This opinion will be unpublished and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

C7-01-1385

 

 

In Re: Thomas Lane.

 

 

Filed January 15, 2002

Affirmed

Randall, Judge

 

 

Crow Wing County District Court

File No. KX-01-604

 

 

Michael C. Bender, First National Bank Building, Lower Level, P.O. Box 156, Crosby, MN 56441 (for appellant)

 

Donald F. Ryan, Crow Wing County Attorney, Janine LePage, Assistant County Attorney, 322 Laurel Street, Brainerd, MN 56401 (for respondent)

 

 

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N

RANDALL, Judge

Appellant challenges his civil commitment as mentally ill, contending that the district court failed to make the required specific findings as to his conduct that formed the basis for the commitment or as to the least restrictive alternative. We affirm.

F A C T S

On March 17, 2001, Thomas M. Lane reportedly threatened one of his neighbors, Kevin Good, and Good's children. Lane was arrested and a criminal complaint was filed. A psychologist, Russell M. Tyler, Ph.D., conducted a psychological examination of Lane in connection with the criminal case and concluded that Lane "is, and was, functioning well within the normal range of intelligence, with no indication of a clinically significant organic, mood, or thought disorder." Subsequently, John R. Bonde, M.D., diagnosed Lane with schizophrenia, paranoid type, and found Lane to be delusional and to suffer from auditory hallucinations.

Based on Dr. Bonde's examination and report, a petition for judicial commitment and treatment was filed. The court appointed David Anderholm, M.D., to examine Lane. At Lane's request, a second examiner was appointed: Carol J. Schwartzkopf, Ph.D.

At the civil commitment hearing, Dr. Anderholm testified in support of commitment. He diagnosed Lane with chronic paranoid schizophrenia and opined that Lane needed to be committed for his own and the community's safety based on a history that included violence. The medical records that Dr. Anderholm reviewed and the patient history he obtained demonstrated that Lane has acted violently towards others. He assaulted another patient during his April 30, 2001, examination for his competency to stand trial for the criminal charges. He admitted to leaving his home and walking out to a parked car where he "forcefully asked" a woman whether she had been stealing his mail. She was frightened enough to scream and attempted to drive away. Dr. Anderholm testified that Lane contacted his office after his examination and threatened that Dr. Anderholm would "pay the price for [his] comments." Dr. Anderholm also testified that Lane talks to himself, responds to unspoken and unseen stimuli, and has expressed hostility towards others. Anderholm testified that even if he did not consider the March 17, 2001, events, he would continue to recommend civil commitment because Lane would not voluntarily obtain treatment.

At trial, the state and Lane agreed to enter Dr. Anderholm's and Dr. Schwartzkopf's reports as exhibits, but Dr. Schwartzkopf did not testify. The district court then ordered that Lane be civilly committed. This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

Lane does not contest sufficiency of the evidence, but contends that the district court did not make findings of fact adequate to support the commitment order. He argues that the district court's findings of fact lack the required specificity to support the findings that (1) Lane is mentally ill and (2) each less-restrictive alternative would be inappropriate.

We are limited to an examination to determine whether the district court complied with the statute and whether its findings of fact are justified by the evidence in the record. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). We will not set aside findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. Id. We review the record is in the light most favorable to the district court's decision. Id.

A district court must find a person mentally ill by clear and convincing evidence. Minn. Stat.  253B.09, subd. 1 (2000). In making findings to support commitment, the district court "shall find the facts specifically." Minn. Stat.  253B.09, subd. 2 (2000). Those findings shall specifically state the conduct that forms the basis for determining that the requisites for commitment have been met. Id. When the court orders a civil commitment, the court's findings "shall also identify less restrictive alternatives considered and rejected by the court and the reasons for rejecting each alternative." Id.

Specific findings facilitate appellate review of a district court's decision. See County of Morrision ex rel. Gutzman v. Watland, 448 N.W.2d 71, 73 (Minn. App. 1989) (holding, in child support case, that findings are necessary to support judgment and to aid appellate court by providing clear understanding of grounds for its decision). Appellate review cannot be meaningful without sufficiently detailed findings showing consideration of all relevant factors. Id.

