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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. In Re Necessity for the Hospitalization of Reid K. (9/25/2015) sp-7051

In Re Necessity for the Hospitalization of Reid K. (9/25/2015) sp-7051

         Notice:  This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC  REPORTER .  

         Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts,  

         303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email  

                                                                                         

         corrections@akcourts.us.  



                    THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA  



In the Matter of the Necessity                           )  

for the Hospitalization of                               )        Supreme Court No. S-15328  

                                                         )  

REID K.                                                  )        Superior  Court  No.  4FA-13-00446 PR  

                                                                                 

          

                                                         )  

                                                         )        O P I N I O N  

                                                         )  

                                                         )        No. 7051 - September 25, 2015  

                                                         )  



                   Appeal  from  the  Superior  Court  of  the  State  of  Alaska,  

                   Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Paul R. Lyle, Judge.  



                   Appearances:  Rachel Cella, Assistant Public Defender, and  

                                                                           

                   Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant  

                                                                                      

                   Reid K.  Janell M. Hafner, Assistant Attorney General, and  

                   Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee  

                   State of Alaska.  



                   Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and  

                                 

                   Bolger, Justices.  



                   FABE, Chief Justice.  



I.       INTRODUCTION  



                   In  August  2013  the  superior  court  entered  a  30-day  involuntary  civil  

                                            

commitment  order  for  Reid  K.1  

                                                  After  holding  a  contested  evidentiary  hearing,  the  



superior court found that Reid was likely to harm others and that no less restrictive  



          1        Pseudonyms have been used to protect the privacy of the parties.  


----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

alternative existed to prevent potential harm.   Reid appeals that 30-day commitment.  

                                                                           



Shortly  after  Reid's  30-day  commitment,  Reid's  doctors  petitioned  for  a  90-day  



commitment.  At the trial on the requested 90-day commitment, Reid stipulated that he         



was mentally ill and, as a result, was likely to cause harm to himself or others.  Reid's   



30-day commitment order thus does not have collateral consequences in light of his  



                                                                                            

subsequent 90-day commitment based on his stipulation.  Moreover the public interest  



                                                                                

exception to the mootness doctrine does not apply.  Reid's appeal is therefore dismissed  



as moot.  



II.        FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS  



                                                                       

                     Reid K., age 26, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 16.  He  



experiences delusions and severe command auditory hallucinations in the form of seven  



                                                      

different voices that often instruct him to harm and kill other people, including members  



                                                                        

of his family and his home village.  Reid has been prescribed antipsychotic medication  



since  age  16  to  help  control  his  hallucinations  and  manage  his  illness,  but  he  has  



                                                                                                                

repeatedly stopped taking his medications as prescribed.  When Reid stops taking his  



                                                                                  

prescribed medications or smokes large quantities of marijuana, which he does regularly,  



the voices increase in intensity and his hallucinations get worse.  



                     Reid has previously acted on his hallucinations by taking steps toward  



homicidal acts.  In 2012, in response to voices in his head, Reid attempted to kill his  



                      

brother with a sword.  Reid was hospitalized in November 2012 and again prescribed  



psychiatric medication, though it is unclear whether that hospitalization required an  



involuntary  commitment.    Following  Reid's  discharge  from  the  hospital,  Reid  met  



telephonically with his outpatient psychiatrist, Dr. Joshua Sonkiss, who was responsible  



for overseeing Reid's medication regimen.  



                                                                                                               

                     Reid stopped taking his medication soon after his release from the hospital  



in 2012.  He testified that he stopped taking his medication because he wanted to see  



                                                                  -2-                                                           7051
  


----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

"how far [he] would go before anything could happen."  Reid missed between ten and  

                                                                                     



twenty percent of his outpatient appointments with Dr. Sonkiss and did not disclose to  



                                                                                                     

Dr. Sonkiss that he had stopped taking his medication as prescribed.  Reid heard voices  



                                         

telling  him  to  kill  people  for  up  to  seven  of  the  eight  months  after  being  off  his  



medications.  



                                                                                                           

                    Reid's treatment plan required that he abstain from alcohol and marijuana  



because his doctors believed those substances would exacerbate Reid's disorder and  



                              

make his psychosis worse.  But Reid regularly used marijuana as a "stress reliever."  At  



one point Reid told Dr. Sonkiss that he had smoked marijuana 22 out of the past 30 days  



in addition to using "lots of other substances."  



                                                                        

                    By August 2013 Reid's command auditory hallucinations had intensified  



                                                                                                               

and  were  telling  him  to  carry  out  a  mass  murder,  beginning  with  his  family  and  



                                                                    

continuing    to  each  of  the  400  residents  of  his  village.    In  response  to  these  



hallucinations,  Reid  obtained  a  7-millimeter  firearm  that  he  planned  to  use  to  kill  



                                                                                                

residents at an upcoming village gathering.  But when Reid went to buy ammunition, he  



                                                                                                

discovered that the store did not have the correct type of bullets in stock.  A few days  



                                       

later, Reid began having  what he characterized as momentary "conscience," and he  



                                                                 

reported his homicidal plans to Dr. Sonkiss, admitting that his symptoms had gotten "out  



of control."  



                    On  August  16,  2013,  Reid  was  voluntarily  admitted  for  treatment  at  



                                                        

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.  After his first week of  hospitalization, Reid thought he  



no longer needed inpatient treatment because he had come to realize that the voices were  



telling  him  to  do  a  "bad  thing"  and  that  his  family  was  prepared  to  help  him.    His  



inpatient  treating  psychiatrist,  Dr.  Monique  Dase,  filed  a  petition  for  involuntary  



commitment for evaluation on August 26, 2013, and the following day obtained a court  



order committing Reid to the hospital for evaluation.   



                                                             -3-                                                        7051
  


----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

                     Two days later, on August 28, 2013, Dr. Dase filed a petition for a 30-day         



                    2  

                       The petition described Reid's  "plan to kill people in his village," his  

commitment.                                                             



history of medication noncompliance, and his substance abuse.  The petition alleged that  

                                                                                                 



Reid was "likely to cause harm" to others and that "[t]he evaluation staff has considered,  

                                                                                      



but has not found, any less restrictive alternatives available that would adequately protect  

                                                                                                



[Reid]  or  others."              The  superior  court  held  a  contested  hearing  on  the  30-day  

                                                                                                                   



commitment petition the next day.  Dr. Dase and Dr. Sonkiss testified in support of the  

                                                                                               



petition, and Reid, represented by counsel, testified on his own behalf.  



                                                                                  

                    Dr. Dase testified that she was Reid's treating psychiatrist at Fairbanks  



                                                                                              

Memorial Hospital and that she had met with Reid most days during his hospitalization.  



                                                   

During  Reid's  hospitalization,  Dr.  Dase  completed  a  psychiatric  evaluation  and  



confirmed Reid's earlier diagnosis of schizophrenia based on his command auditory  



                                                                          

hallucinations, which "provide commentary or tell [Reid] to do things to harm himself  



or others."  She testified that Reid told her he heard multiple voices in his head that had  



                                                              

"become really strong, and [would] tell him to hurt other people" when he did not take  



                             

his medication as prescribed.  She also testified that Reid had "been diagnosed with  



cannabis dependence and ha[d] a history of alcohol abuse," and that Reid had told her  



                                              

that smoking "too much pot," drinking alcohol, and not sleeping made his hallucinations  



worse.  Dr. Dase cited studies showing a connection between substance abuse and an  



increased risk of violence in schizophrenics with violent tendencies.  



                                                                                           

                    Dr. Dase warned the court that Reid did not seem to understand that his  



                                                                                   

condition was chronic and that he posed a significant risk to others if he did not follow  



through        with      every      part     of    his    treatment,         including        medication          compliance,  



          2          On  August  28,  2013,  Dr.  Dase  also  filed  a  petition  to  administer  



psychotropic medication, though she withdrew the petition the next day.  



                                                                -4-                                                              7051  


----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

                                                                                       

communicating with treatment providers, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol.  Before  



                                                                                

the  hearing  Dr.  Dase  had  prescribed  a  weekly  injectable  form  of  antipsychotic  



                                                                          

medication, but she cautioned that the injection would not be fully effective for another  



                                                                                                                

two weeks and that during that time Reid would need to take the drug in a daily oral  



                                                                                                            

form.  She testified that if Reid was discharged, he would return to a stressful home  



                                     

environment where he would be exposed to alcohol and other substances and would  



                  

likely stop taking his medication, which would cause a relapse or a "worse situation."  



                              

Dr.  Dase  testified  that  Reid's  home  environment  was  a  potential  symptom  trigger  



                                                                                                      

because  some  of  Reid's  family  members  had  historically  been  unsupportive  of  his  



                                                          

treatment and medication needs.  She noted that Reid had learned to mask his symptoms  



                                                                                

from his family, who she said were unaware of the extent of his recent planned attack.  



                               

Dr.  Dase  testified  that,  in  her  opinion,  there  was  no  less  restrictive  alternative  to  



hospitalization that could meet Reid's needs and keep the community safe.  



                                         

                     Dr. Sonkiss, Reid's outpatient psychiatrist and Dr. Dase's supervisor, also  



testified at Reid's 30-day commitment hearing.  He confirmed Reid's schizophrenia  



                                                           

diagnosis and testified in detail about Reid's hallucinations and delusions.  Dr. Sonkiss  



testified that the only reason Reid did not carry out the planned village killings was  



because Reid did not have the bullets.  Dr. Sonkiss agreed with Dr. Dase's conclusion  



                                                                                                       

that substance abuse negatively impacted Reid's condition and that Reid posed a danger  



                                                                   

to others due to his auditory hallucinations.  Dr. Sonkiss testified that "scientific research  



                                                                   

shows very clearly that smoking marijuana . . . for people who already have a psychotic  



                                                                                           

disorder, it exacerbates it . . . [and] in [Reid's] case there's some research that indicates  



marijuana increases violence risk by about a factor of four."  



                     Dr.   Sonkiss   also   testified   regarding   Reid's   history   of   medication  



noncompliance and warned that Reid "isn't honest about his medication use when he's  



                                                                         

an outpatient." In Dr. Sonkiss's opinion, Reid's previous failure to follow his medication  



                                                                -5-                                                          7051
  


----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

regimen   necessitated   continued   hospitalization,   particularly   since   the   injectable  



                                  

antipsychotic had yet to take effect.  Dr. Sonkiss testified that outpatient care was not yet  



appropriate since Reid did not have a treatment plan and services in place to provide  



                                                                                                         

Reid  with  adequate  monitoring  and  to  ensure  community  safety  in  light  of  what  



                                                    

Dr.  Sonkiss  characterized  as  "a  very  unusual  and  extremely  dangerous  situation."  



                                                                                  

Dr. Sonkiss testified that, in his opinion, Reid posed a substantial risk of harm to himself  



                                                                                                                    

and others and that his mental illness was "very, very likely [to] drive him to . . . commit  



a tragic act."  



                                                                                                                            

                    Reid  was  the  final  witness  to  testify.    Reid  did  not  dispute  that  he  is  



                                                                               

mentally ill.  He confirmed that he hears voices in his head that command him to kill  



                                   

people,  discussed  his  plans  to  kill  members  of  his  village,  and  acknowledged  his  



                                                                                     

previous decision to stop taking psychiatric medications shortly after his release from the  



                                              

hospital eight months earlier.  Reid conceded that he needs to be on medication because  



                                                       

"[i]f not, something really bad can happen."  He denied that his marijuana use was a  



problem and instead characterized it as a coping skill, testifying that he needed to use  



marijuana when he encountered difficult times with depression and family problems.  



                                                                                                           

Reid testified that he no longer needed to be hospitalized and asked to be discharged to  



                                                                                  

live  with  his  grandmother,  where,  he  asserted,  his  sister  would  help  distribute  his  



medication so that "someone will know that I'm taking [it]."  



                    At the conclusion of the hearing, the superior court found that there was  



                                                                                          

clear and convincing evidence showing Reid was mentally ill and that, as a result of his  



mental illness, he was likely to cause harm to others.  The superior court based its latter  



finding on Reid's recent plans to kill members of his village; his history of medication  



noncompliance; his marijuana use and "credible testimony from the experts . . . that . . .  



                       

marijuana use exacerbates his schizophrenic symptoms"; and Reid's lack of insight into  



his illness as demonstrated by his continued drug use because it "exacerbates the voices  



                                                               -6-                                                         7051
  


----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

that he hears when he's off his medication, as well as when he's on his medication."  The  



                                                        

superior court also found that a 30-day commitment was the least restrictive alternative  



                                                                                

to prevent potential harm. The court based its least-restrictive-alternative finding on the  



                                                                                                            

inadequacy of Reid's proposed outpatient plan, reasoning that Reid's sister did not have  



                                                                                                       

the ability to ensure that Reid would follow the medication regimen necessary to reduce  



                                                                                                                              

his likelihood of harming others; that Reid's family could not adequately supervise Reid  



and know when he might pose a risk to others because Reid had learned to mask his  



                                                                                                              

symptoms; and that Reid's village did not have a sufficient law enforcement presence to  



                                                                

protect the community should Reid attempt to harm others.  On August 29, 2013, the  



court signed an order for a 30-day commitment.  



                                                                                

                       One month later, after the initial 30-day commitment expired, Dr. Sonkiss  



filed a petition for a 90-day commitment, alleging that Reid was still likely to cause harm  



     

to  himself or others.  The matter proceeded to a jury trial but the parties ultimately  



                                                               

stipulated that Reid "is mentally ill" and as a result, "he is likely to cause harm to himself  



                    3  

                                                                                                                          

or  others."              The  superior  court  signed  an  order  for  a  90-day  commitment  in  



October 2013.  



                       Reid  now  appeals  the  superior  court's  30-day  commitment  order  in  



August 2013 and asks us to reverse and vacate the order.  



            3          We may take judicial notice of Reid's stipulation on the record and the   



accompanying 90-day commitment order, both of which were entered subsequent to the   

superior court's 30-day commitment order.                                  See Alaska R. Evid. 201; Gilbert M. v. State,  

139 P.3d 581, 583 n.3 (Alaska 2006) (taking judicial notice of a party's conviction and                          

sentence, which were not part of trial court record, under Alaska Evidence Rules 201 and   

203).  



                                                                         -7-                                                                  7051
  


----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

III.	     STANDARD OF REVIEW  



                                                            

                    Whether an issue is moot is a "matter of judicial policy and . . . a question  



                                                                                  4  

of law" to which we apply our independent judgment.    



IV.	      DISCUSSION  



          A.	       Reid's Appellate Claims Are Barred On Procedural Grounds Because  

                                                                                                                             

                    His Case Is Moot And Not Subject To Any Mootness Exception.  



                    "A claim is moot if it is no longer a present, live controversy, and the party  



bringing  the  action  would  not  be  entitled  to  relief,  even  if  it  prevails.    Appeals  of  



commitment orders that are based on assertions of insufficient evidence are moot if the  



                                                                                                          

commitment period has passed, subject to two exceptions:  the public interest exception  



                                                                 5 

                                                                                              

and the collateral consequences exception."   Reid argues that both mootness exceptions  



                                                                                                 

apply  here.    We  conclude  that  Reid's  arguments  are  moot  because  the  period  of  

commitment under the 30-day order has expired and neither mootness exception applies,6  



          4	        In re Joan K. , 273 P.3d 594, 595-96 (Alaska 2012).  



          5         In re Mark V. , 324 P.3d 840, 843 (Alaska 2014) (quoting                                  Wetherhorn v.  



Alaska Psychiatric Inst. , 156 P.3d 371, 380 (Alaska 2007)) (internal quotation marks  

omitted).  



          6  

                                                           

                    Reid requests that if we find his appeal is not subject to either mootness  

exception  that  we  remand  "for  consideration  of  whether  Reid  received  ineffective  

assistance  of  counsel  and  stay  his  appeal  pending  resolution  of  that  issue."    Reid  

questions  "whether  [he]  received  effective  assistance  of  counsel  when  entering  the  

                                                                                                                 

90-day  stipulation."    "When  we  review  the  question  whether  a  litigant  has  raised  

             

successfully an ineffective assistance challenge, we apply [a] two-pronged test . . . .  

                                           

Under the first prong, the litigant must show that her attorney's performance was below  

                                                                                                                    

a level that any reasonably  competent attorney would provide, bearing in mind that  

                                            

reasonable tactical decisions are virtually immune from subsequent challenge even if, in  

                                                                                     

hindsight, better approaches could have been taken. Under the second prong, the litigant  

                                                                                

must demonstrate that counsel's improved performance would have affected the outcome  

of the case."   Chloe W. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., Office of Children's  

           

                                                                                                               (continued...)  



                                                               -8-	                                                        7051
  


----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

and thus affirm the superior court's order.  



                    1.        The public interest exception to mootness does not apply.  



                                                                

                    We will consider a question that is otherwise moot if the question "falls  



                                                                                             7  

                                                                                                           

within the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine."                                  Three factors govern  



              

whether  the  public  interest  exception  applies:    "(1)  whether  the  disputed  issues  are  



                                                                                                              

capable of repetition, (2) whether the mootness doctrine, if applied, may cause review  



                                                                                                                         

of the issues to be repeatedly circumvented, and (3) whether the issues presented are so  



                                                                                                                    8  

                                                                                                                       Based  

important to the public interest as to justify overriding the mootness doctrine." 



on his substantive challenges, Reid argues that all three factors of the public interest  



exception to mootness are met here.  



                                                                                    

                    First, Reid argues that the disputed issues are likely to recur because he  



challenges the methods his doctors used to form their professional opinions and those  



                                                              

methods are not unique to the facts of this case.  He also asserts that "such questions will  



recur  and  will  otherwise  evade  appellate  review  due  to  the  quick  expiration  of  



commitment orders."  Finally, Reid notes that we have previously applied the exception  



                                                                                                             

to  commitment  appeals  that  raise  questions  of  statutory  interpretation  and  are  thus  



          6(...continued)  



Servs., 336 P.3d 1258, 1265 (Alaska 2014) (quoting Chloe O. v. State, Dep't of Health  

                                                                                         

& Soc. Servs., Office of Children's Servs., 309 P.3d 850, 858-59 (Alaska 2013)) (internal  

                                                                            

quotation marks and citation omitted).  Here, Reid fails to explain how his attorney's  

                                                                                                     

performance in entering the stipulation fell below the level that a reasonably competent  

                                                                                              

attorney  would  provide  and  thus  has  not  satisfied  the  first  prong  of  establishing  

                                                                                               

ineffective assistance of counsel.  We therefore decline his invitation to remand the case  

rather than dismissing the appeal as moot.  



          7         Wetherhorn, 156 P.3d at 380.  



          8         Akpik v. State, Office of Mgmt. & Budget , 115 P.3d 532, 535 (Alaska 2005)  



(quoting Kodiak Seafood Processors Ass'n v. State , 900 P.2d 1191, 1196 (Alaska 1995)).  



                                                              -9-                                                        7051
  


----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

                                                 9  

                                                     

important to the public interest.                   Reid argues that his appeal "raises important questions  



                                                            

concerning how the 'harm to others' and 'least restrictive alternative' provisions of the  



                                                    

commitment statutes should  be  interpreted," and thus meets the third public interest  



                                                                                    

exception factor.  The State counters that the public interest exception "does not apply  



                                                 

because unlike appeals raising matters of statutory interpretation, Reid's appeal presents  



a discrete challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence."  



                                                                                                                  

                     Reid challenges the superior court's finding that he was likely to cause  



                                                                                                              

harm to others in the future.  He argues that "[t]he trial court clearly erred in [finding]  



                                                                      

that [he] was likely to harm others given the lack of reliability of clinical predictions; the  



                                                                                                            

court's improper reliance on medication noncompliance as a factor in the commitment  



                                                                                                            

decision;  and  the  speculative  and  attenuated  connection  between  marijuana  use  and  



violence."  



                                                                                                       

                     In particular, Reid challenges the sufficiency of the evidence based on the  



                                                                                                                           

alleged unreliability of the unstructured clinical risk assessments used by Dr. Dase and  



Dr. Sonkiss to predict that Reid was likely to harm others, as well as their citation of  



                                

studies  showing  a  link  between  marijuana  use  and  increased  risk  of  violence  in  



schizophrenics. Reid's arguments turn on factual questions regarding the reliability of  



                                                                                         

clinical  tests  and  marijuana  studies,  not  questions  of  statutory  interpretation,  as  he  



                                                                                

suggests.  Reid points to no statutory language to suggest that the legislature sought to  



                                                                                                

disallow this type of evidence.  And the trial court is the most appropriate forum in which  



to  evaluate  and  weigh  competing  fact-based  arguments  regarding  the  reliability  of  



           9  

                                                                                   

                     See Bigley v. Alaska Psychiatric Inst., 208 P.3d 168, 179, 183-84 (Alaska  

2009); E.P. v. Alaska Psychiatric Inst., 205 P.3d 1101, 1107 (Alaska 2009).  



                                                                 -10-                                                                7051  


----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

                                                                                       10  

evidence showing that an individual is likely to harm others.                              Reid's appeal is thus not  

                                                         



subject to the public interest exception.  



