This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Scott D. Lee, Alleged Chemically Dependent.
Filed December 31, 2002
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Paul C. Clabo, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka County Government Center, 2100 Third Avenue, Seventh Floor, Anoka, MN 55303-2265 (for respondent Anoka County Social Services)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Appellant Scott D. Lee challenges the district court's judgment committing him as chemically dependent, arguing the court erred or abused its discretion by admitting certain evidence and by concluding that he is chemically dependent and commitment is the least restrictive treatment alternative. We affirm.
On April 24, 2002, respondent Anoka County Social Services filed a petition to judicially commit Lee as chemically dependent. The petition alleged that Lee had been using up to $1,000 of crack cocaine daily for the previous three months and had recently crashed his car while driving and smoking crack. The district court ordered Lee held at the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center pending a commitment hearing. While there, Lee was discovered using cocaine that was apparently brought to him by his girlfriend.
At the commitment hearing, Lee objected to the introduction of a police report recounting his cocaine use in the treatment center, contending the report was inadmissible hearsay under the Minnesota Rules of Evidence. The district court admitted the report, reasoning that the applicable evidentiary standard is provided by Commitment and Treatment Act Rule 15, which allows a court considering a commitment to admit "all relevant, reliable evidence, including but not limited to [a party's] medical records, without requiring foundation witnesses."
The court-appointed examiner testified that Lee, by his own account, has been chemically dependent all his life, has participated in approximately 12 voluntary drug treatment programs without success, and suffers from an "extremely severe" cocaine dependence. The examiner recommended that the court commit Lee to a six-month court-supervised inpatient-treatment program and cited Lee's crack use inside the detox facility as evidence that voluntary outpatient treatment was inappropriate.
An Anoka County social worker who worked with Lee testified that he had investigated various outpatient treatment programs and concluded, based on Lee's severe addiction and history of failed treatments, that they were not suited to Lee's treatment needs. The social worker recommended commitment to an involuntary inpatient program. Lee's secretary testified that Lee had told her that his recent car accident occurred because he was using cocaine while driving. She also said that on a recent visit to Lee's house she had noticed it to be filthy, in disrepair, and cluttered with crack paraphernalia. The court also heard testimony that Lee's mother had recently seen him use crack between 10 and 15 times in a single day-long visit.
The district court concluded that Lee was chemically dependent and that judicial commitment was the least restrictive means to meet his treatment needs. The court ordered Lee committed to the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center for an initial period not to exceed six months.
Our review of a judicial commitment is limited to determining whether the commitment was justified by findings based upon evidence presented at the hearing. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). The district court's findings of fact will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01; In re Galusha, 372 N.W.2d 843, 847 (Minn. App. 1985). Whether the evidence is sufficient to meet the standard for commitment is a question of law, which we review de novo. Knops, 536 N.W.2d at 620. We view the record in the light most favorable to the district court's decision. Id.
1. The Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act provides that if the district court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed patient is a chemically dependent person, it shall commit the patient to the least restrictive treatment program capable of meeting the patient's needs, provided there is no suitable alternative to commitment. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1(a) (2002). A "chemically dependent person" is
any person (a) determined as being incapable of self-management or management of personal affairs by reason of the habitual and excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances; and (b) whose recent conduct as a result of habitual and excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others as demonstrated by (i) a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others, (ii) evidence of recent serious physical problems, or (iii) a failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2 (2002).
"Self-management," within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2, refers to the handling of ordinary events that arise in daily living. In re Heurung, 446 N.W.2d 694, 696 (Minn. App. 1989). One who "self-manages" performs ordinary activities, copes with ordinary stresses, and independently cares for oneself in the ordinary course of daily life. Id. The inability to self-manage must result from chemical use. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2; see also Galusha, 372 N.W.2d at 847 (holding that patient cannot adequately perform ordinary activities of daily life due to his inability to manage his drinking, control his aggressive behavior, take medication, and care for himself).
The district court specifically found that Lee is rendered incapable of self-management by his habitual and excessive cocaine use. The court found that Lee (1) had been unable, despite at least 12 treatment programs, to control his cocaine dependency; (2) had recently crashed his car while smoking crack; (3) had completely stopped going to work several months earlier; and (4) smoked crack while in court-ordered detox prior to the hearing.
Lee concedes his cocaine addiction but argues that it does not render him incapable of self-management because the car crash and the detox incident were exceptional, not ordinary, events, and are not relevant to self-management under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2. He also argues the mere fact of addiction is insufficient to prove his inability to self-manage. Lee evidently still has the resources to finance his cocaine habit and has thus far avoided being convicted for, or causing injury or death to himself or others by, purchasing and using cocaine. But the record before us shows that Lee's addiction has caused him to consistently engage in illegal and life-threatening activity, disregard his professional and domestic responsibilities, and otherwise behave in a manner inconsistent with meaningful self-management.
