New Legal Developments

Attorney Malpractice — SVPA Proceeding does not Trigger “Actual innocence” requirement

Jones v. Whisenand (2017) 8 Cal.App.5th 543

Former Client sued public defender for legal malpractice due to alleged negligence in defending Client in an SVPA proceeding. SPVA is a civil commitment proceeding that occurs when a person who has been convicted a “sexually violent offense” and who is subject to a mental illness which caused the offense (a “Sexually Violent Predator”), completes her prison sentence.
Attorney demurred on the grounds that Client did not demonstrate “actual innocence”. When a client in a criminal matter sues her attorney for malpractice, there is a public policy that states the client must prove she was later exonerated of the underlying criminal charges.
Held: An SVPA proceeding occurs after the conviction, and after the client has served her sentence. Thus, the policy underlying the “actual innocence” rule does not pertain here.