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In re Civil Commitment of W.W.

New Jersey Supreme Court

March 11, 2021

In re Civil Commitment of W.W. provided the New Jersey Supreme Court with the opportunity to consider whether the State must present testimony from a psychiatrist in support of the need for continued involuntary commitment of a convicted sexually violent offender at an annual review hearing under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. In this case, at the annual review hearing, the State’s two experts–a psychiatrist and a psychologist–presented conflicting opinions on W.W.’s risk of reoffending and whether he should remain committed. The trial court ordered the continued commitment of W.W. The court concluded that neither the State nor the court was bound by the testimony of the State’s psychiatrist, and it credited the psychologist’s testimony over that of the psychiatrist. The Appellate Division affirmed. The NJ Supreme Court reversed and ruled that the plain language of N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.30(b) required the State to produce psychiatric testimony in support of commitment when the State seeks the initial or continued commitment of a sexually violent predator. Therefore, the State did not meet its burden because the State produced a psychiatrist who did not support commitment.

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