This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Kevin Goodno, Commissioner of Human Services,
Filed May 17, 2005
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Barbara Berg Windels, Assistant Attorney General, 900 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134 (for respondent Goodno)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, John L. Kirwin, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Appellant James C. LeMasters petitioned the Department of Human Services to transfer him from the secure sex offender treatment facility at Moose Lake to a nonsecure facility that he argued could more appropriately treat his mental illness. The Department of Human Services denied LeMasters's petition, and LeMasters appealed to the Judicial Appeal Panel. The panel dismissed the appeal under Minn. R. Civ. P. 41.02(b), finding LeMasters had not made a prima facie case that he is entitled to a transfer. We affirm.
In 1991, LeMasters pleaded guilty to multiple accounts of criminal sexual conduct for molesting four children, resulting in concurrent sentences of 122 months, 86 months, and 30 months. At the end of his confinement, the district court determined that LeMasters was a sexually psychopathic personality and a sexually dangerous person and ordered that he be indefinitely civilly committed. LeMasters was placed in the Moose Lake sex offender treatment facility.
In the spring of 2004, LeMasters petitioned the Department of Human Services requesting that he be transferred to a nonsecure facility. LeMasters argued he was a mentally ill person, which required his transfer to a facility that could treat his mental illness. Staff members for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program opposed LeMasters's petition, arguing that the type of facility LeMasters was seeking does not currently exist and would not be appropriate for him if it did. The Department of Human Services denied LeMasters's petition.
LeMasters sought review before a Judicial Appeal Panel, which conducted a de novo trial on the appropriateness of LeMasters's petition. At the trial, LeMaster's offered the testimony of James Alsdurf, a clinical psychologist. Alsdurf testified that in his opinion LeMasters should not be transferred because the Moose Lake facility "is the best place for him to be with the most well trained appropriate staff to address his treatment needs." Alsdurf also testified that
the very notion of [transferring] him to a different facility misses the whole point. He is a dangerous pedophile who is highly likely to reoffend. That is why he is there. That is why he needs treatment there. Short of some abrupt psychiatric circumstance that would require him to be hospitalized, I can't imagine what the basis would be for placing him in a different facility.
LeMasters was the only other witness to testify. He testified that he was being abused at Moose Lake and he needed to be transferred "to another program that is safe."
After LeMasters rested his case, the Department of Human Services moved the panel to dismiss the petition under Minn. R. Civ. P. 41 because LeMasters had failed to make a prima facie showing that he was entitled to a transfer. The Judicial Appeal Panel granted the motion.
The decision of the Judicial Appeal Panel regarding civil commitment "supercede[s] the order of the commissioner [of Human Services] in the cases." Minn. Stat. § 253B.19, subd. 3 (2004). In reviewing a Judicial Appeal Panel's decision, we will affirm if the evidence as a whole sustains the appeal panel's findings. Piotter v. Steffen, 490 N.W. 2d 915, 919 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Nov. 17, 1992).
A person who has been judicially determined to be a sexually psychopathic personality or sexually dangerous person "shall not be transferred out of a secure treatment facility unless it appears . . . that the transfer is appropriate." Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 6 (2004); see also Minn. Stat. § 253B.185, subd. 1 (2004) (stating persons committed as sexually psychopathic personalities or sexually dangerous are generally subject to same rules/procedures as persons committed as mentally ill and dangerous). When determining whether a transfer is appropriate the following factors are to be considered:
(i) the person's clinical progress and present treatment needs;
(ii) the need for security to accomplish continuing treatment;
(iii) the need for continued institutionalization;
(iv) which facility can best meet the person's needs; and
(v) whether transfer can be accomplished with a reasonable degree of safety for the public.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 6.
Here, the Judicial Appeal Panel concluded that LeMasters had not met his burden of proof to show a transfer was appropriate because "(a) he has not made adequate clinical progress to warrant a transfer, and his present treatment needs cannot be met in an open hospital setting; (b) he still needs treatment in a secure setting; (c) his need for institutionalization cannot be adequately met in an open hospital; (d) [The Minnesota Sex Offender Program] is the facility most suited to meet his current treatment needs; and (e) transfer to an open hospital cannot be accomplished with a reasonable degree of safety for the public." These findings directly address each factor in Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 6 and are supported by the record before us. LeMasters did not present any testimony refuting Alsdurf's opinion. We conclude the record supports the Judicial Appeal Panel's decision to dismiss LeMasters's petition for failure to present a prima facie case for transfer.
The Judicial Appeal Panel is formed under Minn. Stat. § 253B.19, subd. 1 (2004), which instructs the supreme court to "establish an appeal panel composed of three judges . . . appointed from among acting judges of the state."