June 27, 2003
Calif. to Drop Some Molestation ChargesBy THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 11:45 a.m. ET
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The state attorney general said convictions will be overturned or pending charges dropped for about 800 accused child molesters in California after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that statutes of limitations cannot be erased retroactively.
The Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote Thursday overturned the nation's only law designed to ensnare molesters who committed their crimes decades ago. Lawyers said the ruling nullifies most pending clergy sex abuse prosecutions in California.
The ruling, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said, ``will allow child molesters to escape prosecution simply because they preyed on our children years ago.''
Charges in at least eight cases have already been dropped in Santa Clara County, assistant district attorney Karyn Sinunu said. Two defendants had pleaded guilty, and another case involved a former Jesuit brother accused of molesting a boys' home resident in 1969.
``Prosecuting people for alleged violations that occurred, at least in one priest case, 50 years ago, is illegal in this country,'' Larry Guzin, a Los Angeles attorney defending about two dozen California priests under investigation. ``Never before has a state gone that far.''
The California law was challenged by 72-year-old Marion Stogner, accused of molesting his two daughters when they were children in their home in Antioch, a San Francisco suburb. His prosecution was pending the high court's decision.
The case was closely watched because of sex-abuse problems in the Roman Catholic church, but it also has implications for terrorism and other crimes.
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the court, said the Constitution bars states from revising already-expired legal deadlines, which California did in 1994 for molestation cases.
Critics argued it was unfair to change the rules after witnesses are dead and evidence lost. Supporters of deadline changes, including the American Psychological Association, contend that child molesters aren't usually exposed in a timely manner because children are fearful of reporting it or don't know it is a crime.
Stogner's daughter, Margaret Vaughan of Mississippi, said the Supreme Court's ruling made her ``feel like I've been molested all over again.''
``I was 4 years old and I'm supposed to know the law on this?'' she said. ``I didn't even know what was happening to me was wrong.''
Stogner, who lives on the Gila River Indian Reservation near Chandler, Ariz., denied the allegations. ``Now I can die happy,'' he said.
Statutes of limitations vary by state and by crime, in some instances as short as one year for minor wrongdoing to no limit for murder.
Some states have extended their deadlines for filing charges in sex crimes, but California took the exceptional step of retroactively changing the time limit. Charges must be filed within one year after the victims file a police report.
``We believe that this retroactive application of a later-enacted law is unfair,'' Breyer wrote.
In a dissent, Justice Anthony Kennedy said California should be allowed to punish ``serious sex offenses'' against children. He was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Prosecutor Dara Cashman said she had a good case against Stogner. ``We felt very comfortable and confident with our case,'' she said.
Stogner, a retired paper plant worker and Korean War veteran, was charged in 2001 for alleged molestations that began almost 50 years ago. Stogner's daughters said their father began molesting them when they were younger than 5 and the abuse lasted years.
Stogner's attorney, Elisa Stewart, said ``it would have been a watershed decision'' if the court would have allowed Stogner's prosecution.
``A lot of states were geared up for this,'' she said.
The Bush administration had argued that a ruling against California would threaten the USA Patriot Act, which retroactively withdrew statutes of limitations in terrorism cases involving hijackings, kidnappings, bombings and biological weapons. The Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision.
Russ Heimerich, a California Department of Corrections spokesman, said the department was reviewing the records of its 160,000 prisoners to determine which inmates should get released or reduced sentences.
Despite the ruling, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said he will still pursue subpoenaed church documents that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has resisted handing over.
``It is unfortunate that many child victims of sexual abuse will not be able to obtain justice in a criminal court,'' he said Thursday.
The archdiocese said in a statement that the court's decision does not allow defrocked priests ``to re-enter (the) ministry or to function in any way as priests.'' Since the Roman Catholic Church became embroiled in a sex-abuse scandal last year, more than 300 priests either resigned or retired because of allegations of wrongdoing.
On the Net:
OCTOBER TERM,2002 1
NOTE:Where it is feasible,a syllabus (headnote)will be released,as is
being done in connection with this case,at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v.Detroit Timber &Lumber Co .,200 U.S.321,337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA,
FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT
No.01 - 1757.Argued March 31,2003 - Decided June 26,2003
In 1993,California enacted a new criminal statute of limitations permitting prosecution for sex-related child abuse where the prior limitations period has expired if,inter alia,the prosecution is begun within one year of a victim's report to police.A subsequently added provision makes clear that this law revives causes of action barred by prior limitations statutes.
In 1998,petitioner Stogner was indicted for sex-related child abuse committed between 1955 and 1973.At the time those crimes were allegedly committed,the limitations period was three years. Stogner moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Ex Post Facto Clause forbids revival of a previously time-barred prosecution.The trial court agreed,but the California Court of Appeal reversed.The trial court denied Stogner's subsequent dismissal motion,in which he argued that his prosecution violated the Ex Post Facto and Due Process Clauses.The Court of Appeal affirmed.
Held:A law enacted after expiration of a previously applicable limitations period violates the Ex Post Facto Clause when it is applied to revive a previously time-barred prosecution.California's law extends the time in which prosecution is allowed,authorizes prosecutions that the passage of time has previously barred,and was enacted after prior limitations periods for Stogner's alleged offenses had expired. Such features produce the kind of retroactivity that the Constitution forbids.First,the law threatens the kinds of harm that the Clause seeks to avoid,for the Clause protects liberty by preventing governments from enacting statutes with "manifestly unjust and oppressive" retroactive effects.Calder v.Bull,3 Dall.386,391.Second,the law falls literally within the categorical descriptions of ex post facto laws that Justice Chase set forth more than 200 years ago in Calder v. 2
Bull,which this Court has recognized as an authoritative account of the Clause's scope,Collins v.Youngblood,497 U.S.37,46.
It falls within the second category,which Justice Chase understood to include a new law that inflicts punishments where the party was not, by law,liable to any punishment. Third, numerous legislators, courts,and commentators have long believed it well settled that the Clause forbids resurrection of a time-barred prosecution.The Reconstruction Congress of 1867 rejected a bill that would have revived time-barred treason prosecutions against Jefferson Davis and others, passing instead a law extending unexpired limitations periods.
Roughly contemporaneous State Supreme Courts echoed the view that laws reviving time-barred prosecutions are ex post facto.Even courts that have upheld extensions of unexpired statutes of limitations have consistently distinguished situations where the periods have expired ,often using language that suggests a presumption that reviving time-barred criminal cases is not allowed.This Court has not previously spoken decisively on this matter.Neither its recognition that the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination does not apply after the relevant limitations period has expired, Brown v.Walker,161 U.S.591,597 §598,nor its holding that a Civil War statute retroactively tolling limitations periods during the war was valid as an exercise of Congress' war powers,Stewart v.Kahn,11 Wall.493,503 §504,dictates the outcome here.Instead,that outcome is determined by the nature of the harms that the law creates,the fact that the law falls within Justice Chase's second category,and a long line of authority.Pp.3 §26.
93 Cal.App.4th 1229,114 Cal.Rptr.2d 37,reversed.
BREYER,J.,delivered the opinion of the Court,in which STEVENS,
O - CONNOR,SOUTER,and GINSBURG,JJ.,joined.KENNEDY,J.,filed a
dissenting opinion,in which REHNQUIST,C.J.,and SCALIA and THOMAS,
JJ.,joined. Cite as:539 U.S.____(2003)1
Opinion of the Court
NOTICE:This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
preliminary print of the United States Reports.Readers are requested to
notify the Reporter of Decisions,Supreme Court of the United States,Wash-
ington,D.C.20543,of any typographical or other formal errors,in order
that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
MARION REYNOLDS STOGNER,PETITIONER v.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF
CALIFORNIA,FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT
[June 26,2003 ]
JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court. California has brought a criminal prosecution after expiration of the time periods set forth in previously applicable statutes of limitations.California has done so under the authority of a new law that (1)permits resurrection of otherwise time-barred criminal prosecutions,and (2)was itself enacted after pre-existing limitations periods had expired.We conclude that the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause,Art.I,§10,cl.1,bars application of this new law to the present case.
