This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In the Matter of the
Civil Commitment of:
Michael Dooley.



Filed April 24, 2001

Klaphake, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. P1-00-60395


Kurt M. Anderson, P.O. Box 2434, 5010 IDS Center, 80 S. Eighth St., Minneapolis, MN 55402-0434 (for appellant)


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, John L. Kirwin, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 S. Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55487  (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant Michael Dooley challenges his commitment as mentally ill and chemically dependent.  Because clear and convincing evidence was presented showing appellant posed a substantial likelihood of physical harm to himself or others and that judicial commitment was the least restrictive alternative, we affirm.


            Dooley first challenges his commitment as mentally ill.  Minnesota defines a mentally ill person as one with an organic brain disorder who “poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm” to self or others as demonstrated by either “a failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care as a result of the impairment” or “a recent attempt or threat to physically harm” himself or others.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (2000).  The district court must find a person mentally ill by clear and convincing evidence.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (2000).  Its findings will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.  In re McGaughey, 536 N.W.2d 621, 623 (Minn. 1995).

            The district court found that appellant suffers from an organic brain disorder.  It determined that he poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to himself or others based on his continued use of alcohol for self-medication, despite its exacerbation of his symptoms, and by his assaultiveness toward his landlord and his mother.  Appellant argues that commitment as mentally ill is not warranted because the record does not contain clear and convincing evidence that he made a recent threat to harm himself or others.  He contends his landlord started the altercation, denies problems with his mother, and asserts that the police engaged in misconduct in arresting him.  While he does not challenge the admissibility of the information contained in the medical records, he argues that the respondent should have produced direct testimony by eyewitnesses showing his alleged threats toward others.

            Appellant himself testified that he was arrested twice in four days based on disagreements with others, however.  In the incident leading to his first arrest, he described an altercation he had with his landlord’s family.  Appellant accused the landlord’s son of striking him first, and testified that he returned the blow.  He explained that the landlord’s son pushed him down the stairs, but acknowledged the son accused appellant of doing the same.  This incident and evidence of other aggressive incidents in the record provide clear and convincing evidence of his attempt or threat to harm himself or others.  See In re Kottke, 433 N.W.2d 881, 882, 884 (Minn. 1988) (conduct of delusional man, including two assaults with fists, held to meet standard for commitment as mentally ill).

            Dooley next challenges his commitment, contending that the district court improperly rejected the possibility of voluntary chemical dependency treatment.  The district court ordered appellant’s judicial commitment to the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center (Anoka), and the Veterans Administrative Medical Center (VA).  Appellant does not challenge his placement at any of these facilities, but would prefer to obtain treatment voluntarily rather than being subject to judicial commitment.  His specific challenge is based on the apparently undisputed fact that Anoka will admit only those patients who are admitted pursuant to judicial commitment and will not allow voluntary admissions. 

            If a district court finds that a person is mentally ill, it must consider a range of treatment alternatives, including voluntary admission to a treatment facility.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1.  The legislature explicitly expressed a preference for voluntary admission over involuntary commitment and treatment.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.04, subd. 1 (2000).  “The head of a treatment facility shall not arbitrarily refuse any person seeking admission as a voluntary patient.”  Id. 

            If the court determines that there is no suitable alternative to judicial commitment, it shall commit the patient to the least restrictive treatment program that can meet the patient’s needs.  Id.  The court’s findings must identify the less restrictive alternatives considered and rejected and the reasons for rejecting each alternative.  Id., subd. 2.  The district court decision will not be reversed if the record supports the findings and they are not clearly erroneous.  In re King, 476 N.W.2d 190, 193 (Minn. App. 1991).

            The court specifically found that Dooley was “incapable of self-management of his personal affairs” based on his habitual and excessive consumption of alcohol.  He had been subject to multiple admissions for treatment, experiences severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, when he stops using alcohol, and nonetheless continues to use alcohol.  The district court had clear and convincing evidence from which to conclude judicial commitment was the least restrictive alternative, and that voluntary treatment was not appropriate.  See In re May, 477 N.W.2d 913, 916 (Minn. App. 1991) (finding involuntary commitment least restrictive alternative when all previous attempts at outpatient treatment unsuccessful).  We need not reach the issue of Anoka’s admissions policy under these circumstances.