IN THE MATTER OF T.J., Alleged to Be Seriously Mentally Impaired, T.J., Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Lucas County, Martha L.
appeals from the district court's order finding him to be
seriously mentally impaired. REVERSED.
C. Audlehelm of Audlehelm Law Office, Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
magistrate found T.J. seriously mentally impaired and ordered
him committed for inpatient treatment and, subsequently, for
outpatient treatment. T.J. appealed the order to the district
court, which affirmed the magistrate's decision following
an evidentiary hearing. The court ordered T.J. to
"remain under an out-patient commitment until further
order." On appeal, T.J. challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence supporting the district court's finding of a
"serious mental impairment."
Code section 229.1 (2016) defines "seriously mentally
impaired" as follows:
"Seriously mentally impaired" or "serious
mental impairment" describes the condition of a person
with mental illness and because of that illness lacks
sufficient judgment to make responsible decisions with
respect to the person's hospitalization or treatment, and
who because of that illness meets any of the following
a. Is likely to physically injure the person's self or
others if allowed to remain at liberty without treatment.
b. Is likely to inflict serious emotional injury on members
of the person's family or others who lack reasonable
opportunity to avoid contact with the person with mental
illness if the person with mental illness is allowed to
remain at liberty without treatment.
c. Is unable to satisfy the person's needs for
nourishment, clothing, essential medical care, or shelter so
that it is likely that the person will suffer physical
injury, physical debilitation, or death.
Iowa Code § 229.1(20). This definition contains three
elements: (1) mental illness, (2) lack of sufficient
judgment, and (3) the criteria labeled (a), (b), and (c),
which encompass the threshold requirement of dangerousness.
See In re Oseing, 296 N.W.2d 797, 800-01
(Iowa 1980) (analyzing predecessor statute). "[T]he
elements of serious mental impairment must be established by
clear and convincing evidence and the district court's
findings of fact are binding on us if supported by
substantial evidence." In re J.P., 574 N.W.2d
340, 342 (Iowa 1998); accord In re B.B., 826 N.W.2d
425, 428, 432 (Iowa 2013).
argues the record lacks substantial evidence to support a
finding of a mental illness. He notes that the psychiatrist
who testified at the district court hearing failed to include
a formal diagnosis in his report. The report, completed on a
form titled "Physician's Report of Examination
pursuant to 229.10(2), " was left blank under ...