Learning from John Gotti
Raich, Drugs, and Scalia's "Originalism"

Sexual Predators, Sec. 1983, and Habeas Corpus

Huftile was civilly committed under California's Sexually Violent Predator Act after a jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a violent sexual predator.  Huftile sued under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, alleging that the procedures the psychologist used when testifying that Huftile should be committed were invalid.  The issue is whether Heck v. Humphrey bars his suit.  Huftile v. Miccio-Fonseca, No 03-16734 (9th Cir. Jun 10, 2005) (via AL&P).  (By the way, Wilkinson v. Dotson doesn't apply, since Huftile's arguments, namely that the procedures used to confine him were unconstitutional, go to the "fact" of confinement.  Wilkinson v. Dotson does not disturb Heck's rule that one can not litigate, in a Sec. 1983 claim, matters that go to the fact (re: evidentiary basis) of one's confinement.)

Huftile argued that Heck v. Humphrey only applied to prisoners.  This was a good point.  Despite the Ex Post Facto Clause, courts have allowed people who have already been convicted and served their sentences for certain sex-based crimes to nonetheless be returned to prison based on the same conduct.  The fiction is that the commitment is civil, not criminal, and therefore the Ex Post Facto Clause isn't violated.  But the Ninth Circuit panel here doesn't want to treat the fiction as a fiction: they treat Huftile's confinement as half-truth, half-fiction.

Thus, the panel held that the policies behind Heck v. Humphrey applied - and barred - Huftile's suit.

In fairness, the panel holds that Huftile may seek habeas relief.  In other words, Huftile wasn't convicted, and is not a prisoner (since so holding would mean his confinement would violate the ex post facto prohibition), but he can still seek habeas relief.

Putting aside the civil-criminal distinction, it was a balanced outcome.  Though it illustrates the obstacles (rightly or wrongly) sex offenders meet even in courts of law.  Don't get me wrong: I'm no sexual predator apologist.  But if we want them out of society, the solution is longer confinement, not to create legal fictions that are blatant end-runs around the Constitution, and that only apply when it can be used against the predator.