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Arevalo v. Hennessy

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 9, 2018

ERICK AREVALO, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
VICKI HENNESSY, Sheriff of San Francisco, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted February 7, 2018 San Francisco, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr., District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 4:17-cv-06676-HSG

          BEFORE: THOMAS, Chief Judge, and TASHIMA and CHRISTEN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SIDNEY R. THOMAS, CHIEF JUDGE.

         We consider in this case whether Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), requires a district court to abstain from hearing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the conditions of pretrial detention in state court. We conclude that, under the circumstances presented by this case, it does not, and we reverse the judgment of the district court.

         I

         This appeal comes to us in a unique posture. The State of California has laudably conceded that Arevalo is entitled to federal habeas relief on the merits of his claim. The State agrees that Arevalo did not receive constitutionally adequate process during the setting of his bail in the California superior court. Therefore, the State concedes that a federal writ of habeas corpus should issue, although it suggests a slightly different form of relief than that requested by Arevalo. However, despite this concession, and despite the fact that the State did not argue for abstention, the district court held, sua sponte, that it was compelled to abstain under Younger, and it dismissed the petition.

         But first the facts. Erick Arevalo has been detained since he was arrested on July 1, 2017 and charged with various California crimes arising from a domestic dispute. On July 6, 2017, the California trial court summarily set Arevalo's bail at $1.5 million.

         On August 10, 2017, Arevalo filed a motion for bail hearing or bail reduction, arguing that the unreasoned excessive bail violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He argued that financial release conditions are unconstitutional absent both specific procedural protections and a finding that non-financial conditions could not reasonably serve the State's interest.

         Arevalo also pointed out that he had no prior criminal record. The Public Safety Assessment Report[1] indicated that he had never failed to appear in court. The Report assigned him the lowest score possible for the risk of non-appearance and committing further crimes during a period of pretrial release. He indicated to the court that he would live with church members if released, and desired to be released so that he could provide support for his six-year-old daughter. He requested an evidentiary hearing.

         At a hearing the same day, the trial court agreed to lower the bail amount to $1 million. The court noted that the charges were serious, but did not discuss Arevalo's ability to pay or what government interests the bail amount would serve.

         On September 8, 2017, Arevalo filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus before the California Court of Appeal. He argued that the trial court violated California law and his federal constitutional rights to equal protection and due process by requiring money bail without making the findings required for an order of pretrial detention. The Court of Appeal summarily denied the writ four days later.

         On September 20, 2017, Arevalo filed a petition making the same arguments before the California Supreme Court. The State filed an answer declining to defend the district court's bail setting and affirmatively arguing that Arevalo was entitled to a hearing with specific consideration of his ability to pay and nonmonetary alternatives to bail. The California Supreme Court summarily denied the writ on November 15, 2017.

         On November 20, 2017, Arevalo filed an emergency petition before the district court. Again, the State filed an answer agreeing that Arevalo did not receive constitutionally adequate process. The State agreed that the petition for habeas corpus should be granted and requested an order staying the ...


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