United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
December 5, 1973
FRANK STACHULAK, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
JOSEPH COUGHLIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND HIS CAPACITY AS ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marovitz, District Judge.
Writ for Habeas Corpus
This case was initially before the court on October 5, 1973, at
which time a memorandum opinion was issued denying defendants'
motion to dismiss. The aspect of the suit which relates to
plaintiff's writ of habeas corpus is decided today. For
convenience, we shall again set forth pertinent facts and
The plaintiff, Frank Stachulak, is currently in the custody of
the Illinois Director of Corrections at the Psychiatric Division
of the Illinois State Penitentiary, Menard, pursuant to a finding
by the Circuit Court of Cook County that he is a sexually
dangerous person under Ill.Rev.Stats. ch. 38, § 105-1.01 et seq.
Defendants are the State officials responsible for the care and
custody of plaintiff Stachulak. Plaintiff seeks relief under both
the Federal Civil Rights Act and the Federal Habeas Corpus Act,
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 2254, respectively, claiming
that his constitutional rights have been violated in the
following manner: (1) the failure of the statute to require proof
beyond a reasonable doubt before depriving plaintiff of his
liberty violated his rights under the Due Process Clause; (2) the
language of the Act is too broad and vague to guarantee Due
Process and Equal Protection; (3) plaintiff is treated worse than
criminal defendants and those committed under the mental health
laws in violation of the Equal Protection Clause; and (4) the
failure to provide treatment for one committed under civil
standards for a "mental disorder" violates the Eighth and
Defendants moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a
cause of action upon which relief could be granted. Defendants
contended that the action was an application for a writ of habeas
corpus in which state remedies had not been exhausted, that the
constitutionality of the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act had
already been adjudicated in the state and federal courts in a
manner dispositive of these issues, and that those committed have
no constitutional right to treatment.
This court, in its opinion of October 5, 1973, denied the
motion to dismiss, and noted its agreement with Wyatt v.
Stickney, 344 F. Supp. 387 (M.D.Ala. 1972), insofar as that case
recognizes a constitutional right to treatment for civilly
committed mental patients under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Discovery was ordered with regard to the issue of adequate
treatment, and the habeas corpus determination was continued to
November 5, 1973.
The Habeas Corpus Jurisdiction of the Court
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 83 S.Ct.
822, 9 L.Ed.2d 837 (1963), held that the statutory requirement of
exhaustion of state remedies in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and (c)
applies only to those remedies still open to the applicant at the
time he seeks federal habeas corpus, and does not include
remedies he might have pursued in the past that are not still
Plaintiff alleges and argues that he has no presently available
adequate state remedies. As plaintiff notes, the Illinois
Act is not available to persons attacking their commitment under
the Illinois Sexually Dangerous Persons Act. People v. Lindsey,
45 Ill.2d 115, 256 N.E.2d 808 (1970). Further, the state writ of
habeas corpus is not available to review claims of a
non-jurisdictional nature, even though such claims may involve
denial of constitutional rights. People ex rel. Shelley v. Frye,
42 Ill.2d 263, 246 N.E.2d 251 (1969). The claims in this case are
clearly not jurisdictional in nature. Finally, an appeal from a
commitment under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act is governed
by the Civil Practice Act, People v. Kennedy, 43 Ill.2d 200,
251 N.E.2d 209 (1969), and leave to appeal under the Civil Practice
Act has expired.
The failure of plaintiff Stachulak to comply with state
procedures does not automatically preclude him from seeking
habeas corpus relief from the federal courts pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254. In fact, it is the clear holding of Fay v. Noia,
supra, that "Federal courts have power under the federal habeas
statute to grant relief despite the applicant's failure to have
pursued a state remedy not available to him at the time he
applies." 372 U.S. at 398, 83 S.Ct. at 827. We choose to invoke
our habeas jurisdiction.
Standard of Proof Employed in the Commitment Proceeding
Though no standard of proof is specifically set forth in the
statute, it is an uncontroverted allegation that the plaintiff in
this suit was committed upon a mere preponderance of the
The proceedings under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act are
civil in nature. Ill.Rev.Stats. ch. 38, § 105-3.01. The Illinois
courts have held on several occasions, however, that because
these proceedings may result in a deprivation of liberty,
defendant must be accorded the essential protections available in
criminal trials. People v. Studdard, 51 Ill.2d 190, 281, N.E.2d
678 (1972); People v. Kennedy, supra; People v. Bruckman,
33 Ill.2d 150, 210 N.E.2d 537 (1965); People v. English, 31 Ill.2d 301,
201 N.E.2d 455 (1964). We need only determine whether the
requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is one of those
essential protections. On the basis of the Supreme Court opinion,
In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368
(1970), we hold that the state must prove beyond a reasonable
doubt all facts necessary to show that an individual is a
sexually dangerous person.
