Needham v. Super. Ct.Annotate this Case
The State petitioned to commit Nicholas Needham California under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA). Preparing for trial on the petition, the district attorney retained a psychological expert to evaluate Needham and testify at trial that he qualified as an SVP. Needham moved to exclude the expert’s testimony at trial, but the trial court denied his motion.
Needham appealed, seeking a declaration that the SVPA did not permit the State to call a privately retained expert to testify at trial. The Court of Appeal granted relief: “[G]iven the obvious dangers to essential liberty interests inherent in the SVPA, it must be carefully implemented and applied only where there is a high degree of certainty that it is warranted.” The Court found the statutory scheme deliberately limited when an SVP petition could be filed and brought to trial, as well as the evidence available to the prosecution. In light of this system, the Court concluded the expert-witness provisions of the Civil Discovery Act did not apply and that the State had no right to retain an expert witness to testify at trial.