U.S. Court of Appeals Overturns Major MN Case

Image Credit: Fox 9

ST. LOUIS, MO — The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Minnesota’s sex offender program is constitutional.

A group of convicted sex offenders challenged the program, also known as Minnesota’s Civil Commitment and Treatment Act (MCTA)  claiming the act violated their right to due process.

Enacted in 1994, MCTA allows the county attorney to file a petition with the courts to place a sex offender in a secure treatment facility if they pose a threat. The offender has the right to petition a special review board, comprised of a licensed psychologist and attorney. The review board will then make a recommendation through a county official to a judicial appeal panel.

The ruling handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals is a huge win for the State – which has battled the case in court since 2011.

Judge Shepard, who penned the court’s opinion wrote:

“The district court applied incorrect standards of scrutiny when considering plaintiffs’ claims, thus we reverse the finding of substantive due process violations and vacate the injunctive relief order. We remand to the district court for further proceedings to address the remaining claims.”

The State of Minnesota initially filed for injunctive relief with the Court of Appeals stating that their right to due process was violated claiming the Judge overseeing the case was biased towards the defendants.

In the opinion, Shepard notes that while the evidence of bias by the Judge is concerning, it is not enough to declare bias in the case. However, the court did find fault with the lower courts application of the strict scrutiny rule.

According to Cornell Law, To pass strict scrutiny, the legislature must have passed the law to further a ‘compelling governmental interest,’ and must have narrowly tailored the law to achieve that interest.”

Shepard explains “Minnesota has a real, legitimate interest in protecting its citizens from harm caused by sexually dangerous persons or persons who have a sexually psychopathic personality.”

The bottom line for the court is MCTA is constitutional because it relates to legitimate government interest.

Further litigation is not out of the question. The Star Tribune spoke with Dan Gustafson, a lead attorney for the convicted offenders who says they may try to send the case to the United States Supreme Court.