State v. Green

Citation401 Wis.2d 542,973 N.W.2d 770,2022 WI 30
Decision Date13 May 2022
Docket Number2020AP298-CR
Parties STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent-Petitioner, v. Joseph G. GREEN, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin

For the plaintiff-respondent-petitioner, there were briefs filed by Kara L. Janson, assistant attorney general; with whom on the brief was Joshua L. Kaul, attorney general. There was an oral argument by Kara L. Janson.

For the defendant-appellant, there were briefs filed by Kathilynne A. Grotelueschen, assistant state public defender. There was an oral argument by Kathilynne A. Grotelueschen.

ROGGENSACK, J., delivered the majority opinion of the Court, in which ZIEGLER, C.J., REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, and HAGEDORN, JJ., joined, and in which ANN WALSH BRADLEY and KAROFSKY, JJ., joined with respect to Part II.D., and in which DALLET, J., joined with respect to Part II.D. and ¶¶3 and 53. ANN WALSH BRADLEY, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which DALLET and KAROFSKY, JJ., joined.


¶1 Joseph G. Green was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, and was determined to be incompetent to stand trial. He was committed pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 971.14 (2017-18)1 to administer involuntary medication. Green appealed the order, and according to our decision in State v. Scott, 2018 WI 74, 382 Wis. 2d 476, 914 N.W.2d 141, the order for involuntary medication was stayed automatically. We review the court of appeals’ opinion2 that reversed the circuit court's3 decision granting the State's involuntary medication order, lifting the stay of involuntary medication, and tolling the statutory time limit to bring a defendant to competence.

¶2 We conclude that because the State's significant pretrial interests in bringing a defendant who meets each one of the factors set out in Sell v. United States 4 to competency for trial and providing timely justice to victims outweigh upholding a defendant's liberty interest in refusing involuntary medication at the pretrial stage of criminal proceedings, Scott’s automatic stay of involuntary medication orders pending appeal does not apply to pretrial proceedings. Therefore, we employ our supervisory authority to limit our decision in Scott on which the court of appeals relied.5

¶3 We also conclude that Wis. Stat. § 971.14(5)(a)1. is not subject to tolling in a pretrial context. Accordingly, we affirm the court of appeals decision in part.


¶4 The facts in this case are undisputed. On December 27, 2019, the State filed a criminal complaint charging Green with first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon. Pretrial, defense counsel raised reason to doubt Green's competency to proceed. The circuit court ordered a competency examination, which was completed by Dr. Craig Schoenecker and filed with the court. At the competency hearing, Dr. Schoenecker testified that Green was not competent but could be restored to competency through antipsychotic-type medication within the 12-month statutory timeframe. Dr. Schoenecker also testified that the medication was medically appropriate, substantially unlikely to have side effects that would undermine a fair trial, and that other, less intrusive, treatments were unlikely to restore Green to competency.

¶5 After the hearing, the circuit court found Green incompetent. Accordingly, the court entered an order of commitment for treatment with the involuntary administration of medication. Following this determination, Green appealed and filed an emergency motion for stay of the involuntary medication order pending appeal, which was automatically granted by the circuit court pursuant to our decision in Scott.

¶6 The State responded with motions to lift the automatic stay and to toll the statutory time period to bring a defendant to competence, both of which were granted by the circuit court. Green appealed. He moved for relief pending appeal, which included reinstatement of the temporary stay. The court of appeals reversed the circuit court's involuntary medication order and its order lifting the automatic stay of involuntary medication. State v. Green, 2021 WI App 18, ¶2, 396 Wis. 2d 658, 957 N.W.2d 583. In addition, the court of appeals determined that the circuit court lacked authority to toll the statutory time period to bring Green to competency. Id., ¶58. We granted the State's petition for review.

¶7 Upon granting review, the parties submitted briefs addressing the circuit court's ability to toll the limits on the maximum length of commitment for competency restoration. However, following oral argument, additional briefing was ordered to answer whether the automatic stay required by Scott applied to pretrial proceedings. We determine: (1) whether Scott’s automatic stay applies to pretrial competency proceedings and (2) whether Wis. Stat. § 971.14(5)(a)1. permits tolling the 12-month limitation provided to restore a defendant to competency.

A. Standard of Review

¶8 In the matter before us, we review the exercise of our superintending and administrative authority over Wisconsin courts as reasoned in Scott. Scott, 382 Wis. 2d 476, ¶43, 914 N.W.2d 141. In so doing, we review our discretionary exercise of a constitutionally granted power. Wis. Const. art. VII, § 3. This review involves not just the declared source of that power, but also the rationale we employed for exercising it.

¶9 We also review the court of appeals’ interpretation and application of Wis. Stat. § 971.14(5)(a)1. Statutory interpretation and application present questions of law for our independent review. Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm, 2020 WI 42, ¶14, 391 Wis. 2d 497, 942 N.W.2d 900.

B. Competency Proceedings

¶10 This case arises out of an order of commitment for the provision of involuntary medication. Therefore, some background about the statutory foundation for and the judicial interpretations of such orders may be helpful to the reader.

¶11 We begin with the statutory foundation for commitment proceedings in criminal prosecutions, Wis. Stat. § 971.13(1), which provides:

No person who lacks substantial mental capacity to understand the proceedings or assist in his or her own defense may be tried, convicted or sentenced for the commission of an offense so long as the incapacity endures.

