In re Det. of M.K., 41584–4–II.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
Writing for the CourtVAN DEREN
Citation279 P.3d 897,168 Wash.App. 621
PartiesIn the Matter of the DETENTION OF M.K.
Docket NumberNo. 41584–4–II.,41584–4–II.
Decision Date05 June 2012

168 Wash.App. 621
279 P.3d 897

In the Matter of the DETENTION OF M.K.

No. 41584–4–II.

Court of Appeals of Washington,
Division 2.

June 5, 2012.

[279 P.3d 898]

Lise Ellner, Attorney at Law, Vashon, WA, for Appellant.

Katy Anne Hatfield, WA State Attorney General's Office, Olympia, WA, Robert Andrew Antanaitis, Attorney General of Washington, Olympia, WA, for Respondent.



[168 Wash.App. 622]¶ 1 M.K. 1 appeals a trial court order involuntarily committing him to Western State Hospital (WSH) for up to 180 days of mental health treatment, asserting that substantial evidence does not support the determination that he is gravely disabled and the resulting commitment order. The State responds that M.K.'s appeal is moot because the period of commitment under the challenged order has expired. Alternatively, the State responds that substantial evidence supported the trial court's involuntary commitment order. Because an involuntary commitment order has collateral consequences for future commitment determinations, we hold that M.K.'s appeal is not moot. Additionally, because the trial court's sparse findings do not support the trial court's determination that M.K. is gravely disabled, we vacate the involuntary commitment order.2


¶ 2 After his arrest on September 18, 2009, for criminal trespass and obstructing a police officer, M.K. was involuntarily detained at WSH for a 14–day mental health evaluation and for involuntary mental health treatment under RCW 71.05.310 and .320. WSH staff determined that M.K. suffered from schizoaffective disorder bipolar type and that he exhibited antisocial personality traits. Following an interim 90–day commitment, on January 4, 2010, the superior[168 Wash.App. 623]court committed M.K. for 180 days of involuntary mental health treatment at WSH under RCW 71.05.320, concluding that M.K. met RCW 71.05.020(17)'s definition of “gravely disabled.” Clerk's Papers (CP) at 35. M.K. stipulated to the trial court's January 4 involuntary commitment order.

¶ 3 On June 14, 2010, WSH staff members Gregory Kramer, PhD, and Lanna Moore–Duncan, MD, filed a petition to involuntarily commit M.K. for an additional 180 days under chapter 71.05 RCW. On August 4, 2010, WSH staff members Joseph Wainer, MD, and Walter Tunstall, PhD, filed an amended petition to involuntarily commit M.K. for 180 days under the same statute. The June 14 and August 4 petitions alleged that M.K. was gravely disabled and that as a result of his

[279 P.3d 899]

mental disorder, he continued to present a likelihood of serious harm. The petitions further alleged that “no less restrictive alternatives to detention” were in M.K.'s best interests because he “require[d] intensive, supervised 24–hour restrictive care.” CP at 38, 48.

¶ 4 The trial court held a hearing on the involuntary commitment petitions on November 15, 2010, under chapter 71.05 RCW. It concluded that M.K. was gravely disabled and, on November 15, ordered an additional 180 days of involuntary commitment to WSH for further treatment.3 Other than a brief jurisdictional statement, the entirety of the trial court's brief findings of fact state:

Findings: The Court finds by [ ] a preponderance of the evidence

[x] clear, cogent and convincing evidence

that the Respondent:

[168 Wash.App. 624]When petition was filed, seemed to be responding to internal stimuli, impulsive, grandiose themes, threatening to peers[,] went on unauthorized leave. Assaultive on return, impaired judgment [and] insight, continues with grandiose themes, intrusive, rambling speech.

Diagnosis:Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar type ... Antisocial Personality traits

And that, as a result of a mental disorder, the Respondent presents:

[ ] a likelihood of serious harm to others;

[ ] a likelihood of serious harm to self;

[x] is gravely disabled;[ 4]

[ ] was taken into custody after having been determined incompetent pursuant to RCW 10.77 and has committed acts constituting a felony (although criminal charges have been dismissed) and as a result of a mental disorder, presents a substantial likelihood of repeating similar acts.

Less Restrictive Alternatives: Less Restrictive Alternatives to involuntary detention

[168 Wash.App. 625][ ] are

[x] are not in the best interests of the Respondent or others.

CP at 66.

¶ 5 The conclusions of law state, “The Respondent shall be detained for involuntary treatment or shall be treated under less restrictive alternatives per the Order Detaining Respondent below.” CP at 61. The trial court concluded that the evidence was not clear, cogent, and convincing that M.K. presented a danger to others.

