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Page v. King

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 2, 2019

Sammy L. Page, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Audrey King, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted February 8, 2019 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California D.C. No. 1:16-cv-00522-AWI-JLT Anthony W. Ishii, District Judge, Presiding

          Andrea Renee St. Julian (argued), San Diego, California, for Petitioner-Appellant.

          Max Feinstat (argued), Deputy Attorney General; Tami M. Krenzin, Supervising Deputy Attorney General; Michael P. Farrell, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Xavier Becerra, Attorney General; Office of the Attorney General, Sacramento, California; for Respondent-Appellee.

          Before: Richard A. Paez and Marsha S. Berzon, Circuit Judges, and Gary Feinerman, [*] District Judge

         SUMMARY[**]

         Habeas Corpus / Younger Abstention

         The panel vacated the district court's judgment dismissing based on Younger abstention a habeas corpus petition in which Sammy Page, who has been detained for thirteen years awaiting trial for recommitment under the California Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), alleges that the State of California is violating his due process rights by continuing to detain him pretrial based on an outdated and scientifically invalid probable cause finding.

         The panel rejected as irreconcilable with this court's precedents Page's contention that his SVPA case has been stalled for so long that it is no longer "ongoing" for purposes of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). The panel explained that the state court proceeding is "plainly ongoing" for Younger purposes where, as here, no final judgment has been entered.

         The panel held that the delay in bringing Page's SVPA case to trial is not an extraordinary circumstance under Younger, as the delay is primarily attributable to defense counsel's litigation efforts, not the state court's ineffectiveness.

         The panel held that Page's claim fits squarely within the "irreparable harm" exception to Younger abstention set forth in Arevalo v. Hennessy, 882 F.3d 763 (9th Cir. 2018), because (1) regardless of the outcome at trial, a post-trial adjudication will not fully vindicate his right to a current and proper pretrial probable cause determination, and (2) his claim, which could not be raised in defense of the criminal prosecution, could not prejudice the conduct of the trial on the merits.

         The panel wrote that the merits of Page's due process claim are reserved for the district court on remand, and that the district court should consider anew Page's request for appointment of counsel.

          OPINION

          FEINERMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE:

         Sammy Page, who has been detained for the last thirteen years awaiting trial for recommitment under the California Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"), Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600 et seq., filed a petition for habeas corpus, alleging that the state is violating his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by continuing to detain him pretrial based on an outdated and scientifically invalid probable cause finding. The district court dismissed the petition under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). We vacate and remand for further proceedings. (Page raised three uncertified issues, which we decline to address. Ninth Cir. R. 22-1(e). If relevant on remand, Page may raise them in the district court.)

         Factual and Procedural History

         A. Page's State ...


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