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In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of P.W.

February 10, 2011

IN THE MATTER OF THE CIVIL COMMITMENT OF P.W.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Docket No. BUSC-1213-09.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Telephonically argued: January 20, 2011

Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Fasciale.

P.W. appeals from a July 28, 2010 civil commitment order entered pursuant to Rule 4:74-7 and the Comprehensive Civil Commitment Statute, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.1 to -27.23.*fn1 We affirm.

P.W. was found not guilty of arson and murder by reason of insanity in 1981 and the court placed P.W. on Krol*fn2 status. His confinement to a mental hospital was interrupted in 2000 and 2007 because he was sentenced to state prison for convictions for two separate aggravated assaults. Defendant's Krol status was reinstated after his state prison confinements.

After his Krol status expired, the court conducted civil commitment hearings on May 5, June 30, and July 28, 2010. The record reveals that P.W. has a long history of dangerous behavior including, but not limited to, setting fire to his mattress, throwing chairs at hospital staff, punching a psychiatrist, refusing medication, threatening escape, and destroying his bedroom. After each hearing, Judge Hawkins committed P.W. to the Ann Klein Forensic Center (AKFC), where he resides currently. Judge Hawkins continued the civil commitment status because P.W. suffered from a mental illness that caused him to be a danger to himself and others.

On appeal, P.W. argues that the judge erred by finding that his violence was caused by his mental illness. He also contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at the May 5 hearing.

Our review of a commitment determination "is extremely narrow and should be modified only if the record reveals a clear mistake." In re D.C., 146 N.J. 31, 58 (1996) (citing State v. Fields, 77 N.J. 282, 311 (1978); In re Commitment of J.L.J., 196 N.J. Super. 34, 49 (App. Div. 1984), certif. denied, 101 N.J. 210 (1985)). We must "determine whether the lower courts' findings were clearly erroneous." Id. at 59 (citing Fields, supra, 77 N.J. at 311).

Rule 4:74-7(f) governs civil commitments and provides that an involuntary commitment shall be ordered if four factors are met by clear and convincing evidence:

(1) the patient is mentally ill,

(2) mental illness causes the patient to be dangerous to self or dangerous to others or property as defined in ...


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