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WI Court of Appeals Upholds Two Milwaukee County Chapter 980 Civil Commitments; Van Hollen Praises Decision

 

"Chapter 980 allows Wisconsin prosecutors to obtain civil commitment orders against Wisconsin's most violent sexual offenders," says Van Hollen. "I praise this morning's decision as a positive step toward guaranteeing public safety in the state."

 

MADISON – Chapter 980 of the Wisconsin Statutes authorizes the civil commitment of persons, previously convicted of a sexually violent criminal offense, who suffer from a mental disorder that predisposes them to commit such acts. This morning, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals (District I, Milwaukee) held in two consolidated cases that a circuit court need not dismiss a Chapter 980 proceeding if the subject's criminal parole or extended supervision is revoked before entry of a Chapter 980 commitment order.

 

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin in the Court of Appeals, praised the decision. "Chapter 980 allows Wisconsin prosecutors to obtain civil commitment orders against Wisconsin's most violent sexual offenders," said Van Hollen. "I praise this morning's decision as a positive step toward guaranteeing public safety in this state."

 

Carol Cornelius Gilbert, Jr. and Price T. Hunt both appealed Chapter 980 orders of commitment entered against each of them in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. During the pendency of their Chapter 980 proceedings, both men returned to prison and the physical custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). Both men argued on appeal that the State's Chapter 980 petitions should have been dismissed because their return to DOC eliminated the possibility of placing them in the immediate custody of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), as required by Chapter 980.

 

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals disagreed. Relying on well-established principles of statutory construction, the appellate court concluded that the Wisconsin State Legislature did not intend for Chapter 980 commitment proceedings to stop because the subject of the petition returned to DOC custody. The Court concluded that its interpretation of the relevant statutes served the twin purposes of a Chapter 980 commitment – protection of the public and treatment of convicted sex offenders.

 

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals' consolidated decision in State of Wisconsin v. Carol Cornelius Gilbert, Jr, No. 2010AP594, and State of Wisconsin v. Price T. Hunt, No. 2010AP1155, appears at the Court's website:

 

http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=62705

 

Assistant Attorney General Warren D. Weinstein represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.