In the Interest of B.A.C.
B.A.C., Respondent and Appellant State of North Dakota, Petitioner and Appellee
from the District Court of Stutsman County, Southeast
Judicial District, the Honorable James D. Hovey, Judge.
Ryan, Jamestown, N.D., for petitioner and appellee; submitted
S. Marquart, Fargo, N.D., for respondent and appellant;
submitted on brief.
1] B.A.C. appeals a district court order for involuntary
hospitalization and involuntary treatment with medication. We
affirm the district court order, concluding that B.A.C.'s
release did not moot this appeal and that the district court
did not clearly err when it found by clear and convincing
evidence that B.A.C. was a mentally ill person requiring
2] B.A.C. was admitted to the North Dakota State Hospital on
June 6, 2017. Prior to being admitted, B.A.C. drove his car
into a pond near Devils Lake. He then walked barefoot away
from the pond and invaded a private residence. When
confronted inside, B.A.C. offered to buy the property. After
B.A.C. was ordered to leave, he walked approximately two
miles further before he was apprehended by police. In talking
to the police officers, B.A.C. made several delusional
statements about Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump,
which included stating that he himself was the richest man in
the world and that is why Bill Clinton wanted to kill him.
The police took B.A.C. to a hospital in Devils Lake. He was
then transported to the North Dakota State Hospital in
3] The State Hospital petitioned the district court for
involuntary commitment of B.A.C. At the State Hospital,
B.A.C. had refused to take prescribed medication and
expressed his wish to leave the hospital. An examination was
performed by Dr. Lincoln Coombs, a doctor of psychology at
the State Hospital. He found B.A.C. to be mentally ill and
noted that if "untreated on an inpatient basis he would
likely place himself at risk, as he did just prior to the
current admission." Dr. Naveed Haider, a psychiatrist,
performed an independent evaluation on B.A.C. and found him
to have a primary psychotic disorder. Dr. Haider also
believed that releasing B.A.C. from the hospital without
treatment would likely result in self-harm.
4] At the treatment and medication hearing, Dr. Pryatel, the
treating psychiatrist at the State Hospital, stated B.A.C.
was diagnosed with "unspecified schizophrenia spectrum
and other psychotic disorder." He also stated that both
of these diagnoses are recognized mental illnesses. Dr.
Pryatel stated that B.A.C.'s illness impacts his
self-control and judgment. He also stated that left
untreated, B.A.C. poses a serious risk of harm to himself and
others. Specifically, he testified that B.A.C. could fail to
care for himself to the point of starving to death or
endanger himself or others in further home invasions.
5] On August 1, 2017, the district court ordered B.A.C. to be
hospitalized at the State Hospital for 90 days, and ordered
involuntary medication for that same period of time. The
district court also found that the federal firearms
restrictions under 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4) and (g)(4)
applied to B.A.C. On August 15, 2017, B.A.C. was released
from the State Hospital. In the Notice of Release, Dr.
Pryatel explained that B.A.C. "no longer requires
hospitalization at the State Hospital" and requested the
court to enter an order of dismissal. On August 16, the
district court ordered "the Respondent shall be
discharged and released from any further involuntary civil
commitment." B.A.C. now appeals the district court's
hospitalization and treatment order.
6] Before addressing the merits of B.A.C.'s appeal, we
must first determine whether this case has been rendered moot
because B.A.C. is no longer hospitalized and the petition for
involuntary commitment has been dismissed. B.A.C. argues that
his appeal is not moot because his right to possess firearms
remains restricted under 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4) and
7] "This Court may consider the threshold issue of
mootness in every appeal." Interest of G.K.S.,
2012 ND 17, ¶ 4, 809 N.W.2d 335. We dismiss an appeal as
moot "if no actual controversy is left to be determined,
" including when "certain events have occurred
which make it impossible for this Court to issue
relief." In re Guardianship/Conservatorship of Van
Sickle, 2005 ND 69, ¶ 12, 694 N.W.2d 212 (citations
omitted). An appeal is moot when "a determination is
sought which, when rendered, cannot have any practical legal
effect upon a then-existing controversy." Varnson v.
Satran, 368 N.W.2d 533, 535 (N.D. 1985). An appeal is
not moot, however, if the district court's decision
"continues to have 'collateral consequences' for
the appealing party." Interest of G.K.S., at
8] Under 18 U.S.C. § 922, persons who have been
"adjudicated as a mental defective" or
"committed to any mental institution" are
prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition. It is
unlawful "for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of
any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having
reasonable cause to believe that such person... has been
adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to
any mental institution." 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4).
Similarly, it is unlawful for a person "who has been
adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed
to a mental institution" to ship, transport, possess, or
receive firearms or ammunition in or affecting interstate or
foreign commerce. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). The district
court is required to make a finding on whether §
922(d)(4) and (g)(4) apply to the subject of a proceeding in
which the court orders "involuntary hospitalization or
commitment to a treatment ...