In 1993,California enacted a new criminal statute of limitations governing sex-related child abuse crimes.The new statute permits prosecution for those crimes where [t]he limitation period specified in [prior statutes of limi- tations ]has expired - provided that (1)a victim has reported an allegation of abuse to the police,(2) - there is independent evidence that clearly and convincingly corroborates the victim's allegation, - and (3)the prosecution is begun within one year of the victim's report.1993 Cal. Stats.ch.390,§1 (codified as amended at Cal.Penal Ann.§803(g)(West Supp.2003)).A related provision, added to the statute in 1996,makes clear that a prosecution satisfying these three conditions "shall revive any cause of action barred by [prior statutes of limitations ]."1996 Cal.Stats.ch.130,§1 (codified at Cal.Penal Code Ann.§803(g)(3)(A)(West Supp.2003)).The statute thus authorizes prosecution for criminal acts committed many years beforehand "and where the original limitations period has expired" as long as prosecution begins within a year of a victim's first complaint to the police.
In 1998,a California grand jury indicted Marion Stogner,the petitioner,charging him with sex-related child abuse committed decades earlier - between 1955 and 1973.Without the new statute allowing revival of the State's cause of action,California could not have prosecuted Stogner.The statute of limitations governing prosecutions at the time the crimes were allegedly committed had set forth a 3-year limitations period.And that period had run 22 years or more before the present prosecution was brought.
Stogner moved for the complaint's dismissal.He argued that the Federal Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause, Art.I,§10,cl.1,forbids revival of a previously time-barred prosecution.The trial court agreed that such a revival is unconstitutional.But the California Court of Appeal reversed,citing a recent,contrary decision by the California Supreme Court,People v.Frazer,21 Cal.4th 737,982 P.2d 180 (1999),cert.denied,529 U.S.1108 (2000).
Stogner then moved to dismiss his indictment,arguing that his prosecution is unconstitutional under both the Ex Post Facto Clause and the Due Process Clause,Amdt.14, §1.The trial court denied Stogner's motion,and the Court
of Appeal upheld that denial.Stogner v.Superior Court, 93 Cal.App.4th 1229,114 Cal.Rptr.2d 37 (2001).We granted certiorari to consider Stogner's constitutional
claims.537 U.S.1043 (2002). Cite as:539 U.S.____(2003)3
Opinion of the Court II
The Constitution's two Ex Post Facto Clauses prohibit the Federal Government and the States from enacting laws with certain retroactive effects.See Art.I,§9,cl.3 (Federal Government);Art.I,§10,cl.1 (States).The law at issue here created a new criminal limitations period that extends the time in which prosecution is allowed.It authorized criminal prosecutions that the passage of time had previously barred.Moreover,it was enacted after prior limitations periods for Stogner's alleged offenses had expired. Do these features of the law,taken together, produce the kind of retroactivity that the Constitution forbids? We conclude that they do.
