S.C., by counsel C. Joan Parker, appeals the November 10,
2016, order of the Mental Hygiene Commissioner of Kanawha
County ("Commissioner") committing him to a
psychiatric hospital upon a finding of probable cause that
petitioner was likely to harm himself or
others. The State of West Virginia, by counsel
Andrew S. Dornbos, filed its response in support of the
Commissioner's order. On appeal, petitioner argues that
the Commissioner failed to consider all relevant and reliable
evidence before ruling that petitioner was mentally ill, drug
addicted, and likely to cause harm to himself or others.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
affirming the Commissioner's order is appropriate under
Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
November 10, 2016, petitioner's mother filed an
"Application for Involuntary Custody for Mental Health
Examination." Petitioner's mother stated that she
believed petitioner to be addicted to alcohol and mentally
ill. The bases for her belief included the facts that
petitioner had stopped going to work and "started
preparing for the defeat of the government."
Petitioner's mother asserted that he had purchased a gun
and was having delusions, including one in which he stated
that, while driving, "cars magically appeared around
[petitioner] and recruited him to work for Trump." She
further asserted that petitioner drank beer all day, stopped
taking his antidepressant, and was not sleeping or eating.
same date, petitioner was evaluated by James W. Merrill, MA,
who filed a "Certificate of Licensed Examiner"
after the evaluation. Mr. Merrill found reason to believe
that petitioner was mentally ill, addicted, and likely to
cause harm to himself due to his mental illness and
addiction. Mr. Merrill found that petitioner abused cannabis
and alcohol and had, in fact, been arrested for driving under
the influence the night before his evaluation. Mr. Merrill
also documented that petitioner had stopped taking his
antidepressant medication. Mr. Merrill diagnosed petitioner
with mood disorder, unspecified; alcohol use disorder;
cannabis use disorder; and noncompliance with treatment. Mr.
Merrill concluded that petitioner had a "moderate
probability of SHB [seriously harmful behavior]" and was
in need of "[i]mmediate hospitalization in a 24-hour
after petitioner's evaluation, a probable cause hearing
was held. Mr. Merrill, petitioner's mother,
petitioner's sister, and petitioner's fiancé
testified in support of involuntary hospitalization. Mr.
Merrill testified consistently with the information presented
in his "Certificate of Licensed Examiner" and added
that he was "concerned about if, in fact, he did buy an
assault rifle and he's using drugs and alcohol and may be
delusional . . . . That's not a good combination,
mother testified to petitioner's change in behavior and
"that it's like there was a disconnect from
reality[.]" She testified that petitioner was
"defiant and just . . . one of those people that thinks
everything is a conspiracy" and that petitioner stated
he "had been somewhere and these cars surrounded him and
they were recruiting him for Trump." She testified that
petitioner's daughter confided in her that "she
loves [petitioner] and thinks he needs help but she's
starting to be afraid of him" and to be around him.
Petitioner's mother was unaware "until yesterday
that he smoked pot six days a week, " but she testified
that "[i]f [petitioner is] awake he's got a beer in
his hand" and that "it's one beer after
sister testified that she saw him a few days prior to the
probable cause hearing, "[a]nd he was not himself at
all, he was - what I would as manic [sic]." After
leaving the home at which she saw petitioner and at which she
left her own children to have a sleepover with
petitioner's child, she said "I almost turned around
and went and got my kids because I was scared, but I
didn't. Because I knew they wanted to spend the night
with his daughter[.]" She also testified that petitioner
had "two large guns that I did see with my eyes, at the
house." Petitioner purportedly told her that "he
was stockpiled with his stuff for when this happened."
Petitioner's sister testified that petitioner has not
been to work and simply stopped going:
He didn't tell work he wasn't coming. He just stopped
going. And he was so happy to get this job. He's been
trying for years to get this job. And he just recently got it
and now he just stopped going because of all this stuff, and
he didn't tell anybody that he was going to not go.
sister also recounted that petitioner told her
he was in a high speed chase and that he passed the test. And
so he was going to be recruited to work for the government to
protect Donald Trump. And that he was just waiting for them
to come and get him. And he was so excited. He kept asking
people, "Are you in on it?" "Are you in on
it?" And we were like "In on what?"
further told her that "when you buy high powered rifles
that shot [sic] a mile away, then they know that you're
serious and you can protect the government."
fiancé testified to hearing petitioner talk to
himself. She said she "could hear him from the bedroom,
it wasn't - I thought somebody was in there with him. And
he told me he was just talking to himself[.]"
Petitioner's fiancé testified that petitioner
purchased a deer rifle and that, at first, she was not
concerned about this purchase or his purchase of ammunition.
However, she felt that his preparation "started, I
think, it just got to the extreme. He said something once
that, . . . if it came down to it, . . . he would have to go
and . . . defend the country and . . . shoot Hilary [sic], if
they needed him to." At this point during the hearing,
petitioner interjected and clarified that he told her that he
would defend the Constitution of the United States, not that
he would shoot Hillary Clinton.
testified on his own behalf. He testified to having recently
purchased a new gaming system that has technology that allows
him to communicate with other gamers over a headset. He also
testified that certain clubs he mentioned joining were retail
loyalty clubs for Cabela's and Books-A-Million.
Commissioner found that petitioner's testimony explained
some of the witnesses' testimony but that
"what's going on goes beyond that. When I look at
the totality of the testimony, I think there's something
going on that needs to be addressed, and that needs to be
addressed psychiatrically." Thus, the Commissioner
entered her "Order: Probable Cause ...