Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re: Andrew Paul Foltz.
Filed April 14, 1998
Isanti County District Court
File No. P197706
Clark Joslin, Isanti County Attorney, G. Paul Beaumaster, Assistant County Attorney, Isanti County Government Center, 555 18th Avenue Southwest, Cambridge, MN 55008 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.
The trial court denied appellant's petition for discharge, filed about two weeks after appellant was rehospitalized following revocation of a stayed commitment. Because the trial court findings are sufficient to support its application of statutory standards, we affirm.
Several days after his rehospitalization, appellant moved for his discharge under Minn. Stat. § 253B.17, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997), claiming that he was no longer mentally ill or no longer in need of hospital care. The trial court denied his motion on September 15, 1997, but appellant was provisionally discharged by medical staff on October 6. This appeal is on the trial court's denial of appellant's discharge motion.
Appellant contends the trial court did not have clear and convincing evidence to support its decision rejecting his petition for discharge.
Appellant's argument fails in great part as a matter of law. He disputes the adequacy of evidence to show recent manifestations of danger to himself or others, a reference to the definition of "mentally ill person" that governs initial commitment decisions. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (Supp. 1997). But section 253B.17, subdivision 1, permitting discharge on the petition of a patient already committed, based on a claim the patient is no longer "mentally ill" or no longer in need of hospital care, raises questions no different than those that arise when the trial court reviews an initial commitment, governed by Minn. Stat. § 253B.12, subd. 4 (Supp. 1997), or the court considers a new petition to extend a period of commitment, governed by Minn. Stat. § 253B.13, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997). When determining if the patient remains "mentally ill" at the time of a review, the court "need not find that there has been a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others, or a recent failure to provide necessary personal food, clothing, shelter, or medical care." Minn. Stat. § 253B.12, subd. 4. Instead, the court must find that the person is likely to physically harm self or others or to fail to provide necessities unless the court continues the involuntary commitment. Id. These provisions of section 253B.12 are appropriately employed in section 253B.17 discharge proceedings.
The trial court found that appellant was mentally ill and presented a danger to himself, adopting the Cambridge Medical Center psychiatrist's report to the court. Appellant contends that his failure to take medication while hospitalized was the only evidence before the trial court to support its decision that he was likely to harm himself. He cites evidence showing he had obtained a job and a place to live after he eloped, that the farm family accommodated his limitations, and that the court-appointed examiner did not believe he posed a danger to himself or others.
There was sufficient evidence to permit the finding that appellant remained dangerous to himself unless his commitment was continued. The psychiatrist's report, incorporated into the trial court's order, stated that appellant exhibits continuing symptoms of his mental illness, including auditory hallucinations, paranoid thinking, posturing, and threats toward others. The psychiatrist found that appellant had exceedingly poor insight and totally denied his mental illness. He continued to eat very poorly and was suspicious of food and refused medication. Previously, appellant's paranoid beliefs led to a severe loss of weight. See In re Adams, 352 N.W.2d 117, 119 (Minn. App. 1984) (continued commitment upheld where patient not medically stabilized, did not acknowledge need to take medication regularly or bring behavior under control, and no community facility was willing to accept patient).
Appellant also argues that the trial court's discharge refusal should be reversed because the court failed to make the findings required to support its decision that commitment to the hospital was the least restrictive alternative. Minn. Stat. § 253B.12, subd. 7 (Minn. 1996) (court must consider and reject less restrictive alternatives, providing reasons for rejecting alternatives). See In re Stewart, 352 N.W.2d 811, 813 (Minn. App. 1984) (continued commitment remanded for findings). Respondent, while not disputing the gap in trial court findings, contends that the issue is moot because appellant was provisionally discharged to permit return to his farm job, the placement he had sought.
An appellate court will decide only "actual controversies." In re Schmidt, 443 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn. 1989). Issues will not be considered if the court is "unable to grant effectual relief." Id. Because appellant has achieved the exact relief he sought, this court need do nothing to effectuate the relief sought by appellant and the issue is moot. See In re Robledo, 341 N.W.2d 278, 279 (Minn. 1983) (holding issues as to untimely preliminary hearing moot when appellant admitted mental illness and was provisionally discharged).
In determining the question of mootness, we have considered whether the absence of current review of alternatives leaves appellant exposed to the risk of revocation without consideration of this issue. There is no such risk. By statute, revocation must be the least restrictive alternative action of the court. Minn. Stat. § 253B.15, subds. 2(i), 3c, 5 (Supp. 1997). And it may be necessary for the trial court to consider any specific expected placement, taking into account its findings on less restrictive alternatives. See In re Roberds, 473 N.W.2d 378, 380 (Minn. App. 1991) (recognizing findings of least restrictive alternative may be appropriate in proceedings for revocation of a stayed commitment, even though governing statute does not address the topic).