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Name: Moore v. Superior Court
Case #: B198550
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/04/2009
Subsequent History: rev. granted 9/16/09 (S174633)

Defendant could not be subject to SVPA proceedings while mentally incompetent. Moore was convicted in 1987 of forcible sex offenses and sentenced to state prison. Prior to Moore’s scheduled parole release date, the prosecutor filed a petition for Moore’s commitment as a sexually violent predator (SVP). In August, 2005, at a probable cause hearing, the trial court found Moore likely to engage in sexually violent behavior if released. In February, 2007, Moore filed a motion for an order initiating a competency determination. The prosecutor opposed it, contending there is no constitutional or statutory right to stay SVPA proceedings to litigate competency issues, because an SVPA proceeding is civil in nature. Moore conceded the issue, but argued that the court had the inherent power to fashion a judicial remedy to protect Moore’s due process rights. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that due process does not require a competency determination in SVPA proceedings. Moore filed a petition for writ of mandate, contending that the trial court has the inherent power to determine the competency of an accused under the SVPA, and due process requires individuals subject to an SVPA commitment be competent. The appellate court granted the writ, holding that (1) the liberty interest in an SVPA proceeding is significant, (2) proceeding with an SVPA trial against an incompetent defendant poses an unacceptable risk of an erroneous deprivation of liberty, (3) the state interest in protection of victims and treating SVPs is not significantly burdened by providing a competency determination in the SVPA context, and (4) a defendant’s dignitary interest can be protected only if the defendant is competent. Courts have the inherent power to fill the gap in the SVPA by providing for a competency determination in order to effectuate the act while protecting due process concerns.