California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division
PROCEEDING; petition for writ of mandate. Super.Ct.No.
INF1600191 Dean Benjamini, Judge. Petition granted.
Enright & Ocheltree, Judith A. Enright, Julie A.
Ocheltree, Noelle V. Bensussen and Aaron Abramowitz for
appearance for Respondent.
L. Harmon, Public Defender, Brian L. Boles, Thomas M.
Cavanaugh, Assistant Public Defenders, Laura Arnold, Deputy
Public Defender, for Real Party in Interest.
McKINSTER Acting P. J.
Inland Counties Regional Center, Inc. (IRC), helps coordinate
care and services for individuals with developmental
disabilities. (See, e.g., Cal. Code Regs., tit. 17, §
54302, subd. (a)(54).) The trial court in this case ordered
IRC to assess the competency of real party in interest, Adan
Omar Barajas (Barajas), to stand trial on criminal charges
and then, when IRC failed to comply, held it in contempt and
imposed monetary sanctions against it. Because we agree with
IRC that this order was unjustified, we grant the petition.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
February 18, 2016, the People filed a felony complaint
charging Barajas with vehicle theft (Veh. Code, § 10851,
subd. (a)), knowingly obtaining a stolen vehicle (Pen. Code,
§ 496d, subd. (a)), driving under the influence (Veh.
Code, § 23152, subd. (e)), and possession of
paraphernalia used for smoking a controlled substance (Health
& Saf. Code, § 11364). Barajas pled guilty to the
vehicle theft and driving under the influence counts on
February 29, 2016, and the other counts were dismissed. The
trial court sentenced him to probation.
then allegedly violated probation, causing the trial court to
issue a bench warrant on June 24, 2016. On July 19, 2016, the
deputy public defender appointed to represent Barajas
requested a competency evaluation under Penal Code section
1368. The court granted the motion and appointed Patricia
Kirkish, Ph.D., to conduct an evaluation. On August 18, 2016,
Dr. Kirkish produced a report opining that Barajas lacked
competency to stand trial, possibly due to a cognitive
September 2, 2016, the trial court, after reading Dr.
Kirkish's report, found Barajas to be incompetent to
stand trial and suspended criminal proceedings against him.
It ordered a placement evaluation, which was provided on
September 19, 2016. On September 26, 2016, the trial court
held a hearing regarding Barajas's placement
recommendation and issued a minute order reading, as relevant
to this petition: “Court has read and considered
Placement Evaluation. Court orders Inland Regional Center to
provide a determination as to whether or not the defendant is
incompetent due to developmental disabilities pursuant to
1369 [of the Penal Code]. Inland Regional Center to provide a
report to the Court on or before 10/24/16.”
responded by sending the trial judge a
“confidential” letter on October 12, 2016,
indicating that it could not perform a competency evaluation
of Barajas unless it was first determined that he was
eligible for IRC's services by virtue of having a
developmental disability. The letter indicated IRC would, in
fact, perform the evaluation, but if and only if Barajas was
found to have a developmental disability. It also asked for a
certified minute order providing access to Barajas and to his
October 24, 2016, the date set for production of the report
IRC was ordered to provide on September 26, 2016, the trial
court again held a hearing regarding Barajas's placement.
The minute order the trial court issued reads, in relevant
part: “Court orders Inland Regional to perform an
evaluation pursuant to 1369 [of the Penal Code]. Evaluation
returnable on 11/7/16. If no report is returned to the Court
on or before 11/7/16 the Court orders a representative of
Inland Regional to appear before the Court and justify why
Inland Regional Center should not be held in contempt of
again responded with a “confidential” letter on
November 4, 2016, explaining its position that it could not
evaluate competency unless and until it determined that
Barajas had a developmental disability. To this letter, IRC
attached another letter, this one dated July 8, 2015, in
which it explained to local courts and the agencies providing
attorney representation in criminal cases that it would
“no longer be conducting competency evaluations unless
or until the defendant is found eligible for Regional Center
services by a Regional Center.” In the November 4, 2016
letter, IRC repeated its request for a certified minute order
granting face-to-face access to Barajas, and access to his
medical records. It also expressed a need for his school
records and evaluations prior to age 18 and requested eight
weeks to complete its eligibility evaluation report.
parties appeared for another hearing on November 7, 2016. The
trial court began by confirming that it intended to hold a
contempt proceeding after verifying that IRC had not, in
fact, prepared a report regarding Barajas's competency to
stand trial. When describing the case's procedural
history, the court explained: “When I was rereading
[Dr. Kirkish's] report, two things jumped out at me.
Number one, is that [Barajas] appears to have been the victim
of some traumatic brain injury, perhaps around the age of 18.
But, more importantly, he also reported being in special
education classes in the 5th grade and having a very
difficult time succeeding to the point where, I believe, he
had to be home schooled by a[n] uncle. [¶] When I read
both of those things in conjunction, I had a suspicion that
the incompetence was due to a developmental disability.
Therefore, pursuant to Penal Code Section 1369[, subdivision]
(a), I entered an order on September the 26th of this year to
the Inland Regional Center to determine whether or not the
defendant is incompetent, due to the developmental disability
pursuant to Penal Code Section 1369.” The trial court
then characterized IRC's first confidential letter as
“essentially stating [there had been] an illegal court
order, ” and the second as “essentially stating
that [IRC] is not going to comply with the Court's
counsel referred the trial court to the November 4, 2016
letter, which relied on several sections in the Welfare and
Institutions Code as authority supporting the position that
IRC could not commit to doing more than assessing Barajas for
a developmental disability at that time. The trial court
responded that Penal Code section 1369, subdivision (a),
“stands apart from” those statutes and then cited
People v. Leonard (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1370
(Leonard) as support for the idea that the experts
who evaluated Barajas's competency should have experience
with developmental disability. In concluding, the trial noted
that Penal Code section “1369 specifically refers to a
suspicion by the courts, ” and then stated: “I
have a suspicion based on the information ...