Sauk County v. S.A.M., 2019AP1033, petition for review granted 2/24/21; case activity

Issues for review:

1. Whether S.A.M.’s appeal from his recommitment is moot because it expired before S.A.M. filed his notice of appeal.

2. Whether the county failed to meet its burden of proving dangerousness by clear and convincing evidence.

3. Whether S.A.M. was denied procedural due process because the county failed to provide particularized notice of the basis for his recommitment. including which standard of dangerousness was being alleged.

SCOW is poised to decide whether appeals from recommitments are ever moot in Portage County v. E.R.R, which was argued back in December. Its decision to grant review in this case may portend a defense win in E.R.R.–or not. Unlike other Chapter 51 appeals involving mootness, S.A.M’s could not prosecute an appeal before his recommitment expired because the SPD was unable to appoint counsel in time. It’s also possible that SCOW regards S.A.M.’s constitutional issue as falling with an exception to the mootness doctrine.

The constitutional issue is BIG. And now that SCOW has granted review on it, trial lawyers should consider raising it before or at recommitment hearings. Due process requires the county to give the subject of a commitment proceeding notice of the legal standard and factual basis for a commitment sufficiently in advance of the hearing so that the subject can mount a defense. Lessard v. Schmidt, 349 F. Supp. 1078 (E.D. Wis. 1972). More recently, Langlade County v. D.J.W. requires counties to specify, and circuit courts to find, which standard of dangerousness a person will meet after treatment is withdrawn. S.A.M. argues that when the county fails to specify the standard of dangerousness in play for the recommitment hearing,  counsel cannot mount a meaningful defense. This violates the subject’s right to procedural due process.