Needham v. Superior Court of Orange County, No. G060670 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022)
Nature of Case: The People filed a petition against Petitioner seeking to commit him under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600 et seq.1 ) (SVPA), which authorizes involuntary civil commitment and treatment at the conclusion of an individual’s prison term. Preparing for trial on the petition, the district attorney retained a psychological expert to evaluate Petitioner and testify at trial that he qualifies for commitment under the SVPA. Petitioner moved to exclude the expert’s testimony at trial, but the trial court denied his motion.
Petitioner now seeks a writ of mandate/prohibition declaring that SVPA does not permit the People to call a privately retained expert to testify at trial.
Holding: The California Court Court of Appeals (Fourth Appellate District, Division Three), granted Petitioner’s petition for a writ of mandate and directed the lower court to exclude the testimony of the People’s privately retained expert witness. In so holding, the Court noted “the detailed statutory scheme for the provision and testimony of independent experts in an SVPA proceeding” and stated “to permit the People to retain a testifying expert would create a possibility that an expert with a clear bias–an expert hired to support the People’s view, rather than provide an independent analysis–could lead to the deprivation of a person’s liberty even where some independent experts find it unwarranted, or for reasons independent experts find unconvincing.”