This opinion will be unpublished and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
Filed May 8, 2001
Doug Johnson, Washington County Attorney, Richard D. Hodsdon, Assistant County Attorney, Washington County Government Center, 14949 62nd Street North, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for respondent petitioner)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
SCHUMACHER, ROBERT H., Judge
Appellant William Richard Iverson challenges the judicial commitment and order for administration of neuroleptic medication, contending the evidence was insufficient to support the findings and claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.
Iverson was incarcerated from 1983 to 1991 for murdering his wife. He was incarcerated again in 1997 for assaulting his ex-fiancee. His current sentence expires in 2008.
The correctional facility petitioned for Iverson's judicial commitment and for authorization to impose neuroleptic medications. The court ordered psychiatrist Dr. William B. Orr to examine Iverson. Dr. Orr reviewed the medical records, met with Iverson and his doctors, and diagnosed Iverson with paranoid schizophrenia.
The district court held a commitment hearing on October 19, 2000. The parties stipulated to Dr. Orr's qualifications to testify. The court concluded the state showed by clear and convincing evidence that Iverson suffered from paranoid schizophrenia; that Iverson's disorder grossly impaired his judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or to reason or understand; and that commitment was necessary for the protection of Iverson and/or others. The court also concluded the involuntary administration of neuroleptic medication was reasonable and necessary to treat Iverson's illness, and that there was no suitable, viable, less restrictive alternative to commitment or to involuntary administration of medications.
On appeal from a judicial commitment, our review is limited to whether the district court complied with the Civil Commitment Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 253B, and whether the commitment was justified by findings based upon evidence at the hearing. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). The district court's factual findings must be affirmed unless clearly erroneous, viewing the record in the light most favorable to the district court's decision. Id.
The district court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed patient is mentally ill and there is no suitable alternative to judicial commitment. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (2000). A mentally ill person is defined as one who has an organic disorder of the brain or a substantial psychiatric disorder and
poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others as demonstrated by:
(1) a failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care as a result of the impairment; or
(2) a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (2000).
1. Iverson first claims the evidence failed to support the order for commitment and administration of neuroleptic medications because Dr. Orr was the only witness, the record contained no evidence regarding Dr. Orr's qualifications, and Dr. Orr was not involved in Iverson's treatment and only examined him for the commitment proceeding. These claims are not supported by the record. Although Dr. Orr was the state's only witness, the parties stipulated to Dr. Orr's qualifications. Dr. Orr reviewed medical records, pleadings and documents in the court file, mental health progress notes, incident reports, and laboratory studies prior to the hearing. Dr. Iverson also met with the members of Iverson's mental health unit treatment team and met with Iverson in the presence of his attorney. Dr. Orr's examination provided him with sufficient information to diagnose Iverson and to conclude that Iverson met the statutory definition of mentally ill.
Iverson next argues that Dr. Orr's testimony that Iverson constitutes a danger to himself was conclusory and lacked specific examples. Dr. Orr testified that Iverson had recent incidents of self-injurious behavior whereby he attempted to stab himself in the abdomen; he tried to cut himself on the neck with scissors; and he pounded on the floor with his fist until it became bloody. Additionally, Iverson was a danger to himself because he believed he had no mental illness requiring medication. He refused to take the medications because he believed they caused him to bleed from the penis and anus, caused brain damage, and would eventually kill him. Physical examinations failed to support his complaints, and the prescribed medications have no history of causing such side effects.
Where the findings of fact rest almost entirely on expert testimony, the court's evaluation of credibility is particularly significant. Knops, 536 N.W.2d at 620. The court here found Dr. Orr's testimony credible that involuntary commitment and administration of neuroleptic medications were necessary for the protection of Iverson and others. We conclude that the court's order was justified by the findings and the findings were not clearly erroneous.
2. Iverson's supplemental pro se brief challenges the adequacy of counsel's representation at the hearing. Iverson contends he did not have sufficient meetings with his trial attorney and that the attorney did not contact any of Iverson's witnesses or cross-examine the state's witness. A person subject to commitment proceedings has the right to representation by an attorney who shall act as a vigorous advocate on the person's behalf. Minn. Stat. § 253B.07, subd. 2c (2000).
Although commitment proceedings are civil in nature, they may result in the loss of liberty and an analogy to the standard employed in criminal cases to evaluate the adequacy of counsel is appropriate.
In re Cordie, 372 N.W.2d 24, 28 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Sept. 26, 1985). To prove a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the
defendant must affirmatively prove that his counsel's representation "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness" and "that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different."
Gates v. State, 398 N.W.2d 558, 561 (Minn. 1987) (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 694, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2064, 2068 (1984)).
Iverson offers no evidence that counsel's representation was substandard or that the hearing result would have been different but for counsel's errors. Iverson fails to name any witnesses that his attorney did not call or to describe any evidence that would have been presented. His claim of insufficient meetings with his attorney does not by itself show ineffective representation. Additionally, while Iverson complains that his attorney did not cross-examine Dr. Orr, it was Iverson's decision to cross-examine Dr. Orr himself rather than allow his attorney to do so. Iverson failed to show that his attorney's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness or that the hearing result was prejudiced by his attorney's actions. Any claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is without merit.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.