Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rutherford v. Scott

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 6, 2017

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD, Petitioner,
v.
GREG SCOTT, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee, United States District Judge.

         In 2009, Petitioner Samuel Rutherford was civilly committed as a sexually violent person under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (SVPCA), 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 207/1 et seq. Since then, he has been in state custody at a treatment and detention center operated by the Illinois Department of Human Services. In 2015, he filed a pro se habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his custody. After Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the petition as untimely, Rutherford filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss the petition without prejudice to his ability to file a subsequent petition after he exhausts available remedies in state court. For the reasons that follow, Rutherford's motion is granted, and Respondent's motion is denied as moot.

         Background

         In 2007, the State of Illinois filed a petition in the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois, to have Rutherford civilly committed under the SVPCA. In 2009, after Rutherford stipulated to the allegations in the State's petition, the court entered a judgment ordering Rutherford to be civilly committed. Rutherford appealed the judgment to the Illinois Appellate Court, which affirmed the judgment on March 9, 2011. See In re Commitment of Rutherford, No. 2-09-0794, 2011 WL 10099711, at *1 (Ill.App.Ct. Mar. 9, 2011). Rutherford did not file a petition for leave to appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court. To this day, he remains civilly committed at the Illinois Department of Human Services's Treatment and Detention Facility in Rushville, Illinois.

         In 2015, Rutherford filed a pro se habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 before this Court.[1] He challenges his civil commitment on the ground that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Pet. at 5-6, ECF No. 1. Specifically, he argues that the State's determination that he has a mental disorder justifying his ongoing civil commitment is erroneous because it is improperly based upon events that took place while he was a minor, medically unreliable “risk assessment tools, ” and testimony of nonmedical witnesses. Id. at 5- 10. When Rutherford filed his habeas petition, it was originally assigned to the docket of the Honorable James B. Zagel. The case was reassigned on April 6, 2017.

         Legal Standard

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), a federal court may issue a writ of habeas corpus only if the petitioner demonstrates that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A person in custody pursuant to a civil commitment order entered by a state court may challenge the legality of his custody under AEDPA. See Stanbridge v. Scott, 791 F.3d 715, 721 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Ambrose v. Roeckeman, 749 F.3d 615, 616 (7th Cir. 2014)); Martin v. Bartow, 628 F.3d 871, 873 (7th Cir. 2010). When a petitioner proceeds pro se, the Court must construe his filings liberally. Martin, 628 F.3d at 878 (citing Perruquet v. Briley, 390 F.3d 505, 512 (7th Cir. 2004)).

         Subject to limited exceptions, a federal court may not grant habeas relief unless the petitioner first “exhaust[s] the remedies available in the courts of the State.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). To meet the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner challenging his custody pursuant to a judgment entered by an Illinois court must appeal the judgment to the Illinois Appellate Court, as well as present his claims in a petition for leave to appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court. Guest v. McCann, 474 F.3d 926, 930 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842- 46 (1999)).

         Analysis

         In January 2016, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss Rutherford's habeas petition as untimely. Resp't's Mot. Dismiss at 3-7, ECF No. 7. Rutherford subsequently filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss his petition, requesting that the dismissal be “without prejudice and with leave to reinstate upon exhaustion of state court remedies.” Pet'r's Mot. Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 15. In support of his motion for voluntary dismissal, Rutherford asserts that annual re-evaluation proceedings are pending in the Circuit Court of DuPage County pursuant to 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 207/55. Id. at 2. He further states that he is represented by counsel in the state court proceedings and that he intends to ask counsel to bring the issues raised in his federal habeas petition before the state court in the first instance. Id.

         Respondent does not dispute that a federal court may dismiss a habeas petition where the petitioner seeks voluntary dismissal. Rather, in opposing Rutherford's motion, Respondent's sole argument is that the petition should be dismissed with prejudice as untimely, instead of dismissed without prejudice in the manner that Rutherford requests. Resp. Pet'r's Mot. Dismiss at 2-3, ECF No. 16. The difference matters, because the basis on which the Court dismisses Rutherford's petition determines whether a subsequently filed petition would be deemed “second or successive” for purposes of AEDPA. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b), a habeas petitioner may not file a second or successive petition without prior permission from a federal court of appeals. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b). When a habeas petition is dismissed as premature-such as when a petition is filed before the petitioner has exhausted available state court remedies-a subsequently filed petition is not “second and successive” under § 2244(b). Altman v. Benik, 337 F.3d 764, 766 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 485-86 (2000)). By contrast, when a habeas petition is voluntarily dismissed “in the face of an imminent loss”-that is, when the dismissed petition is defective in a way that cannot be cured through a subsequent filing-a subsequently filed petition counts as “second and successive” and is therefore subject to § 2244(b)'s restrictions. Id. (citing Potts v. United States, 210 F.3d 770, 771 (7th Cir. 2000); Felder v. McVicar, 113 F.3d 696, 698 (7th Cir. 1997)). According to Respondent, the Court's dismissal of Rutherford's petition should be treated as a dismissal “in the face of an imminent loss” because the petition is “indisputably time-barred.” Resp. Pet'r's Mot. Dismiss at 1-2. The Court disagrees.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), a federal habeas petition brought by “a person challenging his custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court” is subject to a one-year statute of limitations. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The limitations period begins to run from the latest of four events enumerated in that provision. Id.; see also Martin, 628 F.3d at 873. Here, the only event at issue is “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). Thus, the question of whether Rutherford's habeas petition is time-barred under § 2244(d)(1) turns on whether his habeas petition challenges the original civil commitment order that was entered in 2009 (for which direct review concluded on March 9, 2011), or whether it instead challenges some later state court judgment pursuant to which Rutherford's civil commitment remains ongoing.

         The Seventh Circuit addressed a similar question in Martin v. Bartow, 628 F.3d 871 (7th Cir. 2010). In that case, the petitioner, Stanley Martin, had been civilly committed as a sexually violent person in 1996 pursuant to a Wisconsin statute. Id. at 872. The statutory scheme at issue required the State to reexamine civilly committed individuals at least once each year to determine whether they still qualified as “sexually violent persons.” Id. at 873 (citing Wis.Stat. § 980.07). Wisconsin law also permitted civilly committed individuals to challenge their civil commitment at any time by filing a discharge petition. Id. (citing Wis.Stat. § 980.09). In 2005, Martin filed a discharge petition in state court. Id. Direct review of the discharge petition concluded on August 18, 2008, and, a few weeks later, Martin filed a federal habeas petition challenging the legality of his civil commitment. Id. The district court construed the habeas petition as a challenge to the original commitment order issued in 1996, and it therefore dismissed the petition as untimely under § 2244(d)(1)'s one-year limitations period. Id. at 873-74.

         On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Martin's habeas petition should have been construed as a challenge to the state court judgment denying the discharge petition in 2005. Id. at 874. In so holding, the Seventh Circuit looked to “the substance of the claims” in Martin's petition and concluded that the petition primarily challenged Martin's current status as a sexually violent person, rather than the original commitment order. Id. at 874-78. The Seventh Circuit explained that Martin was “in custody pursuant only to the most recent order extending his commitment for another year”-that is, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.