United States District Court, C.D. California
March 31, 2014
RICHARD S. KINDRED, Petitioner,
CA SUPERIOR COURT, COUNTY OF ORANGE, Respondent.
ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
ROBERT N. BLOCK, Magistrate Judge.
Petitioner currently is incarcerated at Coalinga State Hospital, following a trial in Orange County Superior Court on a petition for commitment as a sexually violent predator ("SVP") under California's Sexually Violent Predator Act (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 6600 et seq.). On March 27, 2014, he filed a Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody herein that purports to contain two grounds for relief.
In order to be entitled to habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, a state prisoner must be in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. Here, Ground one of the Petition is not framed as a federal constitutional claim. Moreover, even if Ground one were reframed as a federal constitutional claim, the Court would not be able to consider it on habeas review because petitioner's claim regarding the failure to provide sex offender treatment concerns conditions of confinement to which petitioner allegedly has been subjected while confined at Coalinga State Hospital. "[T]he writ of habeas corpus is limited to attacks upon the legality or duration of confinement." Crawford v. Bell , 599 F.2d 890, 891 (9th Cir. 1979).
In Ground two of the Petition, petitioner appears to be claiming that the California Department of State Hospitals/Coalinga State Hospital provided false information to the Superior Court and the District Attorney regarding petitioner's current mental status. Even if this ground for relief were construed as implicating the validity of the judgment of commitment following the trial on the SVP petition, like Ground one, it is not framed as a federal constitutional claim. Moreover, even if Ground two were reframed as a federal constitutional claim, it appears to the Court that abstention from consideration of it would be appropriate because, according to the Petition, petitioner's appeal from the judgment of commitment still is pending.
"[O]nly in the most unusual circumstances is a defendant entitled to have federal interposition by way of injunction or habeas corpus until after the jury comes in, judgment has been appealed from and the case concluded in the state courts." Drury v. Cox , 457 F.2d 764, 764-65 (9th Cir. 1972); see also Carden v. Montana , 626 F.2d 82, 83-84 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1014 (1980). Thus, as a general proposition, a federal court will not intervene in a pending state criminal proceeding absent extraordinary circumstances where the danger of irreparable harm is both great and immediate. See Younger v. Harris , 401 U.S. 37, 45-46, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971); see also Fort Belknap Indian Community v. Mazurek , 43 F.3d 428, 431 (9th Cir. 1994) (abstention appropriate if ongoing state judicial proceedings implicate important state interests and offer adequate opportunity to litigate federal constitutional issues), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 806 (1995). Moreover, the law is well established that the doctrine also applies to pending state civil proceedings, when important state interests are at stake. See, e.g., Moore v. Sims , 442 U.S. 415, 423, 99 S.Ct. 2371, 60 L.Ed.2d 994 (1979) (pending child custody proceeding); Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd. , 420 U.S. 592, 604, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975) (pending nuisance action).
Younger abstention is appropriate in favor of a state proceeding if three criteria are met: (1) the state proceedings are ongoing; (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings provide an adequate opportunity to litigate the plaintiff's federal constitutional claims. See Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n , 457 U.S. 423, 432, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982); Kenneally v. Lungren , 967 F.2d 329, 331-32 (9th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1054 (1993); Partington v. Gedan , 880 F.2d 116, 121 (9th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 497 U.S. 1038 (1990).
Here, it appears to the Court that all three criteria for Younger abstention are met. First, petitioner's SVP proceeding is ongoing in that the appeal from the judgment of commitment still is pending. Second, the ongoing SVP proceeding does implicate important state interests. In enacting California's Sexually Violent Predator Act, the California Legislature indicated that the state had an interest in identifying sexually violent predators with diagnosable mental disorders while they were incarcerated as these persons were not safe to be at large and if released represented a danger to the health and safety of others in that they were likely to engage in acts of sexual violence. See Historical and Statutory Comments to Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600. As the California Supreme Court observed in Hubbart v. Superior Court , 19 Cal.4th 1138, 1153 n.20, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 492, 969 P.2d 584 (1999), "The problem targeted by the act is acute, and the state interests-protection of the public and mental heath treatment-are compelling."
In considering the third factor, the Supreme Court has noted that "where vital state interests are involved, a federal court should abstain unless state law clearly bars the interposition of the constitutional claims.'" Middlesex , 457 U.S. at 432. "[T]he... pertinent inquiry is whether the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise the constitutional claims....'" Id . (quoting Moore , 442 U.S. at 430). Here, even assuming that Ground two of the Petition could be reframed as a federal constitutional claim, the Court fails to see why such a federal constitutional claim could not be adequately addressed in either petitioner's appeal from the judgment of commitment or a habeas petition to the state courts. See, e.g., In re Smith , 42 Cal.4th 1251, 73 Cal.Rptr.3d 469, 178 P.3d 446 (2008) (petitioner raising equal protection claim challenging continuation of SVP proceedings, when the felony conviction that was the basis of his custody at the time the SVP proceedings were commenced was reversed on appeal); People v. Taylor , 174 Cal.App.4th 920, 94 Cal.Rptr.3d 756 (2009) (appellant raising due process, equal protection, double jeopardy, and ex post facto claims); People v. Hubbart , 88 Cal.App.4th 1202, 106 Cal.Rptr.2d 490 (2001) (appellant claiming inter alia a due process violation on the basis that he was not in lawful custody at the time the SVP commitment petition was filed); People v. Buffington , 74 Cal.App.4th 1149, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 696 (1999) (appellant raising ex post facto, double jeopardy, due process and equal protection claims).
The Court also notes that other federal courts similarly have concluded that Younger abstention applies to SVP proceedings. See, e.g., Rhoden v. Mayberg, 361 Fed.Appx. 895, 896 (9th Cir. 2009) (now citable for its persuasive value pursuant to Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3) ("These state civil commitment proceedings are judicial in nature, implicate important state interests, and afford [the petitioner] an adequate opportunity to litigate his federal claims."); Miller v. Cate, 2011 WL 4457666, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 23, 2011); Shehee v. Baca, 2009 WL 838172, at *1-*2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 30, 2009); Clemons v. Kramer, 2008 WL 3833416, at *3-*5 (C.D. Cal. Aug.15, 2008); Dannenberg v. Nakahara, 1998 WL 661467, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 1998).
Nor would it make any difference if petitioner had framed Ground two as a federal constitutional claim and included it in his California Supreme Court habeas petition. See Drury , 457 F.2d at 765 (exhaustion of federal issue insufficient if criminal proceedings through direct appeal not yet complete); Murphy v. Wilson , 409 F.2d 840, 841 (9th Cir. 1969) (exhaustion requirement not satisfied until the state appeal proceedings have been completed and a final state judgment has been entered).
Accordingly, on or before April 28, 2014, petitioner is ordered to show cause, in writing, why this action should not be summarily dismissed pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts without prejudice to refiling after petitioner's SVP proceedings, including appeal, are completed, and petitioner has exhausted his state remedies with respect to any federal constitutional claims.