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In re Civil Commitment of Harju

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 19, 2013

In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of: Joseph Edwin Harju.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-PR-08-665

Joseph Edwin Harju, Moose Lake, Minnesota (pro se appellant)

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

Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.

CHUTICH, Judge

Appellant Joseph Edwin Harju challenges the district court's order denying his motion under Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 to vacate his stipulation to civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person and his motion for appointment of counsel. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Harju's motion was untimely and in denying his request for counsel, we affirm.

FACTS

Between 1972 and 2002, Harju was convicted of several sex-related offenses involving young boys. In 2008, Harju stipulated to civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person. He later moved to vacate the stipulation, asserting that he did not understand the consequences of the stipulation and that it was based on the state's unfulfilled promise of lenient treatment. After denying Harju's motion, the district court ordered his indeterminate commitment in July 2009. This court affirmed both the denial of the motion to vacate the stipulation and the order for indeterminate commitment. In re Commitment of Harju, No. A09-1619 (Minn.App. Feb. 9, 2010), review denied (Minn. Apr. 20, 2010).

In January 2013, Harju filed with the district court another motion to vacate his stipulation under rule 60.02. Harju, who was diagnosed with Paraphilia, Not Otherwise Specified, submitted a 2011 blog post from the Psychiatric Times website suggesting that Coercive Paraphilia is not a proper disorder on which to base a civil commitment. Harju argued that this article showed that his stipulation was the product of fraud or fraud upon the court, and that changed circumstances required that he be allowed to withdraw the stipulation. Harju also asked the district court to appoint counsel to represent him in the rule 60.02 motion.

The district court denied Harju's motions, concluding that he was not entitled to counsel and that his rule 60.02 motion was untimely. Harju appealed.

DECISION

I. Motion to Appoint Counsel

Harju first contends that the district court erred in declining to appoint counsel to represent him in this proceeding.[1] Concerning the right to counsel in a civil-commitment proceeding, Minnesota law provides that "[a] patient has the right to be represented by counsel at any proceeding under . . . chapter [253B]." Minn. Stat. § 253B.07, subd. 2c (2012). Harju filed his motion under rule 60.02 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure, however, and not under chapter 253B, and he is therefore not entitled to counsel. In re Commitment of Moen, __ N.W.2d __, __, 2013 WL 3968801, at *8–9 (Minn.App. Aug. 5, 2013) (holding that a civilly committed person has ...


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