Williams v. Ahlin

Filing 8

CORRECTION OF # 7 . ORDER OF DISMISSAL. Signed by Judge Maxine M. Chesney on November 13, 2009. (mmcsec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/13/2009)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA MICHAEL B. WILLIAMS, ) ) Petitioner, ) ) v. ) ) PAM AHLIN, Executive Director, ) Coalinga State Hospital, ) ) Respondent. ) ______________________________ ) No. C 09-3642 MMC (PR) ORDER OF DISMISSAL On July 22, 2009, petitioner, a civil detainee confined at Coalinga State Hospital and awaiting civil commitment proceedings, filed the above-titled petition for a writ of habeas corpus1 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2241.2 Petitioner is proceeding pro se and has paid the filing fee. According to the allegations in the petition, on December 6, 2000, the State of California filed a petition to begin civil commitment proceedings against petitioner as a sexually violent predator ("SVP") pursuant to California's Sexually Violent Predators Act ("SVPA"). See Cal. Welfare & Inst. Code ("WIC") 6600, et seq. Thereafter, a probable cause hearing was held on the petition in the San Francisco Superior Court ("Superior 1 Petitioner filed his petition in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. By order filed July 30, 2009, the case was transferred to the Northern District and assigned to Judge Susan Illston. On November 3, 2009, the case, in accordance with the 26 Northern District's Assignment Plan, was reassigned to the undersigned in view of petitioner's prior pro se actions having been so assigned. 27 The petition is properly brought under 28 U.S.C. 2241(c)(3), which provides habeas corpus jurisdiction over any person held in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or 28 treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. 2241(c)(3). 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Court"). On December 18, 2002, the Superior Court found probable cause existed to hold petitioner for civil commitment proceedings under the SVPA. (See Attachment to form petition at 2:25.) The matter was set for trial but was continued several times on motion of both petitioner and the California Attorney General's Office. Before trial commenced, petitioner moved for a new probable cause hearing. According to the petition, on either December 16, 2005 (see id.) or May 26, 2006 (see id. at 6:6), the Superior Court again found probable cause existed to hold petitioner for civil commitment proceedings under the SVPA. Since that time, several motions to continue petitioner's jury trial have been granted and, according to the allegations in the petition, no jury trial has yet been held on the matter of petitioner's civil commitment as an SVP. On an undisclosed date, petitioner filed a motion in the Superior Court to dismiss the SVP petition, on grounds that his counsel was ineffective for failing to file a pre-trial motion to dismiss the petition as violating the Equal Protection Clause. The Superior Court denied the motion and petitioner then filed in the California Court of Appeal a state habeas corpus petition on the same ground. On March 18, 2009, the California Court of Appeal summarily denied petitioner's habeas petition, as did the California Supreme Court on June 24, 2009. Petitioner then filed the instant petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2241, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel for the same reason asserted in state court, and that the regulations used to declare an individual an SVP are invalid, in violation of due process. Under principles of comity and federalism, a federal court should not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings by granting injunctive or declaratory relief absent extraordinary circumstances. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-46 (1971); see also Carden v. Montana, 626 F.2d 82, 84 (9th Cir.1980) (applying Younger to habeas petition challenging state pretrial proceedings). The policies underlying Younger abstention are fully applicable to noncriminal judicial proceedings when important state interests are involved, and when the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional claims. See Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982); id. at 434-37 (finding Younger abstention applicable to state bar disciplinary proceedings 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 where important state interest of regulating attorney conduct involved, constitutional claims could be addressed in state proceedings, and no extraordinary circumstances warranted federal intervention). Here, petitioner is in custody awaiting the completion of state civil commitment proceedings that will determine whether he will be sentenced to a term of confinement under the SVPA. Applying the principles discussed in Middlesex, the Court finds Younger abstention is applicable to the proceedings pending against petitioner. In particular, the proceedings are judicial in nature,3 they involve important state interests concerning the state's regulation of sexually violent offenders, and they afford petitioner an opportunity to raise his constitutional claims. Moreover, petitioner has made no showing that extraordinary circumstances exist that would require federal intervention. See Younger, 401 U.S. at 46 (holding extraordinary circumstances exist when there is danger of great and immediate irreparable loss; holding cost, anxiety and inconvenience of defending against good-faith criminal prosecution not extraordinary circumstance requiring federal intervention); see also Carden, 626 F.2d at 84 (holding federal intervention appropriate only under "special circumstances," such as proven harassment, bad faith prosecution, or other extraordinary circumstances resulting in irreparable injury). Accordingly, the petition is hereby DISMISSED. The dismissal is without prejudice to petitioner's filing a new federal habeas petition once his state civil commitment proceedings are completed and he has exhausted his state court remedies as to all claims he wishes to raise in federal court. The Clerk shall close the file. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: November 13, 2009 ____________________________ MAXINE M. CHESNEY United States District Judge The Superior Court presides over commitment proceedings, and individuals facing commitment are entitled to a jury trial and the appointment of counsel. See WIC 6601, 6603. 3 3

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