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Seeboth v. Allenby

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 18, 2015

TIMOTHY J. SEEBOTH, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
CLIFF ALLENBY, Director D.M.H.; AUDREY KING, Respondents-Appellees

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California April 14, 2015

Page 1100

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. D.C. No. 2:10-cv-02875-MCE-TJB. Morrison C. England, Jr., Chief District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY [**]

Habeas Corpus

The panel affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition asserting that the absence of a provision in California's Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) setting forth a time within which to hold a trial extending the term of commitment is facially unconstitutional.

The petitioner claimed that the lack of a timing provision for sexually violent predators (SVPs) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because, under California law, other civilly committed persons -- mentally disordered offenders and individuals found not guilty by reason of insanity -- have a statutory right to a recommitment trial within a specified period. The state courts held that SVPs are not similarly situated to mentally disordered offenders and individuals found not guilty by reason of insanity for the purpose of challenging the lack of a timing provision in the SVPA.

Reviewing under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the panel did not need to resolve the question of whether a citation by the California Supreme Court to People v. Duvall (In re Duvall), 9 Cal.4th 464, 37 Cal.Rptr.2d 259, 886 P.2d 1252 (Cal. 1995), constitutes a reasoned decision, and in turn did not need to decide which state court issued the last reasoned decision, because the California Supreme Court and Superior Court decisions in this case share common reasoning that does not apply federal law unreasonably.

The panel held that state courts may reasonably apply the rational basis test when considering equal protection challenges to civil commitment laws.

The panel held that with respect to the procedural steps in the civil commitment process that are at issue here, the state courts reasonably concluded that the state legislature had a rational reason to distinguish between individuals who have been found to be mentally ill and dangerous and individuals who have been found to be mentally ill and sexually dangerous. The panel therefore concluded that it was not objectively unreasonable for the state courts to hold that the lack of a timing provision in the SVPA does not deprive SVPs of equal protection of the laws, and that the California ourts did not contravene clearly established federal law.

Michael B. Bigelow (argued), Sacramento, California, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Tami M. Krenzin (argued), Deputy Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, Michael P. Farrell, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and Brian G. Smiley, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Sacramento, California, for Respondents-Appellees.

Before: Alex Kozinski and Susan P. Graber, Circuit Judges, and Michael A. Ponsor,[*] Senior District Judge.

OPINION

Page 1101

GRABER, Circuit Judge

In this habeas case, Petitioner Timothy Seeboth claims that California's Sexually Violent Predator Act (" SVPA" ), Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § § 6600-6609.3, is unconstitutional on its face. Specifically, he asserts that the absence of a provision setting forth a time within which to hold a trial extending the term of his commitment denies him equal protection of the laws because, under California law, other civilly committed persons have a statutory right to a recommitment trial within a specified period. The state courts and the district court denied relief. Because the California state courts reasonably held that this aspect of the SVPA does not deprive Petitioner of equal protection of the laws, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. The SVPA and Other California Civil Commitment ...


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