State v. M. T. (In re M. T.)

CourtCourt of Appeals of Oregon
Citation479 P.3d 541,308 Or.App. 448
Docket NumberA166509
Parties In the MATTER OF M. T., a Person Alleged to have Mental Illness. State of Oregon, Respondent, v. M. T., Appellant.
Decision Date06 January 2021

308 Or.App. 448
479 P.3d 541

In the MATTER OF M. T., a Person Alleged to have Mental Illness.

State of Oregon, Respondent,
v.
M. T., Appellant.

A166509

Court of Appeals of Oregon.

Submitted January 4, 2019.
January 6, 2021


Joseph R. DeBin and Multnomah Defenders, Inc., filed the brief for appellant.

Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Jonathan N. Schildt, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief for respondent.

Before Tookey, Presiding Judge, and Shorr, Judge, and Landau, Senior Judge.

LANDAU, S. J.

308 Or.App. 449

Appellant challenges an Order of Disposition involuntarily committing her to the custody of the Oregon Health Authority for up to 180 days. She argues that the evidence was legally insufficient to establish that she suffered from a mental disorder that makes her a danger to herself. We agree with appellant that the evidence is insufficient and therefore reverse.

Neither party requests de novo review. Accordingly, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's decision and assess whether, in that light, the record is legally sufficient to support that decision. State v. M. J. F. , 306 Or. App. 544, 545, 473 P.3d 1141 (2020).

Appellant suffers from bipolar disorder. She had been hospitalized on previous occasions. At least one time, she had been found in the community disrobed, wandering the streets. During the year before her commitment, she lived in a group home and, according to staff, did "really well." Sometimes she wandered the streets at night. She thought of it as "like a neighborhood watch." She also found it "peaceful."

479 P.3d 543

About two weeks before the hearing she began experiencing increasing agitation. She left the home on occasion and ended up having "six or seven police contacts" of an unspecified nature. She started to isolate and did not come out of her room for meals. She began yelling at night, expressing worry about "people getting murdered" and "hearing gunshots." She was fearful that staff was poisoning her and others and that staff was "raping people."

One of the staff at the group home, Hoover, became concerned about appellant's behavior. Appellant accused Hoover of stealing things from her and said that Hoover was "doing drugs." Appellant "cornered" Hoover "several times." By "cornering," Hoover explained that appellant walked around a large desk and came into her personal space, speaking without making any sense. Appellant "never laid a hand on [her]" and did not physically threaten her, but appellant's behavior made Hoover feel "intimidated" and "unsafe." On one occasion, Hoover observed appellant "pacing actively in

308 Or.App. 450

and out of her room," saying to herself "I'm going to kill her. I'm going to kill myself. I'm going to kill you." Hoover did not know to whom appellant was referring, however.

Appellant's behavior led to her hospitalization. One of appellant's physicians, Costa, reported that she "can come across as quite intimidating and threatening." Costa noted that, while at the hospital, appellant was observed "pacing angrily down the hallway and deliberately bumping into" a staff member and that she had poured water on another staff member. On another occasion, appellant was observed "slamming herself up against the wall." Costa commented that it was not apparent that appellant was targeting anyone or that she intended to harm anyone.

The circuit court issued a citation ordering appellant to appear for a commitment hearing. Attached to the order was a precommitment investigation report, which included check-the-box recommendations to the court. The recommendations were that appellant had a mental illness that caused her to be a danger to herself and to others and that she could not provide for her basic needs. The recommendations further indicated that appellant was not chronically ill and subject to commitment based on the expanded criteria of ORS 426.005(1)(f)(C), which provides that a person also may be committed if the person has a chronic mental illness, has previously been hospitalized under state authority for substantially similar reasons, and will likely deteriorate unless treated.

At the commitment hearing, Costa testified that appellant posed a danger to herself because "[she] can get into such a grossly disorganized state that she will inadvertently place herself in dangerous situations." He could not say whether, if released, appellant would engage in aggressive behavior. His concern was based on reports of such behavior as wandering the streets, suggesting that "she'll put herself in a—in a very dangerous situation because of grossly disorganized lack of awareness."

A civil commitment investigator, Stephens, was also asked whether appellant posed a danger to herself. Stephens replied that "I believe that she could be," based on

308 Or.App. 451

the overheard statements that she was going to kill herself and the fact that she had thrown herself against the walls.

And the mental health examiner, Anderson, concluded that appellant suffers from a chronic mental disorder. He said that, because of that disorder, "I do believe that she is dangerous to herself and that she will put herself in harm's way imminently, due her—due to her disorganization, mania, and psychosis."

The trial court concluded that appellant "is dangerous to herself and unable to provide for her basic personal needs necessary to avoid serious...

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2 practice notes
  • State v. V.H. (In re V.H.), A177349
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Oregon
    • December 7, 2022
    ...or her spreading of lighter fluid on the floors of her husband's house, those activities created a danger to her. State v. M. T., 308 Or.App. 448, 453, 479 P.3d 541 (2021) (noting the state does not need to "wait until serious physical harm actually occurs before a person may be considered ......
  • State v. R.G. (In re R. G.), A178224
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Oregon
    • February 1, 2023
    ..."grave physical harm need not actually occur before a court may find a person to be *** dangerous to him or herself." State v. M. T., 308 Or.App. 448, 452-53, 479 P.3d 541 (2021) (internal quotation marks omitted). Whether a person is dangerous to self is based on the person's "condition at......
2 cases
  • State v. V.H. (In re V.H.), A177349
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Oregon
    • December 7, 2022
    ...or her spreading of lighter fluid on the floors of her husband's house, those activities created a danger to her. State v. M. T., 308 Or.App. 448, 453, 479 P.3d 541 (2021) (noting the state does not need to "wait until serious physical harm actually occurs before a person may be considered ......
  • State v. R.G. (In re R. G.), A178224
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Oregon
    • February 1, 2023
    ..."grave physical harm need not actually occur before a court may find a person to be *** dangerous to him or herself." State v. M. T., 308 Or.App. 448, 452-53, 479 P.3d 541 (2021) (internal quotation marks omitted). Whether a person is dangerous to self is based on the person's "condition at......

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