Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Report Abuse   |   Sign In
News & Press: MCAA Announcements

Judge Frank Stays Sex Offender Program Proceedings

Friday, May 12, 2017  
Posted by: Laura Fenstermaker
Share |

Judge Frank stays sex offender program proceedings

Donovan Frank

Donovan Frank

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank has stayed the class-action lawsuit against the state of Minnesota over its sex offender treatment program pending plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari planned for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frank declared the Minnesota Sex Offender Program unconstitutional on its face and as applied but was reversed by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 3, 2017. The appellate court said that the judge incorrectly applied a strict scrutiny standard of review and thus incorrectly required a narrow tailoring of the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act to achieve a compelling government purpose. It should have required only a rational relationship to a significant government purpose because the committed person does not have a fundamental right to liberty recognized in law, the court said.

After the 8th Circuit opinion, Frank ordered briefs on whether the case, Karsjens v. Piper, should be stayed pending appeal and what other steps, if any, should be taken. On May 3, he ordered that the entire case be stayed for 90 days, at which time the court will review it.

The trial was divided into two phases. The Phase One issues were: (1) whether the commitment and treatment act, Minnesota Statute Chapter 253D is unconstitutional on its face and as applied; (2) whether the treatment provided is constitutionally and/or statutorily infirm; (3) whether the treatment program complies with court-ordered treatment; (4) whether confinement is tantamount to unconstitutional punitive detention; and (5) whether less restrictive alternatives to confinement are constitutionally required.

Not all the Phase One claims against the state were adjudicated in the 2015 trial. Still to be determined are Phase One claims involving failure to provide treatment, freedom from punishment, denial of less restrictive alternatives and freedom from inhumane treatment.

The issues scheduled for Phase Two are (1) whether confinement conditions constitute unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of speech, religion, and association; (2) whether confinement procedures constitute unconstitutional searches and seizures; (3) whether the treatment program and its implementation constitutes a breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, and intentional violation of Minnesota Statute Section 253B.03(7), which requires a facility to make a written program plan for each patient.

The parties and the court agreed that Phase One should be stayed in light of the pending cert petition.

Frank also decided to stay Phase Two “until the status of Phase One becomes clearer,” basing his ruling on considerations of docket control, conservation of judicial resources and the interest of a just determination of cases pending before the court. The interests of the parties and the public must be balanced and the court may limit the duration of a stay if necessary, Frank said.

The state argued against staying the Phase Two proceedings because those claims are brought under separate constitutional provisions and the therefore potential appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will not affect those claims. It noted there are approximately 69 pending individual cases that involve Phase Two claims and that allowing a stay of the class’s Phase Two cases would require those cases to proceed with the risk of inconsistent decisions.

But Frank said that although Phase One and Phase Two involve distinct constitutional claims, the claims are inextricably related and thus a stay would ensure the case proceeds with an economy of time and effort for the court, the attorneys and the litigants. Frank also said that the appeal of Phase One could impact the court’s analysis of Phase Two claims.

Most of the individual Phase Two cases are already stayed and possibly would not be resolved by the class-wide Phase Two issues. Defendants also could seek to stay individual cases if necessary, Frank noted. He suggested that all “sufficiently related cases” remain stayed.

“In this ‘weighty and unusual’ case involving ‘novel problems of far-reaching importance to the parties and public, [cite omitted] the Court is persuaded that staying Phase Two for a moderate length of time is the most fair, equitable, and efficient course,” Frank said.

Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal