Monday, August 5, 2019
Exception to Younger Abstention Doctrine Applies, Opinion Declares
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals interceded in a pending California state case on Friday, declaring that the “irreparable harm” exception to the Younger abstention doctrine applies in a case where a man has been detained for 13 years awaiting trial on a petition for a commitment under the California Sexually Violent Predator Act.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feinerman of the Northern District of Illinois, who is sitting by designation, wrote the opinion for a three-judge panel.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Younger v. Harris, federal courts will normally entertain a civil action in connection with an ongoing state prosecution. Invoking the doctrine stemming from that case, District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii of the Eastern District of California dismissed the habeas corpus petition filed by Sammy Page, a pre-trial detainee in a Fresno hospital.
Visiting Judge’s Opinion
In an opinion that reverses the dismissal and remands the case, Feinerman said:
“Here, Page alleges that the state is violating his due process right not to be detained pretrial based on a stale and scientifically invalid probable cause determination and that his complete loss of liberty for the time of pretrial detention is ‘irretrievable’ regardless of the outcome at trial. If Page is right, then regardless of the outcome at trial, a post-trial adjudication of his claim will not fully vindicate his right to a current and proper pretrial probable cause determination. His claim therefore ‘fits squarely within the irreparable harm exception’ to Younger….”
Page alleged in his petition a due-process violation. Feinerman noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s said in its 2017 decision in Manuel v. City of Joliet that “[i]f the complaint is that a form of legal process resulted in pretrial detention unsupported by probable cause, then the right allegedly infringed lies in the Fourth Amendment,” not the Due Process Clause.
He suggested that Page might need to amend his petition to allege a violation under the Fourth Amendment.
Between 1971 to 1987, Page committed three vicious rapes; he was civilly committed in 2004 as a sexually violent predator (“SVP”) for two years; in 2006, a petition was filed seeking a recommitment as a SVP; a trial has not taken place.
His lawyer, Andrea Renee St. Julian, told the panel at oral argument in San Francisco on Feb. 8:
“This very month is the 13th anniversary of the filing of the commitment petition against Sammy Page. For the past 13 years, he’s been placed in a state hospital without there ever having been a trial committing him, and even to this day, there is still no trial scheduled.”
The detention was based on psychiatrists diagnosing Page with paraphilia based on an affinity for nonconsensual sex. St. Julian insisted this is a “non-existent mental health disorder.”
She told the judge that Page “is going to be 68” and that after the age of 60, there is “no more danger.”
The case is Page v. King, 17-16364
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