§ 971.13(1). Section 971.13(1) is a codification of the due process requirement that a defendant be able to "understand" and "assist" when evaluating a defendant's competency to stand trial. It "considers whether the defendant: (1) ‘has sufficient present ability to consult’ with his or her lawyer ‘with a reasonable degree of rational understanding;’ and (2) ‘has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings.’ " State v. Smith, 2016 WI 23, ¶35, 367 Wis. 2d 483, 878 N.W.2d 135 (quoting State v. Byrge, 2000 WI 101, ¶27, 237 Wis. 2d 197, 614 N.W.2d 477 ). "This two-part ‘understand-and-assist’ test constitutes the core of the competency-to-stand-trial analysis." Id., ¶28.

¶12 Furthermore, "[w]henever there is a reason to doubt the competency of a defendant to proceed," the circuit court is directed to order an examination of the defendant under Wis. Stat. § 971.14(1r)(a) and (2). State v. Garfoot, 207 Wis. 2d 214, 221, 558 N.W.2d 626 (1997). Upon completion of the examination, the examiner submits a report " ‘regarding the defendant's present mental capacity to understand the proceedings and assist in his or her defense.’ " Id. (quoting § 971.14(3)(c) ). Importantly, the inquiry whether a defendant is competent to stand trial is a judicial, not a medical, determination. Byrge, 237 Wis. 2d 197, ¶31, 614 N.W.2d 477. "Although a defendant may have a history of psychiatric illness, a medical condition does not necessarily render the defendant incompetent to stand trial." Id. (quoting State ex rel. Haskins v. Cnty. Ct. of Dodge Cnty., 62 Wis. 2d 250, 264-65, 214 N.W.2d 575 (1974) ).

¶13 When a defendant's competency is contested, the court shall hold an evidentiary hearing. Wis. Stat. § 971.14(4)(b). The circuit court should not make a competency determination simply "on the basis of rubber stamping the report of a psychiatrist." Haskins, 62 Wis. 2d at 264, 214 N.W.2d 575. Rather, the circuit court must "weigh evidence that the defendant is competent against evidence that he or she is not." Garfoot, 207 Wis. 2d at 222, 558 N.W.2d 626.

¶14 If a defendant is found to be incompetent, a court may allow the government to confine and involuntarily medicate the defendant if certain criteria are met. In Sell v. United States, the United States Supreme Court reasoned that:

[T]he Constitution permits the Government involuntarily to administer antipsychotic drugs to a mentally ill defendant facing serious criminal charges in order to render that defendant competent to stand trial, but only if the treatment is medically appropriate, is substantially unlikely to have side effects that may undermine the fairness of the trial, and, taking account of less intrusive alternatives, is necessary significantly to further important governmental trial-related interests.

Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166, 179, 123 S.Ct. 2174, 156 L.Ed.2d 197 (2003) ; see also Riggins v. Nevada, 504 U.S. 127, 139, 112 S.Ct. 1810, 118 L.Ed.2d 479 (1992) (citing Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 110 S.Ct. 1028, 108 L.Ed.2d 178 (1990) ). Although permitted, the Supreme Court in Sell explained that administration of drugs solely to return competence may be rare. Sell, 539 U.S. at 180, 123 S.Ct. 2174.

¶15 The Supreme Court set out four factors, often referred to as the " Sell factors," as the standard for determining whether involuntary medication is constitutionally permissible.6 First, "a court must find that important governmental interests are at stake. The Government's interest in bringing to trial an individual accused of a serious crime is important. That is so whether the offense is a serious...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 cases
  • Doe v. Madison Metro. Sch. Dist.
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • July 8, 2022
    ... ... and shall not require or allow District staff to disclose any information that they are otherwise prohibited from disclosing to parents by any state or federal law or 403 Wis.2d 380 regulation." The circuit court denied the other injunctive relief requested by the parents. It reasoned that the ... State v. Green , 2022 WI 30, 3, 401 Wis. 2d 542, 973 N.W.2d 770. 403 Wis.2d 404 B. Pseudonyms in Litigation 55 The circuit court was asked to permit parents use of ... ...
  • Waupaca Cnty. v. Golla
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • June 23, 2022
    ... ... contact with the County in the summer of 2015 and the Town's issuance of the building permit in April 2016, Golla spoke several times with a State Representative. Golla understood from her conversations with the Representative that no County land use permit was necessary for construction of the ... STAT. 59.692, confirms this interpretation. See State v. Green , 2022 WI 30, 44, 401 Wis. 2d 542, 973 N.W.2d 770 (referencing "the statutory history underlying other amendments" to the statute at issue to ... ...
  • State v. White
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • November 3, 2022
    ... ... 47 White notes that in State v. Green , we contrasted the requirement that the examiner's report include an opinion on competency with the less strict requirement that there be an opinion as to whether the defendant needs medication or treatment. See State v. Green , 2021 WI App 18, 49-50, 396 Wis. 2d 658, 957 N.W.2d 583, aff'd ... ...
  • State v. Lee
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • May 24, 2022
    ... ... See Hennessy v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2022 WI 2, 27, 400 Wis. 2d 50, 968 N.W.2d 684. Instead, he argues that the circuit court's failure to hold a timely preliminary examination means the circuit court lost competency. See generally 973 N.W.2d 768 Green Cnty. Dep't of Human Servs. v. H.N., 162 Wis. 2d 635, 656, 469 N.W.2d 845 (1991) (failing to comply with statutory time limits may result in the circuit court losing competency to proceed). But even if the circuit court lost competency, 401 Wis.2d 600 that doesn't explain why the charges against ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT