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Name: People v. Morrison
Case #: B291804
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 04/30/2019
Summary

The Sexually Violent Predator Act requires the filing of a commitment petition when both initial evaluators concur, even if they do so after originally disagreeing and after independent evaluators have also disagreed. Morrison was convicted of kidnapping and raping a minor. Before his release from prison, he was identified as a potential sexually violent predator (SVP). Two psychologists who evaluated Morrison disagreed about whether he met the criteria for an SVP commitment. Next, two independent psychologists evaluated him and they also disagreed. However, one of the initial reviewers later changed her opinion and concluded Morrison did meet the criteria after she considered reports related to sexual misconduct and threatening sexualized behavior toward female prison employees. The state hospital then certified the reports of the two original evaluators and the district attorney filed the civil commitment petition in the trial court. The court dismissed the petition based on its interpretation of Welfare and Institutions Code section 6601. The People appealed. Held: Reversed. If an inmate is determined to be a potential SVP, he is referred for evaluation by two psychologists or psychiatrists. If both professionals agree the inmate meets the SVP criteria, an involuntary commitment petition shall be filed. (§ 6601, subds. (c), (d), (i).) But when there is a split of opinion between the two evaluators, the inmate will be evaluated by two independent professionals and a petition shall only be filed if both independent evaluators believe the offender meets the SVP criteria. (§ 6601, subd. (e), (f).) Applying principles of statutory interpretation, the Court of Appeal concluded that where the initial evaluators disagree, “but as a result of a peer review process and review of a more complete record they eventually agree the person being evaluated is an SVP, the Director of the [state hospital] must request the filing of a commitment petition.” The fact that independent psychologists evaluated the inmate and disagreed does not change this requirement.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/B291804.PDF