This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).







In the Matter of the

Civil Commitment of

William Richard Iverson.



Filed November 16, 2004


Klaphake, Judge


Washington County District Court

File No. PX-04-1360


William Richard Iverson, Minnesota Correctional Facility-OPH, 5329 Osgood Avenue North, Stillwater, MN  55082 (pro se appellant)


Doug Johnson, Washington County Attorney, Richard D. Hodsdon, Assistant County Attorney, Washington County Government Center, 14949 62nd Street North, P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, MN  55082 (for respondent Washington County)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Harten, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant William Richard Iverson challenges his commitment as mentally ill and the authorization of involuntary administration of neuroleptic medication.  Because the district court’s findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence, and because the district court ruled correctly on matters of law, we affirm.


            When reviewing a commitment as mentally ill, the appellate court will not reverse the district court’s findings of fact unless clearly erroneous.  In re McGaughey, 536 N.W.2d 621, 623 (Minn. 1995).  Whether the evidence is sufficient to meet the standard for commitment is a matter of law subject to de novo review.  In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995).

            A “person who is mentally ill” is defined in pertinent part as

                        any person 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;


                                    . . . .


                                    (3)       a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others[.]


Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (2002).

            The district court found that appellant suffers from a mental illness, specifically schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and that he poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to himself or others as demonstrated by his failure to obtain necessities and his recent attempt or threat to harm himself or others.  These findings are supported by the testimony of the mental health experts as to his deteriorating psychological condition, his failure to take his medication, and his behavior, which included carrying an aluminum bat, making threatening statements about hurting others, and making threats to his psychologist.  Based on this clear and convincing evidence, the district court properly committed appellant as mentally ill.

            Appellant also challenges the district court’s authorization of the involuntary administration of neuroleptic medication to treat his mental illness.  If a patient refuses to consent to treatment with neuroleptic medication, it may not be administered without a court order.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.092, subd. 8(a) (2002).  The court must first determine whether the patient has the capacity to make an informed decision about treatment.  Id., subd. 5(b) (2002).  If not, the court must decide whether the medication should be administered.  Id., subd. 7(a), (c) (2002).

            Here, the district court determined that appellant lacked the capacity to make decisions as to the use of neuroleptic medication because he lacked sufficient awareness of the nature of his illness, the reason for hospitalization, the possible consequences of refusing treatment, and the risks and benefits of treatment.  The court further found that appellant responds very well to the medication, that he tolerates the medication well, and that there was no record of any noteworthy side effects from the use of the medication.  The court concluded that a reasonable person would accept the administration of neuroleptic medication as the proper course of treatment.  We conclude that the district court applied the proper standards and that clear and convincing evidence supported its decision to authorize the involuntary administration of neuroleptic medication.

            Next, appellant claims that his attorney did not provide effective assistance because he was not a disability lawyer.  A challenge that a person in a commitment proceeding was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel is assessed by the standard used in criminal cases.  In re Cordie, 372 N.W.2d 24, 28 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Sept. 26, 1985).  The test is whether counsel “fails to exercise the diligence of a reasonably competent attorney under similar circumstances.”  Id.  A commitment is reversible for lack of effective assistance of counsel only if prejudice results.  Id. at 29.  Appellant has not shown either ineffective assistance of counsel or that he was prejudiced as a result.

            Appellant also asserted that he was denied his constitutional right to a trial by jury in a commitment proceeding.  This argument has no basis because the supreme court has held that there is no right to a jury trial in a commitment proceeding.  State ex rel. Pearson v. Probate Court of Ramsey County, 205 Minn. 545, 556-57, 287 N.W. 297, 303 (1939), aff’d, 309 U.S. 270, 60 S. Ct. 523 (1940); see also Joelson v. O’Keefe, 594 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. App. 1999) (recognizing that supreme court has rejected argument that jury trial is required in commitment proceedings), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999).

            Appellant’s remaining claims have no merit.  The district court’s decision committing appellant as mentally ill and authorizing the involuntary administration of neuroleptic medication is affirmed.