State v. M. L. (In re M. L.), A174535

CourtCourt of Appeals of Oregon
Writing for the CourtTOOKEY, J.
Citation315 Or.App. 394
PartiesIn the Matter of M. L., a Person Alleged to have Mental Illness. v. M. L., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,
Docket NumberA174535
Decision Date27 October 2021

315 Or.App. 394

In the Matter of M. L., a Person Alleged to have Mental Illness.

STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

M. L., Appellant.


Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 27, 2021

Submitted August 31, 2021

Marion County Circuit Court 20CC04744; Jennifer K. Gardiner, Judge pro tempore.

Alexander C. Cambier and Multnomah Defenders, Inc., filed the brief for appellant.

Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Daniel Norris, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief for respondent.

Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.


[315 Or.App. 395] TOOKEY, J.

Appellant seeks reversal of a judgment involuntarily committing him to the Oregon Health Authority for up to 180 days. He argues that the evidence was legally insufficient to prove that he suffered from a mental disorder that makes him a "danger to self." ORS 426.005(1)(f)(A); ORS 426.130(1)(a)(C), (D), (2). For the reasons that follow, we agree with appellant and, accordingly, reverse.[1]

Neither party has requested that we review this matter de novo, and we conclude that this is not an "exceptional" case that warrants de novo review. See ORAP 5.40 (8)(C) (providing that the court will exercise its discretion to review de novo "only in exceptional cases"). Accordingly, "we view the evidence, as supplemented and buttressed by permissible derivative inferences, in the light most favorable to the trial court's disposition and assess whether, when so viewed, the record was legally sufficient to permit that outcome." State v. L. D., 310 Or.App. 347, 348, 484 P.3d 1100 (2021) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Whether the evidence is sufficient to support a determination that appellant is a danger to self is a question we review as a matter of law." Id. (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted).

The relevant facts are undisputed. Appellant has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The commitment hearing in this case took place in August 2020, when appellant was in the midst of a "manic episode." During such episodes, appellant is erratic and delusional, can be guarded and paranoid, does not sleep much, and believes "very wild ideas."

During the commitment hearing, the state presented evidence regarding two incidents upon which the trial court ultimately based its ruling that appellant was a danger to himself within the meaning of ORS 426.005 (1)(f)(A). Appellant's brother witnessed both incidents, and at the commitment hearing, he testified as to both.


[315 Or.App. 396] First, prior to the commitment hearing in this case, appellant had "covered himself with "household chemicals," including splashing or "dousing" himself with bleach, because appellant believed that "the government is out to get him and that they're exposing him to radiation." Appellant's brother testified that that incident made him concerned for appellant's safety because "you don't know what kind of allergic reaction you can have on the skin" from bleach, and he did not know if appellant was going to "decide[] to ingest" the bleach or other chemicals. Nevertheless, appellant's brother testified that he did not see appellant "drink or imbibe" any of the household chemicals.

Second, prior to the commitment hearing in this case, appellant decided to walk from his house in Saint Paul, Oregon, to Portland, Oregon. During his testimony, appellant's brother explained:

"[W]e live out in the country in Saint Paul and [appellant] decides to leave in the middle of the night just walking down the road because he believes he has some special things that he needs to do in Portland with all these protests that he's involved, he believes he's involved in them. Or he, he believes he can resolve them, the problem, all the problems that are going on with the protests."

Appellant's brother further testified, regarding appellant's decision to walk to Portland, that appellant told him:

"[T]here's a mission that needs to be executed and that [appellant] just needs to get to his destination to save people, to help people, to carry out a master plan."

Appellant's brother also testified that appellant has never harmed himself or threatened to harm himself, and that appellant does not acknowledge that he has a mental disorder.

A psychiatrist who had treated appellant at the hospital in Salem, Oregon, for the four days prior to the commitment hearing testified that there was no record of appellant engaging in suicidal behaviors or self-harm and that, during appellant's admission at the hospital in Salem, appellant had refused medication on eight of the ten occasions he


[315 Or.App. 397] had been scheduled to take it. Additionally, evidence was presented that appellant was hospitalized for psychiatric issues in 2017, and that, prior to that hospitalization, appellant was "picked up in somewhere in Beaverton[, Oregon, ] walking around the streets shoeless, blisters all over his feet."

At the end of the commitment hearing, the trial court determined that the state had met its burden of demonstrating that appellant was "dangerous to self within the meaning of ORS 426.005(1)(f)(A). The trial court explained that appellant "is actively manic," and that, when appellant is manic, "he's erratic, he makes poor decisions, he doesn't sleep, he rambles on regarding conspiracy theories, believes in crazy things, [and] is delusional." The trial court further explained that appellant's mania "leads him to make poor decisions that put himself in danger," and "specifically the danger he puts himself in is splashing, dousing himself with bleach." The trial court noted that appellant's brother "specifically remembered the bleach because it was concerning enough to him in the way that [appellant] was pouring it on his body that it could cause harm or damage to him," and that appellant's brother "also described how [appellant] left the home in the middle of the night to walk to Portland, [which] put [appellant] in a position of harm as well." As a result, the trial court determined that "the current indicators and...

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