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Involuntary Commitment

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 17, 2024//

Involuntary Commitment

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 17, 2024//

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WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: Marathon County v. N. R. P.

Case No.: 2023AP000638

Officials: Gill, J.

Focus: Involuntary Commitment

In this case, Noah appealed against the extension of his involuntary commitment under WIS. STAT. § 51.20 and the associated order for involuntary medication and treatment. Noah argued that the circuit court improperly admitted hearsay evidence and failed to make specific factual findings to support the determination that he was dangerous.

The court agreed with Noah, noting several key points:

Noah was initially detained in April 2019 after a drug overdose and was found to be mentally ill and dangerous. His commitment was extended multiple times, with the last extension being in September 2022, which is the subject of this appeal.

During the September 2022 hearing, the court admitted hearsay testimony from Drs. Coates and Elmergreen. The doctors relied on records and previous reports rather than direct evidence. Noah’s counsel objected, but the court overruled these objections, misinterpreting WIS. STAT. § 907.03, which allows experts to rely on hearsay but does not make the hearsay evidence itself admissible.

The court failed to make specific factual findings to support Noah’s dangerousness, merely summarizing the doctors’ conclusions without tying Noah’s behavior to statutory standards.

The County argued the appeal was moot since Noah’s commitment had expired, but the court found that collateral consequences like liability for treatment costs made the appeal valid.

Due to these errors, the court reversed the order extending Noah’s commitment and the order for involuntary medication, emphasizing the need for admissible evidence and specific factual findings in such cases.

Reversed.

Decided 06/11/24

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