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In re Thill

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 22, 2015

In the Interest of Maurice Robert Thill. Brian D. Grosinger, Assistant State's Attorney, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
Maurice Robert Thill, Respondent and Appellent

Editorial Note:

The opinion cannot be considered final until disposition of such petition for rehearing by the court or expiration of 14 days from filing date.

Appeal from the District Court of Morton County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce B. Haskell, Judge.

Brian D. Grosinger, Assistant State's Attorney, Mandan, ND, for petitioner and appellee.

Kent M. Morrow, Bismarck, ND, for respondent and appellant.

Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice. Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Sandstrom, Justice, dissenting.

OPINION

Page 618

Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] Maurice Robert Thill appeals from a district court order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. Thill argues that the district court's order was not supported by clear and convincing evidence and that the findings are inadequate. We reverse and remand for specific findings of fact.

I

[¶2] In 2012 the district court found Thill was a sexually dangerous individual and committed him to the custody of the director of the Department of Human Services. In 2013 Thill filed a petition for discharge which the district court denied, finding he remained a sexually dangerous individual. This Court upheld the district court's decision. See In re Thill, 2014 ND 89, ¶ 1, 845 N.W.2d 330. In 2014 Thill filed a second petition for discharge. Dr. Jennifer Krance, a licensed psychologist at the North Dakota State Hospital, completed an annual re-evaluation of Thill. Dr. Krance recommended Thill's continued commitment because he remains a sexually dangerous individual likely to engage in future sexually predatory conduct. The district court appointed Dr. Stacey Benson, a licensed clinical psychologist, to independently evaluate Thill. Dr. Benson and Dr. Krance disagreed whether Thill remains a sexually dangerous individual. In 2015 the district court held a discharge hearing and received testimony from both Dr. Krance and Dr. Benson. The district court found Thill remains a sexually dangerous individual and denied the petition for discharge. Thill appeals.

II

[¶3] This Court employs a " modified clearly erroneous" standard when reviewing the civil commitment of sexually dangerous individuals. In re Matter of J.T.N., 2011 ND 231, ¶ 6, 807 N.W.2d 570.

" We will affirm the district court's 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. In reviewing the order, we give 'great deference to the court's credibility determinations of expert witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony.' We have explained that the district court is 'the best credibility evaluator in ...

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