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Name: People v. Superior Court (Rigby)
Case #: G043937
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 05/19/2011

The trial court acted in excess of its jurisdiction in allowing an inmate to petition for a conditional release when two petitions were pending to extend his commitment as a sexually violent predator (SVP). Rigby had previously been committed as an SVP and a petition to extend the commitment was filed in 2004. While that petition was pending, and after the passage of Proposition 83 in 2006, another petition was filed seeking an indeterminate commitment. The trial court made findings pursuant to section 6601.5 that both petitions contained sufficient facts to constitute probable cause that he is likely to engage in sexually violent predatory behavior if released and he was ordered detained in a secure facility pending his probable cause hearing. The probable cause hearing had not yet taken place by January, 2010 when Rigby petitioned for a conditional release, which was supported by two experts opining that he does not meet the criteria of an SVP. The trial court was concerned with the extraordinary delay in the case and after a hearing found he was entitled to petition for a conditional release from commitment. The authority to apply for conditional release is found in principles of due process and fundamental fairness, combined with ambiguity of the SVPA concerning individuals with expired commitments who are awaiting trial on recommitment petitions. Allowing a petition for conditional release initiates a process whereby the director of the treatment facility is required to provide a recommendation on the petition for release within 30 days. After a review of the SVPA scheme, the appellate court here found the conditional release could not be justified where one commitment was completely terminated and other petitions for recommitment have yet to be adjudicated. A peremptory writ of prohibition was issued restraining the trial court from taking any further action on the January, 2010 petition for conditional release.