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Name: Seling v. Young
Case #: 99-1185
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 01/17/2001
Subsequent History: None

In this case the United States Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of Washington state’s sexually violent predator law, which Seling challenged as being punitive “as applied” to him in violation of the double jeopardy and ex post facto clauses of the United States Constitution. The Ninth Circuit had held that the Court’s decision in Kansas v. Hendricks (1997) 521 U.S. 346, which held that a similar Kansas statute was nonpunitive, and therefore constitutional, did not preclude the possibility that a similar statute could be punitive as applied. It therefore remanded the case to the District Court to determine that issue. The Supreme Court here reversed and remanded. An Act which is found to be civil, cannot be deemed to be punitive as applied to a single individual in violation of the double jeopardy and ex post facto clauses and be cause for release. The Ninth Circuit’s “as applied” analysis is fundamentally flawed; the civil nature of the statute cannot be altered based on the vagaries in the statute’s implementation. The remedy for alleged conditions and treatment violations is a challenge in the Washington courts to determine whether the statute is operating in accordance with state law. Justices Scalia, Souter, and Thomas concurred separately. Justice Stevens dissented, finding that if the conditions of Young’s confinement were punitive in nature, then the statute in question should be characterized as a criminal law for federal constitutional purposes. Young should be given the opportunity to prove that his allegations are true.