Civil Procedure

3 posts

Diagnostic Trends and Donald DD.: Has the Watershed Case Changed How State Doctors Diagnose Sex Offenders?

By Maximilian J. Auerbach

Twenty states currently have laws providing for the civil management of sex offenders through involuntary confinement or outpatient supervision. These “SVP statutes” unanimously require a finding of a “mental abnormality,” a legal standard that has generated significant debate since the Supreme Court affirmed the standard’s constitutionality in Kansas v. Hendricks. Proving the existence of a mental abnormality requires psychiatrists to diagnose sex offenders, and much of the aforementioned criticism focuses on the reliability of these predicate diagnoses. The New York Court of Appeals, in State v. Donald DD., interpreted these cases to mean a sole diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is insufficient to find a mental abnormality.

This Note investigates whether, and to what extent, the Donald DD. decision has affected New York’s ability to civilly manage sex offenders and changed the diagnoses used in those civil management proceedings. Part II explores the constitutional requirements for SVP statutes established by the Supreme Court in Kansas v. Hendricks and Kansas v. Crane. Part III details the civil commitment scheme in New York, with particular focus on the diagnostic stages of a case. Part IV summarizes a review of civil management cases in New York since 2007 in order to determine whether Donald DD.’s holding affected New York’s ability to civilly manage sex offenders, or the diagnoses offered by state experts when seeking civil management. This review includes analyses of whether Donald DD. has changed how frequently New York recommends sex offenders for civil management, and how frequently the State succeeds at trial. This Note observes that, while the case may have had some effect on referral, it has not affected trial success rates. Additionally, this Note finds some evidence that Donald DD. may have led to increased psychopathy diagnoses, unspecified and other specified paraphilic disorder diagnoses, and the number of diagnoses assigned to individual respondents.

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Predicated Predictions: How Federal Judges Predict Changes in State Law

By Connor Clerkin

Erie v. Tompkins requires federal courts to apply state substantive law in diversity suits. In determining the content of the relevant state law, federal judges tend to rely on decisions made by the highest court of the relevant state. Yet decisions subsequent to Erie required federal judges to do more than mechanically apply prior state law decisions; rather, these judges predict how the highest court of the state would rule on the legal issue at that time, thus reducing the possibility of divergent outcomes due to forum. This rule results in the occasional federal court prediction that, if faced with a given legal issue, a state’s highest court would deviate from its previous decisions.

The purpose of this Note is to collect and analyze those cases in which federal judges predict deviations from established state law. This Note compiles and analyzes each case in which a federal court has predicted a change in state law and follows up with the subsequent state high court decision that either verified or rejected that prediction. This Note then categorizes and tallies the various analytical methods used by federal judges in making their decisions, with a table of cases and their utilized methods collected in Appendix I. First, this Note reviews the mid-century Supreme Court decisions that led to the modern predictive method and demonstrates how each federal Circuit Court utilizes that method. Next, this Note discusses problems with the predictive method addressed by scholarship and illustrated with examples from the collected cases. Finally, this Note analyzes the cases in which federal courts predict deviations from established state law and suggests that to improve the verification rate of their predictions of change, federal courts should predict such a divergence only when capable of making certain kinds of arguments.

Roadblocks to Finding Home: Traditional Domicile Analysis’ Fundamental Unworkability for Military Families

By Haley E. Talati

Domicile, or one’s “true home,” has ramifications about personal jurisdiction, federal court diversity jurisdiction, taxation, and family law. Typically, domicile is determined by physical presence in a location and intent to remain there indefinitely. But for military personnel and their families, general common law principles and statutory reforms create more barriers and complications to establishing and maintaining a domicile of choice than the civilian population typically faces. These barriers expose military families—especially those who relocate frequently—to increased litigation risks, such as tax enforcement suits, if they fail to take additional judicially-recognized steps to make their domiciles clear.

This Note demonstrates the ways in which the common law and statutory domicile framework has proven unworkable for military personnel and advocates for reconceptualizing it to better serve those affected and to comport with the doctrine’s underlying purposes. Part I describes the modern common law approach to domicile analysis and explores how legislative reforms have modified the traditional analysis for military personnel and spouses. Part II details the practical problems military personnel face in establishing a domicile of choice, focusing on the ways in which certain legal and financial considerations disincentivize military families from establishing and maintaining domicile in a manner courts can clearly analyze through the existing framework. Part III evaluates possibilities for reforming the domicile framework. It concludes that an amendment to the existing statutory scheme should give military families the option to establish a new domicile of choice via formal declaration with each new duty station, which would drastically simplify domicile analysis and reduce litigation, while still preserving the core functions of domicile.

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