In re Detention of Young

Decision Date12 June 2008
Docket NumberNo. 79747-1.,79747-1.
Citation185 P.3d 1180,163 Wash.2d 684
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesIn the Matter of the DETENTION OF Andre B. YOUNG, Petitioner.

Nancy P. Collins, Washington Appellate Project, Seattle, WA, for Petitioner.

Jennifer Roen Petersen, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Seattle, WA, David J.W. Hackett, King Co. Pros. Office, Seattle, WA, Prosecuting Atty. King County, King Co. Pros./App. Unit Supervisor, for Respondents.


¶1 This case asks us to determine whether a trial court has authority to hold a party in contempt who refuses to submit to an ordered mental examination and deposition as part of their evidentiary hearing to determine if they still meet the definition of a sexually violent predator (SVP). This question concerns application of RCW 71.09.090, Civil Rule (CR) 37(b)(2), chapter 7.21 RCW (contempt of court statute), and CR 81. We affirm the Court of Appeals' denial of petitioner Andre B. Young's motion to modify and hold that the trial court had authority to find Young in contempt and to stay proceedings until Young complied with the prior order.


¶ 2 Young has been committed to the Special Commitment Center (SCC) of the Department of Social and Health Services since 1991, under the SVP civil commitment laws, chapter 71.09 RCW. In 2001, Young initiated proceedings, using the procedure established by former RCW 71.09.090 (2001), to show that he no longer met the definition of an SVP and should therefore be unconditionally released. Though the trial court denied him an evidentiary hearing, on appeal the Court of Appeals determined that Young had presented sufficient evidence to make a prima facie showing entitling him to an evidentiary hearing. In re Det. of Young, 120 Wash.App. 753, 755, 86 P.3d 810, review denied, 152 Wash.2d 1035, 103 P.3d 201 (2004).

¶ 3 Before the hearing on remand in King County Superior Court, the State requested that under former RCW 71.09.090(3)(a), Young submit to a mental evaluation by a State expert and to a video deposition under CR 30. Young refused and filed a motion to quash and a motion for a protective order. The court denied his motions and, on March 21, 2005, ordered him to submit to a deposition and a mental evaluation, and ordered that failure to comply might result in the imposition of appropriate sanctions. Young again refused to submit and unsuccessfully challenged the order in the Court of Appeals and in this court through a petition for review.

¶ 4 On April 1, 2005, the trial court found Young in contempt, stayed all proceedings, and ordered him to remain at the SCC until he purged his contempt. The trial court entered written findings and conclusions, which include the following:

I. Findings of Fact

D. In open court on April 1, 2005, Mr. Young confirmed that he was refusing to comply with the requirements of the March 21, 2005 order. Mr. Young's refusal to comply with the order of this court is done willingly and intentionally. His refusal to appear at, and participate in, the deposition and interview constitutes contempt of court. Mr. Young was provided a right of allocution to explain his actions.

E. It remains within respondent Young's power to comply with the court's order requiring his attendance and participation at his deposition and the interview with [the State's expert].

F. The remedial sanction most reasonably calculated to result in respondent's compliance with this court's order regarding the deposition is to stay the proceedings until he purges his contempt. The court has considered lesser coercive sanctions, but finds that they are unlikely to secure Mr. Young's compliance with the court's order and would work to prejudice the ability of the State to present its case. The court will consider the possibility of a progressive sanction, including jail, if the stay fails to secure Mr. Young's compliance with the March 21, 2005 order.

II. Conclusions of Law

A. Respondent is in contempt of court under RCW 7.21.010(1)(b) & (c).

B. The court has the authority to place respondent in civil contempt under RCW 7.21, CR 37 and the court's inherent authority to enforce its orders.

Clerk's Papers (CP) at 160.

¶ 5 Young appealed the contempt order, and the State filed a motion on the merits to affirm, which the commissioner of Division One of the Court of Appeals granted. The commissioner rejected Young's argument, finding that Young could not collaterally attack the underlying order requiring him to participate in the mental examination and the deposition and was limited to challenging the trial court's decision to hold him in contempt. The commissioner also adopted the reasoning in In re Detention of Broer, 93 Wash.App. 852, 957 P.2d 281 (1998), to find that CR 37(b)(2)(D) does not preclude a finding of contempt for a party's failure to comply with an ordered mental examination. A panel of the Court of Appeals denied Young's motion to modify, upholding the contempt order. We granted review.


