In re Mille

Decision Date03 March 2010
Docket NumberNo. B217102.,B217102.
Citation105 Cal. Rptr. 3d 859,182 Cal.App.4th 635
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesIn re FREDDY MILLE on Habeas Corpus.

Michael P. Judge, Public Defender, Colleen Chikahisa and John Hamilton Scott, Deputy Public Defenders, for Petitioner Freddy Mille.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Douglas Press, Assistant Attorney General, Richard T. Waldow, Leslie P. McElroy, Jennifer M. Kim, Randall R. Murphy and Ernest Martinez, Deputy Attorneys General, for Respondent State of California.

OPINION

KLEIN, P. J.

Petitioner Freddy Mille (Mille) seeks a writ of habeas corpus, challenging the 84-day delay in transferring him from the Los Angeles County Jail (county jail) to Patton State Hospital (Patton), in neighboring San Bernardino County, after the superior court ordered the Los Angeles County Sheriff (sheriff) to transport Mille from the county jail to Patton for evaluation and treatment. (Pen. Code, § 1370.)1

Once a trial court finds a defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial and orders the defendant committed to a state mental hospital for care and treatment to restore competence to stand trial, the state mental hospital has 90 days to make a written report to the court concerning the defendant's progress toward recovery of mental competence. (§ 1370, subd. (b)(1).)

A "person charged by a State with a criminal offense who is committed solely on account of his incapacity to proceed to trial cannot be held more than the reasonable period of time necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that he will attain that capacity in the foreseeable future." (Jackson v. Indiana (1972) 406 U.S. 715, 738 [32 L.Ed.2d 435, 92 S.Ct. 1845], italics added (Jackson); accord, In re Davis (1973) 8 Cal.3d 798, 801 [106 Cal.Rptr. 178, 505 P.2d 1018] (Davis).)

(1) Here, following the commitment order, Mille was kept in the county jail for 84 days before the sheriff transferred him to Patton for evaluation and treatment. The fact the county jail administered antipsychotic medication to Mille while he was housed there, pursuant to section 1369.1, was not a substitute for a timely transfer to Patton for evaluation and treatment to restore Mille's competence to stand trial.

The sheriff's failure to transfer Mille was first called to the attention of the trial court 30 days after the commitment order, when the public defender filed the initial petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging Mille's prolonged confinement in the county jail. We conclude, minimally, instead of denying Mille's initial petition for writ of habeas corpus, filed June 3, 2009, the trial court should have ordered the sheriff to deliver Mille promptly to Patton for evaluation and treatment. (In re Stoliker (1957) 49 Cal.2d 75, 78 [315 P.2d 12] [habeas corpus is proper remedy to secure confinement under proper authority].) Likewise, on the facts presented, this court should have granted the habeas corpus petition which Mille filed in this court on June 26, 2009, and directed Mille's immediate transfer to Patton.

Mille is no longer in the custody of the county jail or the sheriff, having been transferred eventually to Patton for examination and treatment pursuant to section 1370. Therefore, he has received the relief he requested in the petition for writ of habeas corpus which he filed in this court, rendering said request for a writ of habeas corpus moot. (In re Walters (1975) 15 Cal.3d 738, 743 [126 Cal.Rptr. 239, 543 P.2d 607].)

(2) Nonetheless, "[w]here questions of general public concern are involved, particularly in the area of the supervision of the administration of criminal justice, we may reject mootness as a bar to a decision on the merits. [Citations.] Furthermore, habeas corpus is an appropriate procedure for disposing of the present case since it can be used by petitioner to obtain a declaration of rights in the prevailing circumstances. [Citations.]" (In re Walters, supra, 15 Cal.3d at p. 744, fn. omitted.) While the questions presented herein are likely to recur, each case could become moot before we could have acted upon it. Consequently, we consider Mille's case an appropriate vehicle for addressing the issues presented herein. (Ibid.)

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The felony complaint, filed March 16, 2009, consisted of one count of attempted kidnapping of a victim under the age of 14 with an allegation of a prior conviction of burglary.

