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In re Steven L.

Supreme Court of Maine

January 12, 2017

IN RE STEVEN L.

          Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2016

          Zachary Brandmeir, Esq., Bangor, for appellant Steven L.

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Christopher C. Leighton, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Steven L. appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Anderson, J.) affirming an order of the District Court (Bangor, Jordan, J.) extending his involuntary commitment to a progressive treatment program for a period of twelve months. Although the order at issue on appeal has expired, the issue of sufficiency of the evidence to support a commitment order regarding Steven L. has already been presented to us once, In re Steven L., 2014 ME 1, 86 A.3d 5 (Steven L. I), but to date has evaded review because of the determinate duration of the order. Given that circumstance, we conclude that the matter falls within one of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine, reach the merits of the appeal, and affirm the order of the District Court.[1]

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] The case history, stated below, is based on the documents in the record, here including the transcript, cf. Guardianship of Luneau, 2016 ME 127, ¶ 1, 147 A.3d 349, and our prior opinion, Steven L. I.

         [¶3] Steven L. is an individual who, at the time of the trial court hearing, was fifty-five years old. He suffers from severe and persistent mental illness. He was involuntarily admitted to a progressive treatment program on September 7, 2012, for a period of one year, and on July 11, 2014, was again involuntarily admitted to a progressive treatment program for a period of one year. In June 2015, the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center, a psychiatric hospital operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, applied to the District Court for a twelve-month extension of the progressive treatment program order pursuant to 34-B M.R.S. § 3873-A(9) (2016). The application alleged that Steven L. has a history of multiple psychiatric admissions and incidents of dangerous behavior and wishes to discontinue his medication. After a hearing on June 26, 2015, the District Court granted the motion and ordered the extension.

         [¶4] The District Court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that Steven L. suffers from severe and persistent mental illness and schizoaffective disorder that has persisted since childhood. Because of his mental illness, Steven L. poses a risk of harm to himself and others based on his history of suicidality-both on and off medication-and his aggressive behavior toward others. Steven L. has abided by the individualized treatment plan outside of a hospital environment for a year, but he is unlikely to take his medication without the plan. Further, continued participation in the progressive treatment program and access to community resources will help protect Steven L. from interruptions of treatment, relapses, and deterioration of his mental health, as well as enable him to survive more safely in the community, without posing a likelihood of serious harm.

         [¶5] The court was not persuaded by Steven L.s argument that the side effects of the medication decrease his quality of life so much that he is more likely to commit suicide if he is required to participate in the program. Thus, the court found each statutorily required element and ordered the extension of Steven L.s admission to the progressive treatment program. No motion for further findings of fact or conclusions of law was filed. See M.R. Civ. P. 52.

         [¶6] Appeals of progressive treatment orders are presented first to the Superior Court pursuant to 34-B M.R.S. §§ 3864(11), 3873-A(5)(I) (2016) and M.R. Civ. P. 76D. On July 17, 2015, Steven filed a notice of appeal from the District Courts order to the Superior Court. Following some delay in briefing requested by Steven L.s counsel, the Superior Court affirmed the District Courts order on April 20, 2016. This appeal followed.

         II. ...


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