This opinion will be unpublished and may
not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of: Gloria J. Johnson.
Pope County District Court
File No. P900246
Ramona Carol Lakore, 432 West Litchfield Ave., P.O. Box 1529, Willmar, MN 56201 (for appellant)
Chad Michael Larson, Assistant Pope County Attorney, 605 South Lakeshore Drive, Suite 1000, Glenwood, MN 56334 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
Appellant Gloria Johnson challenges the district court’s commitment order. The record supports the court’s determination that appellant is mentally ill and that her grossly disturbed behavior poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to herself or others. We affirm.
Fifty-three-year-old Gloria J. Johnson came to the attention of law enforcement authorities because of her bizarre behavior over the course of four days in July 2000. During a confrontation with a deputy sheriff, she poured a cup of coffee over her own head. She filled her car with aluminum cans so that her view was completely obstructed and she drove at night along a public street. Claiming that she was engaged in a religious experience, she wore only bed sheets during a local parade. She ate weeds and wild flowers and explained that she had paid a teenager $8 to teach her which ones were not poisonous. She placed a dead raccoon inside her car and another on the roof. Both animals were filled with maggots and Johnson said that she ate some because “maggots are very nutritional.”
Johnson browsed for guns and tried to buy three but did not have enough money. She indicated that she needed guns to protect herself against law enforcement officers and social workers and that she would use a gun to protect herself or her property. She stated that if she were unsuccessful in litigation she might start her “own militia right here in town.”
Prior to the period in question, the district court issued a restraining order prohibiting Johnson from having contact with a regional treatment center employee. The order followed Johnson’s physical assault on the employee, which she described by saying:
[M]y body was propelled by some force that I did not know, and I was in a different state of consciousness * * *. I mean this wild sound came out of my mouth and that we just flew to the floor.
On July 30, 2000, Johnson attempted to contact the treatment center employee by telephone. She told the person who answered the telephone that she was going to see the employee “no matter what” and that “[i]f I have to go to jail to see him it will be worth it.” She said she couldn’t shoot him because she did not have a gun.
A physician examined Johnson on July 31, 2000, and diagnosed her as having “bipolar disorder, manic type with psychotic features.” He recommended commitment, concluding that she had “an Axis I diagnosis of mental illness and is clearly dangerous to self or others." He also noted that Johnson refused to accept neuroleptic medications.
A licensed psychologist examined Johnson on August 2, 2000, and noted that “[h]er behavior is seriously disturbed,” she projects blame to other people, she refuses to take medications that would control her mental illness, she is not competent to live independently and without supervision, and that she needs commitment because she poses a threat to herself or to others.
After a hearing on August 8, 2000, the district court ordered Johnson’s commitment to a regional treatment center. Contending that the court erred in finding her mentally ill according to the definition of commitment law, Johnson appealed.
D E C I S I O N
Johnson challenges the finding that, as a result of her mental illness, she had been “demonstrating increasingly bizzare behavior” justifying commitment. See Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (1998) (defining “mentally ill person” as one who, among other things, has “instances of grossly disturbed behavior or faulty perceptions and poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others * * *.”)
On appeal from a judicial commitment, our review is limited to whether the district court complied with the Civil Commitment Act and whether the commitment was "justified by findings based upon evidence" submitted at the hearing. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). 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). The district court's factual findings must be affirmed unless clearly erroneous. In re Schauer, 450 N.W.2d 194, 196 (Minn. App. 1990).
Under the commitment statute, the substantial likelihood of physical harm may be demonstrated by “a failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care as a result of the impairment” or by “a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others.” Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd.13(a)(1)(2) (1998).
Johnson concedes that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that she suffers from a substantial psychiatric disorder, but argues that commitment was improper because her behavior did not pose a substantial likelihood of physical harm to herself or others. The bulk ofJohnson’s argument on this point is an invitation to this court to reassess the credibility and weight of evidence presented to the district court.
The function of the appellate court is not to reweigh the evidence, but rather to determine if the evidence as a whole sustains the trial court's findings.
In re Salkin, 430 N.W.2d 13, 16 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. Nov. 23, 1988); see also Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (stating deference must be given district court's ability to judge witness credibility).
The district court found that Johnson had failed to adequately clothe and feed herself, and that her driving conduct, violation of the restraining order, attempt to buy guns, willingness to use the guns if police or social workers entered her property, and other bizarre behavior were clear and convincing evidence of her mental illness and need for commitment.
Johnson claims that even if these behaviors were in fact dangerous, they do not constitute a “threat” or an “attempt.” See Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a)(2). The supreme court rejected a similar argument in the context of a mentally ill and dangerous commitment, saying:
If a mentally ill person deliberately aims and fires a .410 shotgun at another person or drives an automobile at a speed of 100 m.p.h. into a crowd of people on a residential street, that person has “engaged in an overt act causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm to another” regardless of intent or the outcome of the action.
In re Jasmer, 447 N.W.2d 192, 195 (Minn. 1989) (quoting elements from Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (1988).
Although Johnson’s actions were not as egregious as those described in Jasmer, the district court’s finding under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a)(2), that Johnson had threatened physical harm to others was not clearly erroneous. See also In re Martin, 458 N.W.2d 700, 704-05 (Minn. App. 1990) (stating that assault threats by psychotic person provided sufficient evidence of substantial likelihood of harm to self or others); In re Anderson, 367 N.W.2d 107, 109 (Minn. App. 1985) (finding that when danger of patient's condition is evident, court is not compelled to wait until irreparable harm is suffered). This record contains clear and convincing evidence supporting the district court’s determination that Johnson is mentally ill.