On April 20, 2009, prior to the preliminary hearing, defense counsel declared a doubt as to Mille's competence. (§ 1368, subd. (b).)

On May 4, 2009, following a hearing, the trial court found Mille mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered him committed to the State Department of Mental Health (the Department) for placement at Patton. (§ 1370.) The trial court remanded Mille to the custody of the sheriff for transportation to Patton. The trial court did not specify a date by which that was to occur.

On June 3, 2009, 30 days having elapsed since the commitment order, Mille, represented by the public defender, filed a petition in the superior court for writ of habeas corpus. Mille alleged he was being unlawfully confined in the county jail for a "statutorily and constitutionally impermissible length of time" following his commitment. The petition alleged Mille was receiving "no treatment beyond, possibly, medication, and that no examination is being made to determine whether it is substantially likely that [he] will regain competence in the foreseeable future." The petition asserted Mille "is being deprived of the right to prompt treatment in the facility to which [he] had been committed, and the right to an immediate examination to determine the likelihood of [his] future recovery."

On June 22, 2009, the superior court issued an order denying the petition without prejudice. The superior court stated: "Although it is regrettable that Petitioner has to spend any time in the County Jail without treatment after being committed as incompetent to stand trial, the court is mindful that it takes time to arrange admission and effectuate transportation to Patton State Hospital, which is located in another county some distance from the City of Los Angeles. It has been barely one month since commitment. Under the circumstances, the court does not believe that a one-month delay violates the Constitution of the State of California or the United States of America."2

On June 26, 2009, Mille filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this court, reiterating the grounds he asserted in his initial petition in the superior court.

On July 9, 2009, this court summarily denied the petition without prejudice.

On July 10, 2009, Mille filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court.

The California Supreme Court requested the state Attorney General to answer the petition on or before July 27, 2009. On July 27, 2009, the sheriff transported Mille to Patton. That same day, the Attorney General filed an answer to the petition for review as well as a motion to dismiss the petition for review as moot.

On August 12, 2009, the Supreme Court denied the motion to dismiss the petition for review as moot. It granted the petition for review and transferred the matter back to this court with directions to vacate the July 9, 2009 order summarily denying habeas corpus relief and to issue an order to show cause returnable in this court. The Supreme Court's order stated: "The Director of the Department of Mental Health is to be ordered to show cause, when the matter is placed on calendar, why petitioner's prolonged detention in the Los Angeles County Jail after the superior court ordered his commitment to Patton State Hospital did not deny him due process of law. (See Jackson v. Indiana[, supra,] 406 U.S. 715, 738; In re Davis[, supra,] 8 Cal.3d 798, 801.)"

In compliance, we vacated our prior order and issued an order to show cause.

CONTENTIONS

Mille contends: he is unlawfully confined because he has been held for a prolonged period of time absent appropriate treatment to restore competence to stand trial and because no immediate examination is being made to determine his probability of recovering competence; and should this matter become moot, this court should reject mootness as a bar to decision.

The Department avers: Mille was not denied due process on account of his confinement at the county jail's psychiatric unit because the county jail is a designated treatment facility pursuant to section 1369.1 and Mille was receiving treatment there pursuant to section 1369.1, so that his treatment comported with constitutional requirements; Mille's due process rights were not violated because he was transferred to a state mental hospital, evaluated and treated in a timely manner; because Mille has been transferred to Patton, the order to show cause should be discharged as moot; and in any event, releasing Mille is not a proper remedy.

DISCUSSION
1. General principles

a. Constitutional requirements: prohibition on indefinite commitment; a defendant cannot be held more than the reasonable period of time necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability he will attain competence to stand trial in the foreseeable future; continued commitment must be justified by progress toward that goal.

(3) In Jackson, the United States Supreme Court held "a person charged by a State with a criminal offense who is committed solely on account of his incapacity to proceed to trial cannot be held more than the reasonable period of time necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that he will attain that capacity in the foreseeable future. If it is determined that this is not the case, then the State must either institute the customary civil commitment proceeding that would be required to commit indefinitely any other citizen, or release the defendant. Furthermore, even if it is determined that the defendant...

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