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T.K. v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 19, 2015

IN THE MATTER OF THE CIVIL COMMITMENT OF T.K., Appellant (Respondent),
v.
DEP'T OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Appellee (Petitioner)

Page 272

Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49D08-9906-MH-582. The Honorable Gerald Zore, Judge.

On Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A02-1310-MH-878.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Joel M. Schumm, Indianapolis, Indiana; Ruth A. Johnson, Marion County Public Defender Agency, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Chadwick C. Duran, U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dickson, Justice. Rush, C.J., and Rucker, David, Massa, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 273

Dickson, Justice.

T.K. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his involuntary civil commitment. He was committed following a hearing on October 18, 2013. To obtain an involuntary regular[1] commitment of an individual, a " petitioner is required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that: (1) the individual is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled; and (2) detention or commitment of that individual is appropriate." Ind. Code § 12-26-2-5(e) (2012). The trial court's order of commitment declared that, by clear and convincing evidence, T.K. was mentally ill and both dangerous and gravely disabled. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a memorandum decision. In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of T.K., No. 49A02-1310-MH-878, 3 N.E.3d 1090 (Ind.Ct.App. Jan. 30, 2014) (table), clarified on reh'g, 10 N.E.3d 100 (Ind.Ct.App. Apr. 3, 2014) (table). We now grant transfer and reverse.

On appeal, T.K. does not challenge the finding of his mental illness, but he contends that neither of the necessary alternative elements, " dangerous" or " gravely disabled," were proven by clear and convincing evidence. The Petitioner disagrees and argues to the contrary.

" [T]he purpose of civil commitment proceedings is dual: to protect the public and to ensure the rights of the person whose liberty is at stake." In re Commitment of Roberts, 723 N.E.2d 474, 476 (Ind.Ct.App. 2000), trans. not sought. The liberty interest at stake in a civil commitment proceeding goes beyond a loss of one's physical freedom, and given the serious stigma and adverse social consequences that accompany such physical confinement, a proceeding for an involuntary civil commitment is subject to due process requirements. See Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 425--26, 99 S.Ct. 1804, 60 L.Ed.2d 323 (1979). To satisfy the requirements of due process, the facts justifying an involuntary commitment must be shown " by clear and convincing evidence . . . . [which] not only communicates the relative importance our legal system attaches to a decision ordering an involuntary commitment, but . . . also has the function of reducing the chance of inappropriate commitments." Commitment of J.B. v. Midtown Mental Health Ctr., 581 N.E.2d 448, 450 (Ind.Ct.App. 1991) (citations omitted), trans. denied.

In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a determination made under the statutory requirement of clear and convincing evidence, an appellate court will affirm if, " considering only the probative evidence and the reasonable inferences supporting it, without weighing evidence or assessing witness credibility, a reasonable trier of fact could find [the necessary elements] proven by clear and convincing evidence." Bud Wolf Chevrolet, Inc. v. Robertson, 519 N.E.2d 135, 137 (Ind. 1988). This appellate standard of review applies in civil commitment decisions. See GPH v. Giles, 578 N.E.2d 729, 732--33 (Ind.Ct.App. 1991) (" In reviewing a claim of

Page 274

insufficient evidence in a commitment case, we keep in mind that commitment may be ordered only if the elements upon which the commitment is ordered are proven by clear and convincing evidence, and we consider only that evidence most favorable to the judgment, along with all favorable inferences therefrom." ), trans. denied ; Jones v. State, 477 N.E.2d 353, 360 (Ind.Ct.App. 1985) (" In reviewing a claim of insufficient evidence, we consider only that evidence most favorable to the judgment along with all favorable inferences therefrom, yet keep in mind that commitment may be ordered only upon a finding of clear and ...


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