In the Interest of B.A.K. Dawn Ressler, Petitioner and Appellee
B.A.K., Respondent and Appellant
from the District Court of Morton County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Thomas J. Schneider, Judge.
M. Koppy, Morton County State's Attorney, Mandan, ND, for
petitioner and appellee.
Gregory I. Runge, Bismarck, ND, for respondent and appellant.
1] B.A.K. appeals an order for treatment in which the
district court found her to be a person who is mentally ill
and requiring treatment. We reverse the district court's
order finding B.A.K. to be a person requiring treatment under
N.D.C.C. § 25-03.1-02.
2] B.A.K. was initially hospitalized after an outburst at her
regular physician's office. In March 2018, her daughter
petitioned for B.A.K.'s involuntary commitment.
B.A.K.'s husband also attempted to commit B.A.K. earlier
in March 2018 while they were in Arizona for the winter.
After a preliminary hearing, the district court found B.A.K.
to be a mentally ill person and a person requiring treatment.
The district court ordered B.A.K. to undergo treatment for a
period not to exceed 14 days. The district court held a
treatment hearing on April 5, 2018, and it concluded B.A.K.
was a mentally ill person and a person requiring treatment.
3] At the treatment hearing, the district court heard
testimony about B.A.K.'s mental health deterioration and
her refusal to take medication. In October 2017, B.A.K.
started taking anxiety and depression medication. She then
experienced joint pain, and she was prescribed a steroid.
B.A.K. was also taking a prescribed statin for high blood
pressure. B.A.K. decided to take herself off the anxiety and
depression medications, and she eventually stopped taking all
medications. B.A.K. believed she was being monitored, among
4] Dr. Cheryl Huber, B.A.K.'s attending psychiatrist
since her commitment, testified about B.A.K.'s manic
state and tangential thoughts when she was first admitted.
Dr. Huber completed an evaluation on April 4, 2018, which
indicated B.A.K. was having a manic episode triggered by
treatment with antidepressant and corticosteroid medications.
Dr. Huber diagnosed B.A.K. with a mood disorder, not
otherwise specified, and psychosis. Dr. Huber noted
B.A.K.'s mood rapidly fluctuated and she had some
delusional thoughts. Dr. Huber testified B.A.K. refused to
take prescription medications during her hospitalization. Dr.
Huber also testified B.A.K. is a mentally ill person
requiring treatment under the Mental Health Act. B.A.K.'s
lack of mental health issues in the past did not affect Dr.
Huber's diagnosis or recommendation that B.A.K. was a
person requiring treatment. Dr. Huber did not find there was
an alternative to hospitalization because B.A.K. did not
believe she had a problem requiring treatment and B.A.K. was
not following the treatment needed to stabilize her mood. Dr.
Huber believed this was a difficult situation because B.A.K.
clearly needed treatment, but B.A.K. demonstrated
self-control and had not required emergency medication,
seclusion, or restraint while hospitalized.
5] The district court found B.A.K. to be a mentally ill
person, diagnosed with a mood disorder, not otherwise
specified, including paranoia and a manic episode. The
district court determined there was a substantial likelihood
of a substantial deterioration in B.A.K.'s mental health
which would predictably result in dangerousness to B.A.K.,
others, or property. The district court noted the evidence of
danger to B.A.K., others, or property was that, "[h]er
ability to make decisions is impaired by her unstable mood
and thought process." The district court ordered B.A.K.
hospitalized for a 90-day period ending July 3, 2018. B.A.K.
6] On appeal, B.A.K. argues the district court's order
was not supported by clear and convincing evidence to show
she was a mentally ill person and a person requiring
treatment. This Court's review of an appeal from a mental
health hearing is well established:
Our review of an appeal under N.D.C.C. ch. 25-03.1 is
"limited to a review of the procedures, findings, and
conclusions of the trial court." Interest of
D.A., 2005 ND 116, ¶ 11, 698 N.W.2d 474. We review
the findings of the district court under the more probing
clearly erroneous standard of review. Id. A finding
of fact is clearly erroneous if "it is induced by an
erroneous view of the law, if there is no evidence to support
it, or if, although there is some evidence to support it, on
the entire evidence this Court is left with a definite and
firm conviction 'it is not supported by clear and