¶ 6 M.K. timely appeals the involuntary commitment order based on grave disability.

[279 P.3d 900]


¶ 7 As an initial matter, the State asserts that we should decline to review the trial court's November 15 180–day involuntary commitment order because M.K.'s commitment period under the challenged order has expired and, thus, his appeal from the order is moot. Because an involuntary commitment order may have adverse consequences on future involuntary commitment determinations, we disagree and address M.K.'s appeal on the merits.5

¶ 8 Generally, we will dismiss an appeal where only moot or abstract questions remain or where the issues the parties raised in the trial court no longer exist. Norman v. Chelan County Pub. Hosp. Dist. No. 1, 100 Wash.2d 633, 635, 673 P.2d 189 (1983). An appeal is moot where it presents merely academic questions and where this court can no longer provide effective relief. See, e.g., [168 Wash.App. 626]In re Cross, 99 Wash.2d 373, 376–77, 662 P.2d 828 (1983). An individual's release from detention does not render an appeal moot where collateral consequences flow from the determination authorizing such detention. See, e.g., Born v. Thompson, 154 Wash.2d 749, 762–64, 117 P.3d 1098 (2005); Habeas Corpus of Monohan v. Burdman, 84 Wash.2d 922, 925, 530 P.2d 334 (1975). In the case of civil commitments under chapter 71.05 RCW, the trial court is directed to consider, in part, a history of recent 6 prior civil commitments, thus, each order of commitment entered up to three years before the current commitment hearing becomes a part of the evidence against a person seeking denial of a petition for commitment. SeeRCW 71.05.012 (“[C]onsideration of prior mental history is particularly relevant in determining whether the person would receive, if released, such care as is essential for his or her health or safety.”); RCW 71.05.212 (“When [ ] ... conducting an evaluation under this chapter, consideration shall include all reasonably available ... records regarding ... [p]rior commitments under this chapter.”); RCW 71.05.245. Accordingly, each commitment order has a collateral consequence in subsequent petitions and hearings, allowing us to render relief if we hold that the detention under a civil commitment order was not warranted.

¶ 9 The legislature's use of “recent history evidence” to support involuntary commitments appears to begin with our Supreme Court's decision in In re Detention of LaBelle, 107 Wash.2d 196, 206–07, 728 P.2d 138 (1986), which held:

By permitting intervention before a mentally ill person's condition reaches crisis proportions, [former] RCW 71.05.020(1)(b) [ (1979) ] enables the State to provide the kind of continuous care and treatment that could break the cycle and restore the individual to satisfactory functioning. Such intervention is consonant with one of the express legislative purposes of the involuntary treatment act, which is to “provide continuity of care for persons with serious mental disorders”. [Former] RCW 71.05.010(4) [ (1973) ].

[168 Wash.App. 627]¶ 10 LaBelle also provided careful guidelines for the kind of evidence that can be used to show that a person is gravely disabled:

[W]hen the State is proceeding under the gravely disabled standard of [former] RCW 71.05.020(1)(b), it is particularly important that the evidence provide a factual basis for concluding that an individual “manifests severe [mental] deterioration in routine functioning”. Such evidence must include recent proof of significant loss of cognitive or volitional control. In addition, the evidence must reveal a factual basis for concluding that the individual is not receiving

[279 P.3d 901]

or would not receive, if released, such care as is essential for his or her health or safety.

107 Wash.2d at 208, 728 P.2d 138 (third alteration in original). Additionally, In re Meistrell, 47 Wash.App. 100, 108, 733 P.2d 1004 (1987) held that recent past mental history is relevant in determining present and immediate future mental behavior.

¶ 11 In response to LaBelle and Meistrell, in 1997, the legislature made significant changes to chapter 71.05 RCW, including clarifying its intent regarding a trial court's consideration of prior involuntary commitments in making an involuntary commitment decision:

It is the intent of the legislature to enhance continuity of care for persons with serious mental disorders that can be controlled or stabilized in a less restrictive alternative commitment. Within the guidelines stated in [LaBelle ], the legislature intends to encourage appropriate interventions at a point when there is the best opportunity to restore the person to or maintain satisfactory functioning.

For persons with a prior history or pattern of repeated hospitalizations or law enforcement interventions due to decompensation, the consideration of prior mental history is particularly relevant in determining whether the person would receive, if released, such care as is essential for his or her health or safety.

Therefore, the legislature finds that for persons who are currently under a commitment order, a prior history of decompensation leading to repeated hospitalizations or law [168 Wash.App. 628]enforcement interventions should be given great weight in determining whether a new less restrictive alternative commitment should be...

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