SELING v. YOUNG

531 U.S. 250 (2001)

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.

Washington State's Community Protection Act of 1990 authorizes the civil commitment of "sexually violent predators," persons who suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes them likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. Wash. Rev. Code § 71.09.010 et seq. (1992). Respondent, Andre Brigham Young, is confined as a sexually violent predator at the Special Commitment Center (Center), for which petitioner is the superintendent. After respondent's challenges to his commitment in state court proved largely unsuccessful, he instituted a habeas action . . .  seeking release from confinement. The Washington Supreme Court had already held that the Act is civil . . . and this Court held a similar commitment scheme for sexually violent predators in Kansas to be civil on its face, Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 138 L. Ed. 2d 501, 117 S. Ct. 2072 (1997). The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit nevertheless concluded that respondent could challenge the statute as being punitive "as applied" to him in violation of the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses, and remanded the case to the District Court for an evidentiary hearing.

I

A

Washington State's Community Protection Act of 1990 (Act) was a response to citizens' concerns about laws and procedures regarding sexually violent offenders. One of the Act's provisions authorizes civil commitment of such offenders. Wash. Rev. Code § 71.09.010 et seq. (1992 and Supp. 2000). The Act defines a sexually violent predator as someone who has been convicted of, or charged with, a crime of sexual violence and who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility. §71.09.020(1) (Supp. 2000). The statute reaches prisoners, juveniles, persons found incompetent to stand trial, persons found not guilty by reason of insanity, and persons at any time convicted of a sexually violent offense who have committed a recent overt act. § 71.09.030. Generally, when it appears that a person who has committed a sexually violent offense is about to be released from confinement, the prosecuting attorney files a petition alleging that that person is a sexually violent predator. Ibid. That filing triggers a process for charging and trying the person as a sexually violent predator, during which he is afforded a panoply of protections including counsel and experts (paid for by the State in cases of indigency), a probable cause hearing, and trial by judge or jury at the individual's option. §§ 71.09.040-71.09.050. At trial, the State bears the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is a sexually violent predator. § 71.09.060(1).

Upon the finding that a person is a sexually violent predator, he is committed for control, care, and treatment to the custody of the department of social and health services. Ibid. Once confined, the person has a right to adequate care and individualized treatment. § 71.09.080(2). The person is also entitled to an annual examination of his mental condition. § 71.09.070. If that examination indicates that the individual's condition is so changed that he is not likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence, state officials must authorize the person to petition the court for conditional release or discharge. § 71.09.090(1). The person is entitled to a hearing at which the State again bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he is not safe to be at large. Ibid. The person may also independently petition the court for release. § 71.09.090(2). At a show cause hearing, if the court finds probable cause to believe that the person is no longer dangerous, a full hearing will be held at which the State again bears the burden of proof. Ibid.

The Act also provides a procedure to petition for conditional release to a less restrictive alternative to confinement. § 71.09.090. Before ordering conditional release, the court must find that the person will be treated by a state certified sexual offender treatment provider, that there is a specific course of treatment, that housing exists that will be sufficiently secure to protect the community, and that the person is willing to comply with the treatment and supervision requirements. § 71.09.092. Conditional release is subject to annual review until the person is unconditionally released. §§ 71.09.096, 71.09.098.

B

Respondent, Andre Brigham Young, was convicted of six rapes over three decades. App. to Pet. for Cert. 33a. Young was scheduled to be released from prison for his most recent conviction in October 1990. One day prior to his scheduled release, the State filed a petition to commit Youngas a sexually violent predator. Id., at 32a.

At the commitment hearing, Young's mental health experts testified that there is no mental disorder that makes a person likely to reoffend and that there is no way to predict accurately who will reoffend. The State called an expert who testified, based upon a review of Young's records, that Young suffered from a severe personality disorder not otherwise specified with primarily paranoid and antisocial features, and a severe paraphilia, which would be classified as either paraphilia sexual sadism or paraphilia not otherwise specified (rape). See generally American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 522CC523, 530, 532, 634, 645CC646, 673 (4th ed. 1994). In the state expert's opinion, severe paraphilia constituted a mental abnormality under the Act. The State's expert concluded that Young's condition, in combination with the personality disorder, the span of time during which Young committed his crimes, his recidivism, his persistent denial, and his lack of empathy or remorse, made it more likely than not that he would commit further sexually violent acts. The victims of Young's rapes also testified. The jury unanimously concluded that Young was a sexually violent predator.

Young and another individual appealed their commitments in state court, arguing that the Act violated the Double Jeopardy, Ex Post Facto, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses of the Federal Constitution. In major respects, the Washington Supreme Court held that the Act is constitutional. In re Young, 122 Wash. 2d 1, 857 P.2d 989 (1993) (en banc). . . .

The Washington court reasoned that the claimants' double jeopardy and ex post facto claims hinged on whether the Act is civil or criminal in nature. Following this Court's precedents, the court examined the language of the Act, the legislative history, and the purpose and effect of the statutory scheme. The court found that the legislature clearly intended to create a civil scheme both in the statutory language and legislative history. The court then turned to examine whether the actual impact of the Act is civil or criminal. The Act, the court concluded, is concerned with treating committed persons for a current mental abnormality, and protecting society from the sexually violent acts associated with that abnormality, rather than being concerned with criminal culpability. The court distinguished the goals of incapacitation and treatment from the goal of punishment. The court found that the Washington Act is designed to further legitimate goals of civil confinement and that the claimants had failed to provide proof to the contrary. 122 Wash. 2d, at 18CC25, 857 P.2d, at 996CC1000.

C

. . . In 1994, after unsuccessful challenges to his confinement in state court, Young filed a habeas action  . . . against the superintendent of the Center. Young contended that the Act was unconstitutional and that his confinement was illegal. He sought immediate release. The District Court granted the writ, concluding that the Act violated substantive due process, that the Act was criminal rather than civil, and that it violated the double jeopardy and ex post facto guarantees of the Constitution. Young v. Weston, 898 F. Supp. 744 (WD Wash. 1995). The superintendent appealed. While the appeal was pending, this Court decided Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997), which held that Kansas' Sexually Violent Predator Act, on its face, met substantive due process requirements, was nonpunitive, and thus did not violate the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded Young's case to the District Court for reconsideration in light of Hendricks. 122 F.3d 38 (1997).

On remand, the District Court denied Young's petition. Young appealed and the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded in part and affirmed in part. 192 F.3d 870 (1999). . . .

The Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court's determination that because the Washington Act is civil, Young's double jeopardy and ex post facto claims must fail. The linchpin of Young's claims, the court reasoned, was whether the Act was punitive Aas applied to Young. Id., at 873. The court did not read this Court's decision in Hendricks to preclude the possibility that the Act could be punitive as applied. The court reasoned that actual conditions of confinement could divest a facially valid statute of its civil label upon a showing by the clearest proof that the statutory scheme is punitive in effect. 192 F.3d, at 874.

The Court of Appeals reviewed Young's claims that conditions of confinement at the Center were punitive and did not comport with due process. Id., at 875. Young alleged that for seven years, he had been subject to conditions more restrictive than those placed on true civil commitment detainees, and even state prisoners. The Center, located wholly within the perimeter of a larger Department of Corrections (DOC) facility, relied on the DOC for a host of essential services, including library services, medical care, food, and security. More recently, Young claimed, the role of the DOC had increased to include daily security walk-throughs. Young contended that the conditions and restrictions at the Center were not reasonably related to a legitimate nonpunitive goal, as residents were abused, confined to their rooms, subjected to random searches of their rooms and units, and placed under excessive security.

Young also contended that conditions at the Center were incompatible with the Act's treatment purpose. The Center had a policy of videotaping therapy sessions and withholding privileges for refusal to submit to treatment. The Center residents were housed in units that, according to the Special Master in the Turay litigation, were clearly inappropriate for persons in a mental health treatment program. The Center still lacked certified sex offender treatment providers. Finally, there was no possibility of release. A court-appointed resident advocate and psychologist concluded in his final report that because the Center had not fundamentally changed over so many years, he had come to suspect that the Center was designed and managed to punish and confine individuals for life without any hope of release to a less restrictive setting. 192 F.3d, at 875. See also Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Supplemental Brief on Remand, and Motion to Alter Judgment 4CC5, 8CC9, 11CC12, 15, 20, 24CC26, in No. C94CC480C (WD Wash.), Record, Doc. Nos. 57, 155, and 167.

