California Sexually Violent Predators and Civil Commitment Case Law

In People v. Superior Court (Ghilotti) (2002) 27 Cal.4th 888, the California Supreme Court held that the district attorney does not have authority under the Sexually Violent Predator Act, section 6600 et seq., to file a petition for commitment or recommitment under that act unless two evaluators appointed in accordance with section 6601, subdivision (d) or (e) concur that the defendant meets the criteria for commitment. (Ghilotti, at p. 909.) The evaluators in Ghilotti concluded that the defendant did not meet the statutory commitment criteria, but the Director of the Department of Mental Health disagreed with their evaluations and was of the opinion that their conclusions were legally incorrect because the evaluators had not applied the correct criteria. At the written request of the Director, the district attorney filed a recommitment petition effectively raising legal challenges to the evaluators' conclusions that the defendant did not meet the criteria for commitment or recommitment. (Ghilotti, at p. 912.) The Supreme Court held that the Director could seek commitment or recommitment even though the evaluators found that the defendant did not meet the statutory criteria: "When the Director (1) receives one or more formal evaluations that recommend against commitment or recommitment, (2) disagrees with those recommendations, (3) believes they may be infected with material legal error, and (4) does not choose, or is not permitted within the statutory scheme, to seek additional evaluations, he may nonetheless forward a request that an SVPA commitment or recommitment petition be filed, and the county's attorney may submit such a petition for filing, with copies of the evaluators' reports attached. The person named in the petition may then file a pleading challenging the validity of the petition on grounds that it is not supported by the concurrence of two evaluators under section 6601, subdivisions (d) through (f). In response, the petitioning authorities may defend the petition by asserting that one or more nonconcurring reports are infected by legal error." (Ghilotti, at pp. 912-913.)