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Evans v. Scott

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 22, 2018

CRAIG N. EVANS Petitioner,
v.
GREGORY SCOTT Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Herndon United States District Judge.

         Craig N. Evans (Petitioner) served six years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections for an unspecified sexual crime. (Doc. 1, p. 14). In 2005, as his sentence was expiring, the State of Illinois filed a petition to civilly commit Petitioner as a sexually violent person under Illinois' Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (725 ILCS 207/1). Id. at p. 6. Petitioner waived trial and stipulated to commitment. Id.

         In 2015, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (§ 2254), (Doc. 1), followed by an Amended Petition incorporating the original petition, (Doc. 21). The Amended Petition presents claims that have been exhausted in State court and one claim that has not. For the following reasons, the Court directs both parties to file memoranda addressing whether this case should be stayed and held in abeyance to afford Petitioner an opportunity to exhaust his non-exhausted claim in State court. See Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005).

         Background

         Illinois' Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (the Act) “allows the State to extend the incarceration of criminal defendants beyond the time they would otherwise be entitled to release if those defendants are found to be ‘sexually violent.'” In re Detention of Samuelson, 189 Ill.2d 548, 552 (2000). The Act mandates the Department of Human Services (DHS) conduct annual re-evaluations of committed persons to determine (1) whether the person is eligible for conditional release and (2) whether the person is still a sexually violent person (SVP). 725 ILCS 207/55(a).

         Following Petitioner's commitment, DHS conducted a six-month re-evaluation in April 2006 and the State court found “no probable cause” to believe Petitioner was no longer an SVP. (Doc. 12, Ex. 1, p. 5). Petitioner underwent annual evaluations thereafter and the court continued to find Petitioner was an SVP through 2016. Id. at pp. 1-5.

         Petitioner filed a petition under § 2254 in 2015. (Doc. 1). He argued his counsel was ineffective at the initial commitment proceedings; the State improperly utilized “risk assessment tools” to determine he is an SVP; the State improperly relied on a Psy.D., rather than an M.D., to diagnose him with a mental abnormality; and his commitment violates the Double Jeopardy Clause. See Doc. 1.

         Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss the petition as untimely; he asserted Petitioner's judgment became final on November 10, 2005, when the time for filing an appeal from his initial commitment expired. (Doc. 12, p. 2). According to Respondent, Petitioner had until one-year later to file a § 2254 petition. Id.

         The Court denied Respondent's motion based on Seventh Circuit precedent that a civilly committed person may bring a habeas petition challenging a subsequent order continuing his commitment. (Doc. 17, p. 7). Thus, each order continuing Petitioner's commitment constituted a new judgment that triggered a new statute of limitations. Id. The Court concluded that Petitioner's claims “are timely to the extent that they go to the 2015 order continuing his commitment.” Id. at 8.

         Respondent then filed a Motion for More Definite Statement, requesting Petitioner specify the State judgment he challenges in his § 2254 petition. (Doc. 19). The Court granted the motion, (Doc. 20), and Petitioner filed an “Amended Petition for Clarification, ” (Doc. 21).

         In the Amended Petition, Petitioner stated he challenges “the findings, judgements, and orders pertaining to his civil commitment and continued incarceration for the years of 2005 [through 2016].” Id. at p. 1. He also asserted two new grounds for habeas relief: (1) his civil commitment violated the plea agreement he executed in March of 2000, and (2) all of his State-appointed counsel were ineffective, beginning in 2005 during his initial commitment proceedings. Id. at pp. 1-2.

         Respondent moved to dismiss the petition as untimely. (Doc. 22). He also asserted that under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) the Court must abstain from addressing Petitioner's claims related to the State court's 2016 commitment order because a motion for reconsideration was pending. (Doc. 22). As an initial matter, the Court found Petitioner's Amended Petition incorporated the grounds for relief set forth in his initial petition. (Doc. 25, p. 8). The Court then granted the motion, in part, dismissing as untimely Petitioner's claims related to all commitment orders entered prior to September 8, 2015. (Doc. 25, p. 10). The Court denied Respondent's motion to dismiss Petitioner's claims related to the 2015 and 2016 commitment orders and instructed Respondent to file a memorandum addressing (1) the status of Petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the 2016 commitment order; and (2) whether Petitioner exhausted his State remedies. Id. at 10-11. Respondent filed the memorandum at Doc. 27.

         Analysis

         1. ...


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