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In re J.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 20, 2017

IN RE THE MATTER OF J.C., Alleged to be Seriously Mentally Impaired, J.C., Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Rose Anne Mefford, District Associate Judge.

         Respondent appeals the district court order finding her to be seriously mentally impaired.

          Dustin D. Hite of Heslinga, Dixon & Hite, Oskaloosa, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         J.C. appeals the district court order finding her to be seriously mentally impaired. We conclude there is not clear and convincing evidence in the record to show J.C. was likely to injure herself or others if allowed to remain at liberty without treatment. We reverse the district court's ruling finding J.C. was seriously mentally impaired and remand for dismissal of the application.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         J.C. has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. On August 1, 2017, J.C. was brought to the emergency room "alleging assault." Also, she reported she had taken the amount of a medication prescribed for one day in a two-hour time period. At the hearing, there was evidence her residence was in disarray.

         An application was filed alleging J.C. was seriously mentally impaired. Marcy Dewitt, a social worker, filed an affidavit stating J.C. had "Delusions of grandeur, flight of ideas, and loosed associations." Dewitt stated J.C. was agitated and threatened legal action for imagined issues. J.C.'s psychiatrist, Dr. Ronald Berges, filed an affidavit stating J.C. had recently "become increasingly paranoid, grandiose, delusional, and irritable, all consistent with a manic state." Dr. Berges also noted J.C. had threatened malpractice lawsuits and other legal action without a valid basis. Dr. Berges recommended J.C. be hospitalized to stabilize her condition.

         J.C. was examined by Dr. Jeffrey Weyeneth, who gave the opinion J.C. was not capable of making responsible decisions regarding her treatment because she had not been compliant with treatment and had refused medication on several occasions. He also gave the opinion J.C. was likely to physically injure herself or others if allowed to remain at liberty without treatment. Concerning the necessary finding of a recent overt act to support this finding, Dr. Weyeneth stated, "Very grandiose, disorganized at times. Threatening others with lawsuits. Intrusive to others." He stated J.C. needed inpatient treatment for stabilization.

         A hearing was held on August 7, 2017. The only witness called was Dr. Weyeneth. When asked if J.C. was likely to physically injure herself or others, he replied:

Well, at her level of disorganization, I'm not sure how good of job she would be able to do to take care of herself, which could definitely lead to a decline. She is not-she's not been physically aggressive here. She's been intrusive, opening people's doors to their rooms, and being loud and intrusive to patients, but no physical aggression has been demonstrated. I don't know if anything like that happened prior to her coming into the hospital. I don't see any documentation of that.

         When questioned further, Dr. Weyeneth stated patients in a manic phase, like J.C., were "[p]robably some of the most dangerous patients in psychiatry . . . because they are very impulsive and they get very agitated quite easily." He testified he believed if J.C.'s condition was ...


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