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In re T. W.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 9, 2018

In the Matter of T. W., Alleged to be a Person with Mental Illness.
v.
T. W., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

          Submitted Date: May 17, 2016

          Multnomah County Circuit Court 15CC05146, Elizabeth Fithian-Barrett, Judge pro tempore.

          Eric J. Deitrick and Multnomah Defenders, Inc., fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Paul L. Smith, Deputy Solicitor General, and Susan Yorke, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before DeVore, Presiding Judge, and Lagesen, Judge, and DeHoog, Judge.

         Case Summary: Appellant in this civil commitment case appeals a judgment committing him to the custody of the Mental Health Division for a period not to exceed 180 days. On appeal, appellant asserts that the trial court erred in determining that he presented a danger to himself and others.

         Held: The record lacks sufficient evidence to support the trial court's determination that appellant posed a danger to himself and others.

          [291 Or.App. 680]DEHOOG, J.

         Appellant seeks reversal of a judgment committing him to the custody of the Mental Health Division for a period not to exceed 180 days. See ORS 426.130. In his only assignment of error, appellant contends that the trial court erred in determining that he presented a danger to himself and others. See ORS 426.005(1)(f)(A). We agree and, for the reasons set forth below, we reverse.

         On review of 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 outcome." State v. S. R. J., 281 Or.App. 741, 743, 386 P.3d 99 (2016) (internal quotation marks omitted).[1]

         Appellant was 49 years old at the time of the civil commitment hearing in September 2015. His history involving mental illness began in the 1990s, when he was in his 20s; he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was at some point thereafter civilly committed. In 2000 or 2001, appellant experienced auditory hallucinations and believed that people were trying to harm him; he also had an encounter with the police while he was in front of his grandfather's house. In that encounter, he pulled out a pellet gun in the presence of the police, and officers subdued him by firing at him with beanbag rounds. At some point after that incident, appellant received treatment at the Oregon State Hospital.

         For a period of time, appellant received treatment in the community and did well-his medication worked for him and he experienced stability. He worked with a health care organization as a peer counselor for at least four years. He also served on the board of a disability rights organization, and he advocated for culturally competent services in Oregon's mental health system. However, his stability changed in the few years leading up to the commitment [291 Or.App. 681] hearing that is the subject of this case. His behavior shifted around the time that he was assigned a new counselor through the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and he was prescribed a different medication that was not effective. He appeared to have relapsed-he experienced auditory hallucinations and struggled with behavioral issues, and his memory changed, causing him to believe that he was still in the 1990s. At some point after the period of stability, appellant was involved in an incident at the credit union office where he banked, resulting in him being barred from that office location.

         In the fall of 2014, appellant left the Portland area; he spent some time in Seattle and then travelled to Canada with the intent of seeking "political asylum." He feared living in the United States as a gay black man with mental illness. In April 2015, after his request for asylum in Canada was denied, the Canadian authorities took him to the border, where he crossed into the State of Washington. He then spent time in Mexico and San Diego, California.

         While appellant was in the San Diego area, he placed a call to Governor Brown's constituent office and left the following voicemail:

"This message is for Governor Kate Brown. This is [appellant], the son of [a] former [state legislator]. Today is Monday, June 15th. Governor Brown, call off your wolves! Capiche? That means call off all of your fucking agents, actors, and whatever the fuck else your goddam problem is, bitch! You'll die! I consider you, bitch, a fucking enemy. *** I'll kill you! Do you fucking understand? I'll fucking kill you, bitch! You're an enemy. * * * Don't fuck with me, I'll kill you dead, bitch! You're a dead fucking ...

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