In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of: Jeremy David Johnson
Freeborn County District Court File No. 24-PR-11-1097
David Johnson, Moose Lake, Minnesota (pro se appellant)
Ellison, Attorney General, Noah A. Cashman, Assistant
Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and David Walker,
Freeborn County Attorney, Albert Lea, Minnesota (for
Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Bratvold,
Judge; and Slieter, Judge.
speculation that a lawyer was under the influence of a
mood-altering substance while representing a client in
commitment proceedings under the Minnesota Commitment and
Treatment Act (MCTA), Minn. Stat. §§ 253B.01-.24
(2010 & Supp. 2011), or under the Minnesota Commitment
and Treatment Act: Sexually Dangerous Persons and Sexual
Psychopathic Personalities, Minn. Stat. §§
253D.01-.36 (2018), is insufficient to establish ineffective
assistance of counsel under Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (1984).
2012, appellant was committed as a sexually dangerous person
(SDP) and as a sexual psychopathic personality (SPP). In
2018, appellant moved for a new trial and asked the district
court to appoint an attorney to represent him in the
proceedings on his motion. As support for his motion,
appellant asserted that his court-appointed attorney in the
commitment proceedings was under the influence of a
mood-altering substance and provided ineffective assistance
of counsel as a result. The district court denied
appellant's request for court-appointed counsel, as well
as his motion for a new trial. Because Johnson did not have a
constitutional right to appointed counsel in the proceedings
on his motion, and because the district court did not abuse
its discretion by denying the motion both as untimely and on
the merits, we affirm.
2011, respondent Freeborn County petitioned for indeterminate
commitment of appellant Jeremy David Johnson as an SDP and an
SPP. The district court appointed counsel to represent
Johnson in the commitment proceedings and held a two-day
trial on the county's petition in November
2011. In March 2012, the district court
indeterminately committed Johnson as an SDP and an SPP under
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subds. 18b, 18c
(2010). Johnson did not appeal from the judgment
February 2018, Johnson's court-appointed attorney in the
commitment proceedings was charged with first-degree
controlled-substance sale and possession after police found
drugs in his home while executing a search warrant.
2018, Johnson moved for a new trial under rules
59.03 and 60.02 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil
Procedure, claiming that he received ineffective assistance
of counsel in the commitment proceedings. Johnson's
motion papers stated that "the newly discovered evidence
of his attorney . . . having been criminally charged in Blue
Earth County District court [with] several Felonies,
including but not limited to the sale of methamphetamine,
marijuana and other drugs," is "relevant,
admissible, and likely to have an effect on the result of
[his] civil commitment proceedings." Johnson asserted
that his "attorney was under the influence of a mood
altering substance, and therefore could not . . . do his duty
as an attorney." (Emphasis omitted.)
district court held a hearing on Johnson's motion.
Johnson appeared pro se and asked the district court to
appoint an attorney to represent him in the proceedings. The
county had previously indicated to the district court that it
opposed appointment of counsel, arguing that because "a
Rule 60.02 motion is not a proceeding under the commitment
act," Johnson was not entitled to court-appointed
counsel. See In re Civil Commitment of Moen, 837
N.W.2d 40, 43, 50-51, 50 n.2 (Minn.App. 2013) (stating that a
patient who has been committed as an SDP does not have a
statutory right to counsel under Minn. Stat. § 253B.07,
subd. 2c (2012), for purposes of a rule 60.02 motion, and
noting that chapter 253D includes a statutory right to
counsel that is substantively the same as right to counsel in
chapter 253B), review denied (Minn. Oct. 15, 2013).
The district court denied Johnson's request for
district court also denied Johnson's new-trial motion,
reasoning that it was untimely and that it failed on the
merits. As to the merits, the district court reasoned that
Johnson failed to provide any evidence to support his
assertion that his former attorney was under the influence of
chemicals during the commitment proceedings, that the record
indicated that his former attorney's performance did not
fall below an objective level of competence, that the
evidence established that Johnson met the criteria for
commitment, and that it is unlikely that a different strategy
by Johnson's former attorney would have changed the
result. Johnson appeals.
the district court err by not appointing counsel to represent
Johnson in the proceedings on his motion for a new trial?
Did the district court err by denying Johnson's new-trial
motion as untimely? III. Did the district court err by
denying Johnson's new-trial motion on the merits?
contends that the district court erred by denying his request
for court-appointed counsel to represent him in the
proceedings on his new-trial motion. He argues that "the
due process clause of the constitution sometimes requires
that an indigent respondent must be granted a court-appointed
attorney in civil proceedings which affect important
rights" and that "courts have widely recognized a
constitutional right to court-appointed counsel in civil
commitment proceedings." He further argues that
"courts have recognized the constitutional necessity of
providing court-appointed counsel to committed persons even
during various ancillary points in the proceedings."
the district court violated a constitutional right to
court-appointed counsel is an issue of law reviewed de novo.
State v. Andersen, 871 N.W.2d 910, 916 (Minn. 2015).
court rejected a constitutional claim to counsel in
Beaulieu v. Minn. Dep't ofHuman
Servs., holding that "[t]he Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
does not confer a right to counsel on a person who is the
subject of a civil-commitment proceeding." 798 N.W.2d
542, 543 (Minn.App. 2011), ...