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In re Necessity for Hospitalization of Dakota K.

Supreme Court of Alaska

August 28, 2015

In the Matter of the Necessity for the Hospitalization of DAKOTA K.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Superior Court No. 3AN-13-03006 PR Andrew Guidi, Judge.

Sharon Barr, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant Dakota K. Jonathan A. Woodman,

Senior Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee State of Alaska.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.


STOWERS, Justice.


Dakota K.[1] appeals a 30-day involuntary psychiatric commitment. Although his appeal is moot, Dakota argues the collateral consequences exception to the mootness doctrine applies. Under that exception we have presumed collateral consequences from a respondent's first involuntary commitment. In this case the parties dispute whether the State or the respondent has the burden to prove the existence of prior involuntary commitments. We hold that this burden rests on the respondent, who must make some evidentiary showing that the commitment was his first in order to raise the presumption of collateral consequences.


In December 2013 two Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) mental health professionals petitioned the superior court for a 30-day commitment of Dakota K. The following day Magistrate Judge Una S. Gandbhir held a hearing at API. During the hearing Dakota's father, Daniel, testified that Dakota had gone to graduate school in Iceland and had been living with him since Dakota's return in August 2012. By the following year their relationship had become contentious, and shortly after Thanksgiving Daniel told Dakota that he would have to make alternative living arrangements.

Daniel testified that Dakota then went on a "reign of terror." According to Daniel, Dakota came to his apartment several times, knocked on the door, and before Daniel answered - Daniel uses a mobility scooter and it took time to cross the room - Dakota rammed the door with a heavy metal tool or a cart. In another incident Dakota threatened Daniel with a crescent wrench.[2] Dakota once removed the key from Daniel's mobility scooter, leaving him immobilized. Finally, Dakota sent Daniel "a hundred . . . texts" asking Daniel whether he wanted to die and saying that Daniel did not deserve to live.

Daniel obtained a restraining order against Dakota. Nevertheless, Dakota repeatedly returned to Daniel's apartment in violation of that order. The police arrested Dakota after one of these visits. Daniel testified that Dakota's recent behavior had been "extremely abnormal" and was "downright scary." He further testified that Dakota had psychiatric issues as an adolescent, once threatening Daniel with a piece of broken glass and once threatening to kill himself.

In December 2013 Dakota was admitted to API, where he was evaluated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Blanford. The first evaluation occurred the day after Dakota's admission - which was two days before the commitment hearing - and two other evaluations followed, as well as regular observations. Although Dr. Blanford did not make a formal diagnosis, he testified that Dakota's behavior at API was "very consistent with irritable mania and bipolar disorder." He explained that Dakota "demonstrated pressured speech, frequent interruption, . . . would derail easily, . . . would frequently change the subject, declined to answer questions, [and] was very loud." He further stated that there was "an aggressive aspect" to Dakota's behavior: Dakota had threatened to "shove soap down a staff member's throat" and warned another that he would cause "a blood bath on this unit" if he did not receive his medication. Dr. Blanford recommended that Dakota remain at API until he was "able to control his behavior" and was less prone to "assaultive behavior."

After the hearing Magistrate Judge Gandbhir orally granted the 30-day commitment petition. Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi signed the written order one day later. The court found that Dakota was "mentally ill and as a result is likely to cause harm to others." It noted his "aggressive and threatening behavior leading up to the restraining order, " as well as his "subsequent arrest for violation of that order." It further noted Dr. Blanford's testimony regarding Dakota's "lack of impulse control" and "the threats and behavior culminating in crisis medication at API." The court found "clear and convincing evidence" that Dakota posed a risk to others and that "[n]o less restrictive facility would adequately protect ...

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