January 11, 2017
IN THE MATTER OF G.G., Alleged to Be Seriously Mentally Impaired, G.G., Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Magistrate
Edward J. Leff.
appeals the magistrate's determination that he was
seriously mentally impaired. AFFIRMED.
E. Townsend, Coralville, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
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
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.
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").
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
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 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) (2016). The 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.
In re Oseing, 296 N.W.2d 797, 800-01 (Iowa
1980) (analyzing predecessor statute). G.G. challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence on the second and third elements.
The magistrate found G.G. lacked judgmental capacity in that
he was, "Impaired; currently in manic state and unable
to make sound treatment decisions." The record supports
this finding as G.G. was not medically compliant until after
arriving at the V.A. hospital and refused medication until he
was confronted by security officers. He then accepted his
third element, or the "dangerous" prong requires
evidence of a "recent overt act, attempt or
threat." In re Mohr, 383 N.W.2d 539, 542 (Iowa
1986). An overt act "connotes past aggressive behavior
or threats by the respondent manifesting the probable
commission of a dangerous act upon himself or others that is
likely to result in physical injury." In re
Foster, 426 N.W.2d 374, 378 (Iowa 1988). The magistrate
found this element satisfied based on G.G.'s
"current manic state." The magistrate also cited
G.G.'s "[a]ttempt to run away while in [a] vehicle
on [the] way to [the] hospital" and the "[p]olice
presence necessary to get him to take medications upon
admission." Substantial evidence supports this finding
and satisfies the requirement of a recent overt act.
affirm the civil commitment order.
McDonald, J., concurs;
VAITHESWARAN, Judge. (dissenting)
illness alone does not establish grounds for commitment.
In re J.P., 574 N.W.2d at 343. It follows that
mental illness alone cannot serve as the predicate to a
finding of lack of judgment or dangerousness. The "manic
episode" cited in the commitment order was simply a
symptom of G.G.'s mental illness. As for G.G.'s
compliance with his medication regimen, he testified he was
"[a]bsolutely" taking his medications and his
psychiatrist confirmed he had been taking his medications as
prescribed. As the majority notes, G.G. only "tapered
off" his medication pursuant to his doctor's orders.
my view, does G.G.'s decision to exit the vehicle on his
way to the hospital show dangerousness. As noted, the vehicle
was stopped and G.G.'s wife was able to get him to the
emergency room despite this momentary disruption. Although a
psychiatrist testified G.G. was agitated on his arrival, the
only "aggressive" acts she could point to were his
failure to follow directions when he first came in and a
police presence to "contain him in his room"
because he was "pacing around the unit." The
psychiatrist acknowledged the officers "did not
physically restrain him." She also acknowledged she
"ha[d not] seen anything . . . that would make [her]
think he'd be a risk to others." In my view, this
evidence does not constitute substantial evidence to support
a finding of dangerousness.
reverse the civil commitment order. This disposition would
essentially resolve G.G.'s additional contention that the
magistrate should have released him to the custody of his