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Griffin v. Bruffett

Court of Appeals of Kansas

February 10, 2017

Matthew B. Griffin, Appellant,
v.
Kari Bruffett, Secretary of the Kansas Department on Aging and Disability Services, Appellee.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1.

         Although K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 59-29a01(b) declares that all time requirements referenced in the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) are directory rather than mandatory, it is clear that persons confined under the SVPA are entitled to yearly review and recommitment. See K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 59-29a08. However, there is no requirement that the annual review hearing must be held prior to the anniversary date of the sexually violent predator's (SVP) original civil commitment.

         2.

         Because a commitment under the SVPA is only valid for a year, absent a court order of recommitment there must be a point at which each year becomes final for purposes of challenging confinement during that period.

         3.

         Upon receipt of the annual written notice of the right to petition for release, a person confined as an SVP is put on notice that a recommitment order is imminent. So even if the court fails to enter a recommitment order, the filing of the annual evaluation and notice of right or waiver would be a sufficient indication of finality of the prior year's commitment to start the 30-day clock for filing any challenge to said commitment.

         4.

         The third factor that is considered in the context of determining whether a showing of manifest injustice saves an untimely K.S.A. 60-1507 motion is whether the movant made a colorable claim of actual innocence. While there is no direct corollary to a claim of actual innocence in the context of an untimely K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 60-1501 petition raised by an SVP contesting his or her continued confinement, it is reasonable to require some showing that there has been a change in the petitioner's mental or physical health such that continued confinement is no longer necessary.

         Appeal from Pawnee District Court; Bruce T. Gatterman, judge. Affirmed.

          Matthew B. Griffin, appellant pro se.

          Bryan C. Clark, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.

          Before Pierron, P.J., Atcheson and Arnold-Burger, JJ.

          Arnold-Burger, J.

         In Kansas, as in a few other states, once you have completed your prison term on a sexually violent crime, the State may seek to have you involuntarily civilly committed to a state hospital upon a determination by a jury that you are a sexually violent predator. The United States Supreme Court has upheld this process to be constitutional, and our Supreme Court has followed suit. Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 117 S.Ct. 2072, 138 L.Ed.2d 501 (1997); In re Care & Treatment of Hay, 263 Kan. 822, 953 P.2d 666 (1998). But a key part of the process is an annual review by a judge to determine whether the individual's mental status remains such that he or she is still a danger to society. As the United States Supreme Court stated in Hendricks, this prevents the civil commitment process from simply being another form of punishment for the same offense. 521 U.S. at 364.

         Matthew B. Griffin has been involuntarily confined to Larned State Hospital for treatment as a sexually violent predator (SVP) since 2009. For 4 of the first 6 years of his confinement, even though an annual evaluation was completed by the State indicating the necessity for continued confinement, there was no judicial overview of that process as required by K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 59-29a08. As a result, he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming that his statutory and constitutional rights were so severely violated that his confinement in the Sexual Predator Treatment Program (SPTP) has been illegal since 2010. He further asserts that the only possible remedy for the harm he has suffered is immediate release. The district court summarily dismissed the petition. Although we are troubled by the general lack of attention by the district court to the periodic review component of due process for persons confined under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), we must agree that summary dismissal was proper under the unique facts of this case, for the reasons we set out below.

         Factual and Procedural History

         The facts are not in dispute and are outlined as set forth in the district court order denying Griffin's petition.

January 2, 2009: Griffin was determined to be an SVP and was committed to the SPTP at Larned State Hospital.
December 2009: First annual examination completed finding that Griffin was not a suitable candidate for transitional release.
February 2010: Griffin acknowledges receipt of the annual notice, and the report was submitted to the Saline District Court but was never placed in the court file.
2010: No court order was ever entered recommitting Griffin pursuant to the first annual report.
February 2011: Second annual examination completed.
May 2011: Griffin agreed to remain in treatment and waived his right to further proceedings.
May 27, 2011: Saline County District Court entered order continuing Griffin's commitment to the SPTP.
December 29, 2011: Third annual examination completed finding that Griffin's mental abnormality or personality disorder had not so changed that it would be safe for him to be placed in transitional release.
January 17, 2012: Griffin acknowledged receipt of the annual notice and signed below the following statement: "'If I desire to pursue further proceedings in this matter, I understand that I must initiate those separately from this response.'" The report was forwarded to the Saline District Court, but it does not appear in the court file.
2012: No court order was ever entered recommitting Griffin pursuant to the third annual report.
• December 2012: Fourth annual examination was completed. Griffin acknowledged receipt of the annual notice and signed below the following statement: "'If I desire to pursue further proceedings in this matter, I understand that I must initiate those separately from this response.'" The report was forwarded to the Saline District Court and to ...

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