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Copyright (c) 2001 The University of Texas School of Law
American Journal of Criminal Law

RECENT DEVELOPMENT: Seling v. Young: No "As Applied" Challenge to Civil Commitment

Spring, 2001

28 Am. J. Crim. L. 251


Joseph Hough*


In an eight to one decision, the United States Supreme Court through Justice O'Connor recently held that Washington State's Community Protection Act of 1990, 1 authorizing the civil commitment of sexually violent predators against their will, cannot be deemed punitive "as applied" to an individual, and therefore, the Act may not be challenged on double jeopardy or ex post facto grounds under the Federal Constitution. 2

In October 1990, Andre Brigham Young, was set to be released from a medium-security prison in Washington State for his most recent rape conviction. 3 However, one day prior to his scheduled release the State filed a petition to commit Young to the Special Commitment Center (SCC) where the petitioner, Dr. Mark Seling, presently functions as the superintendent. 4 The Washington State Community Protection Act of 1990 authorizes the civil commitment of "sexually violent predators" who suffer from a "mental abnormality" which makes the individual likely to engage in further acts of sexual violence. 5 The Act is quite broad in its scope and covers prisoners, juveniles, persons found incompetent to stand trial, those found not guilty by reason of insanity, and any person recently convicted of a sexually violent offense. 6

The general procedure under the act is that, when an individual who has previously committed a sexually violent offense is set to be released from criminal confinement, the prosecuting attorney files a petition alleging that the person is a "sexually violent predator" ...
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