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In re Civil Commitment of Norton

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 22, 2013

In re Civil Commitment of: Russell Lynn Norton

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

St. Louis County District Court File No. 69-P6-04-600334

Russell L. Norton, Moose Lake, Minnesota (pro se appellant)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and

Mark Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Benjamin M. Stromberg, Assistant County Attorney, Duluth, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge. [*]

CONNOLLY, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's denial of his motions for an evidentiary hearing under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(e) and for the appointment of counsel. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying either motion, we affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Russell Lynn Norton has been civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) as a sexually dangerous person (SDP) since March 2005. In March 2011, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor issued a report (OLA Report) following its evaluation of the civil-commitment process and the MSOP. In January 2013, appellant relied on the OLA report when he filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(e), arguing that "changed circumstances" made his commitment impermissible because the MSOP "no longer offer[ed] adequate treatment." Appellant alleged numerous deficiencies in the MSOP and argued that its "treatment protocol fail[ed] to move [him] toward rehabilitation and release." Further, appellant contended that the district court could entertain a rule 60.02(e) motion based on "inadequate treatment or denial of treatment" under In re Commitment of Lonergan, 811 N.W.2d 635 (Minn. 2012). Appellant filed a separate motion for the appointment of counsel pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 253B.07, subd. 2c (2012), arguing that his rule 60.02(e) motion constituted a proceeding under chapter 253B and thus entitled him to representation.

Respondent State of Minnesota argued that both motions should be dismissed or summarily denied. Respondent contended that appellant's rule 60.02(e) motion was not properly before the district court because treatment issues are "the province of the commissioner of human services" and wholly without merit because appellant failed to make an "individualized claim that he personally has been denied treatment." Respondent also argued that appellant is not entitled to counsel because his motion was not a proceeding under chapter 253B and he failed to provide any other legal basis for the request.

In January 2013, the district court issued an order denying appellant's motion for an evidentiary hearing. The district court held that adequacy-of-treatment questions "are not properly before the committing court, " that such issues "are currently before the correct body, the statutory review panel, " and that, in any event, appellant's motion fails on the merits because he "has made no showing that he has requested treatment and been deprived of such treatment." This appeal follows.

DECISION


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