Seling v. Young, 531 U.S. 250 (2001)

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250

OCTOBER TERM, 2000

Syllabus

SELING, SUPERINTENDENT, SPECIAL COMMITMENT CENTER v. YOUNG

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 99-1185. Argued October 31, 2000—Decided January 17, 2001

Washington State's Community Protection Act of 1990 (Act) authorizes the civil commitment of "sexually violent predators," persons who suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes them likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. Respondent Young is confined under the Act at the Special Commitment Center (Center), for which petitioner is the superintendent. Young's challenges to his commitment in state court proved largely unsuccessful. Young then instituted a habeas action under 28 U. S. C. 2254, seeking release from confinement. The District Court initially granted the writ, concluding that the Act was unconstitutional. While the superintendent's appeal was pending, this Court decided Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U. S. 346, holding that a similar commitment scheme, Kansas' Sexually Violent Predator Act, on its face, met substantive due process requirements, was nonpunitive, and thus did not violate the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses. The Ninth Circuit remanded for reconsideration in light of Hendricks. The District Court then denied Young's petition. In particular, the District Court determined that, because the Washington Act is civil, Young's double jeopardy and ex post facto claims must fail. The Ninth Circuit reversed that ruling. The "linchpin" of Young's claims, the court reasoned, was whether the Act was punitive "as applied" to Young. The court did not read Hendricks to preclude the possibility that the Act could be punitive as applied. Reasoning that actual confinement conditions could divest a facially valid statute of its civil label upon a showing by the clearest proof that the statutory scheme is punitive in effect, the court remanded the case for the District Court to determine whether the conditions at the Center rendered the Act punitive as applied to Young.

Held: An Act, found to be civil, cannot be deemed punitive "as applied" to a single individual in violation of the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses and provide cause for release. Pp. 260-267.

(a) Respondent cannot obtain release through an "as-applied" challenge to the Act on double jeopardy and ex post facto grounds. The Act is strikingly similar to, and, in fact, was the pattern for, the Kansas Act upheld in Hendricks. Among other things, the Court there applied

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