Submitted: April 17, 2019
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Southern Division
SHEPHERD, MELLOY, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
O'Laughlin argues the district court erred in denying
his motion under 18 U.S.C. § 4247(h). Specifically, he
claims to have a Sixth Amendment and statutory right to
proceed pro se when seeking discharge from a civil commitment
in a proceeding under § 4247(h). But the Sixth Amendment
applies only in "criminal prosecutions," U.S.
Const., amend VI, and a civil commitment is not a criminal
prosecution. And the specific requirements of § 4247(h)
control over the general statutory right to proceed pro se.
was civilly committed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4246. He
appealed his commitment, and this court affirmed. United
States v. O'Laughlin, 695 Fed.Appx. 172 (8th Cir.
2017) (unpublished). Approximately six months later, he filed
two pro se requests for hearings to petition for release.
These requests were taken as invocations of 18 U.S.C. §
4247(h). Section 4247(h) requires such motions to be filed by
an attorney or legal guardian for the committed person. The
district court denied O'Laughlin's motions for
failure to meet the statutory requirements because his
requests were filed pro se. Represented by counsel on appeal,
he argues the requirements of § 4247(h) violate his
right to self-representation under the Sixth Amendment and 28
U.S.C. § 1654.
review O'Laughlin's constitutional and statutory
challenge de novo. See United States v. Henriques,
698 F.3d 673, 674 (8th Cir. 2012).
argues the Sixth Amendment right to proceed pro se in
criminal prosecutions, see Faretta v. California,
422 U.S. 806 (1975), extends to civil commitment proceedings
because being civilly confined to the Federal Bureau of
Prison's medical facility is essentially incarceration.
Thus, he argues, he is entitled to proceed pro se in §
4247(h) motions and proceedings. This appears to be a matter
of first impression in this circuit.
Supreme Court has held, in the context of a Due Process
Clause challenge, that civil commitments are distinct from
criminal prosecutions. See Addington v. Texas, 441
U.S. 418, 428 (1979) ("In a civil commitment state power
is not exercised in a punitive sense. . . . [A] civil
commitment proceeding can in no sense be equated to a
criminal prosecution."); see also United States v.
Veltman, 9 F.3d 718, 721 (8th Cir. 1993) (holding the
standard for waiving the statutory right to counsel in a
civil commitment is "less exacting" than for
waiving the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a criminal
prosecution). Civil commitment involves a loss of liberty, to
be sure. But rather than imposing a punitive sentence upon
criminal conviction, the civil commitment process provides
for release once the individual is no longer a danger to
others. See 18 U.S.C. § 4246(e). Following the
logic of the Supreme Court in Addington, 441 U.S. at
428, we hold a civil commitment proceeding under § 4246
is not a criminal prosecution for purposes of the Sixth
Amendment. We thus conclude the district court did not err in
denying O'Laughlin's § 4247(h) motion.
also argues he is entitled to proceed pro se by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1654, which generally allows for self-representation
in all proceedings in federal court. But under the
well-established rule of statutory interpretation that
specific statutory language controls over more general
provisions, see RadLAX Gateway Hotel, LLC v. Amalgamated
Bank, 566 U.S. 639, 645 (2012), the general rule of 28
U.S.C. § 1654 must give way to the specific requirement
of 18 U.S.C. § 4247(h) that motions for release from
civil commitment be filed by an attorney or legal guardian
for the committed person.
foregoing reasons, we affirm.
The Honorable M. Douglas
Harpool, United States District Judge for the Western