The record also indicates that Lee's addiction, if not effectively treated, will continue to harm his ability to self-manage. As the district court pointedly noted after observing Lee and hearing the witnesses:
[Lee] is such an incredible addict it looks to me like maybe the next time his family gathers he'll be in the front of the room flat on his back in a pine box.
We conclude the district court did not clearly err by determining that Lee's cocaine use has rendered him incapable of managing himself or his affairs.
Lee challenges the district court's finding that his recent conduct as a result of habitual and excessive use of crack poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others. The district court credited testimony that Lee was recently involved in a one-car accident on the freeway while he was smoking crack and driving, finding the single incident serious enough to constitute a threat of harm. Lee argues that the accident did not constitute a threat to harm himself or others because there was no intent to harm.
We have held that the commitment statute requires either a threat to harm oneself or others or a threat of harm to oneself or others; it is sufficient that an individual create a risk. See In re Burmeister, 391 N.W.2d 89, 91 (Minn. App. 1986). Driving while using crack creates a risk. The district court did not clearly err by finding that Lee poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others.
2. After making a threshold determination that the person is chemically dependent and that there is no suitable alternative to commitment, the district court "shall commit the patient to the least restrictive treatment program or alternative programs which can meet the patient's treatment needs." Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1(a) (2002). The court must consider
a range of treatment alternatives including, but not limited to, community-based nonresidential treatment, community residential treatment, partial hospitalization, acute care hospital, and regional treatment center services.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1(b) (2002). It must also consider the "proposed patient's treatment preferences and willingness to participate in the treatment ordered." Id. "The court may not commit a patient to a facility or program that is not capable of meeting the patient's needs." Id. The district court must examine whether the facility has the potential of treating the patient. In re Cieminski, 374 N.W.2d 289, 292 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Nov. 18, 1985).
Here, both an Anoka county social worker and the court-appointed examiner recommended that Lee be committed to involuntary inpatient treatment. The social worker testified that he researched various treatment alternatives, including the Hazelden Treatment Center and the Fairview University Medical Center, but concluded that given Lee's long history of failed voluntary treatment programs and inability to refrain from using crack even in a facility like the Anoka-Metro Treatment Center, an involuntary inpatient program would be appropriate.
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).
3. Lee argues that the district court erred by admitting hearsay evidence of his alleged use of crack during a pre-hearing court-ordered stay at the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center. We disagree. The contested evidence consisted of reports prepared by the Anoka police and detox center employees describing the incident and attributing statements to Lee.
Lee also challenges statements made at the hearing by the examiner and the social worker as inadmissible hearsay. Lee contends that the Commitment and Treatment Act Rules, on which the district court based its evidentiary ruling, do not waive the hearsay rules provided in the Minnesota Rules of Evidence.
The interpretation of procedural rules is a question of law subject to de novo review. Kastner v. Star Trails Ass'n, 646 N.W.2d 235, 238 (Minn. 2002). A district court has broad discretion in determining the relevance of evidence. State v. Boitnott, 443 N.W.2d 527, 534 (Minn. 1989).
The Commitment and Treatment Act Rules apply "in any proceedings brought under [Minn. Stat. § ] 253B, and its amendments," such as the hearing here. Minn. R. Civ. Commitment 1(a). Minn. R. Civ. Commitment 15 provides: "The Court may admit all relevant, reliable evidence, including but not limited to the respondent's medical records, without requiring foundation witnesses." The rules
shall supersede any other body of rules otherwise applicable (e.g., the Rules of Civil Procedure for the District Courts, Probate Court Rules, etc.) in conflict with these Special Rules.
Minn. R. Civ. Commitment 1(b).
The language of the Commitment and Treatment Act Rules plainly allows the district court to admit evidence it deems relevant and reliable and to waive the admissibility requirements established by "any other body of rules." Lee's argument that the court was bound to follow the Minnesota Rules of Evidence appears to have little merit. Lee's reliance on In re Martin, 458 N.W.2d 700, 703-04 (Minn. App. 1990), in which this court rejected evidence offered in a commitment hearing as hearsay, appears misplaced in that Martin was decided a decade before the effective date of the Commitment and Treatment Act Rules.
The standard for admissibility here, as in all commitment proceedings, was whether the evidence was "relevant and reliable." The district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the evidence was relevant and reliable and by admitting all the contested evidence.