IN THE MATTER OF: B.A.F., Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: January 16, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Tenth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Fergus, Cause No. DI-2017-07 Honorable Jon
A. Oldenburg, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Kristen L.
Peterson, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F.
Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Kent M.
Sipe, Fergus County Attorney, Craig R. Buehler, Deputy County
Attorney, Lewistown, Montana
McGrath, Chief Justice.
B.A.F. appeals from a June 6, 2017 Tenth Judicial District
Court order extending his commitment to the Montana Mental
Health Nursing Care Center (Care Center). We affirm.
We restate the issue on appeal as follows:
Whether the requirements of § 53-21-119(1), MCA,
applied when B.A.F. requested a hearing to stipulate to the
extension of his involuntary commitment.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
B.A.F. is a sixty-six-year-old man with a long-standing
history of mental illness. B.A.F. suffers from schizophrenia,
paranoid type, and antisocial personality disorder. In 2015,
B.A.F. was committed to the Montana State Hospital (MSH) for
the thirteenth time. On April 27, 2016, after several months
at MSH, B.A.F. stabilized and transitioned to a community
setting in Helena, Montana. However, B.A.F.'s condition
quickly deteriorated when he quit taking his medication and,
on May 10, 2016, B.A.F. returned to MSH. On March 11, 2016,
B.A.F.'s commitment to MSH was extended for a period of
one year. In September 2016, B.A.F. was transferred to Care
Center in Lewistown, Montana.
On February 21, 2017, Susan Stevens (Stevens), a mental
health professional at Care Center, petitioned the Tenth
Judicial District Court to extend B.A.F.'s commitment.
The District Court appointed B.A.F. counsel and appointed
Stephen Cummings as B.A.F.'s friend. The Court appointed
Stevens to examine B.A.F. and submit a mental health
In March 2017, B.A.F. requested a hearing through counsel. In
the request, his counsel asserted: "[B.A.F.] wishes to
stipulate to the petition for commitment, but requests a
hearing to put on the record that he is capable of making an
intelligent and knowing decision." The State did not
object and the District Court set a hearing to approve the
stipulation for two and a half months later, ordering the
commitment extended in the meantime. On June 6, 2017, the
District Court heard testimony from B.A.F. and Mr. Cummings.
Below is B.A.F.'s testimony in its entirety:
B.A.F.'s Counsel: And just for the record Your Honor I
have met with [B.A.F.] a couple times and he has indicated
that he is willing to stipulate and continue his care here as
long as his social worker is working with him to explore
other options . . . . [B.A.F.] will you state your name
please for the record?
Counsel: And how are you doing right now?
B.A.F.: Fine. I can't think or comprehend very well
though because of this certain (unintelligible) of the needle