may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Charles A. Dion,
Commissioner of Human Services,
Filed July 20, 1999
Judicial Appeal Panel
File No. 189
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Narda M. Jones, Assistant Attorney General, 900 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Department of Human Services)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, E. George Widseth, Assistant County Attorney, A-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.[*]
Appellant challenges the judicial appeal panel's decision affirming the denial of his petition for transfer to a less restrictive hospital. We affirm.
Appellant Charles Dion has a long history of criminal activity, and he has admitted to committing at least six or seven rapes. His first conviction occurred in 1973 when he pleaded guilty to burglary; the prosecutor dismissed related attempted rape and assault charges. In 1976, prison officials sent him to Anoka State Hospital for a medical parole evaluation. After eloping from that hospital, Dion viciously attacked a woman in her home with a hammer and raped her. Dion pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Commitment proceedings were commenced, and in 1977 the district court committed him to the Minnesota Security Hospital for an indeterminate period as mentally ill and dangerous.
Dion was diagnosed with schizophrenia, anti-social personality disorder, and was found to abuse alcohol and drugs. Although he took neuroleptic medications for many years, he continued to experience symptoms. It was only when he began to take the neuroleptic medication Clozaril in 1993 that he experienced a dramatic improvement. Presently, his mental illness is in remission except for some residual symptoms, he no longer exhibits antisocial behavior, and he is engaging in meaningful treatment.
Dion petitioned for transfer to an open hospital. At the hearing before the judicial appeal panel, the members of his treatment team testified unanimously in support of Dion's petition. The only dissenting opinion was from the supervisor of his Hennepin County Adult Protection Services case worker. While originally supporting the petition, after looking at Dion's record more closely, the supervisor opposed it on public safety grounds. Her opposition was based on statements Dion has made since 1996, in which he "sexualized' female staff members, questioned the need for continued treatment, expressed confusion as to whether women want to be raped, and asked a member of his treatment team whether he could have sex with female patients. The supervisor believed Dion needed a longer transition period before transfer, and also recommended that he avail himself of new sexual issues programming being developed.
The appeal panel denied Dion's petition for transfer and he appeals.
On review, this court will reverse the decision of the appeal panel only if their decision was clearly erroneous. Jarvis v. Levine, 364 N.W.2d 473, 474 (Minn. App. 1985). But we need not defer on questions of law. In re Stilinovich, 479 N.W.2d 731, 734 (Minn. App. 1992).
A person committed indeterminately as mentally ill and dangerous may be transferred from the Minnesota Security hospital only as set out in the statute. Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 6 (1998). After the Commissioner of Human Services denied Dion's petition for transfer pursuant to section 253B.18, he sought rehearing and reconsideration from the judicial appeal panel. Minn. Stat. § 253B.19, subd. 2 (1998). The appeal panel had the following factors to consider in deciding whether to grant Dion's petition for transfer
(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 a transfer can be accomplished with a reasonable degree of safety for the public.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 6 (1998); see Piotter v. Steffen, 490 N.W.2d 915, 920 (Minn. App. 1992) (holding panel should address factors), review denied (Minn. Nov. 17, 1992).
It is undisputed that Dion has made significant progress since he began to take Clozaril in 1993 and engage in treatment, and that he continues to need treatment and institutionalization. At issue are whether public safety concerns require a longer transition period at the security hospital before transfer to the open hospital and where he should receive sex offender treatment.
In denying the petition, the appeal panel concluded that even though Dion has made excellent progress, he continues to have significant unresolved issues regarding his sexual thoughts and beliefs. "Given the highly aggressive and dangerous nature of the appellant's past behavior," the court was not satisfied that his treatment needs regarding his sexual behavior and attitude were adequately addressed. Further, the court did not believe that Dion could be transferred to an open hospital with a reasonable degree of public safety at the present time.
Dion contends that the decision by the appeal panel should be reversed. He argues that the weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of his transfer, citing unanimous support from the security hospital staff who were familiar with his condition and the court-appointed psychologist. Only his case manager's supervisor, who had no on-going contact with Dion, opposed the petition. See Piotter, 490 N.W.2d at 920 (holding appeal panel was clearly erroneous in approving transfer, where it ignored "vast weight" of evidence provided by hospital treatment personnel in favor of evidence from court-appointed examiner, patient, and patient's wife).
The appeal panel, in detailed findings, based its decision on Dion's history and his own statements, as well as the recommendations by the adult protection services supervisor. There was evidence in the record to support its determination that public safety concerns exist about appellant's transfer to the open hospital, particularly where he would have a great deal more access--sometimes unsupervised--to women, including patients. Further, Dion needs additional sex offender treatment which the security hospital will offer. The appeal panel's decision is not clearly erroneous.
[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.