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In re V. T.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

March 15, 2017

In the Matter of V. T., a Person Alleged to have a Mental Illness.
v.
V. T., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

          Submitted January 17, 2017

         Multnomah County Circuit Court 15CC01402; Janet A. Klapstein, Judge pro tempore.

          Joseph DeBin and Multnomah Defenders, Inc., fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Nani Apo, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Sercombe, Presiding Judge, and Flynn, Judge, and DeHoog, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         In this civil commitment case, appellant challenges a trial court order that continued her involuntary commitment to the Oregon Health Authority on the basis that she continues to suffer from a mental disorder that makes her a danger to herself. Evidence at trial showed that appellant suffers from hallucinations that caused her to run into traffic on a busy road; that police and fire department were called and redirected traffic; and that appellant fell and badly scraped her palms while running from police. Evidence also showed that appellant continues to have hallucinations that cause her to run and scream uncontrollably. On appeal, appellant argues that the evidence that she poses a risk to herself is speculative.

         Held: The evidence of the risk that appellant presents to herself is sufficient to permit the trial court's determination that her mental disorder makes her a danger to herself.

         Affirmed.

          FLYNN, J.

         In this civil commitment case, appellant challenges a trial court order that continued appellant's involuntary civil commitment on the basis that appellant continues to suffer from a mental disorder that makes her a danger to herself. This is not an "exceptional" case and therefore does not warrant de novo review. See ORAP 5.40(8)(c) (providing that the court will exercise its discretion to review de novo "only in exceptional cases"). Accordingly, "'we view the evidence, as supplemented and buttressed by permissible derivative inferences, in the light most favorable to the trial court's disposition and assess whether, when so viewed, the record was legally sufficient to permit that outcome.'" State v. M. A.. 276 Or.App. 624, 625, 371 P.3d 495 (2016) (quoting Dept. of Human Services v. N. P.. 257 Or.App. 633, 639, 307 P.3d 444 (2013)). Reviewing under that standard, we affirm.

         Appellant has been in the custody of the Oregon Health Authority since March 2015 based on the court's determination that appellant is a "person with mental illness." See ORS 426.130(1)(a)(C). As pertinent to this case, a "person with mental illness" is a "person who, because of a mental disorder" is "[d]angerous to self." ORS 426.005(1)(f)(A). After appellant spent a year in the custody of the Oregon Health Authority, the court determined that appellant's commitment should be continued for up to an additional 180 days, on the basis that appellant is "still a person with mental illness and is in need of further treatment." See ORS 426.307(6).

         The determination that an individual is "still a person with mental illness" must be based on "clear and convincing evidence, " as must the determination at the time of the initial commitment. ORS 426.307(6); ORS 426.130(1)(a). As we have emphasized in the context of an initial commitment, the evidence that the person presents a danger to self "must partake of a particularized, and highly probable, threat to [the] appellant's safe survival, including a risk of substantial harm, in the near future." State v. S. R. J., 281 Or.App. 741, 749, 386 P.3d 99 (2016) (internal quotation marks omitted; brackets in original).[1]

         That standard is met here by the evidence and the permissible inferences that the trial court could have drawn from that evidence. Appellant suffers from hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and impulsive behavior. The hallucinations cause her to become very agitated and to run and scream. She was involuntarily committed in March 2015, after her hallucinations caused her to run into traffic on a busy road. The police and fire department were called and redirected traffic. Appellant ran from the police and, in the course of running, fell and badly scraped her palms on the asphalt. Appellant has been hospitalized ever since. At the hearing to consider continuing appellant's commitment, a doctor who is familiar with appellant's circumstances testified that she "commonly will hear voices from demons" that tell her to run and that she responds "by running, screaming up and down the hallways." In the doctor's opinion, outside of the hospital setting, appellant's ...


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