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Trial court properly extended Chapter 51 commitment; subject will pose danger to herself and others if commitment ends

Kenosha County v. Vermetrias W., 2014AP861-FT, District 2, 7/16/14 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

Vermetrias had been the subject of a Chapter 51 commitment order, which Kenosha County sought to extend. Section 51.20(1)(a)2 provides than an individual is the proper subject for commitment if he or she poses a danger to himself or herself or to others.  Vermetrias presented evidence that there was not a “substantial likelihood” she would become dangerous if her commitment ended.  The trial court ruled against her.  The court of appeals affirmed, but complimented those involved in this matter:

¶9        We agree that Vermetrias’s many years of voluntary treatment and success in dealing with her illness are commendable and bode well for her future.  But the court also received testimony about Vermetrias’s recent manic episodes resulting in her hospitalization and commitment, that she still suffers from symptoms that include a lack of insight into her illness, and that this lack of insight presents a heightened risk of noncompliance with her medication needs.  While “substantial likelihood” is a high bar, it does not demand absolute certitude.  Given the dangerous behavior that Vermetrias recently exhibited and acknowledged, and given Christenson’s unrefuted opinion testimony, the court had clear and convincing evidence that Vermetrias poses a danger to herself and others if treatment is withdrawn at this time.

¶10      We commend the parties for their cogent and persuasive arguments in this matter as well as Judge Kerkman for his thoughtful consideration of the facts and for crafting an order that did as much as was required and no more.  While the extension of the commitment is a restriction on Vermetrias’s liberty interests, we conclude that the court imposed the least intrusive means of addressing Vermetrias’s mental health needs at this time.


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