This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of:
Hennepin County District Court
File No. P99860353
Allan R. Poncin, Suite 810 Towle Building, 330 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2226 (for appellant Conelious McCaskill)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Thomas Lavelle, Assistant County Attorney, A-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)
In this appeal following a remand by the supreme court, we consider appellant Conelious McCaskill’s challenge to his commitment as a mentally ill person. We affirm.
McCaskill was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and has a history of psychiatric hospitalizations dating back to 1975.
On September 2, 1998, McCaskill confronted three men who were fixing a car on the side of the street. McCaskill testified that he asked the men why they were using the spirit of God in a negative way, and when they denied that they were doing anything, he
told them that was wrong, they should not be using the spirit of God or the spirit, or the spirituality that I believe comes from my apartment that they was using.
The men became angry and invited McCaskill to get out of his car to settle things. McCaskill testified that he got out of his car to stand for Christ, and the men attacked him and hit him three or four times very hard. McCaskill also testified that he did not swing at the men, and he just pushed them away to get away from them.
McCaskill was involuntarily admitted to the Hennepin County Medical Center Crisis Intervention Center (HCMC). While at the HCMC, McCaskill refused to take any medications and admitted that he had stopped taking his prescribed medication because of his belief that God had healed him.
McCaskill was transferred to the mental-health unit at Abbott Northwestern Hospital where he described his altercation with the three men to his treating physician as follows:
They attacked me because [of] spiritual work I was doing in my neighborhood. * * * I have the Holy Spirit. * * * In the past it was mental confusion - but God has healed me. My situation is spiritual in nature – it is not mental health. I function better now than most people until evil forces come in and take over my being.
McCaskill also wrote notes saying that certain individuals in the hospital “must die, die, die * * *,” with the word “die,” written hundreds of times. When the staff asked him about the notes, McCaskill explained that he meant spiritual death and that all people die a little every day.
Following a commitment hearing, the district court ordered McCaskill committed as a mentally ill person. McCaskill appealed the commitment judgment to this court. While the appeal was pending, McCaskill’s case manager filed a 180-day report with the district court recommending that McCaskill’s commitment be terminated because he no longer satisfied the criteria for commitment. The district court dismissed the petition and issued an order discharging McCaskill. This court then issued an opinion dismissing McCaskill’s appeal as moot. The supreme court granted further review, reversed the dismissal, and remanded McCaskill’s appeal for consideration on the merits.
D E C I S I O N
This court reviews commitments by examining whether the district court complied “with the statute, which requires specific findings of fact, separate conclusions of law, and a listing of less restrictive alternatives considered and rejected.” In re Fusa, 355 N.W.2d 456, 457 (Minn. App. 1984); Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 2 (1998). When reviewing a commitment judgment, we view the record in the light most favorable to the district court’s decision. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995).
Findings of fact, whether based on oral or documentary evidence, shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witness.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. Whether the evidence is sufficient to meet the standard for commitment is a question of law that we review de novo. Knops, 536 N.W.2d at 620.
To commit a person as mentally ill, the district court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the person is mentally ill. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (1998). A mentally ill person is
any person who has an organic disorder of the brain or a substantial psychiatric disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation, or memory which grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or to reason or understand, which is manifested by instances of grossly disturbed behavior or faulty perceptions and poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others[.]
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (Minn. 1998). The substantial likelihood of physical harm must be demonstrated by an overt failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care or by a recent attempt or threat to harm self or others. Id.; Enberg v. Bonde, 331 N.W.2d 731, 736-38 (Minn. 1983). Mere speculation as to whether the person, in the future, may fail to obtain necessary items or may attempt or threaten to harm self or others is not sufficient to justify commitment. In re McGaughey, 536 N.W.2d 621, 623 (Minn. 1995). However, this does not mean that the person must either come to harm himself or harm others before commitment as a mentally ill person is justified. Id.
The statute requires only that a substantial likelihood of physical harm exists, as demonstrated by an overt failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, or medical care or by a recent attempt or threat to harm self or others.
Id. at 623-24.
McCaskill challenges the trial court’s finding that his paranoid schizophrenia poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to himself or others. McCaskill contends that he was committed solely because he has a thought disorder and is delusional, not because of any failure to feed, clothe, or shelter himself or because of a recent attempt or threat to physically harm himself or others. We disagree.
Although McCaskill has not injured himself or others, the trial court was not required to delay commitment until he or someone else is actually harmed. See In re Terra, 412 N.W.2d 325, 328 (Minn. App. 1987) (so long as the danger of condition has already become evident, the court may order commitment). The trial court found that McCaskill
poses a substantial likelihood of causing physical harm as demonstrated by the fact that [McCaskill’s] persistent delusions lead him to exercise poor judgment and thus place himself in vulnerable situations.
This court has found that a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self may be demonstrated by provocative conduct that may outrage others and prompt an attack. See In re Gonzalez, 456 N.W.2d 724, 726, 729 (Minn. App. 1990) (finding appellant’s conduct posed substantial likelihood of physical harm to self where court-appointed examiner testified that appellant’s “manic intrusiveness could easily negatively affect people around him and he could inadvertently turn into a target for somebody who does not like his intrusions or grandiosity”). McCaskill’s recent provocative conduct with the three men fixing a car demonstrates that his schizophrenia poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to McCaskill.
The trial court also found that McCaskill had not been taking his prescribed medications before he was admitted to the hospital and refused to take medications while in the hospital. The court found that McCaskill acknowledged that he was perceived as mentally ill in the past, but now states that God has healed him. These findings support a conclusion that McCaskill’s schizophrenia poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to McCaskill as demonstrated by a failure to obtain necessary medical care.