Samuels vs Minneapolis — (Minnesota Court of Appeals)

To view original article click here

In the Matter of: Luther C. Samuels. C8-96-309, Court of Appeals

June 25, 1996

Hennepin County District Court, File No. P08330377

PETERSON, Judge (Hon. Cara Lee Neville, District Court Trial Judge) Luther C. Samuels appeals from a judgment committing him as mentally ill. We affirm.

Facts

In May 1995, Samuels began living with his friend, Mark Macon, in Macon’s home. During the time that Samuels lived with Macon, Samuels was prescribed Prozac, but he let his prescription run out without refilling it. Macon testified that Samuels spoke to him about giant spiders and giant ants taking over and doing things to people.

In November 1995, Samuels withdrew to his room and would not eat. His hygiene was poor, and he would not communicate. Macon attempted to hand feed Samuels. On November 16, 1995, Macon called the police because he was concerned about Samuels’s health. The police brought Samuels to the North Memorial Medical Center (NMMC) emergency room. Samuels was admitted, and hospital staff documented his poor hygiene and unkempt clothing, Samuels was also nonresponsive and mute.

Samuels did not show any signs of acute physical distress, malnutrition, dehydration, or weight-loss. Dr. Dennis Philander, Samuels’s treating psychiatrist, ultimately diagnosed Samuels as having “[s]chizophrenia, paranoid type, in acute psychotic episode *** [and] cannabis dependency by history.” Kathleen Boegeman, a psychiatric social worker and a member of Samuels’s treatment team at NMMC, testified as follows:

  1. Does the team have an opinion as to whether [Samuels] poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to himself or others if he is released? A. There is great concern that he would not be able to provide for himself * * * *
  2. There is concern by the staff that he would not be able to provide the basic necessities to live. Samuels testified that he did not want to be committed. He denied his mental illness and testified that he would continue to take his medications if he were released. He also testified that he did not understand what the medications were for, and he could not explain why he did not get his earlier-prescribed Prozac prescription refilled. The district court found that Samuels has chronic paranoid schizophrenia and that his illness  “grossly impairs his judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality and ability to reason or understand.” The district court further found that Samuels “poses a substantial likelihood of causing physical harm” to himself. The court noted Samuels’s failure to take his medications, his failure to eat, his failure to care for his personal hygiene, and his nonresponsiveness. The district court rejected possible alternative treatments and found that “[t]he least restrictive, appropriate, available placement is a commitment to a regional treatment center for inpatient treatment.”

Decision

Our review is limited to an examination of the trial court’s compliance with the statute, which requires specific findings of fact, separate conclusions of law, and a listing of less restrictive alternatives considered and rejected. In re Fusa, 355 N.W.2d 456, 457 (Minn. App. 1984). The commitment must be “justified by findings based upon evidence at the hearing.”  Minn. R. Civ. Commitment 11.01.  Findings of fact shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.

Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. Minn. Stat.