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In re Tanner

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 29, 2017

In the Interest of Kelly Tanner
v.
Kelly Tanner, Respondent and Appellant State of North Dakota, Petitioner and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Dickey County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Daniel D. Narum, Judge.

          Gary D. Neuharth, Dickey County State's Attorney, Ellendale, ND, for petitioner and appellee; submitted on brief.

          Jason R. Butts, Wahpeton, ND, for respondent and appellant; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          Kapsner, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Kelly Tanner appeals from a district court order finding he remains a sexually dangerous individual and denying his petition for discharge from the North Dakota State Hospital. Because we conclude the district court order denying Tanner's petition for discharge is supported by the record and is not induced by an erroneous view of the law, we affirm the district court order continuing civil commitment.

         I

         [¶ 2] In 2008, Tanner, age 22, was convicted of sexual assault for having sexual intercourse with a sixteen-year-old female in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-07. The district court sentenced Tanner to one year of probation for the offense. In 2009, Tanner was convicted of failure to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to five years in prison with four years and eleven months suspended for two years of supervised probation. In 2010, Tanner's probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to one year of incarceration with two years of supervised probation to follow. Just before Tanner was released from incarceration, the State petitioned the district court to civilly commit Tanner as a sexually dangerous individual. The district court held a preliminary hearing, ordered an evaluation, and later held an initial commitment hearing. After the commitment hearing, the district court found Tanner was a sexually dangerous individual and ordered civil commitment. Tanner appealed the order of commitment, and this Court affirmed in Interest of Tanner, 2012 ND 127, 821 N.W.2d 385.

         [¶ 3] Tanner petitioned for discharge in 2013 and 2014, and the district court ordered continued commitment on both occasions. Tanner petitioned for discharge a third time in September 2015. The State's doctor, Dr. Krance, evaluated Tanner and filed a report on December 18, 2015. Dr. Krance updated this report with an addendum on April 11, 2016 and a second addendum on May 4, 2016. Dr. Benson, an independent doctor who previously evaluated Tanner, conducted an evaluation and filed a report on April 12, 2016. The district court held a hearing on May 10, 2016, at which both Dr. Krance and Dr. Benson testified. The district court concluded Tanner remained a sexually dangerous individual and denied the petition for discharge. Tanner appealed.

         II

         [¶ 4] On appeal, Tanner argues the district court erred by finding the State had proven Tanner to be a sexually dangerous individual by clear and convincing evidence. "We review civil commitments of sexually dangerous individuals under a modified clearly erroneous standard of review." Matter of Midgett, 2009 ND 106, ¶ 5, 766 N.W.2d 717. "We will affirm a trial 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." Matter of Wolff, 2011 ND 76, ¶ 5, 796 N.W.2d 644 (citation omitted). We give "great deference to the court's credibility determinations of expert witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony." Id. At a discharge hearing, the State must prove by clear and convincing evidence the committed individual remains a "sexually dangerous individual" under N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-18(4). Matter of Hehn, 2015 ND 218, ¶ 5, 868 N.W.2d 551. To prove a committed individual remains a "sexually dangerous individual, " the State must show three statutory elements:

(1) the individual has engaged in sexually predatory conduct; (2) the individual has a congenital or acquired condition that is manifested by a sexual disorder, a personality disorder, or other mental disorder or dysfunction; and (3) the disorder makes the individual likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct.

Id. See N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-01(8).

         [¶ 5] This Court has recognized substantive due process requires additional proof beyond the three statutory elements:

In addition to the three statutory requirements, to satisfy substantive due process, the State must also prove the committed individual has serious ...

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