Case Caption: In re: People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2013-0056Date: 09/12/2013Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

On a petition for a writ of prohibition filed by the People of the Virgin Islands, requesting that the Nominal Respondent-the Superior Court judge presiding over a pending criminal case-be prohibited from directing the Department of Justice pay for an indigent criminal defendant's pre-conviction mental health evaluation, the petition is denied. The People possess adequate alternative means to attain the desired relief without a writ, since the People can indirectly obtain appellate review by disobeying the Order by not paying the costs of the examination from the Department of Justice's budget, standing in contempt, and then appealing the order imposing the contempt sanction. The People also failed to establish that they possess a clear and indisputable right to the relief sought in their petition. The United States Supreme Court has expressly held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution compels state governments to provide an indigent criminal defendant with access to a competent psychiatrist at government expense if the defendant demonstrates to the trial judge that his sanity at the time of the offense is to be a significant factor at trial. In the absence of any legislation providing for which government entity should pay for this constitutionally-mandated expenditure, it cannot be said that the Nominal Respondent acted clearly contrary to well-settled law in concluding that the Department of Justice-and not the Office of the Territorial Public Defender, the Superior Court, or some other entity-should pay for the defendant's evaluation. Thus the People have not established that they are entitled to a writ of prohibition, and the petition is denied.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion