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In re Midgett

June 10, 2010

IN THE MATTER OF CHRISTOPHER JAMES MIDGETT
STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA, PETITIONER AND APPELLEE
v.
CHRISTOPHER JAMES MIDGETT, RESPONDENT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lawrence E. Jahnke, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandstrom, Justice.

AFFIRMED.

[¶1] Christopher Midgett appeals an amended order denying his petition for discharge from commitment as a sexually dangerous individual, claiming the district court erred in finding the State proved by clear and convincing evidence that he has serious difficulty controlling his behavior. We affirm.

I.

[¶2] In March 2007, Midgett was civilly committed as a sexually dangerous individual, and this Court affirmed the district court's commitment order. Matter of Midgett, 2007 ND 198, ¶¶ 1, 14, 742 N.W.2d 803 (Midgett I). In February 2008, Midgett petitioned for discharge. Dr. Lynne Sullivan, a psychologist at the State Hospital, and Dr. Robert Riedel, an independent psychologist, filed reports and testified before the district court. After the discharge hearing, the district court denied Midgett's petition, and he appealed. We concluded the district court failed to make sufficient findings of fact on whether Midgett has serious difficulty controlling his behavior, and we reversed and remanded for detailed findings on that issue. Matter of Midgett, 2009 ND 106, ¶¶ 9-10, 766 N.W.2d 717 (Midgett II).

[¶3] On remand, the district court found Midgett remains a sexually dangerous individual who is likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct if released. The court found the State established by clear and convincing evidence that Midgett has serious difficulty controlling his behavior, stating, "Even in the structured setting of the North Dakota State Hospital, Dr. Sullivan indicated that Mr. Midgett has engaged in inappropriate impulsive behavior while awaiting entry into the sex offender treatment program. Until he completes that program and his behavioral impulses are re-assessed, it is simply unknown if he will have gained the ability to control his sexual urges in a non-restrictive community setting." On appeal, Midgett argues the district court erred in finding the State proved by clear and convincing evidence that he has serious difficulty controlling his behavior.

[¶4] The district court had jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, § 8, and N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-02. The appeal was timely under N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-19. This Court has jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, §§ 2 and 6, and N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-19.

II.

[¶5] Midgett argues the State did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has serious difficulty controlling his behavior.

[¶6] Civil commitments of sexually dangerous individuals are reviewed under a modified clearly erroneous standard of review. Midgett II, 2009 ND 106, ¶ 5, 766 N.W.2d 717. We will affirm a district court order denying a petition for discharge unless it is induced by an erroneous view of the law or we are firmly convinced it is not supported by clear and convincing evidence. Id.

[¶7] At a discharge hearing, the State has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the committed individual remains a sexually dangerous individual. Matter of A.M., 2009 ND 104, ¶ 8, 766 N.W.2d 437. A sexually dangerous individual is:

[A]n individual who is shown to have [1] engaged in sexually predatory conduct and who [2] has a congenital or acquired condition that is manifested by a sexual disorder, a personality disorder, or other mental disorder or dysfunction that [3] makes that individual likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct which constitute a danger to the physical or mental health or safety of others.

N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-01(8).

[¶8] In addition to the three statutory requirements, to satisfy substantive due process the State must also prove the committed individual has serious difficulty controlling his behavior. Midgett II, 2009 ND 106, ¶ 6, 766 N.W.2d 717. In Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407, 412-13 (2002), the United States Supreme Court held the State must prove a committed individual has serious difficulty controlling his or her behavior to sufficiently distinguish the dangerous sexual offender from typical recidivists and to prevent civil commitment from becoming a mechanism for retribution or general deterrence.

[¶9] We have said:

[W]e construe the definition of a sexually dangerous individual to mean that proof of a nexus between the requisite disorder and dangerousness encompasses proof that the disorder involves serious difficulty in controlling behavior and suffices to distinguish a dangerous sexual offender whose disorder subjects him to civil commitment from the dangerous but typical recidivist in the ordinary criminal case. We conclude that ...


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