The Ninth Circuit concluded that . . . Young alleged facts which, if proved, would entitle him to relief. 192 F.3d, at 875. The court remanded the case to the District Court for a hearing to determine whether the conditions at the Center rendered the Act punitive as applied to Young. Id., at 876.

This Court granted the petition for a writ of certiorari . . . to resolve the conflict between the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Washington Supreme Court. Compare 192 F.3d 870 (1999), with In re Turay, 139 Wash. 2d 379, 986 P.2d 790 (1999).

II

As the Washington Supreme Court held and the Ninth Circuit acknowledged, we proceed on the understanding that the Washington Act is civil in nature. The Washington Act is strikingly similar to a commitment scheme we reviewed four Terms ago in Kansas v. Hendricks, supra. In fact, Kansas patterned its Act after Washington's. See In re Hendricks, 259 Kan. 246, 249, 912 P.2d 129, 131 (1996). In Hendricks, we explained that the question whether an Act is civil or punitive in nature is initially one of statutory construction. 521 U.S., at 361 (citing Allen v. Illinois, 478 U.S. 364, 368 (1986)). A court must ascertain whether the legislature intended the statute to establish civil proceedings. A court will reject the legislature's manifest intent only where a party challenging the Act provides the clearest proof that the statutory scheme is so punitive in either purpose or effect as to negate the State's intention. 521 U.S., at 361 . . .. We concluded that the confined individual in that case had failed to satisfy his burden with respect to the Kansas Act. We noted several factors:  The Act did not implicate retribution or deterrence; prior criminal convictions were used as evidence in the commitment proceedings, but were not a prerequisite to confinement; the Act required no finding of scienter to commit a person; the Act was not intended to function as a deterrent; and although the procedural safeguards were similar to those in the criminal context, they did not alter the character of the scheme. 521 U.S., at 361.

We also examined the conditions of confinement provided by the Act. Id., at 363-364. The Court was aware that sexually violent predators in Kansas were to be held in a segregated unit within the prison system. Id., at 368. We explained that the Act called for confinement in a secure facility because the persons confined were dangerous to the community. Id., at 363. We noted, however, that conditions within the unit were essentially the same as conditions for other involuntarily committed persons in mental hospitals. Ibid. Moreover, confinement under the Act was not necessarily indefinite in duration. Id., at 364. Finally, we observed that in addition to protecting the public, the Act also provided treatment for sexually violent predators. Id., at 365-368. We acknowledged that not all mental conditions were treatable. For those individuals with untreatable conditions, however, we explained that there was no federal constitutional bar to their civil confinement, because the State had an interest in protecting the public from dangerous individuals with treatable as well as untreatable conditions. Id., at 366. Our conclusion that the Kansas Act was Anonpunitive thus remove[d] an essential prerequisite for both Hendricks'' double jeopardy and ex post facto claims. Id., at 369. . . .

With this in mind, we turn to the Court of Appeals'' determination that respondent could raise an "as-applied" challenge to the Act on double jeopardy and ex post facto grounds and seek release from confinement. Respondent essentially claims that the conditions of his confinement at the Center are too restrictive, that the conditions are incompatible with treatment, and that the system is designed to result in indefinite confinement. Respondent's claims are in many respects like the claims presented to the Court in Hendricks, where we concluded that the conditions of confinement were largely explained by the State's goal to incapacitate, not to punish. 521 U.S., at 362-368. . . .

III

Our decision today does not mean that respondent and others committed as sexually violent predators have no remedy for the alleged conditions and treatment regime at the Center. The text of the Washington Act states that those confined under its authority have the right to adequate care and individualized treatment. Wash. Rev. Code § 71.09.080(2) (Supp. 2000); Brief for Petitioner 14. As petitioner acknowledges, if the Center fails to fulfill its statutory duty, those confined may have a state law cause of action. Tr. of Oral Arg. 6, 10CC11, 52.  It is for the Washington courts to determine whether the Center is operating in accordance with state law and provide a remedy. . . .

The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is therefore reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.