On previous occasions, we have upheld commitments where the findings were thin, but legally sufficient. See, e.g., In re King, 476 N.W.2d 190, 193-94 (Minn. App. 1991) (concluding district court's finding that committed person "'requires continued hospitalization in a highly structured setting,'" and that alternative placements were considered and rejected, satisfied statutory requirement for finding that no less restrictive alternative was available); In re Adams, 352 N.W.2d 117, 119 (Minn. App. 1984) (determining conclusion regarding necessity of continued commitment was sufficient when based on district court's findings that committed person was not medically stabilized, did not acknowledge that he needed to bring behavior under control or take medication, and no community-based program was willing to take him).

At times, when the findings were insufficient, we have remanded matters for findings. See In re Danielson, 398 N.W.2d 32, 37 (Minn. App. 1986) (concluding while evidence supported commitment, district court's findings did not satisfy statutory requisites for clear recitation of evidence relied upon for reaching court's conclusions where district court's findings summarily stated that "'there is no lesser (sic) restrictive alternative than commitment'" and did not list alternatives considered or reasons for rejecting them); In re Stewart, 352 N.W.2d 811, 813 (Minn. App. 1984) (concluding evidence supported commitment, district court's findings did not satisfy statutory requisites that its order specify conduct that supports commitment determination or discuss less-restrictive alternatives).

Here, the district court found that Lane is mentally ill, basing the finding on the "conduct described in reports of Dr. Anderholm and Dr. Schwartzkopf," and incorporated those reports into the findings of fact. The district court's findings did not specifically identify the conduct that formed a basis for determining whether the requisites for commitment as mentally ill were met but did identify with specificity medical documents of record. If it is clear that appropriate factors were considered, appellate review of a district court record can substitute for a district court's failure to make specific findings. Watland, 448 N.W.2d at 73; see King, 476 N.W.2d at 194 (affirming order for commitment based on scant district court findings where record supported commitment determination).

A mentally ill person is 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 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).

We conclude the evidence is sufficient to support the district court's finding that Lane is mentally ill. Lane does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence. Dr. Bonde diagnosed Lane with paranoid-type schizophrenia, and opined that he suffered from delusions and auditory hallucinations. Dr. Schwartzkopf and Dr. Anderholm both diagnosed Lane with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. In 1994, he voluntarily entered the inpatient psychiatric unit at a hospital in Montana. Lane assaulted another person while in a facility for his April 30, 2001, examination. During the March 17, 2001, incident, he sprayed pepper spray at police and attempted to attack them with a bow and arrow and a hammer. Lane feels that the "American Farm Bureau" is monitoring him because of his use of a certain credit card and that "others" are monitoring him because of his views expressed on call-in radio shows. Dr. Anderholm explained that these behaviors demonstrate referential thinking, related to his paranoid schizophrenia, that cause him to feel that he is being threatened. Both Dr. Anderholm and Dr. Schwartzkopf reported that Lane talks and laughs when no stimuli are present.

We affirm the district court's finding that Lane is mentally ill. That said, it is not advisable for a district court to adopt expert reports in their entirety without making independent findings of fact as required by statute. See Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 590 (Minn. App. 1992) (determining district court's verbatim adoption of party's proposed findings and conclusions of law raises question of whether district court independently evaluated testimony and evidence), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993). It is a nonassignable duty of the district court to particularize and make findings of fact that support the elements required by statute.

Lane challenges the district court's finding that no less-restrictive alternatives to commitment exist. The district court explicitly listed several less restrictive alternatives that it considered, then found that those alternatives "would not provide the necessary treatment for the respondent" because Lane "is unwilling to voluntarily complete treatment and has no insight into his mental illness." The district court further found that Lane's mental illness "can only be treated on an inpatient basis" because he "will not voluntarily seek treatment."

While not providing a surplus of detail, the findings are sufficient to support the conclusion that less restrictive treatments are not appropriate, and that conclusion is supported by the evidence. Lane reported to Dr. Anderholm that he does not need medications. Dr. Anderholm opined that without commitment, Lane will not follow through with outpatient treatment or medication and that he lacks insight into his illness.

We grant the state's motion to strike the portions of Lane's appendix that include papers not submitted to the district court. Appellate records consist of "[t]he papers filed in the trial court, the exhibits, and the transcript of the proceedings." Minn. R. App. P. 110.01. We normally do not consider papers not filed in a district court. Village Apartments v. State (In re Real Prop. Taxes), 335 N.W.2d 717, 718 n.3 (Minn. 1983). At times, we consider papers not submitted to a district court when it is "documentary evidence of a conclusive nature." Id. (citation omitted). Here, none of the documents are of a conclusive nature for issues implicated in this case.

Affirmed.