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Name: People v. Superior Court (Troyer)
Case #: B263146
Court: CA Supreme Court
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 09/18/2015

Sexually violent predator (SVP) failed to show that evaluations supporting recommitment petition were infected with “material legal error” where the evaluations were substantially copied from previous reports. Troyer, a convicted sex offender, was committed as an SVP. Prior to the expiration of his commitment, the former Department of Mental Health (DMH) recommended that the D.A. file a petition to recommit and provided two psychological evaluations in support of a petition. Both evaluators found Troyer presented a high range of risk for predatory offenses. Troyer moved to dismiss, challenging whether the two doctors were “designated” to perform the evaluations and claiming the evaluations contained “material legal error” because they were largely copied from earlier reports and therefore did not represent the independent judgment of the doctors as required. The petition was dismissed and the D.A. petitioned for writ of mandate. Held: Petition granted and remanded. When a commitment petition is filed, the trial court holds a probable cause hearing to determine whether the person named in the petition is likely to engage in sexually violent predatory behavior if released (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6602, subd. (a)). Prior to the probable cause hearing the court may review an evaluator’s report to assess whether, on its face, it contains “material legal error,” i.e., whether it reflects an inaccurate understanding of the statutory criteria governing the evaluation. The error is “material” if it affected the evaluator’s ultimate conclusion, and a change in that conclusion would either supply, or dissolve, the required concurrence of two designated evaluators. (People v. Superior Court (Ghilotti) (2002) 27 Cal.4th 888.) Here, it was error to dismiss the petition because, from the face of the evaluations, it cannot be determined that the opinions are not those of the evaluators.