This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).








In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of:

Robert Edward McEiver.



Filed March 29, 2005


Randall, Judge



Hennepin County District Court

File No. MH-PR-04-000040



David L. Kraker, David L. Kraker & Associates, 3109 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN  55408 (for appellant McEiver)


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


            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges his commitment as a sexually dangerous person, arguing that he was entitled to a jury trial under Minn. Const. art. I, § 4, and the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.  We affirm.


            Robert McEiver has a long history of criminal sexual behavior involving assaults against at least 100 women, including about a dozen rapes in which he made threats, used a knife, and/or choked the women.  He was convicted of four counts of criminal sexual conduct.  While incarcerated, he received sex offender treatment.  After his release, he reoffended and was returned to prison after a guilty plea.

            Shortly before his scheduled discharge, a petition was filed for his commitment as a sexual psychopathic personality (SPP) and a sexually dangerous person (SDP).  McEiver moved for a jury trial, but the district court denied the motion.  The parties stipulated that McEiver would admit the facts supporting commitment as an SDP and that respondent would then withdraw the allegation that he was an SPP.  The district court made extensive findings of fact and committed him as an SDP.  The district court later made the commitment indeterminate, and this appeal followed.


            McEiver raises only constitutional claims, which are questions of law.  In re Blilie, 494 N.W.2d 877, 881 (Minn. 1993).  On questions of law, the appellate court need not defer to the decision of the district court.  In re Stilinovich, 479 N.W.2d 731, 734 (Minn. App. 1992).

            McEiver argues that he is entitled to a jury trial under Minn. Const. art. I, § 4.  That provision states that “[t]he right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and shall extend to all cases at law without regard to the amount in controversy.”  Id.; Olson v. Synergistic Tech. Bus. Sys., Inc., 628 N.W.2d 142, 149 (Minn. 2001).  The purpose of the provision is “to recognize the right to a jury trial as it existed at the time the Minnesota Constitution was adopted.”  Id.  Therefore, analysis of this issue requires a determination of whether the right to a jury trial in a particular area existed at the time the constitution was adopted.

            The supreme court has analyzed this issue of whether a person subject to a psychopathic personality commitment has a right to a jury trial under the Minnesota Constitution.

                                    If relator has a right to a jury trial, it is because such was provided at common law when our constitution was adopted.  While no one has contended that “psychopathic personalities” were confined and treated at common law, the claim has been made that the issue of idiocy was, in early times, decided by a jury.  The other view is that if such ever was the case the practice had been abandoned before our constitution was adopted.  That we are committed to the latter belief appears quite unequivocally from the language of this court in Vinstad v. State Bd. of Control, 169 Minn. 264, 211 N.W. 12 [(1926)].


State ex rel. Pearson v. Probate Court, 205 Minn. 545, 557, 287 N.W. 297, 303 (1939), aff’d, 309 U.S. 270, 60 S. Ct. 523 (1940); Joelson v. O’Keefe, 594 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. App. 1999) (rejecting claim to jury trial in SPP commitment proceeding in habeas challenge), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999).

            McEiver contends the supreme court in Pearson misconstrued the law and failed to consider the argument in depth.  He asserts that had the issue been properly analyzed, the court should have concluded that the right to a jury trial in commitment proceedings existed at the time the state constitution was adopted and even existed at the time of the territorial laws of 1851.  See C. Peter Erlinder, Essay:  Of Rights Lost and Rights Found:  The Coming Restoration of the Right to a Jury Trial in Minnesota Civil Commitment Proceedings, 29 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 1269, 1277-78 (2003) (setting forth this argument).  McEiver notes that a number of states that have adopted sexual-predator commitment laws require jury trials.  See id. at 1274 & n.28.  In contrast, New Jersey, like Minnesota, is among the states that hold that no such right exists.  See In re Civil Commitment of J.H.M., 845 A.2d 139, 143 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2003), cert. denied, 845 A.2d 137 (N.J. 2004).  Respondent contends that Pearson was correctly decided.  We recognize McEiver’s argument, but this court does not claim the authority to overturn a long run of supreme court precedent.  We are bound by Pearson.


            Next, McEiver contends that he is entitled to a jury trial in his civil commitment proceeding under the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.  This issue has also been previously addressed.  There is no established law requiring a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment before a person is committed as an SPP or SDP under Minnesota law.  Poole v. Goodno, 335 F.3d 705, 710-11 (8th Cir. 2003).

            McEiver now makes a number of other arguments based on the federal constitution.  First, he cites the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000), and Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004), in support of his argument.  Those cases apply to criminal proceedings, and commitment laws are civil.  Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605, 610 n.3, 87 S. Ct. 1209, 1212-13 n.3 (1967) (noting that Minnesota psychopathic personality law is not criminal in nature); see Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 361, 117 S. Ct. 2072, 2081 (1997) (addressing Kansas’s sexually violent predator civil commitment law and holding it did not constitute criminal proceedings); In re Linehan, 594 N.W.2d 867, 871-72 (Minn. 1999) (following Hendricks).

            McEiver also makes an equal protection argument.  First, he cites Humphrey v. Cady, 405 U.S. 504, 92 S. Ct. 1048 (1972), where the Court held that prisoners serving criminal sentences who are transferred involuntarily to mental hospitals are entitled to the same procedures (including jury trial) as those provided by the state’s civil commitment statutes under equal protection provisions.  Id. at 509-12, 92 S. Ct. at 1052-53.  We can only hold that Minnesota law does not present the equal protection issue presented in Humphrey, because Minnesota does not provide for a jury trial in any civil commitment matters.

            McEiver cites Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 149, 88 S. Ct. 1444, 1447 (1968), in support of his equal protection claim.  However, Duncan involved state criminal proceedings and was based on the Sixth Amendment.  Id.  Thus, Duncan is not controlling in Minnesota.

            The district court properly decided that McEiver is not entitled to a jury trial.