This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of
Patrick James Scanlon
Filed June 13, 2006
Ramsey County District Court
File Nos. 62-MH-PR-05-29; 62-P9-03-000190
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Margaret L. Gustafson, Special Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 560, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
Kathleen K. Rauenhorst, Rauenhorst & Associates, 225 Rosedale Towers, 1700 West Highway 36, Roseville, MN 55113 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Chief Judge Toussaint, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Patrick James Scanlon challenges the district
court’s finding that he is mentally ill and dangerous, and he challenges its
decision to commit him to the
Patrick Scanlon’s civil commitment follows his documented attacks on six people during four incidents occurring over a 20-month period. The attacks were unprovoked and increasingly violent.
first two attacks were in April 2003, shortly after he was admitted to the
psychiatric unit at
Scanlon’s next two assaults occurred within about four months of the termination of his commitment. In March 2004, a fellow university student noticed Scanlon talking and laughing to himself, seeming unstable. Two days later Scanlon accused another student of discussing Scanlon’s failing grade, and he struck the student with his fist. A second student intervened. Scanlon grabbed that student by the throat. He yelled a racially derogatory expletive and, while clutching a “large piece of lead” in his fist, repeatedly struck the student in the face and head and pulled out some of his hair. This victim went to the hospital for medical treatment for various open head wounds.
Scanlon attacked his mother and stepfather in October 2004 in the fifth and sixth assaults. He first threatened to kill them, explaining later that he believed his stepfather had been “transmitting thoughts” that he would strike Scanlon with a fireplace poker. Scanlon’s threat sent his fearful mother and stepfather to a hotel. But they returned that evening, concluding mistakenly that Scanlon had calmed. When Scanlon’s mother questioned his Nazi affiliation, he became enraged and profane. His stepfather interceded verbally. Scanlon got a baseball bat and beat his stepfather repeatedly “below the neck.” He also struck his mother with the bat, breaking her finger. Scanlon took the bat outside and smashed their car windows. The beating hospitalized Scanlon’s stepfather for about two weeks.
These assaults led prosecutors to charge Scanlon criminally. Scanlon pleaded guilty in November 2003 for the chair assault on the patient, and in May 2004 for the lead-object assault on the student. Scanlon pleaded guilty in May 2005 after ultimately being found competent for trial for the baseball-bat assault on his parents.
The state petitioned the district court for Scanlon’s commitment under Minnesota Statutes sections 253B.07 and 611.026 (2004). The district court conducted the hearing required by Minnesota Statutes section 253B.18, subdivision 1 (2004), and, after a thorough recitation of factual findings and legal conclusions, ordered Scanlon committed to the Minnesota State Security Hospital as mentally ill and dangerous.
Scanlon appeals that commitment, asserting that the district court erred by finding him dangerous and by committing him to the state security hospital.
D E C I S I O N
challenge to the district court’s commitment decision separately raises
questions of fact and law. The district
court is statutorily authorized and required to commit any patient to a
treatment facility if the court finds the patient to be “mentally ill and
dangerous to the public,” as defined in Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17
(2004), following the procedures described in Minn. Stat. § 253B.18 (2004). But it must so commit a person only upon
clear and convincing evidence of mental illness and public danger. Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 1. We therefore review the district court’s
commitment decision to determine whether it meets the statutory requirements,
including whether it rests on clear and convincing evidence. In re
Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (
a district court’s conclusion that the record supports a commitment is a
question of law, however, we review challenges to that conclusion de novo. In re
Civil Commitment of Martin, 661 N.W.2d 632, 638 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (
Scanlon concedes that he is mentally ill, but he disputes the district court’s determination that he is dangerous. He argues first that the psychological reports that the district court relied on fail to support the determination because they were unclear and contradictory, and because they were rebutted by Scanlon’s own testimony. We construe this argument as a request that we reweigh the conflicting evidence to make our own credibility determination, and we decline to do so. Knops, 536 N.W.2d at 620. Our review of the record convinces us that the district court’s construction of the facts was not clearly erroneous. This leaves the questions as to whether the record, viewed most favorably to the district court’s commitment decision, supports its conclusion that Scanlon is dangerous to the public.
maintains that the record lacks sufficient evidence linking his mental illness to
his overt acts of violence toward his mother and stepfather. But we believe the record includes evidence
that Scanlon’s mental illness presents him as “a clear danger to the safety of
others as demonstrated by the fact that . . . [he] has engaged in an overt
act causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm to another.”
We next answer Scanlon’s charge that the evidence was insufficient to support the district court’s finding that he was likely to engage in acts capable of seriously harming others. Commitment as mentally ill and dangerous as defined under section 253B.02 requires proof that “there is a substantial likelihood that the person will engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on another.” Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17(b)(ii). A substantial likelihood of future dangerousness may be demonstrated by past conduct, along with supporting medical testimony. See In re Clemons, 494 N.W.2d 519, 520-21 (Minn. App. 1993) (affirming commitment based on determination of likelihood of future serious physical harm when the challenger apparently had delusional apparitional experiences that led to recent attempts to beat demons out of her grandchild); In re Grafstrom, 490 N.W.2d 632, 637 (Minn. App. 1992) (noting that “this court has allowed a determination of dangerousness to be based upon past conduct” and endorsing district court’s consideration of factually based, supporting medical testimony). Scanlon engaged in a series of assaults against six people—each assault escalating in violence—without any reasonable provocation. A forensic psychiatrist concluded that Scanlon presented “a moderate to high level of short term risk of violence” despite “his recent conversion to nonviolence.” Additionally, a forensic psychologist cited empirical factors relevant to future violence and reported that Scanlon’s history is consistent with individuals posing a risk of future aggressive and violent behavior. There is ample evidence to support the district court’s conclusion that there is a substantial likelihood that Scanlon would engage in harmful conduct.
Scanlon contends that the district court erred by committing him to the security
hospital. We disagree. The district court was required to commit
Scanlon “to a secure treatment facility unless [Scanlon] establishe[d] by clear
and convincing evidence that a less restrictive treatment program was available
that [was] consistent with [his] treatment needs and the requirements of public
The district did not clearly err in weighing the competing testimony. Its finding that Scanlon is mentally ill and dangerous was supported by clear and convincing evidence. Scanlon failed to introduce clear and convincing evidence that a less restrictive and suitable program was available instead of commitment to the security hospital.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.