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In re G.G.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF G.G., Alleged to Be Seriously Mentally Impaired, G.G., Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Magistrate Edward J. Leff.

         G.G. appeals the magistrate's determination that he was seriously mentally impaired. AFFIRMED.

          Willie E. Townsend, Coralville, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         G.G. is a sixty-six-year-old veteran who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was treated with medication, which stabilized his manic episodes for approximately twenty years. In 2016, G.G.'s physician told him to "taper off" the medication. G.G. followed this instruction, but the result was a manic episode. G.G.'s wife took him to a Veterans Administration hospital. On the way, G.G. got out of the vehicle when the car stopped. His wife was able to get him back in the vehicle and to the emergency room, where he was admitted.

         A magistrate entered an emergency hospitalization order after finding probable cause to believe G.G. was seriously mentally impaired and was likely to injure himself or others if not immediately detained. Following a hearing, the magistrate determined G.G. was seriously mentally impaired and civilly committed him to the hospital on an inpatient basis. Four days later, the magistrate terminated the commitment. G.G. filed an appeal with the district court. After the matter was set for hearing, the State filed a motion to dismiss. G.G. resisted, but the court dismissed the appeal on the ground that it was moot. This appeal followed.

         We first address G.G.'s assertion the district court was wrong in dismissing his appeal as moot. Because the commitment order was terminated, his appeal to the district court and now his appeal to this court are both, in essence, moot, but the collateral-consequences exception to the mootness doctrine permits review of the merits. See In re B.B., 826 N.W.2d 425, 429 (Iowa 2013) (noting the "stigma of mental illness" and concluding "a party who has been adjudicated seriously mentally impaired and involuntarily committed is presumed to suffer collateral consequences justifying appellate review").

         We turn to the merits of the magistrate's commitment order. The magistrate's findings "are binding on us if supported by substantial evidence." In re J.P., 574 N.W.2d 340, 342 (Iowa 1998).

A person is "seriously mentally impaired" if the person has:
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 criteria:
(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 ...

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