Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Page 1


Court of Appeal:

11-Year Delay Between Filing of Petition Under SVPA and Decision Permissible


By a MetNews Staff Writer


An 11-year delay between the filing of a petition to civilly commit a man as a sexually violent predator and a bench trial at which the allegations of the petition were sustained did not constitute a deprivation of the man’s due process rights, Div. Two of this district’s Court of Appeal held in an opinion that was certified for publication yesterday.

Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst authored the opinion, filed March 2.

It affirms a judgment by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Cynthia L. Ulfig committing Son Tran to a state hospital under the Sexually Violent Predators Act (“SVPA”) based on his remaining a danger after serving his sentence. 

 Ashmann-Gerst detailed the reasons for the various delays between the time the petition was filed on May 15, 2008 by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to civilly commit Son and the adjudication by Ulfig on March 29, 2019, following a trial that began on March 15, 2019. The reasons included requests for new psychiatric reports and changes in counsel for Tran.

Jury Trial

In the 11-year period, there was a finding by a judge of probable cause on Oct, 12, 2012 and Tran’s commitment to state hospital at Coalinga and jury trial that ended in a deadlock on August 31, 2016.

The justice acknowledged that there were “substantial delays” but said:

Here, although the reasons for the delays varied, we can find no continuance in the record that was not the result of defense counsel’s agreement or, more often, explicit request. Defendant does not dispute this. Rather, he argues that he should not be held responsible for the delays caused by his attorneys because they were the result of a systemic breakdown in the public defender system.”

Defense Counsel’s Delays

Rejecting the contention, Ashmann-Gerst said:

“[W]e must attribute all delays caused by defense counsel to defendant.”

She commented:

“Any risk of an erroneous deprivation of defendant’s liberty was reasonably mitigated by the procedural requirements of the SVPA. The state’s compelling interest in protecting society from the risk defendant posed to it is entitled to significant weight and tips the scales in favor of our finding that defendant was provided with all the process that he was due.”

The case is People v. Tran, B297845.


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