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People v. Rexroat

December 23, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
PAUL E. REXROAT, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit LaSalle County, Illinois, No. 99-MR-32, Honorable William P. Balestri Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Holdridge

Under the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (the Act) (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. (West 2002)), Paul Rexroat was committed to the Department of Human Services (DHS) for control, care, and treatment in a secured facility. He subsequently filed a petition for conditional release, citing a court-appointed doctor's recommendation that he be transferred to a DHS mental health facility for appropriate treatment. He also filed a motion challenging the constitutionality of the Act. Both pleadings were denied without evidentiary hearings, and Rexroat filed this appeal.

[9]     BACKGROUND

On February 24, 2000, Rexroat signed an admission in open court stating that he was a sexually violent person under the Act. The court thus committed him to the custody of the DHS for institutional care in a secure facility. Other than identifying such care, the court did not provide any guidelines or goals for Rexroat's treatment. He is currently held in a facility located in Joliet (the only DHS facility designated for sexually violent persons), although the DHS does have other facilities for rendering mental health treatment.

Pursuant to the Act's requirement that Rexroat be periodically reexamined (725 ILCS 207/55 (West 2002)), the court appointed Doctor Robert Chapman to examine him on March 14, 2003. Doctor Chapman made diagnoses of depression, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and adult attention deficit disorder. In his written report, he opined that Rexroat was not receiving appropriate treatment in the Joliet facility, and thus he recommended a transfer to another facility where appropriate treatment could be rendered. In the doctor's own words:

"Paul E. Rexroat is currently and since 1999 (4 years ago), has been receiving none of the proper competent psychiatric treatment required. Rather than obsess about his alleged sexual deviant thoughts and opining about his motivation such as to `gain attention,' he must first be provided with competent psychiatric treatment to render him mentally stable enough to benefit from sex offender treatment if indeed there is any benefit. It appears the [DHS] Treatment and Detention Facility Program is a one trick pony that does not have competence or apparent interest in treating Paul E. Rexroat's mental disorder as envisioned by this Sexually Violent [Person] Act.

It is therefore my opinion he be transferred to a [DHS] mental health treatment facility where there is competent treatment, personnel, and therapeutic environment which permits treatment and relief of his symptoms of volatile mood, affect, and psychotic episodes. At that time he may be able to benefit from sex offender treatment."

Rexroat subsequently filed a petition for conditional release, citing Doctor Chapman's report and requesting a transfer to a DHS mental health treatment facility. The matter proceeded to a scheduled hearing date, but on that date Rexroat advised that he also wished to file a motion challenging the constitutionality of the Act. The judge thus reserved his ruling on the conditional release issue until Rexroat presented his constitutional arguments.

On October 16, 2003, the judge heard arguments on both issues. Regarding the constitutional issue, Rexroat sought to testify about the factual allegations in his motion (allegedly punitive conditions in the Joliet facility). The judge noted that the supreme court had already declared the Act constitutional (see In re Varner, 207 Ill. 2d 425 (2003)), and that he was not going to "reinvent the wheel." Rexroat argued that his motion was distinguishable because he sought a declaration that the Act was unconstitutional "as applied." Nevertheless, the judge refused to "conduct a hearing whose end is pretty obvious." Accordingly, he denied Rexroat's motion challenging the constitutionality of the Act.

The judge also denied Rexroat's petition for conditional release, stating:

"I don't think I have the power to order his transfer within the [DHS] like that. The decision that this Court can make is whether or not he is to remain in a facility such as where he is now that is run by the [DHS] or he be given the conditional release with a program. As a good analogy, I would think would be like a halfway house type of a situation. That I could order. But all the doctor is recommending is that there be a lateral transfer within the [DHS] which is something that would better be served by those people that are in the [DHS] itself to make that decision. I don't think I can tell them to do that. It's a question of whether or not he remains where he is in their programs or the conditional release. And this report certainly doesn't call for conditional release."

Rexroat filed this appeal from the judge's order. Particularly, Rexroat claims the judge erred in not allowing evidentiary hearings on his two pleadings.

DISCUSSION

When a court's authority to act is controlled by statute, the court is governed by rules of limited jurisdiction and must proceed within the strictures of the statute. In re M.M., 156 Ill. 2d 53 (1993). Thus, in the instant case, the circuit court was bound by the strictures of the Act. Under the Act, the court had only two options regarding Rexroat's commitment: institutional care in a secure facility, or conditional release. See 725 ILCS 207/40(b)(2) (West 2002). The legislature's use of the word "or" between these options signals that they are different, and thus that conditional release does not involve placement in a secure facility. Cf. 725 ILCS 207/60(f) (West 2002) (conditional release occurs "in the community"); 725 ILCS 207/40(b)(4) (West 2002) ("[b]efore ...


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