In the Matter of S. F., a Person Alleged to have a Mental Illness.
S. F., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,
Submitted February 5, 2018.
County Circuit Court 17CC01646; Daniel Joseph Ahern, Judge.
Alexander C. Cambier and Multnomah Defenders, Inc., fled the
brief for appellant.
F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor
General, and Cecil A. Reniche-Smith, Assistant Attorney
General, fled the brief for respondent.
Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Garrett, Judge, and Powers,
Summary: Appellant challenges a judgment of involuntary
commitment, assigning error to the trial court's ruling
that she was "a person with mental illness." ORS
426.130(1)(a). She asserts that the state did not prove by
clear and convincing evidence that, because of her mental
disorder, she is "[d]angerous to self or others."
ORS 426.005(1)(f)(A). The state concedes that there was
insufficient evidence to support a fending that appellant is
a danger to herself but argues that appellant's
involuntary commitment was justified because she is a danger
to others. Held: The trial court erred in concluding
that appellant was a person with mental illness as defined in
ORS 426.005(1)(f)(A). The Court of Appeals accepted the
state's concession and further concluded that the
evidence was not legally sufficient to support the trial
court's conclusion that appellant was a danger to others.
Or.App. 262] ORTEGA, P. J.
challenges a judgment of involuntary commitment, assigning
error to the trial court's ruling that she was "a
person with mental illness." ORS 426.130(1)(a). She
asserts that the state did not prove by clear and convincing
evidence that, because of her mental disorder, she is
"dangerous to [her] self or others." ORS
426.005(1)(f)(A). The state concedes that there is
insufficient evidence of danger to self, but argues that
commitment of appellant was justified because she was a
danger to others. We conclude that the evidence was not
legally sufficient to support commitment based on danger to
others and, because we also accept the state's concession
as to the lack of legally sufficient evidence that appellant
was a danger to herself, we reverse.
party requests de novo review and, because this is
not an exceptional case, we decline to review based on that
standard. See ORAP 5.40(8)(c) (providing that the
court will exercise its discretion to review de novo
"only in exceptional cases."). Therefore, we review
whether the state presented sufficient evidence to support an
involuntary civil commitment for legal error. State v. R.
E., 248 Or.App. 481, 483, 273 P.3d 341 (2012). In
reviewing the trial court's judgment, "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
[commitment]." State v. S. R. J, 281 Or.App.
741, 743, 386 P.3d 99 (2016) (internal quotation marks
was diagnosed with bipolar mania by Dr. Eliason, a
psychiatrist in Bend. Eliason treated appellant while she was
in the hospital and made that diagnosis after a few days of
observation. He observed that appellant had lost the need for
sleep and exhibited increased energy, fluctuating moods,
impulsive behavior, and reality distortion. While at the
hospital, appellant made "physical threats" such as
"clapping in a menacing manner." She had to be
sedated on a couple of occasions because of her impulsive
behavior, agitation, and the potential threat to staff, but
she was never placed in physical restraints.
Or.App. 263] One of the more troubling issues was
appellant's intense response related to her inability to
be with her son, who has lived with her parents since she
lost custody of him a few years ago. Appellant's mother
testified that appellant is fixated on being with her son and
that, when she is not allowed to see him, she "gets very
violent" and "very upset, " but that it does
not escalate to physical contact. According to
appellant's mother, the most that occurs is that
appellant screams and shouts in her face that she wishes her
mother were dead. However, appellant has never made a direct
threat to kill her mother nor has she ever struck her. On one
occasion, about four years before the commitment hearing,
appellant hit her father, but since then, appellant's
anger had not manifested in physical contact.
behavior escalated several months before her commitment when
she began calling the Crook County Sheriffs Office numerous
times a day to report that her son was being abused by her
parents and to request welfare checks. As time passed, the
calls became more intense with stating to Sergeant Seaney
that she had "the right to shoot anyone that [got]
between her and [her son], " although she never
threatened him or anyone else in the sheriffs office. Seaney
was not exactly sure to whom appellant was referring but knew
that she had often described her parents as "being in
the way." Seaney heard over dispatch one evening that
appellant was in the area of her parents' property and,
knowing that he had warned her that going to her parents'
property would be trespassing, he went out to stop her.
Seaney went to the parents' property, but turned around
at the gate because neither appellant nor her parents or son
were there. As Seaney was leaving, he encountered appellant
in the driveway. He attempted to detain and then search
appellant for weapons because of the threatening calls, but
she resisted, and he handcuffed her. After the arrest,
appellant stated that all she wanted was to see her son.
Seaney testified that he confronted appellant about a revoked
concealed handgun license permit and whether she had any
weapons on her. Appellant responded that she did not
"need" a concealed handgun license and that she did
not know whether she had any weapons. Seaney conducted a
patdown of appellant [291 Or.App. 264] and searched her car,
finding a pocket knife on the floor but no firearm. While
Seaney transported appellant to the hospital, she was
recorded saying that she wanted to take Seaney's gun and
shoot the officers with it, although Seaney did not hear her
say that at the time.
concluding that appellant was a danger to others at the time
of the hearing, the court credited the testimony of Eliason,
the psychiatrist, and Beachler, an investigator who
interviewed appellant at the hospital. They both testified
that they believed appellant was a danger to others due to
her fixation on reuniting with her son. In keeping with their
testimony, the court found that appellant's fixation on
getting her son back was affecting her ability to be rational
about what was in his best interest, and that her mental
disorder was her leading to believe that the people caring
for her son were harming him. The court found that,
"unless [appellant's] mental illness is kept under
control, " those caring for her son" are at risk of
[her] acting on [her] belief that [they] are harming"
him, and it also concluded that appellant was a danger to
herself and others.
justify an involuntary commitment, the state must prove, by
clear and convincing evidence, that the individual is "a
person with mental illness." ORS 426.130(1)(a).
"The clear and convincing evidence standard is a
rigorous one, requiring evidence that is of extraordinary
persuasiveness, and which makes the fact in issue highly
probable." State v. M. R.,225 Or.App. 569,
574, 202 P.3d 221 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).
As defined in the statute, a "person with mental
illness" is one who, "because of a mental disorder,
" is "[d] angerous to self or others." ORS
426.005(1)(f)(A). Dangerousness "is determined by
[appellant's] condition at the ...