First,the new statute threatens the kinds of harm that, in this Court's view,the Ex Post Facto Clause seeks to avoid.Long ago the Court pointed out that the Clause protects liberty by preventing governments from enacting statutes with "manifestly unjust and oppressive" retroactive effects.Calder v.Bull,3 Dall.386,391 (1798).Judge Learned Hand later wrote that extending a limitations period after the State has assured "a man that he has become safe from its pursuit ...seems to most of us unfair and dishonest."Falter v.United States,23 F.2d 420,426 (CA2),cert.denied,277 U.S.590 (1928).In such a case,
the government has refused "to play by its own rules," Carmell v.Texas,529 U.S.513,533 (2000).It has deprived the defendant of the "fair warning,"Weaver v.Graham, 450 U.S.24,28 (1981),that might have led him to preserve exculpatory
evidence.F.Wharton,Criminal Pleading and Practice §316,p.210 (8th ed.1880)("The statute [of limitations ] is ....an amnesty,declaring that after a certain time ...the offender shall be at liberty to return to his country ...and ...may cease to preserve the proofs of his innocence").And a Constitution that permits such an extension,by allowing legislatures to pick and choose when to act retroactively,risks both "arbitrary and potentially vindictive legislation," and erosion of the separation of powers, Weaver, supra,at 29,and n.10.See Fletcher v. Peck,6 Cranch 87,137 §138 (1810)(viewing the Ex Post Facto Clause as a protection against "violent acts which might grow out of the feelings of the moment ").
Second,the kind of statute at issue falls literally within the categorical descriptions of ex post facto laws set forth by Justice Chase more than 200 years ago in Calder v.Bull,supra - a categorization that this Court has recognized as providing an authoritative account of the scope ofthe Ex Post Facto Clause.Collins v.Youngblood,497 U.S.37,46 (1990);Carmell,supra,at 539.Drawing substantially on Richard Wooddeson's 18th-century commentary on the nature of ex post facto laws and past parliamentary abuses,Chase divided ex post facto laws into categories that he described in two alternative ways.See 529 U.S.,at 522 §524,and n.9. He wrote: "I will state what laws I consider ex post facto laws, within the words and the intent of the prohibition.
1st.Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law,and which was innocent when done,criminal;and punishes such action.
2d.Every law that aggravates a crime,or makes it greater than it was,when committed.
3d.Every law that changes the punishment,and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed.
4th.Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony,than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender.
All these,and similar laws,are manifestly unjust and oppressive.- Calder,supra,at 390 §391 (emphasis altered from original).
In his alternative description,Chase traced these four categories back to Parliament's earlier abusive acts,as follows: Cite as:539 U.S.____(2003)5
Category 1:"Sometimes they respected the crime,by declaring acts to be treason,which were not treason,when committed."
Category 2:"[A ]t other times they inflicted punishments,where the party was not,by law,liable to any punishment."
Category 3:"[I ]n other cases,they inflicted greater punishment,than the law annexed to the offence."
Category 4:"[A ]t other times,they violated the rules of evidence (to supply a deficiency of legal proof)by admitting one witness,when the existing law required two;by receiving evidence without oath;or the oath of the wife against the husband;or other testimony, which the courts of justice would not admit." 3 Dall.,at 389 (emphasis altered from original).
The second category "including any" law that aggravates a crime,or makes it greater than it was,when committed, - id.,at 390 - describes California's statute as long as those words are understood as Justice Chase understood them - i.e.,as referring to a statute that "inflict [s ] punishments,where the party was not,by law,liable to any punishment," id.,at 389.See also 2 R.Wooddeson,A Systematical View of the Laws of England 638 (1792)
(hereinafter Wooddeson,Systematical View)(discussing the ex post facto status of a law that affects punishment by "making therein some innovation,or creating some forfeiture or disability,not incurred in the ordinary course of law" (emphasis added)).
After (but not before)the original statute of limitations had expired,a party such as Stogner was not "liable to any punishment." California's new statute therefore "aggravated" Stogner's alleged crime,or made it "greater than it was,when committed," in the sense that,and to the extent that,it "inflicted punishment" for past criminal conduct that (when the new lawOpinion of the Court was enacted) did not trigger any such liability.See also H. Black,American Constitutional Law §266,p.700 (4th ed. 1927)(hereinafter Black,American Constitutional Law) ("[A]n act condoned by the expiration of the statute of limitations is no longer a punishable offense").It is consequently not surprising that New Jersey's highest court long ago recognized that Chase's alternative description of second category laws "exactly describes the operation" of the kind of statute at issue here.