This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






William S. Douglas, petitioner,





Kevin Goodno, Commissioner of

Human Services,



Filed November 23, 2004


Toussaint, Chief Judge


Nicollet County District Court

File No. C5-03-214



Peter M. Kraker, David L. Kraker & Associates, 3109 Hennepin Avenue So., Minneapolis, MN 55408 (for appellant);


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, John L. Kirwin, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

            This appeal is from an order denying appellant William Douglas’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his 1994 civil commitment as mentally ill and dangerous.  Appellant argues that he was constitutionally entitled to a jury trial in the commitment proceeding.  We affirm.    


            A petition was filed to commit Douglas as mentally ill and dangerous in 1993 after Douglas stabbed a woman he did not know in the leg in an unprovoked attack outside a Minneapolis restaurant in July 1993. 

            In March 2004, Douglas filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court, challenging his continuing confinement at St. Peter, the Minnesota Security Hospital, on the grounds that he had been denied his right to a jury trial as guaranteed by the state constitution and the Seventh and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.  On April 26, 2004, the district court dismissed the petition, relying on this court’s unpublished opinion, McDeid v. Mooney, No. A04-36, 2004 WL 728133, at *2-3 (Minn. App. Apr. 6, 2004), review denied (Minn. May 26, 2004).         


            This court gives great weight to the district court’s findings in considering a petition for habeas corpus and will uphold those findings on appeal if they are reasonably supported by the evidence.  State ex rel. Holecek v. Ross, 472 N.W.2d 185, 186 (Minn. App. 1991).  This court, however, reviews questions of law de novo.  Id.

            Douglas argues that his civil commitment in 1994 violated his right to a jury trial under Article I, section 4 of the Minnesota Constitution because it was based on the findings of a judge rather than a jury. 


The same claim, made by a patient who had been committed as a sexual psychopathic personality (SPP) and a sexually dangerous person (SDP), was rejected in McDeid v. Mooney, A04-36 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (Minn. May 26, 2004).  Although McDeid is an unpublished opinion, which is not precedential, it relied on the opinions of the Minnesota Supreme Court in Vinstad v. State Bd. of Control, 169 Minn. 264, 211 N.W. 12 (1926) and State ex rel. Pearson v. Prob. Ct., 205 Minn. 545, 287 N.W. 297 (1939), and on an opinion of this court following Pearson in Joelson v. O’Keefe, 594 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999).

Douglas argues that the supreme court in Vinstad and Pearson misconstrued both the provisions of territorial law regarding guardianship for the mentally ill and its own prior case law.  But that argument has already been considered in McDeid.  And it is the province of the supreme court to make new law, including a change of the law on this issue, if a change in the existing law is warranted.  See generally LaChapelle v. Mitten, 607 N.W.2d 151, 159 (Minn. App. 2000) (noting court of appeals is error-correcting court), review denied (Minn. May 16, 2000).

Douglas cites case law relying on later Minnesota statues providing for a “jury” of three persons, including the court commissioner who was to appoint the other two persons, to hear commitment matters.  See State ex rel. Kelly v. Kilbourne, 68 Minn. 320, 71 N.W. 396 (1897).  But these post-statehood legislative enactments do not create a constitutional right to a jury trial.  It is the right to a jury trial as it existed under Minnesota law at the time the constitution was adopted that was incorporated into the state constitution.  See Olson v. Synergistic Tech. Bus. Syst., 628 N.W.2d 142, 148 (Minn. 2001). 

Douglas argues that there is a federal constitutional right to a jury trial in civil commitment proceedings under the Seventh Amendment and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Douglas concedes that the United States Supreme Court has not identified a Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial in civil commitment proceedings.  See U. S. v. Perry, 788 F.2d 100, 117 (3d Cir. 1986) (holding civil preventive detention before trial was not subject to the Seventh Amendment jury trial right because it did not involve a “suit at common law”).  He cites Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605, 87 S. Ct. 1209 (1967), however, for the proposition that the Court has at least implied that a jury trial is required before a psychopathic personality may be civilly committed.

But Specht does not even state an implied holding on the right to a jury trial.  The opinion, which addresses Colorado’s Sex Offenders Act, under which certain sex offenders could receive an indeterminate term without notice or a full hearing, does not discuss the right to a jury trial.  It holds that due process requires an opportunity to be heard, to confront witnesses, and to present evidence.  Id. at 610, 87 S. Ct. at 1212.  And it notes that the punishment imposed under the Act is “criminal punishment.”  Id.  So even the limited holding in Specht, which does not extend to a right to trial by jury, has little application to civil commitment proceedings in Minnesota. 

            There is no clearly established federal case law holding that due process requires jury trials in civil commitments.  Poole v. Goodno, 335 F.3d 705, 710-11 (8th Cir. 2003).  There are cases recognizing the important contributions of the jury to the commitment process where a jury has been provided by state law.  See Humphrey v. Cady, 405 U.S. 504, 509, 92 S. Ct. 1048, 1052 (1972) (noting jury provided by Wisconsin statute in ordinary commitment cases served “the critical function of introducing into the process a lay judgment”).  But the Humphrey Court did not hold that civil commitment is a “suit at common law,” requiring a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment, or that due process requires a jury trial in a civil commitment proceeding.

            Douglas has not provided any authority, under either the state constitution or the federal constitution, requiring a jury trial in a civil commitment proceeding.  Therefore, the district court’s order dismissing his petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be affirmed.