                   2.	       The  collateral  consequences  exception  to  mootness  does  not  

                             apply.  



                   In In re Joan K ., we adopted the collateral consequences exception as a  

second exception to mootness in the involuntary commitment context.11  This exception  



"allows  courts  to  decide  otherwise-moot  cases  when  a  judgment  may  carry  indirect  



                                                                                                            

consequences in addition to its direct force, either as a matter of legal rules or as a matter  



                            12  

                                 We recognized that involuntary commitment may carry various  

of practical effect."                   



collateral  consequences,  including  "social  stigma,  adverse  employment  restrictions,  



                                                                                                              

application  in  future  legal  proceedings,  and  restrictions  on  the  right  to  possess  



               13  

firearms."          



                   Joan K. held that collateral consequences can be presumed for "a person's  

                                                            



                                                         14  

first  involuntary  commitment  order."                        We  reasoned  that  some  number  of  prior  



involuntary  commitments  beyond  an  individual's  first  commitment  "would  likely  



eliminate   the   possibility   of   additional   collateral   consequences,   precluding   the  



                                        15  

                                              We  suggested  in  In  re  Mark  V.  that  there  may  be  

                                                                                    

[exception's]  application." 



          10       See   State  v.  Coon,  974  P.2d  386,  396  (Alaska  1999)  ("Determining  



reliability for judicial purposes is unavoidably the responsibility of trial courts . . . .").  



          11	      273 P.3d 594, 597-98 (Alaska 2012).  



          12  

                                                                                           

                   Id.  at 597-98 (quoting Peter A. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs.,  

Office of Children's Servs., 146 P.3d 991, 994-95 (Alaska 2006)).  



          13       Id. at 597 (citations omitted).   



          14       Id. at 598.  



          15       Id.   



                                                            -11-	                                                      7051
  


----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

"incrementally significant collateral consequences" to commitments that occur after an                            



individual's  first  commitment,  but  reasoned  that  appellants  must  show  a  "plausible  

likelihood" of such additional collateral consequences.16  



                                                       

                     The State argues that Reid's 90-day commitment renders his appeal moot  



                                                                                                               

because "there is no longer any indication that the 30-day commitment order will cause  



Reid to suffer any independent or readily cognizable added collateral consequences"  



                                                                                                             

because any consequences "now presumably attach with equal force to Reid's 90-day  



                                                                                                             

commitment  order."    Reid  responds  that  there  are  "incrementally  significant"  and  



                                                          

discrete collateral consequences that attach to the 30-day order as opposed to the 90-day  



                                                                               

order, based on a perceived distinction between the judicial determination made after the  



contested 30-day hearing and the judicial determination based on Reid's stipulation at  



the 90-day hearing.   



                                                                     

                     But any consequences arising from Reid's 30-day commitment order are  



subsumed within his subsequent 90-day commitment order, which were both adjudicated  



orders.  This conclusion may have been different if Reid had voluntarily committed  



himself for the 90 days of treatment, but he did not:   His 90-day commitment was the  



                                               

product of a court process that was ultimately resolved by Reid stipulating to the findings  



                                                                                                         

necessary for a court-ordered commitment.  There is no meaningful distinction between  



                      

the collateral consequences arising from a trial court's commitment order that is based  



                                   

on the court's factual findings after a contested hearing and the consequences arising  



                                                                                                                     

from a trial court's commitment order that is based on facts stipulated by the parties.  



                                                                                        

Thus Reid's 30-day commitment, which was the result of the trial court's factual finding,  



carries the same consequences as his 90-day commitment, where the trial court's findings  



                                     

were  based  on  Reid's  factual  stipulations.    As  a  result,  the  collateral  consequences  



          16         324 P.3d 840, 845 (Alaska 2014).  



                                                                -12-                                                              7051  


----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

                                        

exception does not apply to Reid's appeal of the 30-day order, and his claims are thus  



barred on mootness grounds.  



                                        

          B.	       Challenges  To  Expired  Commitment  Orders  Are  Generally Moot  

                                

                    Under  Wetherhorn, And Thus It Is Best Practice For The State To  

                    Move  To  Dismiss  Such  Challenges  As  Moot  Before  Proceeding  To  

                    Appellate Briefing.  



