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Defense win! Insufficient evidence of dangerousness under any of the 5 standards of dangerousness

Milwaukee County v. Cheri V., 2012AP1737, District 1, 12/18/12

 court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity


Mental health commitment, § 51.20, requires proof of mental illness and dangerousness. Cheri V. limits this challenge to the latter; the court agrees:

¶7        As seen from our recitation of the facts adduced at the trial, however, there is absolutely no evidence that any of the statutory prerequisites were met—yelling at and pointing a finger at another person, irrespective of how dangerous that other person might be, does not, unless there is evidence that the subject of a potential commitment order is trying to goad that other person in order to have that other person kill or harm the subject (as in “suicide by cop”) is not such evidence.  Additionally, there was no evidence that Cheri V. threatened or intended to harm anyone else.  Further, there was no evidence even implicating subsections d and e.  Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order involuntarily committing Cheri V.

The trial court made no findings of fact with respect to dangerousness, so the court of appeals reviews the issue de novo – had “the trial court made findings of fact rather than merely expressing its conclusion,” the court of appeals would instead “give substantial deference” to this facet of the commitment order.

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