The U.S. Supreme Court in In Re Winship, supra, held that when
proceedings, even though labeled civil, may result in an
individual's incarceration in an institution of confinement, the
trier of fact must find that commitment is required beyond a
reasonable doubt. This case cannot be distinguished from Winship.
In the present case, as in Winship, the plaintiff had at stake
an "interest of immense importance, both because of the
possibility that he may lose his liberty . . . and because . . .
he would be stigmatized by the conviction." 397 U.S. at 363, 90
S.Ct. at 1072. In this case the potential loss of liberty is far
greater than the potential loss in Winship. In Winship, a
twelve-year-old juvenile was sentenced to an initial period of
commitment of eighteen months, subject to annual extensions until
his eighteenth birthday — a maximum of six years. In this case
plaintiff has already served four years and has a potential life
sentence — he is committed indefinitely until he can prove he has
With regard to stigma, the Court in Winship reached its
conclusion regarding stigma despite the fact "that juvenile
proceedings are confidential." 397 U.S. at 366, 90 S.Ct. 1068.
Sexually Dangerous Persons proceedings are not confidential and
the label sexually dangerous person certainly carries a potential
for stigma equal to the label delinquent.
Moreover, this case cannot be distinguished from Winship on the
basis of the place of commitment. In Winship the place of
commitment was a training school, 397 U.S. at 368, 90 S.Ct. 1068;
in this case the place of commitment is a prison. The only
individuals committed to a facility of the Department of
Corrections without having been provided with the protection of
a commitment standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt are
individuals, such as plaintiff, who are committed under the
Sexually Dangerous Persons Act.
Indeed, even if plaintiff were sent to a mental hospital under
a commitment proceeding under the Mental Health Code, he would be
entitled to have a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard applied
to his case. Lessard v. Schmidt, 349 F. Supp. 1078 (3-judge court,
E.D. Wis., 1972). As Lessard notes at 1095:
In In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25
L.Ed.2d 368 (1970), the Supreme Court held that proof
beyond a reasonable doubt was required to prove every
fact necessary in juvenile delinquency proceedings,
noting that "extreme caution in factfinding," id. at
365, 90 S.Ct. 1068, is necessary because of "the
possibility that [the individual] may lose his
liberty upon conviction and because of the certainty
that he would be stigmatized by the conviction." Id.
at 363, 90 S.Ct. at 1072. . . . The Winship Court
reached its conclusion despite its findings that an
adjudication of delinquency "does not deprive the
child of his civil rights, and that juvenile
proceedings are confidential." Id. at 366, 90 S.Ct.
The argument for a stringent standard of proof is
more compelling in the case of a civil commitment in
which an individual will be deprived of basic civil
rights and be certainly stigmatized by the lack of
confidentiality of the adjudication. We therefore
hold that the state must prove beyond a reasonable
doubt all facts necessary to show that an individual
is mentally ill and dangerous.
Further, to allow a lesser burden of proof in a Sexually
Dangerous Persons proceeding than if the original criminal charge
had proceeded to completion creates an incentive for the
prosecutor to file a Sexually Dangerous Persons petition in cases
where he feels he does not have sufficient evidence to convict
for the initial criminal offense charged. Therefore, we reiterate
that a standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required in
proceedings held pursuant to Ill.Rev.Stats. ch. 38, § 105-3.01,
as an essential part of due process.
The Constitutional Validity of the Act
In our memorandum opinion of October 5, 1973, this court held
the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act to be constitutionally valid
on its face. We adhere to this view. But neither that opinion nor
this one should be interpreted as commenting upon the validity of
the Act as applied to Stachulak in his commitment proceeding,
except insofar as we have explicitly held that there is a
constitutional right to treatment, and that Sec. 3.01 of the Act
cannot be read to sanction a standard of proof less stringent
than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
In light of our opinion today, this case is remanded to the
Circuit Court of Cook County in order to give the State an
opportunity to seek renewed commitment orders. Arrangements for
a new hearing in conformity with this opinion must be completed
within 60 days. In default thereof, the petitioner is to be
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