Seeboth v. Allenby

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 06-18-2015
  • Case #: 12-17062
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Judges Kozinski and Senior District Judge Ponsor
  • Full Text Opinion

On review, when no level of scrutiny is stated, habeas corpus cannot be granted unless the conclusion is shown to be objectively unreasonable.

Timothy Seeboth, a sexually violent predator, with multiple victims and nine convictions, claimed that California’s Sexually Violent Predator Act (“SVPA’”) is unconstitutional on its face. Seeboth was determined to be a sexually violent predator (“SVP”) in 1997. Under the SVPA the state may civilly commit someone if (1) they have been convicted of a sexually violent crime against one or more victims, and (2) suffers from a diagnosed mental disorder that makes it likely that he will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior in the future. The SVPA provided for two-year commitment periods, but in 2006 updated SVP commitment periods to an “indeterminate period.” As a result individuals recommitted after 2006 did not have a need for future recommitment proceedings. The district court denied Seeboth’s petition for habeas corpus, which he timely appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed Seeboth’s appeal, which argued for a heightened scrutiny review because the civil commitment burdens a fundamental right. First, the panel explained that the state court did not explicitly identify a particular level of scrutiny to apply, which therefore does not allow for the panel to grant habeas corpus, unless it could be shown that the lower court’s ruling was objectively unreasonable. Further, the panel found that it was not unreasonable to treat SVP differently than mental disordered offenders or offenders not guilty by insanity because the state could rationally find that sexually violent crime is more dangerous than other types of crime. Consequently, a SVP may be treated differently than other groups of offenders, and it was not objectively unreasonable to hold that the lack of timing in the SVPA did not violate the Equal Protection Clause, or that California sidestepped clearly established federal law. AFFIRMED.

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