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Name: People v. Hill
Case #: E054823
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/11/2013

Marsden procedure applies to sexually violent predator proceedings and where it is violated, the Chapman standard of prejudice applies. Hill appealed his commitment as a sexual violent predator (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600, et seq.). One issue raised on appeal challenged the trial court’s refusal to consider Hill’s Marsden motion. Held: Limited remand ordered. Hill was represented by court appointed counsel at the SVPA proceedings. Prior to trial he asked for a Marsden hearing, but the court denied him one. Although the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, which is the foundation of the Marsden procedure, does not apply to civil commitment proceedings, an SVPA defendant has a due process right via the Fourteenth Amendment, and through the statutory implementation of the SVPA, to counsel. The liberty interest at stake in SVPA proceedings is substantial. There is no significant difference between criminal and SVPA proceedings with respect to the procedures to guard against deprivation of the right to effective assistance of counsel. Allowing an SVPA committee to set forth his reasons for replacing counsel does not place an undue burden on the government or impede the government’s interest in protecting the public. Because Hill’s right to effective counsel is ensured by due process, reversal is required unless the harm resulting from the court’s denial of hearing is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt (Chapman v. California (1967) 386 U.S. 18), which is not the case here, requiring limited remand for hearing.