Rodriguez v. Superior Court of Santa Clara Cnty.

Decision Date20 October 2021
Docket NumberH049016
Citation285 Cal.Rptr.3d 592,70 Cal.App.5th 628
Parties Mario RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Respondent; The People, Real Party in Interest.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Brian C. McComas, by appointment of the Santa Clara County Independent Defense Office, for Petitioner.

Jeffrey F. Rosen, District Attorney, Crystal Tindell Seiler, Barbara A. Cathcart, Supervising District Attorneys, for Real Party in Interest.

Danner, J. Petitioner Mario Rodriguez seeks extraordinary writ relief from a trial court order overruling his objection to an impending competency restoration hearing under Penal Code section 13721 and denying his motion to dismiss two pending criminal cases. As he does in this court, Rodriguez claimed in the trial court that, although a certification of his mental competency had been filed, he had reached the two-year maximum period for an incompetency commitment under section 1370, subdivision (c)(1) ( section 1370(c)(1) ) before a judicial hearing on the certification had been held and, thus, the trial court lacks authority to hold such a hearing.

The trial court rejected Rodriguez's objection and motion, concluding it could calculate Rodriguez's commitment period after it determined at the hearing whether he had regained competence. The court decided that if it were to find that Rodriguez had regained competence, then the commitment period would end as of the certification date. On the other hand, if it were to find that Rodriguez had not regained competence, then his commitment period would be calculated to the date of the court's finding.

For the reasons explained below, we disagree with the trial court's conclusion regarding the calculation of Rodriguez's commitment period and decide that Rodriguez's commitment ended when his certification of restoration was filed. We therefore agree with the trial court's ultimate determination that Rodriguez's maximum commitment period under section 1370(c)(1) has not yet run, it may hold a hearing under section 1372, and it need not dismiss the criminal cases. Thus, we deny Rodriguez's petition for writ of prohibition or other equitable relief.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. Charged Offenses

On December 29, 2016, the Santa Clara County District Attorney (district attorney) filed two informations against Rodriguez. One charged Rodriguez with making criminal threats on or about August 30, 2016 (§ 422). (Case No. C1647395.) The other alleged multiple crimes that occurred on or about November 6, 2016: assault with a deadly weapon ( § 245, subd. (a)(1) ) with an enhancement for personally inflicting great bodily injury ( §§ 12022.7, subd. (a), 1203, subd. (e)(3) ); oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear (former § 288a, subd. (c)(2) ); rape by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear ( § 261, subd. (a)(2) ); making criminal threats ( § 422 ); and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, cohabitant, former spouse, or former cohabitant ( § 273.5, subd. (a) ). (Case No. C1650275.)

B. Proceedings Regarding Rodriguez's Competency to Stand Trial

In December 2016, when the trial court held Rodriguez to answer for his alleged crimes, it ordered $25,000 bail and no bail allowed, respectively, on Rodriguez's two cases.

1. First Competency Proceedings

One year later, on December 27, 2017, the trial court declared a doubt about Rodriguez's competency to stand trial and suspended the proceedings. On May 3, 2018, after the parties submitted the question of competency on the examiners' reports, the trial court found Rodriguez not competent.

On May 24, 2018, the trial court signed an order of commitment committing Rodriguez in both of his cases to the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) for placement in a locked psychiatric facility for care and treatment under section 1370, subdivision (a)(2). The court's order stated the "maximum term is 3 years minus 0 days actual credit" (boldface & capitalization omitted). On May 25, 2018, the trial court signed an order directing DSH to provide a placement for Rodriguez "by 5:00 p.m., June 29, 2018." (Boldface & underlining omitted.) Neither the date on which the court provided the requisite commitment documents to DSH (the section 1370 packet) (see § 1370, subd. (a)(3)(A)(I) ) nor the date on which Rodriguez was admitted into a DSH facility appears in the material provided by the parties to this court.

On September 7, 2018, the medical director of Atascadero State Hospital certified that Rodriguez was competent. The certification of mental competency under section 1372 was filed in the trial court on September 17, 2018.2 The exact date of Rodriguez's discharge from DSH does not appear in the material provided to this court.

