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In re K.G.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 18, 2019

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

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica Zrinyi Wittig, Judge.

         K.G. challenges the civil commitment order issued under Iowa Code chapter 229 (2019).

          Francis J. Lange, Dubuque, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Bower, C.J., and Potterfield and Greer, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         K.G. challenges the district court's order affirming the magistrate's civil commitment order issued under Iowa Code chapter 229 (2019). On appeal, K.G. argues (1) the State failed to meet its burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that she was a danger to herself or others due to her mental illness; (2) the district court erred in not appropriately conducting a de novo hearing under Iowa Code section 229.21(3); and (3) the district court erred by taking judicial notice of two criminal complaints involving K.G. in violation of K.G.'s rights under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         I. Background

         K.G. was involuntarily hospitalized following an altercation between herself and her husband on February 24, 2019. In the days before the incident, K.G.'s family had noticed an alarming change in K.G.'s behavior. She was "constantly agitated and irrational" and had started using vulgar and racist language in public. She had also become paranoid and believed most of her family was conspiring against her. K.G.'s family tried to convince her to seek treatment for several days before the altercation. K.G. had refused.

         The police report describes the February 24 incident. K.G.'s husband and son were on the phone with K.G.'s sister discussing what to do about K.G. K.G. heard their conversation and became upset. She entered the room and slapped her husband in the chest. The three went into the hallway outside the room, where K.G. grabbed a lamp from a stand and tried to hit her husband with it, only to be stopped by her son. K.G. then struck her husband with either a cane or a grabbing tool. K.G.'s husband then went outside the house to call the police. K.G. followed him out and tried to hit him with a glass vase but was once again stopped by her son. The police arrived soon after. The police report notes K.G. "was making circular statements about her dislike for her husband and how he is trying to poison her" when she was taken into custody.

         K.G. was at first committed to a forty-eight hour hold at the local hospital but became "too difficult to handle" for hospital staff and was moved to jail. She denied anything was wrong with her and refused medication and treatment. K.G. was eventually examined by the psychiatrist Dr. Lee Berman on March 1. Dr. Berman diagnosed K.G. with "bipolar type one most recent episode mania with psychotic features."

         K.G.'s sister filed an application for involuntary hospitalization on February 26. The hearing on the application occurred on March 1, after K.G. was examined by Dr. Berman. Dr. Berman, K.G.'s sister, K.G.'s father, and K.G. all testified at the hearing. Dr. Berman testified K.G. could not make responsible decisions for her treatment and that she needed to remain at the hospital "[u]ntil stable" and noted she would likely be able to move to outpatient treatment within a week. When asked by the magistrate about whether K.G. was dangerous, Dr. Berman stated, "Well, if she-if she wasn't in a stable environment and she could become worse and more agitated while she's here if we don't treat this. So there is a possibility of that." He added K.G.'s condition was "[s]omething that if you don't treat will continue to get worse."

         K.G.'s sister testified that K.G. had told her, "It has taken all the strength in me not to kill myself." K.G.'s father testified K.G. then backtracked on that statement, saying that she has corrected herself to mean, "I'd really like to kill [her husband]" and not herself. Both testified K.G. was paranoid and uncharacteristically vulgar in the days before the February 24 incident. K.G. testified last. She insisted her sister was "very, very, very controlling" and believed her husband was "not only controlling my mind" but was also controlling "my son's mind, my family's mind because he can do it."

         After hearing this testimony, the magistrate found K.G. to be seriously mentally impaired and ordered her involuntary hospitalization. K.G. filed a notice of appeal and requested a hearing on March 6; a de novo review hearing took place on March 29. At the hearing, K.G.'s sister and father testified. Dr. Berman did not testify but submitted a March 13 progress report to the district court. Over K.G.'s objection, the ...


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