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In the Matter of D.B.

May 15, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF D.B., ALLEGED TO BE SERIOUSLY MENTALLY IMPAIRED, A CHRONIC SUBSTANCE ABUSER, D.B., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Michael J. Schilling and John M. Wright, Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bower, J.

D.B. appeals from a district court order requiring hospitalization due to serious mental impairment. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

D.B. appeals from a district court order requiring hospitalization due to serious mental impairment and giving treating physicians the power to force D.B. to take certain medications. D.B. argues the evidence is insufficient to support a finding of serious mental impairment, the district court erred in denying his motion for a continuance, and the district court erred in admitting into evidence a doctor's report. Because we find no error, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

On May 24, 2012, the district court found that D.B.'s mental condition warranted continued hospitalization and forced administration of medications. The order came following a succession of district court decisions ordering both inpatient and outpatient care.

D.B. was initially ordered to involuntary outpatient treatment on September 20, 2011. Following a hearing on November 1, 2011, the district court determined that D.B. remained in a state necessitating involuntary hospitalization and further ordered the administration of any necessary medications.*fn1 The court relied upon a report filed by D.B.'s treating physician indicating a serious mental condition and that D.B. was failing to take medications necessary for his recovery. The report further indicated D.B. was a danger to himself or others due to paranoid and threatening behavior. Days later, an order was issued by thedistrict court which authorized the administration of chemotherapy without D.B.'s consent.*fn2

After a report by doctors that he no longer required full-time custody and care, D.B. was transferred, by order of the district court, to residential placement at Chatham Oaks in Iowa City. Following notification that D.B. was once again refusing to take prescribed medications, the district court again ordered him into immediate custody and scheduled a hearing to determine his status. Following the hearing the district court determined that D.B. was seriously mentally impaired, ordered inpatient treatment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and authorized the administration of medication without D.B.'s consent. It is from this order that D.B. appeals. Following his appeal, however, the district court ordered that he be discharged from his hospitalization due to an improvement in his condition.

II. Standard of Review

Involuntary civil commitment actions are tried as an action at law. In re Oseing, 296 N.W.2d 797, 800--01 (Iowa 1980). Accordingly, our review is for errors at law. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. Findings of the district court are binding if supported by substantial evidence. In re J.P., 574 N.W.2d 340, 342 (Iowa 1998). Evidence is substantial when a reasonable finder of fact could reach the same conclusion by clear and convincing evidence. Id.

III. Discussion

A. Mootness

In an order dated July 18, 2012, the district court ordered D.B. transferred to an outpatient facility. He is no longer subject to involuntary confinement and hospitalization. Our supreme court recently examined a similar case where an individual appealed an involuntary commitment after the commitment had ended. In re B.B., 826 N.W.2d 425 (Iowa 2013). Relying upon the stigma attendant to an involuntary commitment and other likely collateral consequences, the court decided Iowa courts are to presume that such a person suffers ...


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