On September 20, 2018, the parties submitted on the examiners' reports the question of restoration to competence. The trial court found Rodriguez's competency restored and reinstated the criminal proceedings. Rodriguez was present in court for this hearing and waived time for trial.

2. Second Competency Proceedings

Almost four months later, on January 10, 2019, the trial court again declared a doubt about Rodriguez's competency and suspended the proceedings. On April 18, 2019, after the parties submitted the question of competency on the examiners' reports, the trial court found Rodriguez not competent.

On May 16, 2019, the trial court ordered that Rodriguez be committed to DSH for placement in a locked psychiatric facility for care and treatment under section 1370, subdivision (a)(2). The court's subsequent written order of commitment (signed on May 31, 2019) stated the "maximum term is 2 years minus 0 days actual credit on C1898510 and TBD credits by Department of State Hospital[s] on C1650275 & C1647395" (boldface & capitalization omitted).3 On May 31, 2019, the trial court signed an order directing DSH to provide a placement for Rodriguez "by 5:00 p.m. [on] June 14, 2019." (Boldface & underlining omitted.) Neither the date on which the court provided the section 1370 packet to DSH nor the date on which Rodriguez was admitted into a DSH facility appears in the material provided to this court.

On January 9, 2020, the medical director of Atascadero State Hospital certified that Rodriguez was competent. The Director also opined, pursuant to section 1372, subdivision (e), that Rodriguez "probably does not need placement in a psychiatric facility in order to maintain competence to stand trial." The certification of mental competency under section 1372 was filed in the trial court on January 17, 2020.4 The exact date of Rodriguez's discharge from DSH does not appear in the material provided to this court.

On January 24, 2020, the parties appeared before the trial court. Attorney Daniel Mayfield substituted into Rodriguez's cases as newly assigned defense counsel. Mayfield requested a continuance of a formal hearing under section 1372 on Rodriguez's restoration to competence (restoration hearing).5 The cases were set for a restoration hearing on May 21, 2020, and an intervening court date was set for February 7, 2020.

On February 7, 2020, another intervening court date of March 13, 2020, was set in order for Mayfield to subpoena records. On March 13, 2020, the trial court released subpoenaed records to Mayfield and set another court date for April 17, 2020.

On March 17, 2020, because of Santa Clara County's COVID-19 " ‘shelter in place’ orders, " the Santa Clara County Superior Court suspended "all non-essential functions." The superior court did not include restoration hearings among the "essential functions" it would continue to perform during the suspension.

The parties next appeared in court on July 17, 2020. The trial court released additional subpoenaed records to Mayfield. Rodriguez's cases were set for a restoration hearing on August 24, 2020, and an intervening court date was set for August 14, 2020.

On August 14, 2020, the assigned deputy district attorney requested a continuance of the restoration hearing. As a result, the restoration hearing was reset to September 21, 2020, and an intervening court date was set for August 28, 2020.

By August 28, 2020, the trial court had not yet received certain subpoenaed records from Atascadero State Hospital. Another court date regarding the records was set for September 11, 2020. On September 8, 2020, during the call of the master criminal trial calendar, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Eric Geffon described the lack of available courtrooms for trials caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On September 10, 2020, Mayfield e-mailed the deputy district attorney and stated that he wished to continue the restoration hearing until at least September 28, 2020. The deputy district attorney responded and informed Mayfield that the trial court had "already automatically continued" the restoration hearing to November 2, 2020.

On September 11, 2020, the trial court released subpoenaed records to Mayfield and set the next court date as November 2, 2020. According to a declaration signed by Mayfield and filed in this court with Rodriguez's petition for a writ of prohibition, many of the scheduled restoration hearing dates between September 11, 2020 and March 15, 2021 were "automatically continued once the COVID-19 Pandemic struck."

On September 29, 2020, the deputy district attorney met with Judge Geffon and "expressed the importance of locating an available courtroom to hear pending mental health cases." Judge Geffon informed the deputy district attorney that the Santa Clara County Superior Court "did not presently have the resources to conduct the hearings in these cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the limited trial capacity and backlog of criminal jury trials that had resulted therefrom."

The scheduled November 2, 2020 hearing never occurred. Rodriguez's cases were automatically continued by the trial court to a date in December 2020, which hearing also did not occur.

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