IN THE MATTER OF: C.B., Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: February 8, 2017
Appellant: Chad Wright Danny Tenenbaum
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Tammy K Plubell, Scott D. Twito
Michael E Wheat Justice
C.B. suffers from bipolar affective disorder, manic severe
with psychotic features. She has received treatment from the
Billings Clinic Psychiatric Center ("Clinic")
periodically for several years. She appeals the Thirteenth
Judicial District Court's order of involuntary commitment
dated October 19, 2015. She claims that the District Court
erroneously held that the State had satisfied its burden of
proof authorizing commitment. She further asserts that the
District Court improperly authorized the administration of
involuntary medications by misconstruing the applicable
statute, § 53-21-127(6), MCA. Lastly, C.B. claims her
counsel was ineffective. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
C.B. is a single twenty-eight-year-old female with a lengthy
history of mental illness. Her medical records reveal that
she is frequently noncompliant with prescribed medications,
is aggressive, combative and abusive to family members, and
is repeatedly, if not chronically, homeless and unemployed.
Additionally, she has periodic encounters with law
enforcement usually precipitated by reports that she is
walking in vehicle traffic and creating a danger to herself
and others. While interacting with the officers, she
generally displays volatile, bizarre behavior and is, at
Between April 2015 and October 2015, officers transported
C.B. to the Billings Clinic four times. As a result, the
Yellowstone County Attorney filed four petitions for
commitment: April 23, August 13, October 1, and October 13,
2015. The first three petitions were dismissed following four
to seven days of Clinic inpatient treatment during which C.B.
received her medications and stabilized sufficiently to be
discharged. The October 13, 2015 petition was not dismissed
and following appointment of counsel and a professional
person/evaluator, Dr. Amy Schuett, the District Court
conducted an evidentiary hearing on October 19 at which C.B.
and Dr. Schuett testified.
In the court's post-hearing October 19, 2015 Findings of
Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order, the District Court made
the following factual findings: (1) on October 9, 2015, the
Billings Police Department responded to a report of a woman
wandering in traffic; (2) when the officers arrived they
found a disoriented and incoherent C.B. and transported her
to the Billings Clinic; (3) the Clinic staff, who knew C.B.,
conducted an evaluation and administered necessary
medication; (4) the Clinic requested the County Attorney to
file a petition for commitment to the Montana State Hospital
(MSH); and (5) the Petition was filed on October 13, 2015.
The court further found that while C.B. was hospitalized at
the Clinic between October 9 and the October 19 evidentiary
hearing, she became compliant with her medication but had not
improved sufficiently to be safely discharged. The court also
found that C.B.'s multiple short-term hospitalizations
were ineffective and unable to stabilize her for a term
longer than a few days or weeks.
The District Court's legal conclusions included: (1) the
State had proven to a reasonable degree of medical certainty
that C.B. suffered from a mental disorder; (2) C.B. is unable
to care for herself; (3) MSH is the least restrictive
treatment option available; and (4) involuntary
administration of medications is authorized as it "may
be necessary" to facilitate treatment.
A restatement of the issues on appeal is:
Did the District Court err in concluding that the State had
satisfied its burden of proof authorizing commitment?
(A) Did the District Court erroneously rely upon inadmissible
hearsay in Dr. Schuett's report and testimony to support
its finding that C.B. required commitment?
(B) If Dr. Schuett's hearsay testimony was properly
admitted, did the District Court correctly determine that the
State presented substantial evidence that C.B. was unable to
provide for her own basic needs?
Did the District Court err by authorizing the administration
of involuntary medication when it "may be
Did C.B. receive effective assistance of counsel?
We review a district court's civil commitment order to
determine whether the court's findings of fact are
clearly erroneous and its conclusions of law correct. In