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State v. McClinton

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

August 26, 2019

THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent,
v.
SALLYEA O. McCLINTON, Appellant.

          APPELWICK, C.J.

         In 1997, McClinton was convicted of first degree rape while armed with a deadly weapon, attempted first degree rape, and first degree burglary. In November 2017, the trial court issued a bench warrant for McClinton based on his alleged violations of community custody conditions. Before the hearing on his alleged violations, he moved to transfer his case to the Department of Corrections. The trial court denied his motion, found him in violation of three community custody conditions, and ordered him to serve 30 days of confinement. McClinton argues that he was denied equal protection because he did not receive the same procedural benefits as offenders who committed their underlying crime after July 1, 2000. We affirm.

         FACTS

         In 1997, Sallyea McClinton was convicted of first degree rape while armed with a deadly weapon, attempted first degree rape, and first degree burglary. The trial court sentenced him to a total of 202 months of confinement. It also sentenced him to community placement for two years or up to the period of earned release, whichever was longer.

         In 2013, McClinton was released from prison and began a term of community custody. State v. McClinton, No. 76001-7-I, slip. op. at 1 (Wash.Ct.App. Mar. 5, 2018) (unpublished), http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/760017 PDF. Since that time, he has repeatedly violated his community custody conditions. Most recently, in November 2017, the trial court issued a bench warrant for McClinton based on three alleged violations. He was arrested on January 1, 2018.

         After his arrest, McClinton filed a motion to transfer the hearing on his alleged violations to the Department of Corrections (DOC), or, alternatively, to "limit the court's authority to the same authority as granted to the [DOC] to conduct hearings and impose sanctions pursuant to RCW 9.94A.737." He argued that equal protection requires that he "be provided the same procedural protections and sanctions regime as applied to offenders whose crimes were committed after July 1, 2000."

         On January 24, 2018, the trial court held a hearing on McClinton's alleged violations. The court denied his motion to transfer the hearing, found him in violation of 3 community custody conditions, and ordered him to serve 30 days of confinement. McClinton appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         McClinton argues that he was denied equal protection because he was not afforded the same procedural benefits as offenders who committed their underlying crime on or after July 1, 2000. He asserts that those offenders are sanctioned through the DOC process, are entitled to a hearing within 5 days of being held in confinement, and cannot be sentenced to more than 30 days of confinement per hearing. In contrast, he points out that the court has sanction authority over offenders who committed their underlying crime before July 1, 2000. He contends that, if the court has sanction authority, "there is no set time within which [an offender] has a right to a hearing," and an offender "could be subject up to 60 days in jail for each violation."

         The State argues that this court should decline to review McClinton's equal protection claim because it is moot. McClinton concedes that his claim is moot, but asks this court to reach the merits "because the case involves an issue of substantial public interest that is likely to reoccur."

         I. Mootness

         A case is moot when we can no longer provide an appellant effective relief. In re Det. of LaBelle, 107 Wn.2d 196, 200, 728 P.2d 138 (1986). This case is technically moot, because McClinton's confinement has ended. In re Det. of Swanson, 115 Wn.2d 21, 24, 804 P.2d 1 (1990). As a general rule, an appellate court will not review a moot case. In re Det. of H.N., 188 Wn.App. 744, 749, 355 P.3d 294 (2015). But, an appellate court may decide a moot case if it involves an issue of substantial public interest. State v. Hunley, 175 Wn.2d 901, 907, 287 P.3d 584 (2012). In deciding to review a moot issue, this court must consider (1) the public or private nature of the issue, (2) the desirability of an authoritative determination that will provide future guidance to public officers, and (3) the likelihood that the issue will recur. Id.

         The constitutionality of statutes relating to criminal sentencing presents an issue of public interest. See id. at 908. And, while this court can no longer provide McClinton effective relief, the issue will likely recur with other offenders who committed their underlying crime before July 1, 2000 and violate their sentence conditions. Public officers would therefore benefit from an authoritative determination on the question. Thus, we reach the merits of this case.

         II. Equ ...


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