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In re T.A.G.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 27, 2019

In the Interest of T.A.G.
v.
T.A.G., Respondent and Appellant Julie Lawyer, Petitioner and Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable John W. Grmstemer, Judge.

          Julie A. Lawyer, Burleigh County State's Attorney, Bismarck, ND, petitioner and appellee.

          Tyler J. Morrow, Grand Forks, ND, for respondent and appellant.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] T.A.G. appeals from an order denying discharge from commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. He argues the findings are insufficient to demonstrate he has serious difficulty controlling his behavior. The order denying T. A.G.' s petition for discharge is reversed because the findings are insufficient to conclude the due process requirement has been met under Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002).

         I

         [¶2] In 2005, near the end of a five-year sentence for conviction of corruption or solicitation of a minor, the State successfully petitioned to commit T.A.G. as a sexually dangerous individual. In 2006,2010,2011, and 2012, T.A.G. unsuccessfully petitioned for discharge. T.A.G. appealed the 2012 order and this Court affirmed. Interest of T.A.G., 2015 ND 256, 872 N.W.2d 633.

         [¶3] In 2017 T.A.G. requested a discharge hearing under N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-18. On September 7, 2018, the district court had a hearing and heard testimony from an examining psychologist and T.A.G. On October 17,2018, the court denied T.A.G.'s petition for discharge. On May 6, 2019, the case was remanded for additional findings of fact on whether T.A.G. was likely to re-offend and had serious difficulty controlling his behavior. Interest of T.A.G., 2019 ND 115, 926 N.W.2d 702. On May 9, 2019, the district court made additional findings of fact, conclusions of law and issued an order for continuing commitment.

         II

         [¶4] This Court reviews civil commitments of sexually dangerous individuals under a modified clearly erroneous standard, and we will affirm a district court decision unless it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, or we are firmly convinced the decision is not supported by clear and convincing evidence. Interest of Tanner, 2017 ND 153, ¶ 4, 897 N.W.2d 901. The burden is on the State to prove by clear and convincing evidence the petitioner remains a sexually dangerous individual. N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-18(4). The State must prove three statutory elements to show the petitioner remains a sexually dangerous individual under N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-01(8):

"[1] [the individual] engaged in sexually predatory conduct and [2]... has a congenital or acquired condition that is manifested by a sexual disorder, a personality disorder, or other mental disorder or dysfunction [3] that 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."

         [¶5] The State also must meet substantive due process requirements by proving the individual has serious difficulty in controlling his behavior. Interest of Tanner, 2017ND 153,¶5, 897N.W.2d 901. Consistent with the holding in Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002), the definition of a sexually dangerous individual requires "proof of a nexus between the requisite disorder and dangerousness to encompass 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." Interest of Carter, 2019 ND 67, ¶ 4, 924 N.W.2d 112 (internal quotation marks omitted). Neither our law nor Kansas v. Crane, "require the conduct evidencing the individual's serious difficulty in controlling his behavior to be sexual in nature." In re Wolff, 2011 ND 76, ¶ 7, 796 N.W.2d 644.

         [¶6] Constitutional considerations require a causal connection between the disorder and inability to control behavior, which would likely result in future sexually predatory conduct. Tanner,2017 ND 153, ¶ 5, 897 N.W.2d 901; Matter of J.M.,2019 ND 125, ¶ 9, 927 N.W.2d 422. The district court may consider non-sexual conduct demonstrating a serious difficulty controlling behavior, but the presence of a mental disorder or condition alone does not satisfy the requirement of clear and convincing evidence the individual is likely to engage in further sexually predatory conduct. J.M.,2019 ND 125, ΒΆ 9, 927 N.W.2d 422. The district court must state the ...


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