Whether the trial court had authority to hold Young in contempt of court when, as part of his evidentiary hearing determining if he still meets the definition of an SVP, he refused to submit to a court order requiring compliance with a mental examination?


¶ 6 The SVP statutes, chapter 71.09 RCW, are civil in nature. In re Det. of Williams, 147 Wash.2d 476, 55 P.3d 597 (2002). The civil rules govern the procedure in superior court in all suits of a civil nature, with the exceptions set out in CR 81. CR 81(a) states in relevant part that "[e]xcept where inconsistent with rules or statutes applicable to special proceedings, these rules shall govern all civil proceedings." We have recognized that proceedings under chapter 71.09 RCW are special proceedings within the meaning of CR 81. Williams, 147 Wash.2d at 488, 55 P.3d 597.

¶ 7 RCW 71.09.090(3) governs the postcommitment evidentiary hearing determining whether a person's condition has so changed that they no longer meet the definition of an SVP. The State bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the committed person continues to meet the definition of an SVP. RCW 71.09.090(3)(b). The statute provides that the State "shall have a right ... to have the committed person evaluated by experts chosen by the state." RCW 71.09.090(3)(a) (emphasis added).

¶ 8 Young claims the trial court could not hold him in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the ordered mental examination. In support, he cites to CR 37(b)(2), which states the following in relevant part:

If a party ... fails to obey an order to provide or permit discovery ... the court in which the action is pending may make such orders in regard to the failure as are just, and among others the following:


(D) In lieu of any of the foregoing orders or in addition thereto, an order treating as a contempt of court the failure to obey any orders except an order to submit to physical or mental examination.

(Emphasis added.) He argues that the civil rules govern all SVP proceedings unless they are inconsistent with a statute or rule. And because RCW 71.09.090(3) does not specify a procedure for having a committed person evaluated, there is no conflict with the civil rules. Thus, Young argues, CR 37(b)(2)(D) controls and bars the court from finding him in contempt for refusing to submit to a mental examination.1

¶ 9 According to the State, Young's claim that the court may not hold him in contempt is really an impermissible collateral attack on the underlying order. The State cites to Mead School District No. 354 v. Mead Education Ass'n, 85 Wash.2d 278, 280, 534 P.2d 561 (1975), in noting that where jurisdiction is proper, even if the underlying order was wrongly entered, a party refusing to obey that order may be liable for contempt. Also, the State argues that as the Court of Appeals found in Broer, 93 Wash.App. at 865, 957 P.2d 281, we should hold that CR 37 cannot override the court's authority under chapter 7.21 RCW to find a person in contempt of court.

¶ 10 Chapter 7.21 RCW is the contempt of court statute. "Contempt of court" is defined to include intentional disobedience of any lawful order of the court. RCW 7.21.010(1)(b). Contempt may be criminal or civil. In holding Young in civil contempt, the trial court cited to its inherent authority and authority under the contempt statute. Indeed, the power to censure contemptuous behavior flows from both statute and the inherent power of the court, created by the constitution, to punish for disobedience of its mandates. Mead, 85 Wash.2d at 282, 534 P.2d 561.

¶ 12 Both parties now interpret CR 37 as limiting the court's inherent authority, and the State relies on chapter 7.21 RCW as an alternative avenue to contempt. The State argues that the civil and criminal contempt provisions in chapter 7.21 RCW enhance the remedies available to enforce court orders by supplementing the remedies found in CR 37. Young does not address this separate statutory authority nor argue that it is inapplicable to SVP proceedings. We find persuasive the State's argument that chapter 7.21 RCW serves as an independent source of contempt powers under these circumstances and find case law supports this conclusion.

¶ 12 In Broer, the Court of Appeals relied on the court's inherent and statutory powers in rejecting Broer's argument, which was analogous to Young's, and in affirming the trial court's order holding Broer in contempt in the context of special SVP proceedings. Broer, 93 Wash.App. at 864-65, 957 P.2d 281. Like Young, Broer was held in contempt for failing to comply with a court ordered statutory evaluation. On appeal, Broer argued that the trial court erred by compelling the mental examination without a CR 35 showing of good cause. The Court of Appeals found that the good cause requirement of CR 35 was inconsistent with former RCW 71.09.040(4) (1995), which governs...

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