be located for a time. Eventually the court issued a capias and I.R.T. was arrested. At the extension hearing, there was testimony that after his parole in a criminal matter ended I.R.T. had become homeless and had not taken medications or communicated with the county or his “outpatient prescribers.” (¶14). A psychologist opined that I.R.T. would be dangerous if treatment were withdrawn due to his history of noncompliance with treatment and his “history of psychotic symptoms, and threatening behaviors toward others” and referred to information received from “staff” at an unnamed facility and I.R.T.’s parents. (¶16).

The court of appeals rejects I.R.T.’s argument that the psychologist’s statements about what others reported were inadmissible hearsay:

I.R.T. only specifically discusses Piering’s testimony, arguing that Piering “only met briefly with [I.R.T.] in 2018, so he did not have first-hand knowledge about the [events leading to I.R.T.’s initial commitment].” Piering testified that he reached his opinion as to whether I.R.T.’s commitment should be extended based on a review of the records, including “records of staff” and his own prior evaluations in 2017 and 2018, as well as his personal observations based on his meeting with I.R.T. in 2018. I.R.T does not argue that the records reviewed by Piering, or any of the experts, were not proper records under WIS. STAT. § 907.03, and, in fact, Piering testified that this was “the type of information usually relied on in the field for this type of evaluation.” Piering was asked to provide the basis for his opinion that an extension of I.R.T.’s commitment was appropriate, and he responded with general statements regarding I.R.T.’s past behavior, which were supplemented by statements in his written report entered into evidence. We do not agree, therefore, that these statements were offered for the truth of the matter asserted, see WIS. STAT. § 908.01(3), but were offered only to demonstrate the basis for his opinion. Further, in reaching its conclusion to extend I.R.T.’s commitment, the circuit court did not rely on the underlying hearsay facts; instead, it relied on the opinion testimony of Piering as to I.R.T.’s dangerousness. See WIS. STAT. § 907.04. There was no error.


From here, the opinion goes on to approve the circuit court’s conclusion that I.R.T.’s (sparsely documented) history of threatening behavior combined with his recent noncompliance and decompensation showed he’d be dangerous if not committed. (¶¶17-19).

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