Sexually Dangerous Offender

Establishing personal jurisdiction over defendant for civil commitment hearing does not require service of summons under Rule 4

United States v. Perez, 752 F.3d 398 (4th Cir. 2014)

Jose De La Luz Perez appealed the determination of the district court that he was a "sexually dangerous person” under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (the “Act”). On appeal, Perez asked the Fourth Circuit to vacate the civil commitment order, contending that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction because the government failed to serve him with a summons pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the order, holding that although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are broadly applicable in civil commitment proceedings, that does not mean that they “cannot be displaced by specific procedural provisions included in the Act.” The central question on appeal was whether the Act required the government “to serve a summons pursuant to Rule 4 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] upon a respondent in federal custody despite the obvious differences between the initiation of civil commitment proceedings under § 4248 and a typical civil action.”

The Fourth Circuit pointed to a “streamlined procedure for initiating commitment proceedings against individuals in BOP custody” contained in the statutory language that served to supplant the usual summons requirements of Rule 4. Apart from the view that the text of the statute is sufficient to displace the summons requirement of Rule 4, the Fourth Circuit pointed out that while “physical custody is no longer necessary to endow a civil court with personal jurisdiction over a defendant, it is clearly sufficient to do so," and so the fact that the government “has physical custody over the respondent in § 4248 civil commitment proceedings obviates the need for a summons.”

Found in DMHL Volume 34 Issue 1