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Name: In re Snyder
Case #: C082275
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/09/2017

State Department of Hospitals (SDH) improperly “undesignated” psychologist who performed SVP evaluation based on its internal quality assurance process, contrary to the mandates of Welfare and Institutions Code section 6601. A few months before his scheduled release from prison, Snyder, who had been convicted of sexual offenses, was referred by the Board of Parole Hearings to the SDH for an SVP evaluation. One of the two doctors designated to evaluate Snyder found he was not an SVP, but the report she drafted did not meet SDH’s minimum quality standards. Concerned the report could not be correct in time, SDH “undesignated” the doctor, and selected a third doctor to complete the evaluation. The two designated doctors found Snyder was an SVP. Snyder’s motion to dismiss the petition based on this procedure was denied. Snyder sought writ relief. Held: Writ granted. The Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) allows for the involuntary civil commitment of a person who has completed his prison term but who is found to be an SVP. Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600 et seq., sets forth the procedures for this process. After a person is screened and referred for evaluation, the SDH designates two psychologists or psychiatrists to perform the evaluation. If they both agree the person is an SVP, then SDH requests that an SVP petition be filed. If the doctors disagree, then SDH must arrange for further examination of the person by two independent professionals (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6601, subd. (e)). A petition for commitment is filed only if both professionals agree the person meets the standard of commitment. Here, SDH had a quality assurance process in place for SVP evaluations to make sure the evaluator properly considered all of the required steps in drafting the report and employed sound clinical reasoning. However, SDH’s quality assurance process is not part of section 6601’s standardized assessment protocol and the supervisor of a designated evaluator may not substitute his or her professional judgment for that of the designated evaluator.

The SDH’s failure to comply with section 6601 does not require that the SVP petition be dismissed. “Inherent in the power to issue the writ of habeas corpus is the power to fashion a remedy consistent with what the justice of the case may require.” In light of the purposes of the SVPA the appropriate remedy in this case is not to order Snyder released from custody. The trial court was ordered to adjourn the pending probable cause hearing, remand the matter to the SDH with directions to follow the mandates of section 6601, and arrange for further examination of Snyder by two independent professionals.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: