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In re K.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2020

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

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Kevin McKeever, Judge.

         A prison inmate appeals the district court order finding he is seriously mentally impaired and requires treatment.

          Jonathon Muñoz of Nidey, Erdahl, Fisher, Pilkington & Meier PLC, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         The Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) successfully sought an involuntary hospitalization order against K.S. after he destroyed property and fought with another offender. On appeal, K.S. contends the record does not support the district court's finding he would be likely to pose a danger to himself or others if allowed to remain at liberty (within the prison system) without treatment. See Iowa Code § 229.1(20) (2019). Because the State offered clear and convincing evidence K.S. suffered from a serious mental impairment, we affirm the involuntary hospitalization order.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         K.S. acknowledges when he was civilly committed in 2015, doctors diagnosed him as having schizophrenia. He complains "they shot me up with so much Haldol and Seroquel that I was drooling on myself when I was in jail." K.S. claims he "got [himself] off of their psychosis medications" and he has been "fine ever since."

         The DOC staff beg to differ. Psychiatrist Gary Keller reviewed K.S.'s mental-health status when he arrived at the reception center at the Iowa Medical Classification Center (Oakdale) in April 2016. K.S. was starting a sixteen-year sentence on his convictions for homicide by vehicle and possession of marijuana. Because K.S. initially did well on medication, the DOC transferred him to the minimum security correctional facility at Mount Pleasant. In December 2018, K.S. told staff there his mind was "running wild," and other offenders noted K.S. was talking "crazy stuff." The staff reported K.S. quit all his medication except citalopram, which is used to treat depression.

         In January 2019, other offenders grew angry with K.S. for "messing with the antennas on the televisions disrupting viewing." On January 28, he tore down one of the antennas, which lead to increased tension on the unit. Two days later, K.S. pulled down another TV antenna and ended up in a physical altercation with another offender. In light of the downward spiral in his mental health, the DOC transferred K.S. back to Oakdale. Upon his return, K.S. told the medical staff he was not interested in taking any different medications. In his examination, Dr. Keller found K.S. to be delusional and lacking insight into the need to stabilize his psychosis. Dr. Keller filed a report in February 2019 finding K.S. was likely to physically injure himself or others if not involuntarily hospitalized for treatment purposes. Dr. Keller testified K.S. continued to be "irritable and unfocused" when he did not take appropriate medications. Dr. Keller also described K.S. as "argumentative and uncooperative" with DOC staff.

         Both the judicial hospital referee and the district court accepted Dr. Keller's findings. K.S. now appeals from the district court's order finding he is seriously mentally impaired.[1]

         II. Scope and Standard of Review

         We review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting civil commitment proceedings for legal error. In re B.B., 826 N.W.2d 425, 428 (Iowa 2013). Here, the State must prove its claims by clear and convincing evidence. See Iowa Code § 229.13(1); In re J.P., 574 N.W.2d 340, 342 (Iowa 1998). Clear and convincing evidence "means that there must be no serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of a particular conclusion drawn from the evidence." J.P., 574 N.W.2d at 342 (quoting In re L.G., 532 N.W.2d 478, 481 ...


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