This opinion will be unpublished and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:

Renee P. Sharp.


Filed March 12, 2002


Robert H. Schumacher, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File Nos. P99335403, P29435804



Renee P. Sharp, 4410 West Lake Harriet Parkway, Apartment 100, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (pro se appellant)


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



Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Hanson, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*



Appellant Renee P. Sharp challenges her civil commitment to a state hospital. In a separate appeal to this court, Sharp challenged the original commitment order of May 8, 2001. This appeal challenges the district court's order of July 31, 2001, denying Sharp's motion for discharge under Minn. Stat. 253B.17 (2000). Sharp alleges that the evidence was insufficient to involuntarily commit her, the district court erred in considering her use of alcohol, and she cannot be forced to take neuroleptic medicine because it has the effect of prohibiting her from becoming pregnant. We affirm.


On May 8, 2001, the district court committed Sharp as a mentally ill person after a hearing on the Hennepin County Medical Center's petition.[1] On June 25, 2001, Sharp filed a motion to discharge her commitment pursuant to Minn. Stat. 253B.17, subd. 1 (2000), claiming her commitment no longer was necessary. Following a hearing, the district court denied Sharp's motion. Sharp appeals from this order of July 31, 2001.

Sharp is a 45-year-old woman who has a history of hospitalization for treatment of mental illness dating back to 1993. At the time of the motion to dismiss, Sharp was still a patient under the May 8, 2001 commitment order. She has since been released, subsequent to her filing this appeal.

At the July hearing on Sharp's motion, her treating physician, Dr. Kenneth Kuhn, testified in support of Sharp's continued commitment. Dr. Kuhn testified that Sharp has chronic paranoid schizophrenia. The court-appointed examiner, Dr. Paul Reitman, testified as well. Dr. Reitman gave a similar, although not identical, diagnosis: psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified, with the possibility of paranoid schizophrenia and a delusional disorder. Treatment for each of these diagnoses does not differ significantly. Dr. Kuhn testified that Sharp has no insight into her mental illness and denies that she is mentally ill. Sharp has a history of non-compliance with her neuroleptic medications, and Dr. Kuhn testified that he believed she would not take the medication if left unmonitored.

According to the testimony, Sharp's treatment for mental illness has been adversely affected by her persistent and excessive use of alcohol. Sharp's mental condition has been treated with Haldol. Sharp has also been prescribed Antabuse, a drug used to curb excessive alcohol abuse, but she has a history of not taking it so as to allow her to drink. Alcohol adversely affects the effectiveness of the Haldol, and Haldol multiplies the sedative effects of alcohol. Dr. Kuhn testified that he would no longer prescribe Antabuse for Sharp because a person is in danger of heart failure if alcohol use continues while on the medication.

Dr. Kuhn testified that Sharp enjoys drinking and the effects of alcohol. Sharp does not believe she has a problem with alcohol, and she has demonstrated a consistent refusal to curb her alcohol use. Dr. Kuhn testified that Sharp uses alcohol "medicinally," which is very addictive, and she is very vulnerable to alcohol dependence.

The district court made extensive findings of fact. The court found that Dr. Kuhn's testimony and the court file are consistent and "indicate a diagnosis of chronic, paranoid schizophrenia has been in place for [Sharp] for at least eight years." The district court noted that the doctors disagreed as to the appropriate disposition Dr. Kuhn opining that continued confinement is necessary while Dr. Reitman believed that less restrictive alternatives would be appropriate for Sharp. The district court noted the testimony that treatment of Sharp's mental illness is "handicapped by her determination to use alcohol as she pleases." The court found that the alcohol consumption adversely affects the neuroleptic medicines and that Sharp is not a casual drinker.

The district court noted that Sharp does not believe she is mentally ill and refuses to acknowledge the danger and risk her alcohol use poses to her physical and mental well-being. The court found that Sharp had been unable to abstain from drinking even when such abstention was a condition to her being provisionally released for a holiday weekend. The district court also found that Sharp would not be able to abstain from alcohol use nor would even attempt to do so. Additionally, the court found that less restrictive placement was not therefore appropriate until Sharp demonstrated the ability to remain sober and allow her mental illness to be properly treated/controlled by the anti-psychotic medication.


When reviewing a civil commitment, the appellate court determines whether the district court complied with the requirements under the commitment statute. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). The district court is vested with the authority to resolve factual disputes and judge credibility. Flynn v. Sawyer, 272 N.W.2d 904, 909-10 (Minn. 1978). The district court's findings of fact are reversed only when clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.

After an individual has been committed as a mentally ill person, the head of the treatment facility may discharge or provisionally discharge that person as set forth in Minn. Stat. 253B.15, .16 (2000). Alternatively, the person may seek release before the expiration of the term of commitment by motion under Minn. Stat. 253B.17, subd. 1 (2000), which provides:

Any patient * * * may petition the committing court * * * for an order that the patient is not in need of continued care and treatment or for an order that an individual is no longer mentally ill * * * or for any other relief.


The state has the burden of proof. In re Harhut, 385 N.W.2d 305, 313 (1986). The statute states that the district court appoints an examiner, and if petitioner requests, a second examiner. Minn. Stat. 253B.17, subd. 3. These examiners file reports with the court. Id. The court then conducts a hearing, with patient and patient's counsel present, during which the court hears any relevant testimony or other evidence offered. Id., subd. 4.

The district court heard testimony of two physicians who had examined Sharp. These doctors were cross-examined by Sharp's counsel. The court made detailed and specific findings of fact based upon the evidence received at the hearing. These findings have support in the record; as such, they are not clearly erroneous. The district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Sharp's continued commitment was necessary.

The district court heard evidence regarding Sharp's use of alcohol. Sharp takes issue with this, arguing that the district court should not have considered this evidence, and, by doing so, improperly subjected her to "selective Prohibition" and improperly transformed the hearing into an issue regarding whether or not Sharp was "chemically dependent."

The district court did consider Sharp's excessive use of alcohol. This was relevant, however, to her continued confinement for mental illness. The court heard a great deal of testimony as to how Sharp's consistent refusal to abstain from alcohol adversely affected the neuroleptic medications Sharp needed to function. Sharp had a history of using and abusing alcohol despite the fact that doing so rendered the neuroleptic medications ineffective and also put her physical and mental well-being at risk. The district court's findings regarding Sharp's use of alcohol related to the testimony that this use was relevant to Sharp's mental health and the probability Sharp could function outside of the commitment facility. As such, the district court did not abuse its discretion by receiving the evidence regarding Sharp's use of alcohol nor in its findings regarding how that use related to her mental illness.

Sharp's allegations regarding the original commitment order were addressed in Sharp's other appeal and are not properly part of this appeal. Sharp did not raise the issue at the motion hearing below regarding any alleged effect of the neuroleptic medications on her ability to become pregnant. Accordingly, we do not address that issue here.


* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, 10.

[1] Sharp had earlier brought a motion before the district court to overturn the original commitment order. The district court denied that motion, and Sharp appealed. In a separate appeal, this court affirmed the district court's ruling on Sharp's original commitment. In re Sharp, C2-01-1147 (Minn. App. Jan. 22, 2002). This appeal relates only to the motion regarding her continued confinement.