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MILINICH v. BABCOCK

United States District Court, Northern District of California


April 22, 2003

JEFFERY MILINICH, PETITIONER, VS. JAMES BABCOCK, JAILOR, RESPONDENT

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles R. Breyer, United States District Judge

ORDER OF DISMISSAL (Doc #3)
Petitioner is a convicted felon with a history of sex crimes. Shortly before he was scheduled to be released from prison for his most recent offense(s), the State of California began seeking his civil commitment to a state mental health facility under California's Sexually Violent Predators Act, Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600, et seq. ("SVPA"). Pursuant to SVPA, the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Santa Clara held a probable cause hearing on October 11, 2002 and determined that there is probable cause to believe that petitioner is likely to engage in predatory criminal behavior upon his release. The court then ordered a trial to determine whether petitioner is a sexually violent predator within the meaning of SVPA. Petitioner is currently detained at the Santa Clara County Jail awaiting trial. He seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging the SVPA proceedings against him thus far.

Under principles of comity and federalism, a federal court should not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings by granting injunctive or declaratory relief absent extraordinary circumstances. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-54 (1971). Interference is appropriate only upon a showing of the state's bad faith or harassment, or a showing that the statute challenged is "flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions." Id. at 53-54 (cost, anxiety and inconvenience of criminal defense not kind of special circumstances or irreparable harm that would justify federal court intervention; statute must be unconstitutional in every "clause, sentence and paragraph, and in whatever manner" it is applied); Carden v. Montana, 626 F.2d 82, 84 (9th Cir. 1980) (only in cases of proven harassment or prosecutions undertaken by state officials in bad faith without hope of obtaining a valid conviction and perhaps in other special circumstances where irreparable injury can be shown is federal injunctive relief against pending state prosecutions appropriate). The policies underlying Younger are fully applicable to noncriminal judicial proceedings when important state interests are involved. Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). Younger applies to the pending SVPA civil commitment proceedings against petitioner: The proceedings are judicial in nature, involve important state interests and afford petitioner an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional issues. See id.

Petitioner makes no showing of "extraordinary circumstances" such as the state's bad faith or harassment, or that SVPA is "flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions." Younger, 401 US at 53-54. And his claims of constitutional error in the SVPA proceedings against him thus far (including that the psychological evaluations against him are erroneous and that defense counsel has been ineffective) do not compel a different conclusion.

Under the rationale of Younger, the petition is DISMISSED without prejudice to refiling after SVPA commitment proceedings, including appeal, are completed. In light of this dismissal, petitioner's application to proceed in forma pauperis (doc #3) is DENIED. No fee is due.

The Clerk shall enter with this order and close the file.

SO ORDERED.

20030422

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