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TIMMENDEQUAS v. BROWN

October 14, 2005.

PAUL TIMMENDEQUAS, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
DEVON BROWN, et al. Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM BASSLER, District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiffs brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Federal District Court of New Jersey as a class action on behalf of all similarly situated prisoners facing involuntary civil commitment pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. § 30:4-27.24 et seq. Plaintiffs allege in Count Three and Count Four of their Third Amended Complaint that their rights to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment were violated because they were denied notice and an opportunity to be heard during the screening and referral process for involuntary civil commitment.

Defendants are individuals, state agencies, and private entities involved in the involuntary civil commitment process. The Defendants now move to dismiss Counts Three and Four for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

  The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

  For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

  I. Background

  A. Procedural Background

  Plaintiffs Paul Timmendequas, William Whelan, Mickey Vanderpool and Gary Sigman filed suit on behalf of all similarly situated individuals. The named Plaintiffs represent a class of current and former New Jersey prisoners (collectively referred to as "Plaintiffs") who were convicted of sexual offenses and subject to the screening and referral process for involuntary civil commitment under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (the "Act"), and were at one time or are currently confined to the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center ("ADTC"). (Plaintiffs' Brief In Opposition To State Defendants' Motion To Dismiss (hereinafter "Plaintiffs' Brief") at 6.)

  Defendants are Devon Brown, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("DOC"), Richard Cevasco, Director of Psychological Services for the DOC, Thomas Farrell, DOC Medical Services, Grace Rogers, Administrator of the ADTC, and Peter Harvey, Attorney General of New Jersey (collectively referred to as the "Defendants").*fn1 *fn2

  Plaintiffs allege in Counts Three and Four of their Third Amended Complaint that Defendants violated their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with regard to their civil commitment under the Act.*fn3 Plaintiffs seek equitable relief in the form of a Temporary Restraining Order as well as Preliminary and Permanent Injunctions against the Defendants to prevent them from carrying out the screening and referral process mandated by the Act. Defendants now move to dismiss Counts Three and Four pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The issue before the Court, therefore, is not whether the entire involuntary civil commitment process under the Act provides adequate process but rather whether procedural protections are required at the referral stage.

  B. The Process For Involuntary Civil Commitment Under The New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act

  The New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 et seq., provides for the involuntary civil commitment of an individual deemed to be a sexually violent predator ("SVP"). In passing the Act, the New Jersey Legislature made specific findings regarding SVPs. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.25. The Legislature noted that certain individuals who commit sex offenses suffer from mental abnormalities which make them likely to engage in repeat acts of predatory sexual violence if not treated. Ibid. The Legislature deemed it necessary to modify the previous civil commitment framework and additionally separate involuntarily committed SVPs from other persons who have been civilly committed. Ibid. The Act defines a SVP as:
. . . a person who has been convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for commission of a sexually violent offense, or has been charged with a sexually violent offense but found to be incompetent to stand trial, and suffers from mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for control, care and treatment. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26(b).
  When it appears that a person may meet the criteria of a SVP, the "agency with jurisdiction" is mandated to provide notice to the Attorney General ninety days, or as soon as practicable, prior to the anticipated release of a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense. N.J.S.A. 30:42-7.27(a)(1). The "agency with jurisdiction" means the agency which releases a person who is serving a sentence or term of confinement. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26. The term includes the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Ibid.

  Both parties have made reference to a committee within the New Jersey Department of Corrections that makes the initial evaluation of an inmate for referral to the Attorney General. (See Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint 25 (hereinafter "Complaint"); Defendant's Motion To Dismiss Counts Three and Four (hereinafter "Defendant's Brief") at 10; 09-15-05 Transcript of Oral Argument at 9, ¶ 11-12 (hereinafter "Transcript").) The parties have identified this committee as the "Institutional Release Committee", the "Inmate Release Committee", and the "IRC". Id. Neither party, however, cites any legislative mandate within the Act, or elsewhere, describing the makeup or functional responsibility of this committee.*fn4

  If the Attorney General determines that public safety warrants the involuntary civil commitment of a SVP, the Attorney General may initiate a court proceeding by presenting to a judge for immediate review the certification of two doctors, one of whom must be a psychiatrist, who have examined the person no more than three days before the petition for commitment. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.28; 30:4-27.26 (emphasis added); see also In the Matter of the Commitments of M.G. and D.C., 331 N.J.Super. 365, 373 (2000). Upon receipt of these documents, the court must determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the person is a sexually violent predator. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.28(f). If the court so finds, it will issue an order setting a date for a final hearing and authorizing temporary commitment to a secure facility designated for the custody, care and treatment of SVPs pending the final hearing. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.28(f). The final hearing must be conducted within twenty days of the temporary commitment. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.29(a). At least ten days prior to the final hearing, the SVP and their counsel are to be provided with copies of ...


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