                                                                                

                    This case centered on Reid's appeal of a commitment order, which the State  



        

first challenged as moot in its appellee's brief.  As a result, Reid did not have a chance  



                                                                                                                 

to try to demonstrate that his claims are not moot or that they fall within an exception to  



                                                                                                             

the mootness doctrine until his reply brief.  This is problematic because in order for the  



collateral consequences exception to mootness to apply, appellants have the burden to  



                                                                                                                 

show that the commitment they are challenging is their first commitment, or that other  



                                                                               17  

incrementally significant consequences flow from it.                                



                    To avoid the procedural challenges that result when the State does not raise  

                          



mootness arguments until its appellee's brief, we take this opportunity to clarify best  

                                                                                                              



practices regarding appeals of commitment orders.  In Wetherhorn v. Alaska Psychiatric  

                                                                             



Institute we held that appeals of commitment orders based on insufficient evidence are  

                                                                                  18  In many, if not most cases, the  

generally moot after the commitment period has passed.                                  



court can determine whether there is a live controversy prior to briefing on the substance  

                                                    



          17        See  In  re  Dakota  K.,  ___  P.3d  ___,  Op.  No.  7041  at  8-10,  2015  WL  



5061844, at *3-4 (Alaska Aug. 28, 2015).  Though Dakota K. had not been decided  

                                         

before  Reid's  briefings  and  oral  argument,  our  holding  in  Dakota  K. ,  setting  forth  

                                                                     

appellant's burden to demonstrate that the  commitment he is challenging is his first  

                                                                   

commitment would not have affected the outcome of this case:  The record shows that  

                                                                                                  

Reid faced a 30-day commitment in August 2013 and a subsequent 90-day commitment  

in October 2013, and thus it is now irrelevant whether his August 2013 commitment was  

                                                                    

his first.  



          18         156 P.3d 371, 380 (Alaska 2007).  



                                                              -13-	                                                        7051
  


----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

                                                                                                            

of the appeal.   It is thus the best practice for the State to move to dismiss appeals of  



                                                                                                                            

commitment orders as moot before briefing commences when no mootness exception is  



                            19  

readily  apparent.               Therefore, when the State first receives a notice of appeal of an  



                                                

expired  commitment  order  that  does  not  otherwise  present  a  live  controversy,  if  it  



                                                                                         20 

                                                                                            it should move to dismiss the  

believes that the claims are moot under  Wetherhorn 



                                                                                                                            

appeal as moot prior to briefing.  The person challenging the commitment then has the  



                                                                         

burden to demonstrate whether a mootness exception exists before briefing underlying  



substantive issues.  We can then either determine whether there is a live controversy  



                            

prior to briefing on the substantive issues or deny the State's motion without prejudice  



to  the  parties'  ability  to  further  develop  and  discuss  mootness  in  their  subsequent  



briefing.  



                                                                                                   

                      This procedure has the potential to save scarce public attorney and judicial  



                                                                          

resources by avoiding merits-based briefing when appeals must ultimately be dismissed  



                                                          

on procedural mootness grounds.  Moreover, it puts the appellant in the best position to  



                                     

prove facts regarding whether the commitment is his first or whether any other mootness  



                                         

exception applies, and it gives the State an opportunity to rebut those claims.  Otherwise,  



                                                                                                                                

if the State waits until its appellee's brief to raise mootness issues, it will be unable to  



                    

respond to any claims the appellant makes in its reply brief.  We hope that setting out  



           19         Cf. Dakota K., Op. No. 7041 at 9-10, 2015 WL 5061844, at *4 (holding that                    



if a patient "files an appeal challenging the commitment order on sufficiency of evidence   

grounds, the State can file a motion to dismiss based on mootness, and the respondent  

would then have the burden of making some evidentiary showing either that this was the  

                                                                                                                                    

first  involuntary  commitment  or  that  there  is  some  other  factual  basis  for  claiming  

collateral consequences").  



           20  

                                                                                                          

                      This court can stay the normal briefing schedule as soon as a motion to  

dismiss is filed.  



                                                                    -14-                                                               7051
  


----------------------- Page 15-----------------------

these best practices will allow all parties to address and focus on the multiple dimensions   



of an appeal of a commitment order in a more efficient and complete manner.  



V.         CONCLUSION  



                     Because   Reid's   appeal   is   moot   and   not   subject   to   the   collateral  



consequences  or  public  interest  exceptions  to  the  mootness  doctrine,  the  appeal  is  



DISMISSED AS MOOT.  



                                                                     -15-                                                          7051
  

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