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1976 Wis. L. Rev. 503 (1976)
Civil Commitment in Wisconsin: The Impact of Lessard v. Schmidt

handle is hein.journals/wlr1976 and id is 521 raw text is: CIVIL COMMITMENT IN WISCONSIN:
This article's publication is contemporaneous with major
revisions of the Wisconsin Mental Health Act, Wis. STAT.
§ 51.001 et seq. (1973), which codify and supplement the
Lessard requirements. Law of July 29, 1976, ch. 430 [1975]
Wis. Laws. Note that although the'commitment procedures are
described in present tense, with citation to Wisconsin Statutes,
the procedures and statutes may now be different or will change
in the near future. The passage of the new civil commitment
law, reinstatement of the Lessard decision, and media coverage
have already had impact in this area of inherent flux.
The old way involves accepting a set of assumptions that
are without factual basis but which permits expeditious handling
of the cases. Foremost on the list is the assumption that com-
mitment for mental illness is a medical problem, not a legal
problem. Therefore, since psychiatrists are the experts, their
conclusions can be accepted without question. This fallacious
assumption must be dispelled.1
-Dane County Judge P. Charles Jones
Defense attorney: But I just wonder if we are dealing with just
family emotional-type problems. And, it's a little difficult for
me to understand how full-time inpatient hospitalization at this
time would be the cure ....
Court: I have the same feeling. However, I'm not expert
in psychiatric matters. The experts have testified. My feelings
are the same as yours, but I can't disregard the expert testi-
-Statement of a Milwaukee County judge before ordering
the involuntary commitment of a 23-year-old woman,
August 1974.
In the past twenty-five years, as the American courts have
increasingly recognized and enforced the constitutional rights of per-
* Research for this study was facilitated by a grant from the Knapp Bequest
Committee, Madison, Wisconsin.
t J.D. candidate; B.A., 1975, University of Wisconsin.
1. Jones, A Review of Some ludicial Assumptions About Commitment, 1 FORUM
12-13 (1972) (publication of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Institute).
2. From the official transcript of a Milwaukee County civil commitment hearing
held August 1974.


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