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California Court Holds Subpoenas Ineffective If Factual Basis for Materiality Lacking in Civil Commitment Hearing

Following transfers from the California Supreme Court, the Fourth Appellate District (Div. 3) granted five petitions for writs of prohibition/mandate (consolidated into a single case), finding that the contested subpoenas duces tecum issued by the district attorney, seeking a wide range of (medical and non-medical) information for the purpose of trying to establish that each defendant met the criteria for civil commitment as a sexually violent predator under the Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA”), Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600 et seq., were ineffective to the extent that they failed to include a declaration containing a sufficient statement of materiality as required by Code of Civil Procedure, § 1985, subd. (b).

The Court found that each of the district attorney's declarations merely stated a legal conclusion that the documents requested were material to the proceedings, but lacked any factual bases for their materiality. Nonetheless, to the extent the subpoenas sought medical and psychological records already deemed by the legislature to be material in SVPA proceedings pursuant to Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6603, subd. (c)( 1), the district attorney's access to those records was not dependent upon the issuance of a subpoena.

Source: Lee v. Superior Court of Orange County (People), California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District (Div. 3), G041511, filed Sept. 9, 2009.

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Related legal case

Lee v. Superior Court of Orange County (People)