This opinion will be unpublished and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 Re the Matter of:
William C. Schottler.
Filed May 22, 2001
Mower County District Court
File No. P0001700
Patrick Oman, Mower County Attorney, Jonathan Olson, Assistant County Attorney, Mower County Courthouse, 201 First Street NE, Austin, MN 55912 (for respondent county)
Brandon Vaughn Lawhead, Law Offices, 301 South Main Street, Austin, MN 55912 (for appellant Schottler)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.
Appellant seeks reversal of the district court’s decision to commit him as mentally ill. He contends that he does not suffer from bipolar disorder and that the court failed to place him at the least restrictive alternative. Because there was clear and convincing evidence that appellant suffers from bipolar disorder and that he was placed at the least restrictive alternative, we affirm.
Appellant William C. Schottler has a history of psychiatric hospitalizations and misdemeanor criminal charges. In November 2000, his car went into the ditch while he was transporting an elderly, mentally-incapacitated woman. Appellant fought a state trooper who brought him to the hospital, ripping off his badge. While hospitalized, appellant engaged in disruptive behavior. When a nurse attempted to intervene in one incident, he elbowed her in the chest so hard that she required hospitalization. Appellant was then transferred to the more secure setting of the Minnesota Security Hospital.
A petition to commit appellant as mentally ill and dangerous was filed. At the hearing, two psychiatrists, Dr. Peter Johannsen, from the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, and Dr. Thomas Gratzer, from the security hospital, diagnosed appellant with bipolar disorder. The court-appointed examiner, Dr. Rosemary Linderman, diagnosed appellant with narcissistic personality disorder.
The district court determined appellant was suffering from bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, satisfying the first prong of Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (2000), and that he had engaged in assaultive behavior on law enforcement officers and nursing staff, in addition to prior sexually predatory behavior against vulnerable adults, satisfying the second prong of dangerousness to others. The court also determined that committing appellant as mentally ill to the Minnesota Security Hospital for a period of six months was the least restrictive alternative. The court directed that when appellant no longer required a secure facility, treatment should be accomplished at a regional treatment center other than St. Peter. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
Findings of fact of a district court will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. In re Duvick, 497 N.W.2d 311, 313 (Minn. App. 1993). Where the findings rest almost entirely on expert testimony, the district court’s evaluation of credibility is particularly significant. In re Joelson, 385 N.W.2d 810, 811 (Minn. 1986). Questions of law will be reviewed de novo. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995).
A mentally ill person is defined as one
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.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (2000). This illness must pose a substantial likelihood of physical harm to the person or others. Id. Proof that this standard is met must be shown by clear and convincing evidence. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (2000).
Appellant first argues that he suffers only from narcissistic personality disorder, contending, in effect, that the district court was clearly erroneous in finding he suffered from bipolar disorder. He argues that Dr. Linderman was more credible than the psychiatrists because she was very familiar with appellant’s mental health history, having evaluated him on three prior occasions involving earlier petitions for commitment that were later dismissed. He contends that she supported her diagnosis by testing results as well as other facts.
Both psychiatrists unequivocally diagnosed appellant with bipolar disorder, although they did not dispute that he might also have an underlying personality disorder. Appellant challenged their opinions through cross-examination, and the district court credited the testimony of the psychiatrists. The district court had clear and convincing evidence to support its determination. There was no error.
Appellant next challenges his commitment to the security hospital. When committing a person as mentally ill, the district court must place the patient at the “least restrictive treatment program” capable of meeting the patient’s needs. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1. The court must consider alternative programs as well as the patient’s treatment preferences. Id.; In re King, 476 N.W.2d 190, 193 (Minn. App. 1991). The district court’s decision will be reversed only if clearly erroneous. King, 476 N.W.2d at 193.
Appellant argues that the court failed to consider Dr. Lindeman’s testimony that if he were committed as mentally ill, the least restrictive alternative would be placement at a regional treatment center other than St. Peter. We disagree. Although the petition sought commitment of appellant as mentally ill and dangerous, the district court ordered him committed as mentally ill. The court found, however, that appellant’s mental condition continued to be labile and potentially dangerous to others and that his medication levels were not yet stabilized to the extent of controlling his behavior. The court determined that the security hospital was the least restrictive treatment facility that would meet appellant’s needs until he no longer requires a secure facility, at which time he can be transferred to a regional treatment center other than St. Peter. There was clear and convincing evidence to support the determination, and the court’s decision was not clearly erroneous.