IN THE MATTER OF M.R., Alleged to be Seriously Mentally Impaired, M.R., Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Kevin
prison inmate appeals a district court ruling finding he
remains seriously mentally impaired.
N. Eslick of Eslick Law, Indianola, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
appeals an order of the district court finding he remains
seriously mentally impaired. M.R. argues the State failed to
prove he lacked sufficient judgment to make reasonable
decisions about his treatment, and there was not substantial
evidence of dangerousness because there was no evidence of a
recent overt act, attempt, or threat. Because M.R.'s
appeal was not timely filed, we lack jurisdiction and dismiss
judicial hospitalization referee initially found M.R. to be
seriously mentally impaired in March 2017. In November 2017,
M.R. requested a placement hearing. The referee found M.R.
still met the definition of a seriously mentally impaired
person. M.R. appealed the referee's finding to the
district court. On January 9, 2018, the district court
affirmed the finding M.R. was seriously mentally impaired.
M.R. filed notice of appeal on February 9, 2018. Iowa Rule of
Appellate Procedure 6.101 provides that notices of appeal
must be filed within 30 days after the filing of the final
order or judgment. Timely notice of appeal is jurisdictional.
Jensen v. State, 312 N.W.2d 581, 582 (Iowa 981).
this case was transferred to our court, the supreme court
raised on its own motion the issue of jurisdiction after it
appeared notice of appeal might be untimely. See Root v.
Toney, 841 N.W.2d 83, 87 (Iowa 2013) (noting court is to
address jurisdictional issue of timeliness of appeal before
reaching merits even if parties do not raise the issue). The
appellant was ordered to file a statement concerning whether
this court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal, and the State
was permitted to file a response. Appellant's counsel
states that she "had neglected to take into account that
there are 31 days in January" and argues we should
excuse her neglect in filing the appeal one day late and
consider the appeal on its merits. The State argues we do not
have jurisdiction to consider this appeal.
sometimes granted a delayed appeal under certain
extraordinary circumstances. See Swanson v. State,
406 N.W.2d 792, 792-93 (Iowa 1987) (recognizing the authority
to grant a delayed appeal "where it appears that state
action or other circumstances beyond the appellant's
control have frustrated an intention to appeal" because
"[u]nder such circumstances, the denial of a right to
appeal would violate the due process or equal protection
clause of the fourteenth amendment to the federal
constitution"); see also id. at 792 n.1 (noting
"[t]he same federal constitutional considerations which
have forced us to recognize delayed appeals in criminal cases
are potentially applicable in some civil settings"). We
have also said the fact that a person found seriously
mentally impaired has more than one opportunity to contest
continued commitment in the future does not diminish the
person's substantial liberty interests. In re
M.E., No. 16-1479, 2017 WL 1278321, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App.
Apr. 5, 2017). An individual has the right to be released
from continued commitment as soon as it is determined the
individual is no longer seriously mentally impaired. See
B.A.A. v. Chief Med. Officer, Univ. of Iowa Hosps. &
Clinics, 421 N.W.2d 118, 124 (Iowa 1988).
granted delayed appeals in civil commitment cases in which
the appeal was first heard in the wrong court. See In re
L.H., 890 N.W.2d 333, 339 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016); see
also M.E., 2017 WL 1279321, at *2-3. In both of those
cases, the appeals would have been timely had they been filed
in the correct court. In neither case did the district court
recognize it lacked jurisdiction.
it was within the appellant's control to appeal in a
timely fashion. Counsel's mistake is not an extraordinary
circumstance like those for which we have previously granted
delayed appeals. Still, we might have considered leniency but
for the leniency already afforded the appellant in his appeal
from the hospitalization referee. Because the appeal was not
timely filed, we lack jurisdiction to consider the merits of
the appeal. We dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.